Kīhei High School Among Issues Raised at Hawaiʻi Governor Forum
By Wendy Osher
Three of four gubernatorial candidates running in the 2014 general election fielded questions on Maui relating to Native Hawaiian governance, delays in construction of the Kīhei High School, and their thoughts on affordable housing.
The questions were part of a Hawaiʻi Governor Forum hosted by the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce at the organization’s annual Business Fest held Thursday at the Grand Wailea resort in South Maui.
Democratic candidate David Ige, Independent candidate Mufi Hannemann, and Republican candidate Duke Aiona, spent about two hours answering a list of 10 questions raised by chamber members and guests in attendance.
Despite $130 million in funding secured by the state legislature for the construction of the long-awaited Kīhei High School, delays have reportedly pushed the projected opening date to 2020. Candidates were asked what they would do as governor to avoid further delays to the project.
In response, Ige called the delay “unacceptable” and said the project is “long overdue.” Ige, who was among the lawmakers that helped to pass the funding said the group believed that was was being passed at the time was sufficient. He said he would work towards ensuring funds were not only appropriated, but available.
Aiona said the issue highlights the ideals of trust, respect, and balance that are needed in government. He said that if you look at the numbers, he claims funding for public education has gone down an estimated 4% under the current administration. Having spent time as a substitute teacher he said he was able to experience the school system from a inside perspective and spoke out against constant changes in curriculum. He said as governor, he would ensure advocating for education included funding for education in the budget.
Hannemann called education the “number one responsibility of government.” He said he is the only one on the panel that had experience doing an executive budget, and would ensure that the Kīhei High School was in the budget. “Education is the best investment we can make in our future,” he said. “We need someone who has the skill sets, not just being a legislator,” said Hannemann.
During the forum the candidates highlighted areas of interest and items they would like to pursue in the capacity as governor.
Hannemann said he would be pushing to revive an interisland ferry system and is committed to doing an environmental impact statement to ensure compliance of the operation. He also spoke about the state’s tourism industry saying he wants to promote Hawaiʻi as more than just sand, sea, and surf, but also a great place to do business as well. In response to a question about federal recognition for Native Hawaiians, he called the recent hearings conducted by the Department of the Interior, “a major wake-up call that there is no consensus yet.” He said that with a new governor, “we can take two steps back and get educated on the issue in order to bridge the gap and bring us together.”
Aiona said his administration would not be about change, but rather taking Hawaiʻi in a new direction. He said the state’s tax structure is out of whack and that he would be more forceful with the PUC and electric companies. He said his mantra will be, “bring the cost of energy down.” While he has personally been a supporter Native Hawaiian self governance, he said his skills as a judge and mediator could help in finding consensus and collaboration on the issue. On the topic of education he said he would like to propose an independent audit of the Department of Education. On the issue of the economy, he said government needs to get out of the way of small business and let them create jobs for the community.
Ige said his run as a democrat is really about diversity and creating opportunities for the people of Hawaiʻi. When asked about federal recognition of Native Hawaiians, he said we need to take a step back, involve dialogue from all people, and ensure that the process is “open, collaborative and fair.” He also discussed his work with the Maui Economic Development Board in appropriating funds for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math programs throughout the state, saying “we need to be aggressive,” in the pursuit of federal dollars. He also voiced support for a second international airport terminal, identifying Kona on Hawaiʻi Island as a suggested site to support economic development on the neighbor islands.