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Ige, aides tout early achievements at community meeting

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Gov. David Ige and members of his cabinet highlighted some of the administration’s early achievements tonight — including speeding up the use of federal dollars on transportation projects, closing on the Turtle Bay conservation deal and boosting the state’s bond rating — at a community meeting at Windward Community College in Kaneohe.

The meeting was the first of a series of community meetings that Ige is expected to host throughout the state in the coming months as part of his commitment to community engagement and government transparency.

“We are working very hard to make things work for the long term,” said Ige to a group of about 100 people. “Sorry, I’m not about drama. It’s not about getting in the news every single night. For me, it really is about choosing great public servants to serve as directors, great leaders and encouraging them to lead their departments. Most importantly, it’s looking at the most challenging issues we are confronted with and engaging the community to ask for their assistance to find the best solutions.”

Ige was joined by Department of Health Director Virginia Pressler, Department of Transportation Deputy Director Ed Sniffen and the state’s homeless coordinator, Scott Morishige, who spent the first hour briefing residents on their key priorities before opening the meeting up to questions.

Pressler focused on the health department’s new master plan to revamp the state psychiatric hospital in Kaneohe to make it safer for staff and better serve patients. The department is planning to double the number of beds and install tighter security in light of hundreds of reported assaults by patients against staff and increases in the number of people being committed to the facility.

Sniffen announced that the Department of Transportation expects to fully reopen the Wilson Tunnel by the first week of November. One lane of the tunnel has been closed since staff found 30 broken rods in its ceiling.

“It caused tremendous concern for us,” said Sniffen, while noting that the tunnel has about 750 rods total.

The tunnel is expected to open a month before schedule.

Morishige touched on the state’s data driven approach to tackling the problem of homelessness. Assessing the needs of about 300 homeless people living in Kakaako before conducting sweeps of the encampment has helped homeless providers move more than half of the population into shelters or permanent housing, he said.

The governor announced earlier today that his administration plans to conduct further sweeps in November, which will likely begin at Kewalo Basin Park.

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