Honolulu Civil Beat
Nick Grube 08/21/2012
A federal judge from California is now the central figure in a legal fight that could decide the fate of the controversial $5.26 billion rail project and perhaps even determine who will be Honolulu’s next mayor.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge A. Wallace Tashima heard what might be the final arguments in a federal lawsuit that aims to stop the contentious transit project.
But aside from the laborious posturing of the legal teams on both sides, the most interesting aspect of Tuesday’s proceeding has to do with what didn’t happen.
Tashima, who presided over the case after most of Honolulu’s federal judges recused themselves, did not make a decision. He also didn’t give an indication of when he would finally rule.
Both the decision and when it comes down are key to the future of Honolulu rail.
If Tashima sides with the anti-rail plaintiffs, it could significantly delay and even kill the project.
Tashima’s timing matters too. If he rules before the Nov. 6 election he could sway the race for Honolulu mayor, which pits former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano against the city’s former managing director Kirk Caldwell.
Cayetano, who is a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit, is anti-rail and is pushing his candidacy as a referendum on the project. Caldwell, on the other hand, is a supporter of rail but wants to reconsider its design and reduce its visual impacts.
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