2 major public projects important to Hawaii’s future now mired in confusion

A number of things are still up in the air over the big projects as deadlines are not being met.
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 5:07 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2023 at 5:11 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The confusion continues over what state officials plan to do about two major projects important to Hawaii’s future.

Contract procurement for Aloha Stadium’s redevelopment and how to market and manage tourism are both delayed ― and now putting Gov. Josh Green’s new cabinet members on the hot seat.

The stadium and tourism plans were both upended by former Gov. David Ige at the end of his term over legal and logistical questions. In both cases, Green promised to take the wheel and set ambitious January goals to get requests for proposals out to potential bidders. But that hasn’t worked out for either of them.

At a hearing of the state Senate Ways and Means Committee Wednesday afternoon, incoming state Director of Business, Economic Development and Tourism Chris Sadayasu suddenly said he had an announcement about the tourism marketing contracts that Hawaii Tourism Authority was expected to put out for proposals.

“We are going to take a bold move,” Sadayasu said.

“We are going to issue it ourselves.”

State Sen. Donna Kim compared what Saduyasu was saying to what his predecessor did for Ige.

“If you are going to circumvent HTA then you better have good reason,” she said.

This was only the latest confrontation over the multi-million-dollar tourism contracts.

The first procurement, combining marketing and management, was won early last year by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Visitors Bureau ― the long-time marketing organization for the HTA.

After a challenge by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, it was rebid.

That time, CNHA won the bid ― and the visitors bureau challenged it.

To resolve the dispute, former DBEDT Director McCartney brokered a sharing agreement between the two agencies, which he ultimately determined might have been a violation of procurement laws.

Senators, who don’t like surprises, were also surprised that Sadayasu was planning to have HTA continue its role procuring the tourism management contract.

Following a lively back-and-forth, senators asked for information in writing and scheduled a follow-up hearing for Monday morning. Sadayasu later told HTA board members in person at their board meeting Thursday.

The agency has not issued an official response to Sadayasu’s move.

Meanwhile, contracts to build and maintain a new stadium ― and to develop the land around it ― have also been delayed while the Green Administration takes another look at the complicated public-private partnership plan.

The governor sounded a note of caution on the issue in his State of the State address.

“Such a partnership will only work if the state gets a fair deal,” he said.

After the address, state Budget and Finance Director Luis Salaveria said the partnership model is still being closely examined. “Just to make sure as when we move into the RFP and the contracting phase that we can make sure there is an appropriate level of safeguards that can protect the state in this long-term, 30-year relationship,” he said.

The governor had said he wanted the stadium procurement resumed this month.

But on Thursday, state Public Works Administrator Chris Kinimaka told the Aloha Stadium Authority that the new goal was to issue the RFP sometime in the first quarter of this year.

She told Hawaii News Now they didn’t want to set another date until it was clearer when they would be ready.