HONOLULU (KHON2) — We’ve interviewed him as state senator, lieutenant governor and now as governor-elect. Now Dr. Josh Green joins Gina Mangieri and Brigette Namata for an in-studio interview about what’s next in his transition to governor.
BRIGETTE: Thank you for being here.
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GREEN: Thank you guys. I appreciate it.
GINA: Congratulations on your victory.
GREEN: Thanks, it’s quite a thing. I mean, I’m humbled by it. I’m grateful to have Jamie beside me to make decisions and to be a part of it. And then of course, (L.G.-elect) Sylvia Luke is just a star. So we’re excited to govern and lead.
GINA: Lt’s dive right into that topic. It’s less than a month until you take over. How are you building your cabinet, your boards and commissions?
GREEN: Really proactively actually. As of this morning at 6 a.m., we didn’t waste any time at all, we launched our website, which is www.greentransition2022.org so people can start applying. Also over the last couple of weeks, a lot of interest has been generated. I insist that they’re caring and that they are very cerebral also, because I think that our kind of our cabinet wants to be hands on and wants to be a reflection of our approach, which is in the trenches with people and pretty sensitive. But i think it’s going to be great. I love the names I’m seeing.
BRIGETTE: Let’s talk scandals. There have been numerous corruption scandals involving local politicians. So what will you do to ensure accountability and ethics in state government?
GREEN: What we’re going to do is we’re going to apply some extra personnel at the Attorney General’s level, which means that we’ll have a cohort of people in the Attorney General’s office that can proactively look at any potential for corruption, troubleshoot some of these problems long before they become crises like they’ve become. I have three people in mind already for that. I took to heart people’s concerns. I think that you have to restore faith in government before you do almost anything else. I also talked to the speaker of the house today, and we were chatting about some good ethics reform, too. So I expect the legislature will also be attentive.
GINA: Let’s rattle through some priorities for each and every island.
GREEN: Oahu I gotta say it’s housing. We have so many people here. It’s very difficult for people to find affordable housing. Kauai needs infrastructure support so that they can build housing but they have a very proactive mayor. Congratulations, by the way to Mayor (Derek) Kawakami, he’s done a great job. He wants infrastructure done, roads particularly I’m told, so that he can build housing. Maui, boy, so they’ve been worried about homeless individuals. And they have a lot of interesting challenges. They have a workforce problem. There are far too few workers so in that case, it’s not necessarily just middle-class housing and affordable housing, it’s workforce housing on Maui. There are some other issues, we actually are going to do something different than a lot of governors have done. Normally, a governor has just a person for each county, sometimes a second person in that county to be the liaison. We’d like to put someone on Molokai and Lanai if possible, in addition to Maui, so we have direct representation 24/7, in addition to the senators and the reps.
GINA: And more support for restoring Kahoolawe?
GREEN: Absolutely, we have to be faithful to the cleanup there, and the restoration will mean that eventually that’s going to be completed, maybe some of those lands should be fully transferred back to the community. I’m going to do a lot of things, especially in the neighbor islands, regarding Hawaiian Homelands. One of the challenges, for instance, on Big Island is there are so many people that have not been able to afford a house, but they are Hawaiian. In fact, some of them are my wife’s family in that kind of category, and they were promised Hawaiian Homelands a long time ago. There’s over 80,000 acres I believe on Big Island and that should be disposition to the Hawaiian people. And that blends into another Big Island issue, which I’m sure you’re interested in, which is the TMT. I think that nobody really knows for sure what to do exactly, although people are kind of dug in on it. I think what we have to do is respectfully have the dialogue about what’s best for all the people of Hawaii. That means a cultural competency question. We should respect the host culture.
BRIGETTE: Let’s talk about jails. Gov. (David) Ige has tried in vain to build a new jail to help with the overcrowding at OCCC. What will you do about this issue? And additionally, how will you address mental illness and addiction that some of these inmates are facing?
