Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 Primary Election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.

The following came from Josh Green, Democratic candidate for governor. The other Democratic candidates include Duke Bourgoin, Vicky Cayetano, Kai Kahele, Richard Kim, Clyde Lewman and Van Tanabe.

Go to Civil Beat’s Election Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Candidate for Governor

Josh Green
Party Democratic
Age 52
Occupation Lieutenant governor
Residence Honolulu

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Lieutenant governor, 2018-present; Hawaii Senate, 2008-2018; Hawaii House, 2004-2008. 

1. What is the biggest issue facing Hawaii, and what would you do about it?

The biggest issue facing Hawaii today is a lack of housing that’s affordable and available to our residents. The cost of housing is the single largest monthly expense for Hawaii households and the lack of supply contributes to home prices that are unattainable for far too many.

As governor, I will make meeting our housing demand a top priority. My plan incorporates a multi-pronged approach designed to accelerate home production that includes: fast-tracking of new home construction with a streamlined and common-sense regulatory process, increasing the amount of public land available for home development, and expanding homebuilder access to government financing and tax credits to accelerate the production of homes so we can provide enough supply to meet our demand sooner, not later.

2. Many people have talked about diversifying the local economy for many years now, and yet Hawaii is still heavily reliant on tourism. What, if anything, should be done differently about tourism and the economy?

While the visitor industry, military and construction industry remain the main drivers of Hawaii jobs and revenue, we must build a more diversified economy post-pandemic. Economic diversification is critical for several reasons: Wages in emerging knowledge-based industries are usually higher than service-related jobs and diversification makes our economy more resilient in the face of an unpredictable future.

As governor, I will focus state efforts on fostering sustainable industries like renewable energy, environmental technology and science-based innovation; revitalizing the agricultural sector through incentives; directing government infrastructure spending in ways that maintain key functions of a sustainable community; and growing partnerships between our educational institutions and the private sector to prepare Hawaii residents to compete economically for jobs.

3. The Legislature this session approved spending $600 million for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands plus another $300 million for other housing programs. What specifically would you try to do to create more housing for middle- and low-income residents?

I recently released a 10-point plan to address affordable housing issues across the state. Three specific steps the state can do to help on housing include: fast-tracking of new home construction with a streamlined and common-sense regulatory process, increasing the amount of public land available for home development, and expanding homebuilder access to government financing and tax credits to accelerate the production of homes so we can provide enough supply to meet our demand sooner,  not later.

4. An estimated 60% of Hawaii residents are struggling to get by, a problem that reaches far beyond low income and into the middle class, which is disappearing. What ideas do you have to help the middle class and working families who are finding it hard to continue to live here? 

We can do more to help working parents and keiki struggling today to live better lives. I believe every parent and child in Hawaii is entitled to three basic guarantees:

— Freedom from hunger.

— A quality education.

— Access to comprehensive health care and developmental screenings. This starts with improved nutrition programs in our schools so that more children can receive breakfast, summer meals and after-school meals, a universal public Pre-K program to prepare keiki for success, and expanding mental health care services for children and teens.

5. The pandemic was particularly difficult for Hawaii’s public schools. Should there be a change in the way schools are administered? Would you support more local control including breaking the single school district into subregions?

I believe the primary challenges within the public school system start at the top — and ultimately snowball into quality teachers leaving the profession due to a lack of pay and frustrations with the decisions of DOE leaders.

To address these challenges, it truly does begin with finding the right leaders. Finding the right superintendent who sets the right culture for the DOE is critical; and my preference for this position would be an individual who has an education background, has experience within the DOE system or one similar to it, understands the challenges of teaching in Hawaii, and is capable of rallying the support of teachers to successfully implement DOE policies across the state.

Additionally, we must redouble efforts to recruit and retain teachers well before a person becomes a teacher, which is why I would support the expansion of programs that train and grow teachers locally — like the College of Education program that trains Hawaii adults seeking second careers in teaching and student debt forgiveness programs that would repay the full student debt for a person graduating from a UH educational institution and then becoming a Hawaii public schoolteacher.

6. Hawaii has recently experienced a number of prominent corruption scandals, prompting the state House of Representatives to appoint a commission tasked with improving government transparency through ethics and lobbying reforms. What will you do to ensure accountability at the Legislature? Are you open to ideas such as requiring the Sunshine Law and open records laws to apply to the Legislature?

Corruption scandals have shaken people’s faith in our government and call into question whether decisions are being made in the public’s best interest. Hawaii’s people need to have trust in their government and see that decisions are all above-board and made in a transparent manner.

As governor, I will commit my administration to regularly engage Hawaii media so the people are fully informed on decisions made and the rationale for those decisions. I will appoint cabinet members of the highest ethical standards who are willing to be transparent not only about themselves, but in the way they make decisions.

Finally, I will fight to provide the State Ethics Commission with more resources so that they can be a good watchdog for all of us.

7. Recently a house on the North Shore of Oahu fell into the ocean. Climate change is real and will force us to make tough decisions. What is the first thing Hawaii should do to get in front of climate change rather than just reacting to it? 

Getting out in front of climate change starts with accelerating our transition to 100% clean energy and building our capacity for resilience now, and for the years of climate change ahead. We must end our dependence on oil and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions rapidly, while investing in Hawaii’s adaptation.

We need to act now by prioritizing funding across our state for robust, coordinated decision-making to address short- and long-term climate change mitigations and adaptations to manage these expected impacts. This means re-evaluating our business-as-usual practices and considering adjustments to how we approach development, food production, natural resource management and our economy. Hawaii has a strong history in sustainability, and we must combine Hawaii’s traditional and native knowledge with our economic resilience.

Hawaii is in dire need of a more sustainable and diversified economy and our state is fortunate to be the perfect laboratory for implementing a smart and achievable transition to clean energy, water and food security, zero emission and sustainable transportation, waste reduction and a circular economy. We can leverage these investments in clean energy and transportation, stronger infrastructure, water and food security and climate mitigation and adaptation to protect our islands while creating a new, greener economy.

8. Hawaii has seen a growing division when it comes to politics, development, health mandates and other issues. A governor represents all the people of the state. What would you do to bridge those gaps and bring people together in spite of their differences?

I’m running for governor because Hawaii needs elected leaders we can trust — to tell us the truth, keep us safe and informed, to care about working families, and to be transparent and accountable to the people.

9. Historically, governors and lieutenant governors have sometimes publicly clashed. How do you envision the relationship between the state’s top elected officials?

As our current lieutenant governor, I am quite familiar with the unique relationship that exists between the two top state executives. While I did not always agree with Gov. Ige, I appreciated his willingness to utilize my medical training to help navigate our state through the Covid-19 pandemic.

As governor, I would view the lieutenant governor as a partner in government and leverage the strengths and talents they bring to the table that help move our state forward.

10. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.

Housing must be considered a human right. That is how my administration will approach affordable housing and homelessness. We will work to end unsheltered homelessness by building 12 kauhale statewide and regional ohana zones for anyone who has been condemned to living on the street. These solutions, supported by health care professionals, social workers and community partners, will demonstrate to the world that the spirit of aloha is the way forward on housing.

The art of governing is showing up to work ready to take on the challenges of the day. As I’ve traveled the state and talked with everyday people, they share remarkably similar hopes — a Hawaii that’s affordable, where housing is attainable and wages are sufficient to cover the cost of living. There are numerous actions required to make an affordable Hawaii a reality — and while it’s not One Big Idea — I can commit to a laser-like focus to make Hawaii a place for all who call her home and not just the privileged few.

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