It’s easy to talk about governing; it’s much harder to “walk the talk” and make the tough decisions on the community’s most pressing issues— whether it’s in education, the economy and jobs, affordable housing or the environment. As Governor Ige embarks on his second term, this edition covers timely issues, school progress and working together for the future.
Q. What do you want to focus on in your second term?
A. We want to build on the progress and momentum we’re already seeing. A recent list of local housing construction in Pacific Business News showed 16 of the 23 projects underway in 2018 were affordable rentals or for-sale units, built with state-assisted financing. A second term enables us to maintain this momentum. We’re ahead of schedule in our Sustainable Hawai‘i goals of producing clean, renewable energy while reducing the cost to consumers. We’re focused on innovation and getting more funds to our schools. And we’ve had breakthroughs to better manage ocean resources through community-based rules and balanced water allocation for agriculture, electricity and housing.
Q. What does the Supreme Court’s decision to allow construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope mean for Hawai‘i?
A. I’ve always believed that science and Native Hawaiian practices can coexist. The TMT decision advances Hawai‘i’s reputation in scientific discovery and provides for community and educational benefits. When I went up to Mauna Kea’s summit, I thought there were too many commercial aspects and not enough cultural understanding of the significance of the mountain. The Board of Land and Natural Resources adopted 43 conditions to ensure the project fulfills its environmental and educational commitments, that TMT will train and hire local workers, and that Native Hawaiian protocols will be respected. Hawai‘i island Mayor Harry Kim and I want to work with the community to create a vision for Mauna Kea as a symbol of peace and international cooperation. The University of Hawai‘i has done much to strengthen its stewardship of the mountain, which was part of my 10-point plan from 2015.
Q. Without a constitutional amendment, what is the way forward to increase resources to improve public schools?
A. Hawai‘i is the only public school system in the nation where not a penny comes from property taxes. Every year the Department of Education’s budget request far exceeds our ability to provide the needed funds. Although vaguely worded, I thought the constitutional amendment was a valid question to put to the voters. We’ll keep looking for ways to increase resources, including improvements through our tax system modernization initiative to collect taxes already owed for online sales, vacation rentals and tax fraud.
Q. What progress are you seeing in the state’s Department of Education system and the schools?
A. I’ve found DOE Superintendent Kishimoto really does walk the talk and understands that the system needs to support innovation in the classroom. Our Blueprint for Education says quality begins by empowering schools to be creative in ways that serve their communities rather than focusing on standardization. The superintendent and I agree we have to pay attention to teacher retention and fiscal accountability, and I know she’s focused on making sure DOE funds are spent effectively at the school level.
A. What the president says matters. Some of his hateful rhetoric really encourages bullying. Social media gives everyone a platform to attack without taking responsibility. We have to send a strong message that bullying in any form is just not acceptable.