Colleen Hanabusa is the best choice to lead Hawaii for the next four years
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser believes it’s time for another change in the state’s top leadership. Hawaii would best be served by U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa leaving Washington and moving in at the State Capitol’s fifth floor.
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In this restive, less predictable environment that is now Hawaii politics, voters once again are facing a real choice. The past electoral pattern — in which a sitting governor seemed set to sail to a second term and certainly never confronted a challenge within his or her own party — was broken when David Ige was elected to succeed Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
Now history may repeat itself. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser believes it’s time for another change in the state’s top leadership. Hawaii would best be served by U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa leaving Washington and moving in at the State Capitol’s fifth floor.
In her interview with the Editorial Board, the congresswoman displayed a fondness for wonky detail, but mixed in a well-informed vision for how Hawaii should develop, and what changes (such as a new stadium out in her old West Side stomping grounds) would best serve the state.
Hanabusa, 67, is best equipped to deal with some of the looming problems the governor will confront over the next four years.
Not the least of these is ensuring adequate oversight of what has now become a project shared by the state and City and County of Honolulu: the financing and construction of Oahu’s 20-mile elevated rail system. Her chairmanship of the project’s overseer, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), surely would provide critical guidance at this juncture.
There also is the imminent court ruling over the Thirty Meter Telescope. Even if the state Supreme Court upholds the permit for the project, the security of the construction itself is anything but assured, given the resolute opposition. Steering through those shoals will take committed leadership and skill. We expect that Hanabusa will lean on her good grasp of the project’s long history and help bring resolution to this longstanding stalemate.
Ige has brought a quiet style of administration to state government, and his campaign promotes his trustworthiness and aversion to drama. In many ways, that was a welcome change.
The governor, an engineer by training, brought his focused, methodical attention to one of the state’s institutional weaknesses: its archaic information technology system. Advances were made there. Another project, the cooling of aging and ill-equipped classrooms, progressed, albeit more slowly than he’d promised. He worked on affordable housing, although he initiated fewer of these projects than his campaign rhetoric suggested.
The most pleasant surprises came, ironically, when he did deliver with an uncharacteristically dramatic flair. His firm opposition to the purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries by NextEra Energy showed nerve and a steady adherence to the state’s renewable-energy goals.
If only that happened more frequently. Ige too often showed reticence to stake out a position, as if it wasn’t his place to speak out.
Most notably, in the debate over the rail tax extension, lawmakers — not to mention the voters — needed to see him take a side, whether or not the leadership in the State Capitol was amenable to it.
Legislators grew frustrated waiting for projects — the privatization of the Maui hospital system, for example — to be carried to completion. Most recently, the dispute over the “ohana zones” homelessness solution needlessly bogged down. This easily could have been pursued as a joint endeavor, replicating successful models such as Kahauiki Village that were, in fact, completed on Ige’s watch.
As for the Legislature’s big investment in affordable housing finances, advocate and former lawmaker Bob Nakata said, in fact, that it was a push from Hanabusa that pried the money loose from leadership. This legislative-executive infighting is unfortunate with blame to go around, but generally it rests with the chief executive to broker the peace.
Can Hanabusa handle such a challenge? We hope so. She has had to overcome her own political baggage in restarting her career. Without relitigating the old issues of her alliances with developers and influence over ongoing projects, suffice it to say that a pledge of greater transparency, communication and an arms-length stance toward special interests would be required, should she win the job she covets on Beretania Street.
The Democratic ticket also includes Ernest Caravalho, Wendell Ka‘ehu‘ae‘a, Richard Kim and Van Tanabe. Green Party candidate Jim Brewer will advance, and nonpartisans Selina Blackwell, Link El and Terence Teruya also are running.
Those casting a GOP ballot should choose state Rep. Andria Tupola, the House minority leader, as the one best equipped to carry the party flag, calling out the state’s unfriendly business environment and substandard facilities.
Former state Sen. John Carroll is making another run at the job, but newcomer Ray L’Heureux, retired Marine and former assistant school superintendent, lays out clearer priorities on education, infrastructure and the economy.