Wednesday, February 29, 2012

 

Civil Beat fills information gap about newly chosen Honolulu rail czar


The message is that public input is not a factor in the board's decision making

by Larry Geller

Good thing we have an alternative news source in Honolulu. The above pull-quote is from a Civil Beat story posted today on the controversy surrounding the hiring of Daniel Grabauskas as the city’s new rail czar.

As I wrote yesterday:

Civil Beat’s stories on newly selected Honolulu transit czar Daniel Grabauskas are must-reads.

Check out Adrienne LaFrance’s story Honolulu Rail CEO Pick Comes With Track Record That Raises Concerns (Civil Beat, 2/25/2012)

and Michael Levine’s article New Honolulu Rail Chief Was Late, Over Budget on His Biggest Project (Civil Beat, 2/28/2012)

Today’s story is Off the Beat: What About the Mayor's Calls for Transparency? (Civil Beat, 2/29/2012).

If you read the previous Civil Beat stories you already know quite a bit about the controversies surrounding Grabauskas’s prior employment. Anyone not tuned in to CB will only have a chance to ask questions on Thursday, during his confirmation hearing. That’s 10 a.m., for those of you who have a day job and of course can’t come. Why no more information? CB notes that media inquiries are going unanswered.

HART [Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation] board members are deferring to Grabauskas on questions about his record. But Grabauskas is not responding to media inquiries and HART's PR team says he won't be available till Thursday.

The message is that public input is not a factor in the board's decision making. After all, the HART board says it has already reached a "consensus" about hiring Grabauskas.

Compare the CB coverage with this thin report in today’s Star-Advertiser, which notes “partisan-politics turmoil” but explains nothing about what that “turmoil” might have been about:

Now comes news that the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation will pick Daniel Grabauskas as its rail CEO. Grabauskas was forced to step down as general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in 2009 amid partisan-politics turmoil.

A vote on Grabauskas' hiring, at $287,000 annually, will be held 10 a.m. Thursday at HART's public meeting at the Mission Memorial Annex conference room, 550 S. King St.

No doubt more info on Grabauskas will emerge before, during, and well after that meeting.

[Star-Advertiser, Off the News, 2/29/2012]

An earlier S-A story alluded to the issues which CB explored but did not go any further than this:

According to published reports, Grabauskas, a Republican appointee, resigned as MBTA head in August 2009 amid political pressure brought on by the new Democratic administration of Gov. Deval Patrick.

Patrick had questioned the agency's leadership amid financial troubles and two crashes on one of its train lines, according to a report in the Boston Globe. Grabauskas' backers, who included legislative leaders, characterized the move as political.

[Star-Advertiser, Panel picks finalist to direct rail board, 2/25/2012]

You’d think our daily paper would want to know about those two crashes and financial troubles.

At least, they could have provided links to Civil Beat for the details.



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