Governor focuses on homelessness, economy in State of the State

Published: Jan. 25, 2016 at 4:44 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2016 at 5:57 PM HST
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Image Source: Office of the Governor
Image Source: Office of the Governor

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige delivered his second State of the State address Monday, pledging to bolster the state's response to the homeless crisis, address aging public infrastructure, and grow Hawaii's economy.

In the 40-minute speech, Ige also said he was committed to seeing the Thirty-Meter Telescope constructed, while also seeking compromise with opponents of the project.

"I am committed to this project and I hope its sponsors will stay with us," said Ige, who compared problems with building the telescope to the botched state approval process surrounding the Hawaii Superferry.

"This time, we will listen carefully to all, reflect seriously on what we have heard and, whatever we do in the end, we will do it the right way. "

Ige spent a fair portion of his speech discussing efforts to build more affordable housing and bolster homeless resources.

"Homelessness in Hawaii presents a complex and difficult issue," he said. "On one hand, we need to ensure that our parks and sidewalks remain open and safe for all to use. But we will do this with compassion and respect, especially when families with young children are involved."

Ige is asking for $8.3 million to expand homeless programs, including establishing a new statewide "rapid re-housing" effort. He's also seeking an additional $25 million for the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund to address infrastructure improvements aimed at supporting the construction of more affordable housing.

He said he also wants to see the aging and overcrowded Oahu Community Correctional Center moved, and affordable housing, commercial development and recreation space built in its place. He said he plans to convene a group of Kalihi leaders to talk through the future of the community.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to reposition Kalihi for the future," he said. "This Kalihi 21st century initiative truly gives us the opportunity to do community planning the right way."

About halfway through his address, Ige elicited strong applause from attendees when he pledged to do more to cool Hawaii's classrooms.

He said the state has set the goal of cooling 1,000 classrooms by the end of the year, and thousands more by the end of 2018.

Ige also discussed the state's economy, pledging to modernize the state's airports, support local agriculture, and focus on innovation.

"Innovation, fueled by technology, is driving the global economy at breakneck speed," he said. "We simply must create an economic environment that enables Hawaii's entrepreneurs to turn ideas into products and services so that we can compete in today's global economy."

Ige ended his speech on a poignant note, talking about the late Ron Bright, the well-known theater director for Castle High School, as a way of underscoring the need for people of all political stripes and beliefs to work together for the future. "Ron was a teacher … who transformed Hawaii, one student at a time," Ige said. "Ron's total commitment to the affirmation of life through education must continue to guide us."


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