guest viewpoint – Special session won’t be all Superferry

The residents of Hawai‘i should know that the importance of the upcoming special session of the state Legislature goes far beyond resolving the current Superferry situation.

The short- and long-term effectiveness of state government in Hawai‘i will be shaped by actions taken at the Capitol in the upcoming days, because state senators will consider the confirmation of three department directors, a judge and close to 100 members of boards and commissions.

I am proud of the fact that my administration has led Hawai‘i forward into an era of unprecedented progress since taking office in December 2002, by turning a budget deficit into a large surplus, by maintaining one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates, by increasing solutions for affordable housing and homelessness, by bolstering protections for our cultural and natural resources, by supporting the local business community, by getting tough on drugs/crime and initiating new laws to better protect our residents and visitors, by making health and education top priorities, by elevating our state’s international standing, and by launching a comprehensive effort to base our economy on innovation.

But I consider our work far from over.

I believe my administration has much more to accomplish as part of an ambitious and heartfelt mission to improve the quality of life for all the people of Hawai‘i in a way that will affect future generations.

The special session of the state Legislature is vital to maintaining the positive momentum of not just my administration, but also the state government in which each of you personally has a stake.

It is important for all our citizens to know that confirmation votes will be held during the special session for interim directors of three critical departments: Laura H. Thielen, Department of Land and Natural Resources; Clayton Frank, Department of Public Safety; and Darwin Ching, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

These three individuals have performed admirably in their interim roles as directors of departments that oversee areas each of us holds dear; our safety, our employment and our natural and cultural resources. Darwin Ching, Clayton Frank and Laura Thielen have demonstrated exceptional leadership and are already leading their respective departments on the path of progress. They deserve swift confirmation by the Senate.

Should they not be confirmed during the special session, their tenure as interim directors will expire and the search for leaders of their caliber must begin again; a process that would only stall our collective progress.

Also up for confirmation are close to 100 members of various state boards and commissions, which play an incredibly important role statewide through their work on a wide spectrum of issues, such as land use, language access, health care, teacher standards, public housing, the hurricane relief fund, cultural burials, water resource management, procurement and veteran services. These individuals are not government employees, but citizens who have honorably volunteered for public service and play a crucial part in improving the quality and efficiency of state government services.

The Senate will also need to consider the confirmation of Judge Randal Lee to fill a vacancy on the Immediate Court of Appeals. Another nominee who will need to be confirmed is Ron Terry, the head of the state Health Planning and Development Agency, which is responsible for promoting accessibility to quality, affordable health care services.

Each of these outstanding nominees deserves a fair, open and expeditious hearing where the public can feel confident in the integrity of the confirmation process.

All of Hawai‘i needs the Senate to confirm these department heads, judge and board and commission members. Failing to do so would be an unfortunate setback for you and our entire state.

Government is always at its strongest when more citizens participate and a diverse set of perspectives can be heard and considered. The upcoming special session is no exception. Public input is needed, and I urge each of you to become involved.

Please contact state senators and express your support for these dedicated individuals, and submit testimony on their behalf, both written and in-person. By doing so, you can help me continue our goals to make life better for everyone.

• Linda Lingle is the governor of Hawai‘i, the top executive of the state.


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