BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Daniel Grabauskas, chairman and senior strategic adviser of the Bronner Center for Transportation Management and former general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, is the finalist for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s chief executive officer position.
Grabauskas’ would be hired under a three-year contract, with an annual salary of $245,000, along with other perks that include a $36,000 yearly housing allowance and an $6,000 transportation allowance.
The total compensation package of $861,000 could rise to as high as $966,000 because it includes a $35,000 annual performance bonus.
A statement from HART said as chief executive officer of MBTA, “Grabauskas had oversight of a 6,100-employee operation, with an annual operating budget of $1.4 billion and an annual capital budget of more than $500 million, with operations in 175 municipalities throughout eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. His work also included completion of several capital expansion projects, including an 18-mile commuter rail line.”
Originally HART’s board of directors did not plan to accept testimony on the nomination, but after taking substantial criticism for its lack of transparency, HART released a statement saying it will vote March 1 after taking public testimony at the Mission Memorial Annex Conference Room, 550 South King Street, beginning at 10 a.m..
Former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano, who has been an opponent to the city’s plan to build a $5.3 billion elevated steel on steel rail system from Kapolei to Honolulu, is running for mayor in 2012.
Cayetano is critical of HART’s process: “There is a great deal of distrust of HART among the public. HART’s reversal of policy is largely due to pressure by the public and news media reports,” he said.
Cayetano also is one of 7 plaintiffs who filed a federal lawsuit challenging the rail project because of its impact on Hawaii’s environment and cultural sites. A recent media poll conducted by the Star Advertiser and Hawaii News Now showed Cayetano in the lead for the mayor’s race and a growing majority of the public opposing the project.
Panos Prevedouros, a professor of engineering at the University of Hawaii, also opposes the rail project and is critical of HART’s decision.
He said there is an “astonishing disconnect between Mr. Grabauskas’ excellent qualifications for leading multi-modal multi-jurisdictional agencies and tiny HART with its single mega-construction project. Very few of the selected CEO’s actual talents and knowledge are relevant to the political, ethical, legal and technical difficulties of our city’s rail project. This is a win-win for some. The current executive director Toru Hamayashu remains effectively in charge and Grabauskas has an easy couple a years at half a million dollars from local taxpayers.”
But Grabauskas already has strong supporters among rail advocates who say he is a proven leader in the transit industry.
Keslie Hui, chairman of the HART board’s Human Resources Committee, said “His leadership experience with one on the nation’s largest public transportation networks, his familiarity with navigating the federal funding process, and his passion for public service make him well-suited to lead HART at this important juncture.”