During a candidate forum Friday at the Kroc Center in Kapolei, incumbent Tom Berg was the only candidate in the race for Honolulu City Council District 1 that spoke out against the city’s $5.3 billion rail project.
“A con job,” said Berg. “That's what this rail's become. There's one person on this Council that says stop this rail madness, and it's me.”
Joining Berg on stage was Republican state Rep. Kymberly Pine, social services advocate Alex Santiago, and former Teamsters boss Mel Kahele.
All three challengers said completion of the elevated, heavy-rail system from East Kapolei to the Ala Moana Shopping will help transform Kapolei into a true second city that rivals Honolulu.
“Indecision has delayed our prosperity here, and I support rail 100 percent,” said Pine. “I will make sure this project is a success, and make sure that every single dollar is spent wisely.”
Kahele, the former union boss, focused his support for rail on the need to create jobs in Leeward Oahu.
“It's going to create thousands of jobs,” said Kehle. “Four thousand construction jobs (and) 6,000 induced jobs.”
“Rail is about our children and our children's children,” added Santiago. “It's about a quality of life that we have been denied as a result of sitting in traffic for 3 hours a day.”
However, Berg maintained rail supporters have been duped by the transit authority’s assertions that the project will be completed on budget, receive $1.55 billion in federal subsidies, and help relieve traffic congestion on the H1 Freeway.
“The alternative is buses,” said Berg. “Buses beat rail hands down.”
All four candidates agreed the city should invest in new technologies that would render the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill in Kapolei obsolete, and that there needs to be more of a partnership between state and county leaders to address the burgeoning issue of homelessness.
The only District 1 candidate not invited to the forum was 19-year-old EJ Delacruz, a graduate of Kapolei High School, and by far the youngest person in the race.
Delacruz didn’t know about the forum until contacted by KITV4. He said he was frustrated that sponsors of the event, the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce and the West Oahu Economic Development Association, decided to exclude him.
“I am very disappointed to hear that they made an actual ‘decision’ to exclude me from the candidate forum,” said Delacruz. “Of the five candidates, I was the only one not invited.”
Like Berg, Delacruz opposes rail transit.
"I believe that we have other things that we need to be dealing with," he said. "It's a traffic problem, not a transit problem."