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From the governor: Challenges, progress, the year ahead

Posted on Nov 29, 2017 in Capitol Connection, Featured

Until you assume the office, no one can really know what it means to be Hawai‘i’s governor: the daily decisions that affect thousands of people, the responsibility to help chart the state’s future, and the flood of community invitations that come your way. This issue of Capitol Connection provides a snapshot of some of the past month’s events as the governor reflects on challenges, progress and the year to come.

Gov. Ige and Pope Elem students in WP garden

Gov. Ige and Blanche Pope Elementary students helping in the Washington Place garden

Q. In this, your third year as governor, what do you want people to know about the challenges we’re facing and what your administration is doing about them?

A. The evidence is telling us we’ve made progress in many of the areas people care about. Our housing production is up, and we’re looking for ways to reduce the barriers to increase the pace. About 5,300 units have been produced since we took office – 40 percent of them affordable – and more are in the pipeline. Homelessness is down by 9 percent statewide, and we’re taking new steps to maintain access to and safety in our public spaces. We kept our promise on cooling more than 1,000 classrooms in our schools statewide. Hawai‘i also has become a recognized leader in sustainability and clean energy. Finally, the state is in solid financial shape, and the U.S. Department of Labor just reported we have the lowest unemployment rate in the nation for the first time in nearly 11 years. We’ve made good progress and we want to maintain the momentum.

Q. What are some of your highest priorities for the coming year?

A. I want to keep investing in our people and our community while being smart about managing taxpayer dollars. Moody’s Analytics reported that Hawai‘i is one of only 16 states with enough cash reserves to weather the “stress test” of another recession. It’s that kind of planning that allows us to be in better financial shape than when we took office. We went through the budget for the coming year, and there isn’t going to be a whole lot of additional money. So it’s about understanding the systems we have in place, then figuring out better ways to get the results we want — whether it’s education, housing, homelessness or the economy.

Q. What do you say to some people who ask if “progress” is always tied to more tourism?

A. The short answer is no. “Progress” isn’t limited to more visitor arrivals, although tourism has always been a big part of our economy for the jobs and tax revenue it generates. But moving forward, it’s also about building a smart “innovation economy” and creating higher-paying jobs. We’re seeing how technology is transforming our lives and the impact it has on every industry – from banking to agriculture. We want our children to be prepared to fill these jobs. The state is already working with businesses to help upgrade people’s skills for this new kind of workforce. By investing in our local talent, we can create opportunities for the future.

Q. What are you looking forward to with the Washington Place restoration and the holidays?

A. It will be exciting to reopen this landmark to the public. The Washington Place restoration gives us the chance to learn more about Queen Lili‘uokalani, the Dominis family and the governors who lived in this historic home. As for our family, now that Amy, Lauren and Matthew are out of college and working, the holidays are the time we can count on for all of us to be together. We’re wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season as we look forward to 2018.

Read more in our December issue