HART saves the fight for another day

Members of the new Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation were smart to sidestep a lawsuit over who sets its budget, but it remains to be seen if the matter is settled or just postponed for a year.

The City Council insists it has the right under the City Charter to approve HART’s annual budget, while the Carlisle administration argues that the semi-autonomous agency sets it’s own budget independently of the council.

At its first meeting Friday, the HART board avoided a confrontation by adopting exactly the $20.5 million operating budget and $354.7 million capital budget passed by the council.

“Legal action is clearly not in the best interest of the taxpayers,” said HART finance chairman Don Horner, in a sentiment that surely reflects the public mood on this contentious $5.3 billion project. “We’re confident the majority of the council want to see rail move forward and there’s no sense in arguing about technicalities at this point.”

Of course, the operative words were “at this point.” We’ll see next year whether HART submits its budget to the council for approval — or what the board does if the council adopts its own budget for the agency.

Horner pledged somewhat vaguely to “provide oversight” to both the council and city administration on finances and “to engage the public in the budgetary process.”

It’ll be an interesting tap dance — especially with the always combative Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi back in charge of the Budget Committee.

But now was not the right time for a fight the mayor and council seemed to be champing at the bit for, and the HART board deserves early kudos for recognizing it.

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3 Comments on “HART saves the fight for another day”

  1. Doug Says:

    Since HART has been compared to the BWS, it would be worth explaining if/how the Council is involved with the BWS budget.

  2. WooWoo Says:

    Dave- to make things easier for yourself later on, you should start tagging Don Horner posts now.

  3. David Shapiro Says:

    @Doug From Ernie Martin and Ikaika Anderson in today’s S-A: “The mayor has repeatedly compared HART to the semi-autonomous Board of Water Supply but conveniently fails to point out that the BWS is financially independent and relies solely on user fees to fund its operations. HART will require an annual operating subsidy upwards of $100 million. In the likely event of cost overruns, HART will have to seek even more money in additional subsidies for construction.”

    @WooWoo Done.

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