Honolulu Mayor-Elect Rick Blangiardi has chosen Michael Formby as his managing director to fill the second most powerful position in the administration. Formby, a longtime political insider, will help Blangiardi run the city and address the challenges facing it.
Michael Formby has a political resume stretching nearly 20 years, with positions in county, state, and federal levels of government. He once served as a director of Honolulu's Department of Transportation Services, and the state Department of Transportation.
He also served as a director and board member on the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, experience that should prove useful as the city and HART face off on the rail project.
Recently, Formby sat on the City Council as an interim council member for East Oʻahu and also served as former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa's chief of staff. Hanabusa was among the career politicians who were rejected in the mayoral primary. She later endorsed Blangiardi in the general election.
For the last two years, Formby worked at the Pacific Resource Partnership, the organization that represents the carpenters union and construction contractors.
Formby says all of this experience has prepared him to be the next managing director and to advise the mayor-elect.
"I think he, as a novice to politics, is looking for a relationship with a MD (managing director) that he can call upon," Formby said. "You know, experience as far as how it goes relating to directors at the city level, the state level, relating to the congressional delegation."
Formby says he and Blangiardi hope to streamline government services to address city issues. He acknowledges it's a tough task to accomplish during a pandemic, but says it would help fulfill Blangiardi's priorities.
"Homelessness, affordable housing, obviously, is key," Formby said. "Efficiency in government. So, how the private industry, the business community, the developers are able to get permits out of the Department of Planning and Permitting. What's the best way to do that? And how can we keep things moving?"
Formby says rail is another big challenge facing the new administration. Given his experience at HART, Formby believes everyone has to get on the same page.
The $10 billion project faces more delays and higher costs due to the relocation of utilities in the city center. It could lose federal funds after the Caldwell administration withdrew from a public-private partnership that was to build the last stretch of the rail line.
Formby says the new administration wants to find solutions to finish the project.
"What Mayor Blangiardi and I hope to do is to align the city with HART," he said. "We shouldn't have this division between the two, because it's a city project."
Formby says it's important for the city and HART to agree on a plan in order to secure future federal funds and restore trust with the Federal Transit Administration.
"We already have a deficit just based on COVID with the GET (general excise tax) and TAT (transient accomodations tax) revenue. But [we] can't afford to be losing fedreal funds that are currently programmed for the project."
Blangiardi and Formby start their new jobs as mayor and managing director in early January.