But the governor’s spokeswoman said that’s not going to happen.
“He’s still going through the process of reviewing the names and applicants,” Louise Kim McCoy, Abercrombie’s spokeswoman, said Thursday. She said Abercrombie doesn’t have enough time before the special session to thoroughly vet the candidates.
Because the appointments require Senate confirmation, the delay means the board could remain incomplete until the Legislature convenes for its regular session in January.
That’s frustrating to some Kakaako residents who worry that the development agency is making decisions without enough community input. Among other projects, HCDA is mulling contentious building proposals, including a 46-story residential tower at 801 South St. and a seven-story building at 803 Waimanu St.
The agency is planning to decide about the 801 South St. tower in early December. Decision-making for the Waimanu Street project is scheduled for Jan. 8, days shy of the Legislature’s January session start.
Stefan Lavallee, a 38-year-old Kakaako resident, said he’s disappointed that the board may not be complete for another three months.
“Honestly, I think they should have the positions filled before they start making decisions about Kakaako,” he said. “I feel like a second-class citizen; there’s no representation.”
HCDA’s Kakaako board now has seven members when it should have nine. The missing spots are supposed to be filled by a cultural specialist and a third community member.
Members of Abercrombie’s Cabinet make up a majority of the seven sitting members, tilting decision-making in favor of his agenda. The other three members work for an electricians’ union, a construction management company and a retail development firm.
Despite public concern, HCDA spokeswoman Lindsey Doi said the empty board seats have not undermined the agency’s ability to make sound decisions. She said it’s not unusual for the board to have vacancies because the jobs are time-consuming and unpaid.
HCDA’s other two boards, which manage development in Heeia and Kalaeloa, are also each short a community member and cultural expert, but haven’t attracted as much criticism because of fewer pending projects. Each board needs just five people to reach a quorum.
The community member position requires nominations from the Honolulu City Council. McCoy said Abercrombie didn’t receive a new list of names for the spot on the Kakaako board until last week.
The City Council initially sent Abercrombie a list of nominees for that position in May. Abercrombie rejected that list, but not until September, saying that one nominee didn’t meet the criteria for the job.
The City Council quickly engaged in another round of discussions that led to a resolution on Oct. 9 recommending Brian Tamamoto, Mat D’Ascoli, Henry Jin Yoon and Jay Kadowaki for the post.
Abercrombie has also had months to find a candidate for the cultural expert’s seat, which McCoy noted doesn’t require City Council nominations.
The governor has gotten heat over the delay, with legislators and City Council members criticizing the slow process. On Oct. 15, Senate leaders sent Abercrombie a letter requesting that he appoint board members in time for next week’s special session.
Sen. Les Ihara, who signed the letter, said the empty seats leave the board overly weighted toward development at a time when diverse voices are desperately needed. He worries that Abercrombie could appoint interim members after the special session adjourns, bypassing the public process.
“As soon as the legislative session ended [in May], there was a flurry of development proposals,” Ihara said. “Now more than ever is the time to have the community member and cultural specialist on board.”
DISCUSSION QUESTION:Do you think it is important for HCDA’s Kakaako board to be complete before the agency makes decisions about new developments?
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