The Civil Beat Editorial Board Interview: Hawaii Gov. Josh Green

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The Civil Beat Editorial Board Interview: Hawaii Gov. Josh Green


Approaching his first 100 days in office, the governor talks about his tax proposals, affordable housing and homelessness, and changing the culture of local politics.

Editor’s note: The Civil Beat Editorial Board spoke on Thursday with the state’s chief executive in his fifth floor offices at the State Capitol. This interview has been edited for length and clarity, for recent stories such as the latest on Aloha Stadium, and with an eye on additional stories. Gov. Josh Green began by explaining what is on his priority list.

Top of mind is making sure that we actually see positive change for people. We have exactly the same priorities as we did at the time that we were sworn in, which is to make sure people have an easier opportunity to live and survive in Hawaii, and to move forward on housing and homelessness. In addition to that, we’re doing a lot more climate work and environmental work than probably we anticipated in the first 100 days.

But same priorities, and it’s playing out as it always does between the two branches of government, between us and our priorities — which I’m super grateful have been adopted as the (Legislature’s) priorities. Because you see them debating the GAP plan (Green Affordability Plan), a.k.a. tax relief for ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) families. Call it whatever you want, as long as it delivers for families that are hurting, it’s good. And then, of course, we need some changes to build housing and deal with homelessness. And I think that’s also top of mind (at the Legislature).

As long as we move that direction and we do have extra resources from the impact of tourism and it comes to the benefit of our environment, I’m happy. So I’m really grateful that they’re debating that seriously. Of course, we have the rest of the session to see what comes out and whether it goes far enough.

But I am grateful that they’re taking up these issues. That has been terrific. So just 100 days in or 90 days and we are achieving what we want, which is to be talking about the right issues.

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green met with the Civil Beat Editorial Board and several reporters Thursday in the governor’s office. (Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2023)

I realize the budget will be tweaked considerably, as you well know as a former lawmaker. When I checked your State of the State speech, I think the figure was a billion dollars investment in housing — to the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp., $400 million Rental Housing Trust Fund, $500 million for the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund. Again, it’s a moving target. But how it that ask going right now particular to affordable housing at the halfway point of the Legislature.

I’m pretty optimistic. I met with Rep. Kyle Yamashita yesterday — our House Finance chair. I meet with great regularity with the House and Senate leadership — Speaker Scott Saiki, Senate president (Ron Kouchi) all the time. So it’s I think it’s going well. I think ultimately they will settle on numbers that they think we can actually spend. Keeping in mind, of course, that we have kind one of the elephants in the room — the $600 million that’s already appropriated for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which also has to be spent on a pretty fast timetable.

Big picture, everyone knows that we have to be building housing and infrastructure. The truth of the matter is we all know that we have to jump start housing because we’re so far behind and we still have projections that people will leave the state if we don’t do it. So he’s in favor of that. I know that the Senate leadership and (Ways and Means Committee Chair) Donovan Dela Cruz is in favor of building. We all know that. So I expect they’ll put a lot of money in there. We need it because, even though interest rates are high, we can’t be lulled into a sense of security ever. There’s just so much need.

Gov. Green greeting Senate President Ron Kouchi before his State of the State speech earlier this year. Green says he mets regularly with lawmakers. (David Croxford/CivilBeat/2023)

And I also am interested in acquiring properties and housing, if they’re available. Anything that we can do — if housing developments have already been completed and there’s an opportunity for us — anything we can do to get people into housing is good. We’re also proposing some support for the counties’ plans. For example, the 201H program (a law that allows developers of affordable housing to sidestep some laws). Again, anything that will help be a catalyst is good. We’re just so far behind.

So I think they’re going to go for it. I think that we have some big question marks that are still out there. The economy’s good. We’ve been speaking with UHERO a lot (University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization). They advise me monthly, if not more. And it does not look like we’re going to face a deep recession at all. So I think that we have opportunities, looking forward. The surplus doesn’t just stop after two years. It trends to almost $10 billion over six years. That’s why we should spend money on housing and we should definitely spend money on ALICE families.

Some have suggested maybe that $2 billion or more surplus is a little rosy. We will have the Council of Revenue (forecast) coming out this month. And as you know, anything can happen. Are you looking maybe a little too much through rose-colored glasses at that money pile that you’re talking about?

I don’t think so. So I had my advance briefing on what the Council of Revenues will come up with last week. And it does not look like it’s going to be seriously downgraded. So that’s important. Even if they did downgrade it somewhat, the out years are still very high.

And we are being careful. Remember, $500 million of (my budget) was for the Rainy Day fund and another $100 million was the climate impact fund. So $600 million out of that money was actually savings. So we have a flexibility there.

Also under statute we’re required to give back money, right? If we have, I believe, more than a 5% balance after a budget at the end of the session. So, we’re going to do the right things.

Gov. Josh Green, left, announced his appointments for vacant House seats last month. At right is Trish LaChica, who represents House District 37, and House Speaker Scott Saiki. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023.)

I think, though, we should save money for Rainy Day and we should put this money into our people, which is why the priorities that you saw — housing, affordability and a fair amount of health-care investment. Things that have gone very much under the radar, for example, is where we put $10 million in the budget for loan forgiveness this year and, starting the following year, $20 million. Because there would be more people getting loan forgiveness if they provide health care under a commitment to the state of Hawaii. When I say health care, I mean from social workers to psychologists, psychiatrists, family practitioners, nurse practitioners, (physician assistants) — all those people that we have a hard time attracting. But if we forgive their loans, then we become, in some ways the mecca of health-care access. That’s what I want to do.

