Hawaii’s Chief Housing Officer Nani Medeiros, who took her new job 10 months ago, plans to resign, Gov. Josh Green told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
“Nani Medeiros is a truly compassionate person who has worked tirelessly to help create novel solutions to house the homeless and to build affordable homes in Hawaii – only to face a barrage of personal attacks in person and on social media from those who would rather tear us all apart, rather than help Hawaii move forward,” Green said today.
He blamed B.J. Penn in particular. After a career in mixed-martial arts, Penn unsuccessfully ran in 2022 for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
“The bullying tactics, with obvious violent undertones employed by Mr. Penn and his followers have no place in Hawaii and are absolutely contrary to our spirit of Aloha for others,” Green told the Star-Advertiser. “I won’t tolerate anyone from my team, or anyone in our state, being treated this way. It is despicable.”
Penn could not immediately be reached for comment today.
Medeiros leads a new state emergency housing development approval panel that Green created through an emergency proclamation on July 17.
The panel has resulted in lawsuits against Medeiros and intense public criticism during its first meeting last month, when it received criticism of its existence, power or process — including from Penn.
Some critics scolded the panel for not consulting Lahaina community members on proposed projects that could benefit people displaced by the Aug. 8 wildfire that burned down the homes of thousands of residents and killed at least 115 people.
A few other testifiers at the meeting suggested that the 36-member panel made up largely by state and county officials represents a scheme to redevelop the historic Lahaina.
Penn accused panel members of ignoring public concerns and wanting to take the family fortunes of Lahaina evacuees and put them in Puna on Hawaii island.
“You guys gonna take the people in Lahaina and put them in Puna,” Penn said. “That’s crazy.”
Long before Green created the panel, Medeiros was criticized in January by state Sen. Kurt Fevella (R, Ocean Pointe-Iroquois Point-Kapolei), who brought her to tears at a meeting of the Hawaiian Home Lands Commission when Fevella said Medeiros has “nothing, or no knowledge, about our Hawaiian people. I don’t care if she says she’s Hawaiian. Just remember now, the devil also was an angel. Remember that. So just because you’re Hawaiian doesn’t mean you have the passion for the people.”
Green, in response, wrote a two-page letter to Senate President Ron Kouchi condemning Fevella’s testimony about Medeiros.
Fevella later stood on the Senate floor and said, “At this time I just want to offer apologies to Nani Medeiros if I had offended her and her family of the things that I had said. I never meant to hurt her personally or her family. So, again, I apologize for the words that I had said.”
In response, Medeiros later wrote in a text to the Star-Advertiser at the time saying, “This has been a very difficult week for me and my family. I look forward to moving on and focusing on the Governor’s priority housing agenda; there is too much at stake for anything less.”
Green told the Star-Advertiser that the criticisms leveled at Medeiros — who holds a Cabinet-level position in his administration — makes it even harder for him to find a qualified replacement.
Medeiros started out advising former Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, on homelessness and housing. Medeiros previously worked for a hui of builders and developers called HomeAid Hawaii, which provided materials, manpower and expertise to build Hawaii’s first kauhale of tiny homes in Kalaeloa to provide permanent homes for homeless clients.
In February, Medeiros told the Star-Advertiser that she had spent years living paycheck to paycheck as a single mother — the group most at risk of becoming homeless — and doubted she would ever be able to buy a home in Hawaii.
But her job with Green fueled her desire to make housing more affordable for everyone, she said.