LIHUE — For about 25 minutes Thursday, Gov. David Ige outlined recent goals and achievements of his administration, the Legislature and the team of Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr.
He spoke of plans to make sure government operates efficiently. He spoke of restoring faith in government.
He talked about the $141 million the Legislature marked for Kauai in Capital Improvement Projects.
“It works for the better making sure we can provide what the community here on Kauai truly needs,” Ige said to about 300 people at the Kauai Chamber of Commerce’s 18th annual Governor’s Luncheon at the Kauai Marriott Resort.
It was a smooth presentation that covered the state’s plans to commit $100 million toward air conditioning in Hawaii’s schools and millions toward easing the homeless crisis and creating affordable housing.
“You will begin to see an impact all across the state,” he said.
The concise speech touched on:
• Manufacturing — “The state of Hawaii has the strongest brand on the planet.”
• Innovation— “We do know it’s those creative minds that will create the companies of the future.”
• Education — “We do know each and every child learns differently.
• And town meetings — “It really is about community engagement.”
And then, came the written questions from the crowd.
Ige didn’t flinch, joking at times, even smiling when, after the first few questions, chamber president Mark Perriello said, “The questions are going to get tougher.”
Where does the state stand on a super ferry?
“The state is not going to get into the ferry business but if there is a private sector individual or company that is interested in restarting interisland ferry service, than the state would be working with them to be sure all environmental studies are done as required and then most importantly, looking at insuring our harbor facilities can provide the support it needs to.”
What is the state’s plan to protect marine life and combat coral bleaching?
“I can tell you that the Department of Lands and Natural Resources is very engaged in coral bleaching issue. I know that the division of ocean resources has been working on a plan to try to create coral farms around the state where they can support growing corals and understanding much better the science of how they can facilitate the growth of coral areas.”
“And the University of Hawaii has been actively engaged in the research, looking into what is the cause of coral bleaching.”
“We do know that part of the challenge is with global warming and temperatures in the ocean increasing, that there is a correlation between the temperature of the oceans and coral bleaching. So there’s a lot of different things happening on a lot of different fronts.”
When will the cap on TAT (Transient Accommodations Tax) funds be lifted and more money returned to Neighbor Islands?
“Neighbor Islands have never lost TAT. There’s been a cap but it’s not ever been shrinking.”
“Let me just say this and I think legislators would agree. What we’re trying to say that the state of Hawaii is responsible for many services that are typically funded by property taxes.”
The state, he said, pays 100 percent of the cost and operations of public schools, jails and hospitals — things often funded by property taxes.
“We are committed to providing support to the counties, he said, adding he is working with counties and mayors on TAT distribution.
What is your opinion on the pesticide controversy?
“I do believe that it’s a state responsibility to ensure that our water is clean for all of our community and that those who use pesticides are using it appropriately.”
He thanked the Joint Fact Finding Group for its efforts and its report released Wednesday for “really looking at science-based information.”
“We’re looking at how we can do a better job of testing and collecting more data so we can be more aware of what the impact of pesticide use can be.”
He said his administration will be looking at the JFFG recommendations.
“We do know that the public health needs to be assured and we’ll continue to do the state’s part in testing and collecting this data to be sure our communities are not being adversely impacted by pesticides.”
What is your plan to prevent the astronomy industry from leaving the state?
“Thank you very much for that question,” he said with a smile as the crowd laughed.
“I am confident the astronomy will not be leaving the state any time soon.
“The current telescopes on Mauna Kea are the most productive in the world. I think that’s due to our strategic advantage that Mauna Kea represents.”
He said the court ruled the permitting process for the Thirty Meter Telescope at Mauna Kea, the subject of protests and legal battles, wasn’t appropriate.
“We are committed to a fair and balanced hearing process so the permit can be considered as ordered by the court.”
“The outcome of that hearing process,” he added, “should not be prejudged.”