From Ige to Green, What that Transition Could Look Like

Lt. Gov. Josh Green will be sworn in next month as the state of Hawaii’s ninth governor. Already Green has a few advantages going for him.

Three favorable areas that could give Green a running start
First, Green has the momentum of being popularly elected having had two-thirds of votes in the General and a convincing win in the Primary that many Democrats didn’t even entertain entering due to Green’s high favorability in early polls. The two-thirds vote wasn’t just a vote for Green, but perhaps more importantly, it represents a mandate from Hawaii’s electorate that “green” lights (pun intended) Josh’s campaign platform, and that the electorate is hungry for results on these promises made.

Also going for Green is the perfect Lt. Governor to complement his administration. Both are progressives and have very similar goals. While Green is articulate, energetic, confident (great for leadership), he’s not known as the most effective legislator – which is where Lt. Gov.-elect Sylvia Luke (legislating is her forte) can come in to be that bridge for the administration and Legislature, in a role like a Majority Whip serves, to get party-members to vote with party leaders.

The other built-in advantage for Gov-elect Green (at least in the first two years) is the robust state budget (and state’s highest credit rating) that Gov. David Ige left. Green stands to inherit an unprecedented “rainy day fund” budget surplus of nearly $1 billion which sum is due to Ige’s conservative spending and help from the federal government’s COVID-19 spending bills to states. While some applaud Ige’s “right-size” state government spending, there are others who feel Ige could have been aggressive in some areas of government like providing more affordable housing and curbing homelessness with that surplus money.

In fairness to Ige, he has made improvements to both. His administration built more than 9,400 affordable housing units and there was a reduction in homelessness by 53%.

Still, the fact that affordable housing was among the top, if not the most important issue in the last election that propelled Green to victory (he emphasized affordable housing as a top priority) – this suggests a vast majority of Hawaii residents believe affordable housing wasn’t sufficiently prioritized during Ige’s administration.

While a sizable state surplus could give Green a running start, looming is a potential recession that some economists are predicting, which could dampen the start of whatever major projects Green has in mind.

There is also the matter of COVID-19 bail out money that were used to keep many state-government services running is about to dry up with no plans of massive federal assistance to states. Remember that Republicans voted against the last COVID-19 bill and their control of the next House signals less or frozen federal support to states across the board.

Ige’s highs and lows
Gov. Ige will most likely be remembered as the governor who led our state during the critical stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. While he will always have his fair share of critics in his handling of the pandemic, some saying that he reacted too slowly, tanked the state’s economy — a vast majority of Hawaii residents are pleased with Ige’s pandemic response. Looking to statistics is evidence of success with Hawaii having had among the lowest COVID-19 fatalities and infections during the viruses’ deadliest period. And Ige’s tough containment measures — like mandatory quarantines and temporarily shutting down tourism and business operations that drew ire and criticism from many in the business sectors – turn out to be the right choice.

Today as Hawaii’s employment has rebounded (as well as businesses, those that survived), and the fact the federal government stabilized the state’s budget (without having to raise state taxes which was under consideration) and businesses – in retrospect Ige’s emphasis on saving lives as top priority through tough mandates was certainly the right move.Ige weathered harsh criticism and stayed steady in his resolve to protect Hawaii – something a great many leaders would not have been able to do.

The outgoing governor also showed strong leadership in forcing the Navy to immediately suspend operations at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility amid a water contamination crisis that raised fears of wider contamination.

Low points of the Ige administration (arguably besides not doing enough in affordable housing) was the false alert of an incoming missile attack by North Korea in which Ige was too late to address and his handling of the Mauna Kea controversy that critics say Ige was not culturally sensitive enough to Native Hawaiians and put the state in an awkward position of being combative towards its own people. Both low points arguably could have been handled differently if Ige was a better communicator that some say was Ige’s weakness.

Different leadership, areas of continuity
Already we see Gov.-elect Green is a better communicator than Ige. Green also leans left politically from Ige who was a fiscal conservative. This could mean a more active role for the state in progressive issues such as improving affordable housing, having better access to healthcare (already much better than most of the states), spending more in resources to help those in poverty, the chronically hungry and homeless, implementing greater protections of Hawaii’s natural beauty and possibly capitalizing on resources we have for a green economy to complement the state’s tourism (new tourism, emphasizing quality and right-sized tourism). All of these were supported by Ige (so it could be considered continuity), but we’re talking about increased emphasis on them and possibly larger allotment of resources to these areas under Green. Where we will also see continuity is women having health care options that includes the right to an abortion, and other areas that champion civil, workers and immigrant rights.Where our Filipino community would like to see continuity is the appointment of qualified Filipino Americans to top state department posts and administrative positions (Ige did well in this area). We are a firm believer that representation matters; and that our leaders should look like the population that they serve.

It’s also imperative that Hawaii works on our physician shortage problem that is already critical in some of our communities. Green, a physician, knows very well the dire situation.

Mahalo to outgoing Gov. David Ige. We hope the best for Gov.-elect Josh Green and look forward to working with him in his outreach to Hawaii’s Filipino community.

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