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Politics // The Right Price
Larry Price

Caldwell V. The Circle

I find it interesting that Mayor Kirk Cadwell wants to earn some additional revenue for TheBus service by selling advertising on the exteriors of our city buses. The mayor said it was preferable to increasing fares, which he called a “last resort,” and said it would earn $8 million for the bus system.

Most taxpayers remember this idea was introduced in 2003 by then-City Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz. At the time, it was opposed by Mayor Jeremy Harris and the Outdoor Circle. Mr. Dela Cruz is not around, but the Outdoor Circle is and advised the mayor immediately that it would strongly oppose the bill.

As far as “people mover” systems, it would be hard to find a bus system anywhere that can match Oahu’s. They are current in every way. If there is one thing that stands out with our buses, it’s that they are multi-colored. I’m sure they are not painted that way when they are purchased, and the three-tone paint jobs probably cost quite a bit extra on delivery.

When all is said and done, they can probably make a lot more than $8 million a year by plastering the sides of the buses with messages to lure consumers to “deals” around town.

There are very specific dimensions for signs in the city of Honolulu. It’s going to be interesting to see if the Outdoor Circle still has the political clout to kill Bill 69. And, in most circumstances, the mayor can point out that there are many bus systems on the Mainland that allow advertising on public buses.

More interesting is a trend developing in Hawaii. If a bill is proposed and has popular support but then fails in the final hearings before the legislative body, it seems to resurface a decade later. It could be that it’s a good tactic to use in our political environment.

I can remember when trying to lock horns with the Outdoor Circle was certain failure. But it seems the mayor has a few tricks up his aloha shirt sleeve. Typically, the trend is for the Legislature pushing for passage of a controversial proposition to point out that other cities do it, so it couldn’t be that bad. Then they point out how the costs have risen by some 50 percent over the past 10 years. That always goes over with the voting public.

It does seems like a lot of advertising is be allowed on other vehicles, especially in downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. Maybe the Outdoor Circle is getting a little tired of fighting city hall. If some companies are breaking the law, then the Outdoor Circle should start pointing it out to some of the more seasoned councilmembers – say, Ann Kobayashi. Maybe that can scare up some support for or against the Bill 69.

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