HONOLULU (KHON2) — Gov. David Ige has just a few more weeks in office but still has a very full plate. He joins the KHON2 News to talk about the past and the future.
KHON2: People want to know what is on your plate in these last few weeks. There are some big projects like the stadium, if you’d please address that, and anything else that are some top priorities you still need to finish.
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IGE: Sure, we are working definitely to get the tax rebates and refunds out to everyone. I had talked with the tax department, they said everyone who filed their income tax statements should have gotten or are in the process of getting the refund.
So for those of you who haven’t filed, you have to file in order to get the rebate. In terms of the stadium, we’re working with the stadium authority and the bid department to come up with an MOU about who’s responsible for what and you know, we’re committed to getting the process rolling so that we can construct the stadium as quickly as possible.
KHON: Will that MOU be signed before you leave office? And, will it be binding in the sense that the next governor can or can’t go back on it or change it?
IGE: Certainly, the next governor would be able to make whatever changes they would want. Clearly, it’s a pretty straightforward project. At this point, the legislature has appropriated $350 million to design and build a stadium, period.
They have not provided any funds for a public-private partnership. So certainly, if the next administration would want to pursue that it would insert a delay again into the process, because they need to go back to the legislature. There would need to be new legislation drafted.
KHON: Your elected successor is someone who was never shy about giving you advice, solicited or otherwise, during your tenure. What advice would you give to Gov.-Elect Josh Green coming in?
IGE: I do think it is about being focused on priorities and really not allowing special interests to deviate or influence decisions made. I think as long as you’re committed to doing what’s best for the people of Hawaii, I do think that the community benefits.
KHON: What’s on your wish list of things that you wish you could have gotten done, wish a future governor could get done, but maybe you’ve learned from the inside over two terms that there are either structural or other things that make it harder than one might think even when you’re the top boss?
IGE: I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made in housing and homelessness. We had established a goal of 15,000 units to be built, and we completed 15,000. And, i think most importantly, 9,400 of those units were affordable units. I have learned that the challenge is with the limited land in Hawaii, that basic land costs and basic infrastructure sewer, water electricity already is driving the costs.
We’ve seen a 25 percent reduction in overall homelessness, and we did focus on families. There’s been a 53 percent reduction in homeless families, and a 55 percent reduction in homeless children, because of the focus. In many instances, we have offered help to virtually every homeless individual, and many of them refuse to accept moving into a shelter or into permanent supportive housing.
So, you know, it continues to be a big challenge in how to convince homeless individuals to accept the help from the state or other nonprofit entities.
KHON: While your retirement is straight ahead, what will remain your civic engagement priorities for yourself? What will you remain visible in and vocal about after you’re out of office?
IGE: There are many opportunities that I’ll be looking at but clearly the sustainable Hawaii initiative and making sure that Hawaii is at the forefront of the climate crisis and the challenge. I promised to plant or protect 100 million trees.
And, we are on track to do that. But, clearly, we do know that net zero is not good enough. It’s about supporting the environment so that we can remove more carbon dioxide than we create. That’s the only way for us to collectively as a community, as a planet, really save the world.
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KHON: The state will benefit from your voice and your influence on those important matters. Thank you, governor, for spending time with us.
IGE: Thank you so much, Gina, for giving me this opportunity.