Greenwell: ‘Ghastly’ Oahu rail project state’s top concern


Green Party candidate for state Senate Kelly Greenwell sees the planned Honolulu rail project as the No. 1 issue facing the entire state this year.

“I’m very much opposed to it,” Greenwell said. “It really is a ghastly looking thing.”

But it isn’t just the rail project’s “god-awful aesthetic” that has Greenwell concerned.

The rail won’t be fully complete for 20 to 40 years, and during that time, it will take most of the state’s federal transportation dollars.

That will have a long-term impact on Hawaii Island, Greenwell said.Besides, he said, technology should advance enough in the next several decades to make a steel-on-steel light rail line obsolete.

“The only real reason they’re building that thing is because of the jobs,” he said, adding he can understand that reasoning. “We could be a little more imaginative as far as seeking employment for people.”

Greenwell acknowledged that running on a third-party ticket might not be the route to guaranteed election success, but said the Green Party is the logical alternative when looking for a party to replace the Republican Party, which he said has become largely irrelevant.

At the very least, he said, he sees the upcoming race for Hawaii’s newest Senate district, which spans from North Kona almost to Hilo, as a good opportunity to spread his concerns about rail.

“I want to tell people to stop panicking and building silly things,” he said.

Greenwell said President Barack Obama is likely to be re-elected this fall. If that happens, he said he expects to see the federal government revive the stimulus funding program.

He said Hawaii needs to be ready for something like that by having projects ready to go. “There is a relationship between spending and earning,” Greenwell said. “Republicans refuse to recognize no one earns a dollar until someone spends a dollar.”

Better funding for teachers’ salaries can help improve the quality of education, he said. “There has to be a respectable amount of money spent so (teaching) becomes the kind of position people will seek,” Greenwell said. “There needs to be respect for teachers.

“They have to be looked at as professionals.”

The federal government can help by providing money for education, as well as health care and emergency services, he said.

Pursuing geothermal energy is “probably a mistake,” Greenwell said. “Geothermal is a difficult source of energy to harvest.

“The corrosive nature of the gases is not contended with in other places.”

Solar is a better option and Hawaii is better than other places in the world for it, he said.

Asked whether he would support increasing any taxes or user fees, Greenwell said he thinks taxation is “probably an obsolete concept. There is a better way of procuring the proper amount of liquidity in the economy.”

Greenwell, who said he subscribes to Keynesian economic theory, is not a fan of income taxes. He cited Japan as an example, saying that country hasn’t begun its rebuilding process from last year’s tsunami by raising taxes.