Mike McCartney’s DBEDT nomination heading to Hawaii Senate
State Sen. Glenn Wakai recommended that the full Senate not confirm Mike McCartney to lead Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism during a hearing Monday, accusing him of poor communication with the Senate, lacking a vision for DBEDT, being short on details when it comes to policy matters and not following through on commitments.
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State Sen. Glenn Wakai
recommended that the full Senate not confirm Mike McCartney to lead Hawaii’s
Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism during a hearing Monday, accusing him of poor communication with the Senate, lacking a vision for DBEDT, being short on details when it comes to policy matters and not following through on commitments.
Wakai chairs the Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development and Tourism, which is responsible for vetting McCartney’s nomination before it goes to a vote in the Senate.
“It’s evident that Mr. McCartney chooses not to interact with the Senate. He really has no clear game plan as to what the business opportunities are for the state of Hawaii,” said Wakai.
Wakai’s motion ultimately didn’t have the support of his committee, however. State Sens. Lorraine Inouye and Jarrett Keohokalole voted against Wakai’s recommendation, while state Sen. Kurt Fevella, the Senate’s only Republican, supported it. State Sen. Brian Taniguchi, who could have broken the tie, was absent.
The tie vote means that
no recommendation goes to the Senate, which is expected to vote Thursday on McCartney’s nomination.
McCartney served as Gov. David Ige’s chief of staff from December 2014 until January, when the governor appointed him director of DBEDT. He also served as president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, executive director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association and president and CEO of PBS Hawaii. He served as a state senator for 10 years.
Wakai was the only senator to question McCartney during the hearing. He criticized him for not fixing a leaking roof at the Hawai‘i Convention Center, a project that has grown in cost, while he led the Hawaii Tourism Authority. He admonished him for not brokering a deal to solve the illegal vacation rental problem while he served as Ige’s chief of staff. And he queried McCartney on why he never responded to his emails and why he submitting 11th-hour testimony on a bill this year to tax real estate investment trusts.
“You are always late. You were even late to your own confirmation hearing today, Mr. McCartney,” said Wakai. “So I see a recurring pattern here. You are either late, you are noncommunicative, you apologize and I give you a chance to improve, and nothing ever changes.”
The exchange, before a room packed with McCartney’s supporters, was awkward. McCartney seemed resigned to the battery of questioning and criticism,
at times not offering up much of a response.
“Maybe we should talk about it. Maybe we should talk about it together,” he said at one point in response to a question from Wakai as to why he should have any confidence in him.
Written testimony on
McCartney’s nomination, which totaled almost
100 pages, was overwhelmingly supportive, including testimony from numerous state departments, the Hawaii State Teachers Association and Unite Here Local 5, which represents thousands of hotel workers.
Local 5 said McCartney has a “steadfast commitment towards defending the public’s interest” and that his “commitment to the meaning of ‘aloha,’ to Hawaii as a place and its hard working people are among his most recognizable brands.”
McCartney said after the hearing that he respects the Senate’s role in the confirmation process. He declined to comment on the noticeable tension between him and Wakai.