UPDATED 6/28/11 12:50 p.m.
Editor’s Note: On Tuesday, June 28, Civil Beat interviewed Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz. Watch a video of the conversation below.
The No. 2 job in Hawaii state government isn’t often viewed as a powerful office. But that may be different under Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
The governor has made Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz his point man in charge of securing federal money and private support for state government initiatives. Schatz has flown to Washington several times to seek federal assistance (he was there this week). Schatz is also the lead state official on APEC.
Join us at noon on Tuesday, June 28, live from Civil Beat headquarters. He’ll be answering your questions on a live-stream interview.
You can submit questions using our Facebook discussion below.
Hawaii reporter Chad Blair will be asking the questions of Schatz. This is an opportunity to get your own questions in front of the powers that be.
A four-term veteran of the Hawaii House of Representatives and former chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, Schatz is a familiar face around town.
Born in Michigan, Schatz’s family moved to Hawaii when he was 2 years old. He was raised in Hawaii and attended Punahou School. After high school, Schatz went to Pomona College, where he studied philosophy.
He returned to Hawaii after college and worked for a nonprofit organization. In 1998, he was elected to represent Hawaii’s 25th District, Makiki, MCully and Tantalus.
During his time in the House, Schatz chaired the Economic Development Committee and was appointed majority whip.
Schatz served as the chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii from May 2008 to 2010.
Here are the initial questions we thought people might have for Schatz.
1. The governor has made you the point man on directing federal dollars and also private support to help state government. What are the latest developments on that front?
The Fair Share Initiative is a government-wide initiative, and all departments are participating so that all of our success and credit is shared. We’ve made great progress. For example, we are in the final stages of securing nearly $100 million in federal funds to improve local veteran cemeteries and National Guard facilities around the state. State Department of Defense and the Executive Branch worked with lawmakers to budget matching funds that will enable us to realize an 8 to 1 return on our investment.
There are dozens of smaller scale projects that we have assisted with, ensuring that our state agencies are getting proposals out on time, that money gets expended properly and that external dollars are maximized. Part of what we’ve accomplished is related to changing our internal process and culture to make us more responsive and competitive, and its bearing fruit.
Finally, there are some key projects that will take longer to advance, including some of our efforts around making sure that the federal government eventually pays its fair share for our COFA challenges, or increasing the DOD’s investment in clean energy locally, but we are making headway in those areas as well.
2. How are preparations going for the APEC meeting? Can you give us an update on what’s been accomplished and what still needs to be done before November?
State and county government are working together on key beautification projects along Nimitz Highway and in Waikīkī and we are making major (although not structural) improvements at the airport. We are working very well with the Host Committee, led by Peter Ho and Tim Johns, in making sure that we use APEC to push our economic development strategy, which is to solidify our “bread and butter” industries and promote Hawai‘i as an increasingly legitimate test bed for renewable energy technologies.
On the energy front, we are encouraged by our conversations with the White House and State Department. They want to learn as much as possible about Hawai‘i’s clean energy projects so that they can assist with them and highlight them during Leaders Week.
3. The lieutenant governor’s office has been traditionally considered a position with little real power and influence. What has been your experience some six months on the job?
The Governor has given me several major tasks – helping our state to prepare for APEC, running the Fair Share Initiative, working towards a clean energy future, serving as a member of the Military Affairs Council and working with our Congressional Delegation. I will leave the “power and influence” question for others to consider, but in terms of productivity and a great working relationship, Governor Abercrombie has shown a lot of trust in me and I am very grateful.
4. In terms of the administration’s agenda, were you as a former state House leader surprised that you encountered such resistance at the Legislature on things like taxing pension incomes and taxing sodas?
Not at all, that is part of the process. We had some success at the legislature, and other proposals weren’t adopted, but the Governor and I both know that it is a long process and we are ready to continue the work. We have solid working relationships with members of the legislature and will to work together to implement a New Day. The problem with keeping score in that fashion is that it misses the point. Keeping a tally on whose idea something is or how many of one’s proposals pass in a particular year is the kind of thinking that got us into our current situation. If there are good ideas from the legislature or the community, we will implement them. If we have ideas that they can’t agree with, we will search for common ground. Understanding that none of this can be done alone, or instantly, is the key to success.
5. Are you considering running for either the U.S. Senate or the U.S. House in 2012?
I’m not talking about elections at this time. I’m focused on doing my job.