Sally Kaye: What Do Josh Green And I Have In Common? Pittsburgh - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Sally Kaye

Sally Kaye is a resident of Lanai, an editor and former prosecutor. Opinions are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Civil Beat.


Duke Aiona recently called out Josh Green in a gubernatorial candidate forum on Oct. 3 because he wasn’t born in Hawaii.

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Well. By dissing Josh this way, Duke was – mindlessly, really – dissing where Josh is from: Pittsburgh.

Since this is my home town too, and I’ve spent half my life there and the other half here, I thought I could help Duke understand there is no place on the planet that better prepares you to slide into Hawaii’s culture than Pittsburgh PA.

You know you’re from Hawaii if your grandfather came from someplace else to work on a plantation.

You know you’re from Pittsburgh if your grandfather came from someplace else to work in a steel mill.

First, family is everything in Pittsburgh just as it is in Hawaii.

When you meet someone in Hawaii for the first time you ask, “Whose family you?” or “Who’s your uncle/aunty/faddah?”

In Pittsburgh you want to know “What neighborhood did yinz grow up at?” Only once you have settled that question do you move on to family names, and whether you watched the last Steelers game at home or at Mullaney’s Irish Pub in the Strip District (known for its farmer’s markets, not red light activities), which you would happily frequent even if you were Polish, Lithuanian, Italian, German or Hungarian.

A follow-up question here in Hawaii would be whether you watched the last Rainbow Warriors game at home or in your aunty’s garage along with your neighbors who are Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Samoan, Micronesian or Hawaiian — or some mix of all of the above.

You know you’re from Pittsburgh if there is absolutely nothing that can’t be improved with Heinz ketchup. (Not Hunt’s, never DelMonte’s.)

You’re from Hawaii when you know shoyu (any kine) improves all food groups.

Hawaii and Pittsburgh are both places historically and stubbornly defined by their neighborhoods, and if you are from either place you know this: you would never insult Kalihi by mixing it up with Kahala, and Bellevue would never be confused with Baldwin.

Like many people in Hawaii, Josh Green probably speaks English as a second language.

Just as pidgin is the favored vernacular in Hawaii, Pittsburghese, also known as yinzer-speak, is preferred and cherished by all true Pittsburghers. Like all Hawaiian keiki, we Steel City youngins didn’t care if you made fun of us for our strange accent, we understood what we were saying and felt sorry for you if you just couldn’t keep up.

Josh would know that if you are accused of being nosy, you are “nebby” in Pittsburgh and niele here in Hawaii. He knows that when your mother tells you to “red” up your room she means it better be hoʻomaʻemaʻe before your Pop gets home. If you fall into a jaggerbush, you’ve most likely stepped on a kiawe thorn. Josh would know that if someone calls you a jagoff, you are plenty pilau.

Honolulu Civil Beat's Know your candidate with gubernatorial candidates Duke Aiona and right, Josh Green.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona, right, suggested at a recent Civil Beat candidate forum that to be governor you should be from Hawaii. Democratic contender Josh Green is from Pittsburgh but has lived in the islands for decades. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Ironically my son, who was born in Hawaii but grew up both here and in Pittsburgh, said he appreciates both places because each readily adopts newcomers, especially ones who find following sports events a religious experience, and because both cultures are fiercely proud of their “melting pot” ethos and love their local foods: “Mom, think malasadas, think Zippy’s! Think pierogis and Primanti’s!”

Another thing the ‘burgh and Hawaii have in common? Potential infrastructure disasters. Pittsburgh’s bridge to nowhere languished unfinished for six years because someone forgot to acquire rights of way for the off/on ramps, but Honolulu’s rail beats that record by a mile. It was supposed to be finished two years ago, by 2020 at a cost of $5 billion, but estimates now are 2031 to the tune of $12 billion — and no one’s really sure where it will end up.

You know you’re from Pittsburgh — and Hawaii — if you have names for your potholes.

There is one difference worth noting: Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh, and Oahu, home to Honolulu, share a roughly similar size and population but when it comes to policing? The City and County of Honolulu has one police department, Allegheny County has over 100. Food for thought.

You know you’re from Pittsburgh if you take pride in transforming yourself from a dirty, heavy industrial, steel-based economy to a high tech, medical and science-based economy.

You know you’re from Hawaii if you can brag about transforming yourself from a plantation and tourist-based economy to … well, we’re still working on that.

Final thoughts, Duke: many of us who have lived here for a long time may not have been born here but we are just as proud of our roots as you are. And the first Hawaiians? They came from some place else too.


Read this next:

Jill Tokuda Looks Like A Shoo-In For Congress. What Would She Do?


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About the Author

Sally Kaye

Sally Kaye is a resident of Lanai, an editor and former prosecutor. Opinions are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Civil Beat.


Latest Comments (0)

Thank you for the informative and entertaining article.

Omniscient · 1 month ago

I didn’t like Aiona’s insinuation, but he wasn’t taking a shot at Pitt. Green could have been from anywhere and his point would stand.Also who is your aunt/uncle is not the first question a local person asks. It’s where did you grad from? And if they reply with the name of a college you know they aren’t from here. And that’s indicative of how we see actual relationships as more important than blood here in Hawaii.

Keala_Kaanui · 1 month ago

What everyone else said. Honolulu needs to reinvent itself much as Pittsburg has.

SleepyandDopey · 1 month ago

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