Posted tagged ‘Don Horner’

HART saves the fight for another day

July 5, 2011

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.


All tracks lead to Don Horner

April 18, 2011

I applauded when Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed First Hawaiian Bank chairman and CEO Don Horner to the Board of Education.

He seemed just the kind of guy needed to help shake the school system out of its bureaucratic morass and establish a culture of clear goals and accountability.

I’m less enthusiastic about Mayor Peter Carlisle’s appointment of Horner to the new Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, which will oversee construction and operation of the city’s $5.5 billion rail project.

For one thing, Horner seems to be spreading himself a bit thin. The BOE, where he’s currently chairman, and the transit authority are both big jobs, and presumably, he’s still expected to pull a few shifts at the helm of FHB.

There’s also a concern about undue concentration of power. The public schools and rail are arguably the highest current priorities of the state and city, and it seems inappropriate to have one guy in the middle of both.

There are other banks and other CEO’s in this town if those credentials are deemed essential to these projects.

Carlisle said his three appointees to the transit authority “will keep politics out of the rail project,” but it’s difficult to see how.

In addition to Horner, he named outgoing corporation counsel Carrie Okinaga and William “Buzzy” Hong, retired executive director of the Hawaii Building and Construction Trades Council.

Okinaga has been in the middle of the political fight between the administration and City Council about fiscal oversight of the transit authority, and Hong’s group was a leader in the political battle to win approval of rail.

The City Council has appointed attorney and former city finance director Ivan Lui-Kwan, planner Kelsie Hui and Damien Kim of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The city and state transportation directors are also members, and those eight will choose the ninth member.

New BOE represents hope for public schools

March 30, 2011

You never know how things will play out, but the initial impression here is that Gov. Neil Abercrombie did an thoughtful job of picking his first appointed Board of Education.

They’re yet to be vetted by the state Senate, but the nine members seem to represent a diverse pool of talent without being a “Noah’s Ark” of special interests who would end up working at cross purposes. All seem to have solid professional credentials relevant to some aspect of setting policy for our public schools.

The governor was wise not to include any of the members of the current elected BOE after they were so soundly repudiated by voters who opted overwhelmingly to switch to an appointed board.

It was also a good move by Abercrombie to engineer an agreement with the new board that Kathryn Matayoshi will be retained as superintendent.

It raised eyebrows when the current board hired her after a search that was less than robust, but she’s passed her battle testing by coming up with a credible plan to improve school performance and winning a $75 million federal Race to the Top grant to help implement it.

Nothing is guaranteed, but the change to a less political and more professional board has the potential to bring a leap forward for our schools, and Abercrombie appears to have done the right things to get it off to a good start.

For those who haven’t seen the news, here’s the board:

•Don Horner (chairman), chief executive officer and chairman of First Hawaiian Bank

•Wesley Lo, chief executive officer at Maui Memorial Medical Center

•Brian DeLima, attorney and former Hawaii County Council member

•Nancy Budd, attorney and a member of the Kauai Planning and Action Alliance Public Education Action Team

•Jim Williams, retired administrator and CEO of the Hawaii Employer-Union Benefits Trust Fund;

•Charlene Cuaresma, associate director of the Graduate Professional Access Program at UH-Manoa

•Cheryl Kauhane Lupenui, chief executive offer of the YWCA on Oahu

•Keith Amemiya, executive administrator and secretary of the Board of Regents

•Kim Gennaula, philanthropy director at Kapiolani Health Foundation

Good start for the appointed BOE

February 10, 2011

Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s appointment of First Hawaiian Bank chairman and CEO Don Horner to the Board of Education is the first glimpse of the gains we could realize from the new constitutional amendment switching from an elected to an appointed school board.

Horner replaces Lei Ahu Isa, who stepped down in advance of the shift that will come as soon as the Legislature passes enabling legislation.

Abercrombie’s first appointment represents dramatic change: the head of one of Hawai‘i’s biggest and most successful companies replacing a bottom-tier politician once described by former Gov. Ben Cayetano as one of the state’s weakest lawmakers.

Extrapolate upgrades of that magnitude to the entire school board and you can see the possibilities for improving our public schools.

Horner hit all the right notes in accepting the appointment, saying the board should focus on setting clear policies and goals for improvement rather than trying to micromanage the superintendent.

His vow to focus more on the “customers” — students and parents — is welcome, and his description of the Department of Education as an institution with long traditions uninterrupted by progress was on the mark.

Horner was involved in the clumsy attempt by the Business Roundtable last year to derail civil unions, and as with the Rev. Marc Alexander, Abercrombie’s choice for homelessness coordinator, Horner will grate on the governor’s supporters whose political world revolves around that one issue.

But he brings to the table some of the state’s best experience on how to make a big organization work, and Abercrombie deserves kudos for valuing proven expertise over ideological purity in those he recruits to help him attack some of our most vexing problems.

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