Coverage of TEN affiliate FACE Hawaii's campaign in support of rail:
Faith, Union Groups Seek Pro-Rail Spot in Lawsuit
By Michael Levine
We might need another table and a few more chairs.
The federal lawsuit seeking to stop the Honolulu rail project in its tracks — already packed with eight named plaintiffs and a handful of government defendants — could get even bigger if three new would-be intervenors are granted a spot in front of the judge.
The new players filing requests Tuesday were Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE), a faith-based organization, Pacific Resource Partnership (PRP), a construction union advocacy group, and Kapolei resident Melvin Uesato. They're jumping in on the side of the city and federal governments in support of the rail project, and hitting back against opponents who have been on the attack in recent months.
If the judge allows the intervention, FACE state director Drew Astolfi told Civil Beat the organizations will become "sort of co-defendants or junior partners" in the case. FACE is pushing for rail because the project will reduce commute times and get the city closer to tackling the affordable housing crisis.
"We've got a problem with the way the lawsuit is playing out," Astolfi said, adding that opponents have had the "whip hand" in the lawsuit so far. "It just seemed like if we didn't do it, we'd be really missing a chance to see our interests move forward."
PRP's main issues are job creation and economic opportunities, though quality of life is also near the top of the list. Executive Director John White said his group hopes to highlight the "human element" of the project in court.
"Our opponents believe that this was a venue to raise concerns for rail, so I think it's important for us to engage those who don't believe rail is right for Honolulu's future," White said.
Pacific Resource Partnership seeks to intervene in Honolulu rail lawsuit
The Pacific Resource Partnership filed a motion Tuesday to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed by opponents of Honolulu’s planned rail-transit system.
The organization, a consortium of the Hawaii Carpenters Union and unionized contractors, said in a statement that the $5.1 billion project was approved by voters in 2008 and 2010 and it is important for creating jobs at a time when unemployment is high.
PRP was joined in its motion for intervention by the Faith Action for Community Equity, a faith-based grassroots organization, and Kapolei resident Melvin Uesato.
Opponents of the rail project, including former Gov. Ben Cayetano, are challenging the environmental impact statement for the 20-mile elevated system that would run from Kapolei to downtown Honolulu. The lawsuit seeks to stop the rail project and require the City and County of Honolulu to consider mass-transit options other than elevated rail.
“What intervention does it allows us to participate in the process including everything from cross examination of witnesses to offering testimony,” said John White, PRP executive director. “Rail has been a very important issue for our members and Oahu for many years. We are entering this suit to ensure that our interests are heard in court.”
2 organizations back rail project in court filing
Pacific Resources Partnership and the organization Faith Action for Community Equity yesterday asked to join in the court case over Honolulu's rail transit project, filing a motion in federal court in an effort to support the rail project.
The two organizations contend the environmental impact statement done for the rail project meets all federal requirements, and they hope to persuade the federal court to allow the project to proceed. Also joining in yesterday's court filing is Kapolei resident Melvin Uesato.
PRP, which is a cooperative between the Hawaii Carpenters Union and contractors, argued the lawsuit challenging the rail project amounts to an attempt to undo decades of transportation planning aimed at providing convenient, affordable public transportation on Oahu.
"Rail transit is the clear catalyst that will get our members back to work, and lays the groundwork for a 21st century Honolulu that is truly sustainable," PRP Executive Director John White said in a written statement announcing the court filing.
The rail critics who filed the lawsuit last May include former Gov. Ben Cayetano and longtime rail opponent Cliff Slater.
Also joining in the suit to block rail are former judge and former Hawaii Democratic Party Chairman Walter Heen, University of Hawaii law professor Randall Roth, Dr. Michael Uechi, the environmental group Hawaii's Thousand Friends and the Small Business Hawaii Entrepreneurial Education Foundation.
The rail critics' lawsuit asks the federal court to block construction of the rail system until a supplemental environmental impact statement is done to correct alleged problems with the EIS and other rail planning documents.
The rail critics contend the city should reconsider basic issues such as the route the city select