A Bumpy Beginning, High Cost of Living, Mainland Lawmakers, A City Grows
by Will Espero
The Hawaii legislative session was recently in its final month, and my past colleague, Governor Josh Green, has experienced a new perspective from his former colleagues after serving in both the House of Representatives and the State Senate before being elected as Lieutenant Governor and Governor.
Several of his appointees for departments were roughed-up in the Senate and rejected for various reasons leaving the governor looking for replacements to be on his cabinet. Past experience and history with the governor may have given senators an inside look at his style and abilities, and their rejections have given the governor a glimpse of future interactions and expectations.
Let’s hope the governor and state senators are able to create and approve a strong executive leadership team. Our state has many problems and issues that need collaboration and action which will entail working together in the spirit of trust, faith, transparency, and inclusivity.
The cost of living in Hawaii is expensive and will likely continue to be a problem for many families. I’m afraid our state has become a place of haves and have nots, and the lack of affordable housing has become a major concern on all islands.
Throughout our state, the only place one can get for under $1,000 is a room, and if one is lucky, a bathroom is attached to it. There are many people working tirelessly on housing solutions, but the lack of land for housing, infrastructure, labor, and timely permits can get in the way of good intentions and ideas.
Due to their power and authority, state and county governments are the key to building more housing units for our local population. Transit-oriented development, tiny home communities, accessory dwelling units, high density buildings, and dormitory-style housing for adults are a few solutions I believe can have an impact on our housing crisis.
If the cost of living and housing issues are not aggressively dealt with, expect more local residents to move away. For the wealthy and well-to-do, Hawaii will continue to be one of the best places to live despite our geographic isolation.
Nationally, crazy things have been happening in politics. Republicans have launched an assault on many fronts with a recent high-profile case involving a Filipino state representative from Tennessee who protested about gun violence after a tragic shooting in his state.
I was irked when the national networks referred to Representative Justin Jones as a Black lawmaker when he is half Filipino due to his mother. By his looks, one can clearly see he is of mixed heritage, and identifying him as only an African American certainly rubbed me the wrong way.
Representative Justin Jones was ousted by his predominantly Republican colleagues from the Tennessee state legislature for his protest against gun violence, but thankfully, his constituents and friends were able to get him reinstated as a state representative in spite of the anti-democratic ways of his opposition.
Other issues targeted by the grand old party include banning books in libraries, gender identification, FDA regulations, and critical race theory.
In the state of New York, Congressional Representative George Santos won his first race for Congress representing the third congressional district. Upon further review, allegations surfaced that Congressman Santos lied his way to office by fabricating many stories about himself and his experiences.
The plethora of false statements, lies, and questionable facts included where he attended high school, his college background, his work experience on Wall Street, his religious affiliation, his personal finances, his charitable work, and even his marital status.
Other alleged lies involve his mother and 9/11, the Holocaust, the Pulse nightclub shooting, and his time in Brazil. There are also allegations of criminality involving a GoFundMe account and credit card fraud.
The plight of George Santos should be a wake-up call for everyone to do their research and due diligence when reviewing political candidates. The recent cases of bribery by local Hawaii state legislators in key legislative positions clearly show the need for and importance of honesty, ethics, and integrity in our elected officials.
Finally, as I drive around the second city of Kapolei, it’s wonderful to see the vision becoming a reality. The administration of Waihee/Cayetano started the villages of Kapolei which has blossomed into a vibrant, attractive place to live, work, play, and be educated.
The University of Hawaii at West Oahu is providing opportunities for many and helping students and families realize their dreams and goals. New lovely homes (although some rather expensive) and flourishing businesses and government services have minimized the need to drive to downtown Honolulu.
Many workers still have the daily commute into town, but a special place continues to grow and develop on the west side with the best yet to come. A new controversial rail system to support our future transportation needs is about to be operational from Kapolei to the stadium (Phase 1), and in my opinion, it will enhance and benefit the island of Oahu. I will write more about the rail system in a future column.
WILL ESPERO retired from the Hawaii legislature after serving 19 years in the state House of Representatives and state Senate. He is currently a novelist, poet, and supporter of the arts. Lingering Thoughts provides a glimpse of his perspective on current events and issues.