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From the governor: The way forward for Hawai‘i

Posted on Apr 27, 2022 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main

As the only island state in the nation, Hawaii knows that climate change is real as it battles sea level rise and the effects of global warming. The good news is that our community and the Ige administration are turning urgency into action. More than ever – especially in the wake of the pandemic – we’re realizing how interconnected we all are on planet Earth. This issue of Capitol Connection takes a look at how the governor and his team have led the way to protect our environment and natural resources as well as the lives of our people.

Governor and Mrs. Ige at Diamond Head, planting rare red ‘ilima.

Governor and Mrs. Ige at Diamond Head, planting rare red ‘ilima.

Q:What should we know about the current phase of COVID-19 and how are we preparing for the future?

A: COVID case counts are creeping up, but so far, Hawai‘i isn’t seeing the kind of surges happening in other states because our people still take precautions. I saw in Long’s that at least 80 percent of folks are still wearing masks. People have learned that masks can make a difference, and now they choose to wear one, even though it’s not mandated. We need to stay vigilant. That’s why we’re implementing sewage surveillance because it provides an early warning system to indicate how prevalent the disease is and which variants are present. Sewage surveillance is like testing everyone. It means everyone participates in the sampling.

Q: At this point, are you optimistic about the defueling of Red Hill?

A: I’ve talked directly to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, and they say they are fully committed to defueling and decommissioning the fuel storage site. The recent dismissal of the Navy’s appeal of our emergency  order and withdrawal of its lawsuit against the state is a very positive development for the people of Hawai‘i. We’ll continue to hold the Navy’s feet to the fire to ensure the Red Hill tanks are safely defueled and closed and that the state will have access to clean, fresh water for the future.

Q: Why have you prioritized watershed protection in your budget and why is that so important?

A: Watershed protection is essential to our survival because the forests capture the fresh water that replenishes our aquifers. Many people don’t appreciate the hard work and capital investment that it takes to protect our forests. With the Red Hill crisis, conserving and protecting our fresh water supply has never been more vital.

Q: What do you want the community to know about what’s been accomplished for sustainability in Hawai‘i?

A: I want the people of Hawai‘i to feel proud of how our state is regarded as a world leader on sustainability. It’s because of the high-impact actions we’ve taken as a community. It’s about the Sustainable Hawai‘i Initiative to protect watersheds and oceans and commit to 100% clean, renewable energy for electricity. Because of community support, we’ve gone to the head of the line in being willing to make choices and sacrifices to save the planet.

Q: Some say no other Hawai‘i governor has been tested with as many crises as you have, and now the state has emerged better than many expected from COVID. What would your advice be to future governors?

A: I believe it’s as simple as having good values, honesty and doing what’s best for the community. In politics, there’s always a lot of noise and people second-guessing you. When I took office, I didn’t feel beholden to anyone, so I looked for the most qualified people I could find to lead the state’s agencies. I wanted to make sure we shared the same good values and priorities. For every crisis, I focused on taking the best advice, then making the decisions that put the community first.

Read more in the May Capitol Connection newsletter.

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