Ige isn’t budging in stadium standoff, but his window for influencing project is closing
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Key players in the redevelopment of Aloha Stadium appear locked in a political stand-off as time slips away for Gov. David Ige to influence the plan before his term ends.
The prolonged debate could be making it more likely that the governor will lose in his effort to simplify the project and an entertainment stadium district will be developed alongside the facility.
The so-called public private partnership would have private developers help finance the stadium construction in return for the right to develop the stadium district with housing, retail and other commercial property.
The governor now wants to use $350 million appropriated by the state Legislature to use a more traditional government construction process focused only on a stadium for now.
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At a meeting of the Stadium Authority on Thursday, Ige’s Economic Development and Tourism Director Mike McCartney said he met with the stadium’s manager and authority’s vice-chair.
“We’re working on some of the commitments I made to get back to everybody about a timeline, and about working on the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). And also looking at multiple paths to success on this,” he said.
“But it’s a little early for me to share anything more stuff. I think we had a good meeting yesterday and we’re moving forward.”
But state Sen. Glenn Wakai, chair of the Senate’s Economic Development and Tourism Committee, told the authority that McCartney and the governor have no power to control the stadium project.
Instead, he said, that’s the authority’s responsibility.
“Mr. McCartney erroneously believes the interpretation of that law is putting him and DBED in charge of the program, and that was never the legislative intent,” Wakai told the Authority.
He went on: “Really, all of you in this boardroom, you are fully in charge of where we go from here. There is absolutely no legal grounds to what Mr. McCartney has said in the past on this new direction.”
Asked about the state Attorney’s General’s opinion, the governor pointed out that what he does control is whether to release the $350 million appropriated for the stadium project.
“There is no appropriation for a public private partnership for a stadium, period,” Ige said.
“So, it would be interesting to see what the stadium authority would authorize because they cannot proceed with a procurement without an appropriation, period.”
State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, said the Legislature moved the Stadium Authority under McCartney’s Department of Economic Development and Tourism precisely because lawmakers saw DBEDT as the right agency to oversee development of the entertainment district.
Dela Cruz said with less than two months left in his term, the governor has no way of cementing his plan in time to prevent the next governor and legislature from changing it back to the P3 model.
“What’s going to happen is the governor’s going to be doing a lot of activity within the five weeks, and then there’ll be a new governor. And this will probably all be for naught,” Dela Cruz said, adding, “all he’s doing is delaying the project and increasing the costs.”
One intriguing political twist in the story is that the governor’s position lines up with the of House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke, who is likely to be elected lieutenant governor next month. She opposes the public-private partnership and was involved in negotiating the appropriation and budget language.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green has not stated a firm position for or against either plan, but has expressed concern about delays that would come from changing direction.
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