Vicky Cayetano: Hawaii's New Leaders Must Match Optimism With Action - Honolulu Civil Beat


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Vicky Cayetano

Vicky Cayetano is a longtime businesswoman, philanthropist, former First Lady and recent gubernatorial candidate. She is active in the community, advocating for small businesses, animal welfare, supporting the arts and other aspects of our community. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat’s views.


As we start off a new year, people are filled with a sense of hope and optimism. Resolutions are made usually with the intent of fulfilling them so we can make our lives and our world a better place.

Similarly, we look forward to a legislative session with new leadership and anticipation of realizing the promises made during the campaign season.

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While it is a long jump from promises to execution and implementation, Gov. Josh Green and lawmakers have the unprecedented advantage of inheriting a $2.3 billion surplus from the previous administration. Unlike some previous governors who started their terms with deficits, Green will not face fiscal challenges as one of his problems in getting things done.

But three things need to be at the forefront of the new Legislature and governor’s agenda if there is any hope that those campaign promises will be fulfilled — commonsense, collaboration and a focus on ridding our government of the corruption that seems to be part of the state’s political culture.

First is commonsense. How many times have you read a bill that is being proposed and wondered what the heck the authors were thinking when they wrote it? Proposed legislation often is overreaching and unenforceable. While it may sound good to some folks, it is important to stop and think about how the new laws could be executed. What is the action plan? How will it be executed? Is there accountability and transparency?

Take the plan to shut down 25,000 illegal vacation rentals and convert some into affordable housing. My question is how do you know the number of illegal rentals if they have not been reported? And how does the government legally and forcibly take over private property to convert it into affordable housing – does that meet the requirements of eminent domain?

Under the Fifth Amendment, eminent domain must be for a “public use,” which traditionally has meant projects that have broad purposes like roads or bridges. Lastly, where are these vacation rentals and are they suitable for affordable housing?

The second big idea being promoted is a $50 fee per visitor to mitigate the environmental impacts from tourism. While Green has said he would introduce a bill calling for the so-called green fee and it’s popular among many residents, such a measure would likely be challenged under the 14th Amendment that provides for the right of citizens to move freely between states. No other state has such a fee and likely for good reasons that our leaders have yet to realize.

Even if it were possible, where would this fee be assessed and collected – by the airlines or at the airport?

Beachgoers enjoy Waikiki Beach as tourism has returned and Covid-19 infection rates in Europe are spiking.
Gov. Josh Green has said he plans to introduce a bill calling for a green fee for tourists to offset the negative effects of the industry on the environment. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

So, think and read through what is being said by our leaders and if it doesn’t make sense, it probably isn’t viable because sadly, commonsense is not so common these days especially in the State Capitol.

The second key characteristic that I hope our government will emulate from successful examples of leadership is collaboration at the highest level. Collaboration that isn’t just talked about but is represented by action and examples of working together.

Such collaboration is necessary to produce relationships that can withstand difficult discussions on challenging issues that are long overdue.

While not everyone will agree on how the problems should be resolved, we need leaders who are not afraid to address them together.

And it must start at the very top with a governor who will reach out to legislators and work with them, rather than trying to upstage each other. This shouldn’t be too hard for someone who has spent years in the Legislature and who has a lieutenant governor, Sylvia Luke, with strong relationships in that arena as well.

Eliminating corruption is key to restoring the trust that most people have lost. I hope that this administration and Legislature will hear loud and clear the demands of the people that corruption in government must stop.

Bribery charges against former lawmakers J. Kalani English, left, and Ty Cullen, right, prompted widespread calls for reform. 

A distinguished panel of community leaders led by retired Judge Daniel Foley served on the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct. They have put forth a list of proposals including one that would require lawmakers to make additional public disclosures on annual financial reports that would reveal any business or financial interest with companies lobbying the Legislature.

This must be a top priority if we are to get serious about addressing all the other critical issues facing Hawaii, from affordable housing to reducing the high cost of living.

Corruption touches every aspect of our government’s ability to deliver results to the people of Hawaii. We have a $2.3 billion surplus – let’s make sure it doesn’t fall prey to corruption. Commonsense tells us how easily corruption in our government and surplus monies can be connected, but we must demand otherwise — because we the people deserve nothing less.


Read this next:

Task Force: Hawaii Needs To Remove Thousands Of Cesspools Sooner Than Planned


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About the Author

Vicky Cayetano

Vicky Cayetano is a longtime businesswoman, philanthropist, former First Lady and recent gubernatorial candidate. She is active in the community, advocating for small businesses, animal welfare, supporting the arts and other aspects of our community. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat’s views.


Latest Comments (0)

I never thought I'd say this, but if the new administration can't make a difference on a number of fronts with the budget surplus and more or less free rein, it may be time to look at a viable Republican candidate next time around.

SleepyandDopey · 3 weeks ago

Enforce the laws in the books and stop illegal aerial fireworks from entering our state!

elrod · 3 weeks ago

Take the plan to shut down 25,000 illegal vacation rentals and convert some into affordable housing. My question is how do you know the number of illegal rentals if they have not been reported? And how does the government legally and forcibly take over private property to convert it into affordable housing – does that meet the requirements of eminent domain? If there are so many illegal vacation rentals then perhaps should legalize them? Obviously alot of people dont agree with that law. Then make them pay the GET taxes etc. and be fully legal. It was mostly the hotel lobby that got them made illegal in first place, just to try to keep more business for the corporate hotels. People need way to make ends meet in an expensive housing market. Just taking those peoples property is not the answer. What government did during covid with eviction moritorium essentially was same thing - they took away the rights from landlords to get paid rent or evict tenants - no wonder many landlords dont want to rent long term to difficult tenants. Some lost their homes becasue they couldnt rent due on time. If too many tourists then stop funding the Tourism Board with public tax $.

Chris · 3 weeks ago

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