GREEN: So that is the right question, because the nexus is complete. Almost everybody who ends up in a terrible crime has had addiction, usually methamphetamine, although sometimes there is mental illness as a component to it. This is my medical side, again, kind of rearing its head. What we have to do is justice reform first, so nonviolent crime that’s been committed as a result of addiction has to be kind of decriminalized to a point. Now if someone has committed a violent crime against someone, they have got to go into jail for the duration from my perspective, or whatever they’re sentenced to of course. If they’ve just been addicted, we need to get social workers psychologists, psychiatrists, addiction specialists to help them. If we decompress the prison population more quickly than we have been planning, then we won’t have quite the overcrowding problem.
GINA: There are a few more weeks left in which the Ige administration could take some very consequential actions on deals or no deals at our stadium, and with our tourism and marketing contracts. What will you do when you take over? What signals can you send today about what they should or shouldn’t do on the home stretch?
GREEN: Well, maybe I should start being a little bit more blunt. So honored to be the governor-elect. I would like them to resolve the question between those who would be marketing and those who would be managing our tourism industry. I think that they should resolve that contract now so I don’t have to do it myself. And I do think that we should have managed tourism, with a heavy cultural component. This will probably be a blended form of the approach for the next year or so. The stadium question, my personal preference, just my personal preference, as the governor-elect is that they pause on any further decisions, and let our team decide it. And I will respect whatever guidance they give us. But, again, I also respect that there’s one governor at a time. Gov. Ige was very generous with me. If they have to make decisions, I will make the best of them. I do intend to build a stadium though. They did debate this thing for several years with the overall kind of finance plan to have the whole entertainment district. That would be the simpler process in my mind, because all those meetings already occurred. Again, I will respect whatever the governor comes up with that I’m going to push pretty fast ahead with the state because I don’t want it to wait five, six years.
BRIGETTE: Speaking of the future, how will you diversify the local economy so we’re not so reliant on the military and tourism?
GREEN: Agriculture. I think agriculture is going to be our big commitment. Agriculture does seem to be our potential greatest boost for Hawaii. It would be a mix between modern and traditional agriculture which is good because I think modern agriculture is lower water impact, which means you can grow a lot of different crops, usually in greenhouses with only about 10% of the amount of water. You don’t have to use pesticides. But then there’s the other side of agriculture, which is traditional agriculture, like fish ponds, taro I think that is excellent for us because it’s very therapeutic. There’s a new generation spread from Gen Z to millennials who are going back to the land, and they want other options. And the final twist on agriculture is it’s energy-related, so renewables, which we are committed to going forward. To be 100% renewable, you need good energy projects if you’re going to support agriculture, which means more investment.
GINA: Could modernized agriculture also include more support for industrial hemp or legalized cannabis?
GREEN: Yes. I think there’s a lot of potential there. I’ve been surprised, actually, that people haven’t gone that direction, because I think those are cash crops. So I’m speaking with some of the larger agriculture folks. Again, you know, I prefer kind of the organic industries. This is just my bias, because I don’t like pesticides so much. I am willing to be thoughtful about which crops we do. And I do think that if the legislature gives us legalization, I will sign that bill and sign it safely, which means some precautions for young people and putting the revenues from the taxes into behavioral health, mental health. But absolutely, if people can make money, and they can do it on the land, and it supports us, as opposed to only being tourism and only being military, that’s great.
BRIGETTE: Let’s shift to some personal questions. Now, before you were Gov. Elect, as L.G. and state senator, you started off as a physician. Will you continue being a doctor on the Big Island?
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GREEN: I wish I could. But I can’t, and I would say this. First of all, the governor’s job is far too big to have two careers. It was easier when I was a part-time legislator, or even had my weekends as lieutenant governor setting aside the covid time, which was tougher. I’m not allowed to do it. It’s not appropriate either. So I won’t be a practicing physician as a job. What I will do though, is I’ll do medical missions, like we did when we went to Samoa, that was the experience of a lifetime. I’d love that being with my colleagues. I’ll probably also do some medical outreach, you know, a couple hours on a weekend to do wound care or work in some of our free clinics, because that’s just something that’s in my heart.
GINA: Well, you’re already hitting the ground running with your work to begin, and the swearing-in comes up in early December. Gov. Elect Josh Green, thank you so much for joining us today.