Gov. David Ige is a standup-guy. He is as honest as the day is long and a genuinely thoughtful, caring, hardworking governor who puts policy ahead of politics.
Am I pleased with his lack of leadership on matters pertaining to industrial agriculture? Absolutely not. But do I think he is in the pocket of Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and Dow Chemical? Again, absolutely not.
Gov. Ige is a good and honest man who, like most of us, relies on others for advice. In this case and on this issue, that would be his Director of Agriculture Scott Enright.
Mr. Enright and his agency, I believe, suffer from “regulatory capture.” This happens when an agency stops serving the broader interests of the general public, becoming instead a protector of the industry it is responsible to regulate.
Similar situations occur at other agencies and departments at all levels of government. Regulatory capture is a real phenomenon and a strategy pursued by all industry sectors. Google it.
The governor is obviously a busy man and cannot possibly become an expert or even adequately informed on every issue. He must rely on the input of others but at the end of the day, he is responsible for the decision.
I served side by side in the state Senate with then-Sen. Ige for eight years. We were part of the same Senate faction that ultimately came to be known as “the chess club.” I know him as a likable and honest man with an engineering background, an affinity for technology and as a strong advocate for public education.
While we did not always agree, I believed then as I do now that his decisions were always integrity-based and never politically motivated.
I am hopeful that as his experience in the incredibly demanding job continues to grow, Gov. Ige will broaden and diversify his team of advisers, lean more toward the side of protecting health and the environment, and rely less on the advice of industry advocates acting in the role of government regulators.
There are many in elected office whose intentions might be righteous but their reasoning faulty, resulting in decisions that cause tangible harm to people and the environment.
The failure by the governor to take action and push forth a ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos, a known neurotoxin, is one clear example. Another is the Legislature’s continued reluctance to cap interest rates on pay day lending. Both are examples of leadership decisions being made without ill intentions perhaps, but resulting in people being egregiously and physically harmed nonetheless.
At the end of the day, and more importantly at the end of an election cycle, what matters are the impacts of the actions and decisions that are made, not the motivation or intent behind them.
Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was a majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control during the administration of Gov. Neal Abercrombie. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is the volunteer executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.