In inauguration speech, Green pledges focus on easing cost of living with housing, tax priorities
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At his inauguration ceremony Monday, Gov. Josh Green pledged to continue work he started as lieutenant governor to focus on affordable housing, homelessness and public health.
“Hawaii is one ‘ohana ― one family,” he told attendees at the Blaisdell Arena, where the inauguration was held. “When we come together, we can meet any challenge and accomplish anything we set our mind to.”
Green pledged to bring together private developers and philanthropists to build “thousands of new homes for Hawaii families” ― in part, he said, by converting illegal vacation rentals into affordable housing. He didn’t elaborate how he’d make that possible, but the push is coming as the city cracks down on illegal rentals.
Other priorities he highlighted in his speech include:
- Eliminating “regressive” taxes on food and medicine
- Leading the nation in addressing climate change
- Addressing health disparities among Native Hawaiians
The audience at the inauguration consisted mostly of government officials at all levels, including all but one former governor, state and county lawmakers, county mayors and campaign and government staff.
But there were a few hundred who came out of appreciation for how Green helped their community.
Radia Hasina represented a multi-cultural group which was thankful for Green’s efforts on behalf of health care for the underserved and immigrants. She talked about her hopes for the future. “Bottom line is for the regular people,” she said. “We are expecting some change of our lives...our lives, our living just to make us improve.”
Luke Pinnow, who is on the autism spectrum, called Green “a hero.”
His mother, Geri Pinnow, explained that Green has supported legislation named “Luke’s Bill” in her son’s honor, which guaranteed more services for children with autism.
Green takes office after a whirlwind election cycle that culminated with a landslide victory.
Also sworn in Monday: Sylvia Luke, Hawaii’s new lieutenant governor, who delivered a humorous inauguration speech that offered a few friendly jabs for her former colleagues in the state Legislature.
“Please be kind to the House,” Luke said, recalling her 10 years as House Finance Chair and her reputation for toughness. “Please do not roll them over just because I am gone.
“I have a message for the House as well. What are you going to do without me? Seriously.”
She said her key initiatives in the office will be universal pre-K and broadening internet broadband access.
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Polls conducted before the primary election showed Green had high favorability rating, particularly for his handling of the COVID crisis. During the pandemic, Green ― a medical doctor ― distinguished himself for his clear communication and his ability to quickly pivot his advice to residents as circumstances changed.
Looking ahead, Green has said he wants to hit the ground running during his first 100 days in office, delivering on his key priorities. He’s even said he might issue an emergency proclamation on affordable housing.
The order would be aimed at helping his administration clear regulatory hurdles, though in some ways it would be symbolic because many of the permitting issues for affordable housing are because of city backlogs.
Colin Moore, HNN political analyst, said Green will want to show himself early on in his administration to be action-oriented and much more aggressive than his predecessor, Gov. David Ige.
“I think he’s going to want to demonstrate that to voters very early,” Moore said.
Moore added that Green will also have to grapple with his “shoot from the hip” style ― a strength as lieutenant governor but a potential liability as governor.
“It’s going to be much more difficult for him to change his mind,” he said.
Green is taking office at a difficult time for many Hawaii families, who are grappling with record-high inflation in a state where the cost of living is already the nation’s highest. At the same time, small business owners are struggling with how to keep prices down as the cost of just about everything is going up.
Green says his performance during the pandemic is proof of his leadership skills.
He also points to his years of experience in the state Legislature. He served in state House from 2004 to 2008, before moving to state Senate and then being elected to serve as lieutenant governor in 2018.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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