When In Doubt, Tell the Truth.
There’s an old story about the mayor of a large city being briefed by the chairman of the water board on the quality of their drinking water by the year 2050.
“Mr. Mayor”, says the man, “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.”
“OK,” says the mayor, “Give me the good news first.”
“Well, sir,” the water board chairman says, “the good news is, by the year 2050 we’ll all be drinking each others’ sewage.”
The mayor is shocked. “That’s terrible,” he says, “What’s the bad news?”
And the guy says, “There ain’t gonna to be enough to go around!”
That’s always the test of a public official—when bad news has to be passed on to the constituents. Most of the time the mayors or the governors get the blame, whether they deserve it or not.
And so it was with the long awaited and much delayed transit project in Honolulu. Here’s the short, ugly version:
It’s a 20-mile heavy rail project originally projected to be completed in 2019 at a cost of $5.2 billion. The new completion date was recently moved to 2025 and the revised cost estimate is $8.6 billion.
Everyone has seen this coming, but it’s all muddled because since the beginning, there have been a couple of mayors, new faces on the City Council, the project head has been replaced (twice, I believe), and the mandated expiration date for a temporary half-percent sales tax to pay for the project has necessarily been extended. It’s a mess and it ain’t over.
Although he inherited the transit project, Honolulu’s incumbent mayor, Kirk Caldwell, was the most obvious scapegoat because he’s been consistently if grimly pro-transit throughout his tenure. Caldwell dealt with it the only possible way he could—by stating the obvious, by telling the truth: we’ve gone too far not to finish the damn thing.
And give the voters their due—Mayor Caldwell was re-elected on Tuesday, and by a comfortable margin.