Councilman Tom Berg and his Senior Advisor, Eric Ryan, are bringing a new approach and a lot of old baggage to City Hall.
The first red flag went up on the evening of the special election, where the victor, Tom Berg, blurted out, “It’s not just my victory, it’s a victory of an ideology.”
That “ideology” happens to be a peculiar homegrown brand of the ultra conservative Tea Party.
This is a pretty precocious statement considering that Berg won the election with a scant 18% of the votes cast, and that just 12,524 of the 53,753 mail-in ballots came back at all. Berg received just over 2,000 votes total, approximately the same amount he got in his two previous losing campaigns for a State House seat. This is no mandate or ideological shift.
The constituents of District 1, from Kaena Point to Ewa Beach will also soon discover that part of Councilman Berg’s victorious “ideology” involves fighting the city’s rapid transit system that they overwhelmingly favor.
Berg has been an outspoken critic of rail, and recently hired long-time anti-rail zealot Eric Ryan to be his Senior Advisor (jumbo-sized red flag). Ryan made himself highly visible as the “Campaign Manager” for Stop Rail Now, until relieved of his duties by Cliff Slater. He then formed the look-alike group “Rail Truth Now” and launched various petition drives to try to kill the project. It remains to be seen how Council District 1 residents will react to their new anti-rail “representation,” as they have been, by far, the most supportive area on the Island for building rail.
This might also explain Berg’s curious quest to become the Chair of the City Council Transportation Committee even though the chairmanships were assigned before his election. According to CivilBeat: “Earlier this month, Berg said he would campaign to reorganize so he could chair the Transportation Committee.”
Yet another red flag.
It’s not just on the issue of rail where this dynamic duo has a well documented past, but it is the one connection between them that pops out.
Berg told the StarAdvertiser that he and Ryan have “left the baggage at the door” at Honolulu Hale.
It could well be that, between the two of them, there is so much baggage that it won’t fit inside the building.
One example is from September 22, 2008. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported on Berg’s house race against his former boss:
“Tom Berg, had been her [Democrat Rida Cabanilla’s] legislative office manager for three years before being dismissed earlier this year.”
“Berg was let go after it was learned that he was a supporter of the effort to stop the county’s proposed $4 billion rail transit project, which Cabanilla supports.”
“This is the office of District 42, I am your boss, your job is to support the things that I believe in,” Cabanilla said of Berg’s dismissal. “You are not to have your own private agenda and that’s what he did.”
It may only be a matter of time before the new Councilman’s constituents get Tea-ed off too.