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Editorial: Colleen Hanabusa’s gravy train

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                                Colleen Hanabusa talks to the news media after the first batch of election results were released on Aug. 8.


    Colleen Hanabusa talks to the news media after the first batch of election results were released on Aug. 8.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation has let go a number of its consultants in a cost-cutting move, but at the same time, has hired one who’s especially high-profile as well as high-priced.

Colleen Hanabusa — the former congresswoman, state Senate president and HART board chairwoman — has been awarded a contract that could max out at $924,000.

The job? Serving as a liaison to city, state and federal government entities in the course of completing Oahu’s troubled 20-mile transit project.

At least according to the request for proposals (RFP) scope of services, HART expects Hanabusa to deliver the goods, with aiding in “the development and implementation of short and long-term funding strategies” ranking high on the task list.

HART spokesman Joey Manahan said $216,000 will be for the first 18 months of service in the six-year contract. That’s the only part of the contract that’s now funded, he said; however, the full deal would entail a 7.7% increase in “Option Year 2” and another 7.1% in the final year.

Keep in mind: HART has a deficit exceeding $3.5 billion. A contract just shy of $1 million is a drop in that bucket — but unless Hanabusa can pull off a miracle, it’s not a good look for the builders of the fixed-rail project.

For starters, Hanabusa was the only bidder on this contract. The rail project is already contending with a popular perception that it is a gravy train more than a transit system, designed to churn up new and fatter contracts for insiders. The interim executive director and CEO, Lori Kahikina, has made news by making cuts in staff and consultant redundancies so this hire needs justification.

And based on the RFP listed qualifications, this one seemed tailored to fit Hanabusa: law degree, minimum 20 years of practice, at least 10 years at the city and/or state level, at least five years at the federal level.

Hanabusa has this experience but also some political baggage. Could she successfully “assist in the development and execution of a plan to secure additional state funding,” as the scope document dictates?

Anything’s possible, but based on current no-more-money assessments, chances don’t look good.

The taxpaying public, now that it’s notified of this sweet deal, should demand that the board hold its well-connected consultant to these deliverables, or walk away from the rest of the payout.

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