HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi held a news conference on Tuesday to announce the newest appointment of Colleen Hanabusa as volunteer board member at Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit’s (HART).
The mayoral appointment comes after Colleen Hanabusa was slated to become HART’s new consultant.
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Hanabusa, who once served as chairwoman of the HART board, was the only one to apply for the consultant role.
The role, which focuses on improving development of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), would have awarded Hanabusa $12,000 a month for 18 months, with the option to extend every year for the next five years.
In a previous interview with KHON2, HART Interim Executive Director Lori Kahikina said funding for Hanabusa’s position was not connected to the recent layoffs at HART.
Some lawmakers voiced concern with the decision, including Senate Minority Leader Kurt Fevella. Fevella shared his strong opposition to the City’s decision to award a consulting contract to the former congresswoman in a letter to Mayor Blangiardi.
“It is a waste to spend taxpayer dollars for a lobbyist at a time when HART does not have money to complete the construction of the rail system to Ala Moana Center,” wrote the senate minority leader in his letter.
Senator Fevella also requested that HART terminate Hanabusa’s contract before it is executed.
“This is not the rail project the voters of Honolulu supported. HART does not need to spend project money on a paid lobbyist when the same dollars can be used for construction,” the senator added.
Mayor Blangiardi says his decision to bring Hanabusa on as volunteer board member was based on his belief in her experience and vision for HART.
“I haven’t even thought of it as a ‘face saving way.’ The truth of the matter is this had nothing to do with that contract and her being a consultant,” said Mayor Blangiardi. “For me, this is a continuation of my promise to the people of Oahu that as a mayor I would surround myself with the smartest people, best thinkers, best doers, people who embrace responsibility and hold themselves accountable.”
Mayor Blangiardi reiterated that he was not part of the decision to initially hire Hanabusa as a consultant for HART, but wasn’t surprised that she was chosen considering she was the only one to apply.
“Colleen is uniquely qualified. You have to look at her track record. You have to look at her credentials,” said the mayor.
“When I looked at the contract, I really debated about whether to apply because I felt it was a no-win situation either way,” Hanabusa said, acknowledging the optics. “Either way, I knew what would happen by trying to do what I believe was right for the biggest CIP (capitol improvement project) in the state.”
“I’m hoping that what we will look at now is the project,” Hanabusa said, affirming that her focus now is on seeing the rail completed.
Mayor Blangiardi said Hanabusa’s role will be voluntary and not involve payment.
Watch the full press conference below:
HART Interim Executive Director and CEO Lori Kahikina issued the following statement regarding the appointment of Colleen Hanabusa to the HART Board:
“On behalf of HART, I would like to extend a warm welcome to former Congresswoman and HART Board Member, Colleen Hanabusa, on her return to the HART Board. Colleen brings to the Board a unique set of skills, institutional knowledge, as well as experience with both local and federal government. Her decision to become a volunteer board member is greatly appreciated. I look
forward to working with Board Member Hanabusa in this new capacity. I also want to thank outgoing member Glenn Nohara for his dedicated service and guidance, not only to the Board but to me personally. He will be missed as an active board member.”