The Island Home We All Share

“My record speaks for itself,” then-state Sen. David Ige said during the campaign for governor. “I have never been dominated by any special interest group. If something is not right, I will not do it.”

I didn’t vote for him, but what I’m hearing from the new governor gives me hope. In both his inaugural and state of the state addresses, Gov. Ige’s theme was “home.”

I like that. For nearly 32 years, Hawaii has been my home. It’s where I raised my children, own a house, founded a business, paid taxes, made wonderful friends and now watch my grandchildren grow up.

Gov. Ige is now my governor, and I intend to both support him and hold him accountable for what happens to my home.

I challenged myself to read the governor’s transcripts: his inaugural address, an inspiring message of family, possibilities, paradigm change and inclusion, and the State of the State, a more nuts-and-bolts discussion of vision and direction.

Ige is optimistic, yet well knows there are sharks swimming in the murky political waters, because he’s been in the tank with them for 28 years. He hasn’t been eaten yet, but is that because “he simply goes along to get along” or is he artful at persuasion and compromise? We shall see.

Ige promises to streamline government through technology, give more autonomy to public schools principals and teachers, forge public-private partnerships in housing and hospitals, assist farmers to be more productive, tackle state spending, and more.

But looming are budgetary promises to special interests, i.e., unions, that tie the executive’s hands and leave few options save increasing taxes and fees to afford extras and deal with surprises such as rail cost overruns and Obamacare connector expenditures.

I applaud when he says, “As governor, I will appoint members to the Board of Education who embrace school empowerment of our principals and teachers as the key to ensure student success. I challenge the leaders of public education to stop issuing mandates from the state office and to focus on empowering schools and delivering resources to the school level.”

We’ve heard this before. Here’s hoping he’s the one who accomplishes it.

On balancing the state’s finances he says, “I recently submitted a preliminary budget that maintains state programs at current spending levels based on two sobering realities. First, we have fully committed our current funds to existing programs and services, and second, we are spending more than we take in.”

This political pronouncement should vex average citizens, who have no choice but to cut spending in their homes when the taxman and banks are at the door.

But, Ige, passionate about government efficiency, proposes spending more to achieve it. I hope that accessing federal money for “specific projects” and more aggressive tax collection, two ways he mentions, aren’t the only tools in his revenue-generating toolbox.

In spite of areas of disagreement, I’m encouraged that the governor sincerely invites us, the people, to the table — even when most of “us” aren’t listening.

“Hawaii has never been about ‘I.’ Rather it has always been about “us”— all of us,” he says, decrying the sharp decline in voter turnout. “That is not only alarming, it is terrifying … As leaders, our job is to engage people so that they will want to participate in this grand experience in self-governance.”

He reminds members of his administration, “This is not their house, this is not my house, and to e komo mai, welcome home all who come.”

(Since e komo mai is the Hawaii Republican Party motto, I hope this invitation also extends to those with differing views.)

We each must be concerned about Hawaii, our home. Decisions made today at the State Capitol deeply affect us: how much it costs to live at home, whether our children can come back home and make a decent living, simply getting home after hours of commuting daily, development that changes home into something unrecognizable, and if our children learn enough here at home to thrive in a competitive world.

Gov. Ige has a chance to hit a “home” run. Only time will tell if the “House” where he works is a home we can all believe in.