Mayer Confirmed, With Strong Reservations

New Director of Planning receives mixed reviews in senate confirmation.

By Jennifer Smith

A near tie vote ends in the senate confirmation of the new Director of the State Office of Planning (OP). Only 4 of 25 senators voted with full approval of Governor appointee Abbey Mayer.

The 13-12 vote echoed mixed reviews received during three hearings held to address the January appointment of the former Molokai resident.

Sen. Kalani English said Mayer failed in a February hearing on Molokai to show his ability to fulfill the requirements of the Director’s position as described in the Hawaii Revised Statutes. The senator said the description requires the Director to develop alternative views and innovative plans for the state.

“Mayer didn’t contribute anything constructive in important planning processes on Molokai,” former Planning Commission Chair DeGray Vanderbilt said. Several other community members expressed similar concerns about how the new Director’s two years of work as the Executive Director of the Molokai Enterprise Community qualifies him to make planning decisions for the entire state.  

“Mr. Mayer does not have a background in strategic long based community planning,” or knowledge of protecting Hawaii’s resources, Homesteader Tuddie Purdy said in a written testimony.

Mayer received a recommendation last week Monday during a Senate Committee on Water and Land hearing; however, all four senators’ recommendations came with strong reservations. The senators questioned the authenticity of testimony received supporting Mayer, cited strong obstacles he will have to overcome, and asked him to heed the knowledge of his adept staff. 

“My concern is not Mr. Mayer as an individual,” Sen. Carol Fukunaga said. With the islands heading into a difficult time, and important decisions concerning development and innovation needing to be made, the senator said the nominee for such a high position should possess abundant and applicable qualifications.

Fukunaga was among the senators who voted against the confirmation because the nominee does not have a “strong planning background.”

Innovation and alternative plans have become even more important in light of Molokai Ranch’s March 24 decision to close operations. Governor Linda Lingle compared the Ranch’s decision to terminate over 120 jobs on Molokai to the loss of 23,000 jobs on Oahu.

The Governor has appointed Mayer to oversee the newly created Molokai Action Team (MAT) to help address the effects of the Ranch’s decision to close.

Mayer will receive his first big test in his new position while heading the team of 14 individuals from state, county, business, and community organizations. The first meeting of MAT was held in the Department of Hawaiian Homelands Conference room on April 7.


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