Did I hear you say there might be a check coming to taxpayers?

There hopefully will be a tax break coming to taxpayers. Our plan focuses most of the tax breaks up to about the threshold of $140,000 for families of four. That’s the high limit of the definitions of ALICE families who are living more or less paycheck to paycheck.

Of course, people who are making $65,000 and families of four are in much deeper trouble. But we are very focused on that, and that’s a combination of increasing their income tax credit, increasing the standard deduction, significant tax breaks for people who have kids in early education, rental subsidies — just kind of straightforward, basic things that regular working families struggle to survive on.

Those ALICE families, as you probably well know, grew. It’s no longer a small part. It’s a huge part of our population here. That must be a major concern for you.

It’s No. 1. Because the two things are connected intimately. Affordability is almost always attached directly to people’s housing costs because that’s the No. 1 cost that people have. And it’s so expensive in Hawaii that until we solve that problem or make it less critically severe, we’re going to have challenges for people that make a living but aren’t wealthy.

So that’s the No. 1 cost driver, though there are many. I mean, energy’s too expensive, food’s too expensive and so on. But that’s a big cost driver. And then you just look at all the other factors that we have, which makes it very hard for regular people in service industries to survive on.

Giving tax breaks to people who are already living paycheck to paycheck means they will spend every penny back into our economy. That’s a fact.

So now (ALICE) is over 40% of our population. So that’s why giving tax relief to that part of our population, which our packages — I think it’s $315 million a year growing to $400 million a year in tax breaks for ALICE families — doing that, which puts somewhere between one and several paychecks back into their pocket, depending on whether or not they got kids in school. It’s about a $2,000 tax break for most people if you’re doing an average. But if you had two children that you’re paying their tuition for in preschool, each of those children could qualify for an additional $5,000 back to the families.

When you talk about surpluses going up to $10 billion in the out years, we have such a roller-coaster economy that there’s a lot of concern (at the House and Senate) about granting large tax breaks and then eating it in a recession because those projections didn’t turn out to be true. Can you speak to that? Because I think that’s going to drive the discussion this year.

The truth is we have probably the strongest economy in America. As you saw, we came out of Covid better than anybody else. That’s true. We came out with surpluses based on our our economic base, bigger than anyone I know of. And I just was with the other 49 governors. And we really were an outlier when we started talking about our our surpluses. Sure, they can be eaten up if we hit a deep recession.

But we haven’t even seen the return of the Japanese travelers yet and we’re already seeing growth, economic growth. So that’s another reason to be optimistic. And that’s why (UHERO economist) Carl Bonham has been telling us he seems pretty optimistic.

Now, the nature of these tax plans are that you, of course, are going to see them reviewed every two years, even every year if necessary.

Tourism in the state seems to be rebounding after the pandemic, even without the return of the Japanese market. A large budget surplus is central to Gov. Green’s plans. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

But this is what I learned as we campaigned for governor. I learned that people are desperate now. They are struggling unlike ever before. You have fuel prices through the roof because of many things, one of which, of course, is the war in Russia and Ukraine, but also inflation. And so we just owe it to them to right fit our economy. And honestly, the $315 million of tax reform compared to our overall budget is not that large, but it is targeted at the families who need it most.

But giving tax breaks to people who are already living paycheck to paycheck means they will spend every penny back into our economy. That’s a fact. And so, though we will be giving lots of tax relief to our people, they will also be returning that through all of our businesses because they need to pay their tuition for their kids, they need to upgrade their house, they have to finally upgrade their car. They may invest in a different kind of vehicle, an electric vehicle, because they want to now avoid the high prices of fuel. That will help us a lot, too. So there’s a lot of opportunity by helping the class of people that are working paycheck to paycheck because they will reinvest it, as opposed to other tax breaks which are not going to be as beneficial. So I prefer our GAP plan or some permutation of it that the Legislature comes up with. I prefer that to other tax breaks because it’s so helpful for people who are struggling.

If we were to add up your proposals for the administration in terms of tax breaks, $312 million I think is the backbone of the thing. Do we have room to provide more of a tax break? I

That’s the core of it. There are some other tax breaks which are sensible. This is a small one, but it’s symbolic — getting rid of the tax on women’s hygiene products. It’s only $1.2 million, but it shows that we are trying to be equitable with people. Getting rid of the tax on certain foods, basic foods — very good, because that’s a super regressive tax. We already historically got rid of the tax on prescription medication. So that was good. But usually it leaves over-the-counter medication taxation. So that’s where a lot of people live day to day. I’d like to see that.

But I’m much more focused on equitable tax reform for people that are struggling rather than a global move on general excise tax. Because we do still collect a fair amount of tax from visitors. And you see that I’m doing two things at once. I’m trying to reduce taxes significantly on people that are struggling and increase fees on travelers that come, the climate impact fee. If done well, it could bring up to $400 million a year.

Now that won’t pass in that form. They’re going to first be measured and focus the green fee or the climate impact fee at certain locations, which is a good compromise because those are the places that are getting used the most. The idea would be that people would pay the fee when they’re there and then they could go to any number of places in our islands that are overused.

But that money gets reinvested in environmental causes, like helping (the Department of Land and Natural Resources) finally having a budget, which we never have adequate monies for. Helping us with big projects when a road goes into the water. That’s decreases our burden from the general fund.

So I’m trying to do both these things because right now it’s very complicated to apply extra cost on housing for people that are buying from the mainland. It’s just it’s a challenge to do that. This is more straightforward, directly connecting people’s impact that they have, the 10 million visitors to Hawaii, and we recoup the resources, decrease the taxes on people that are living paycheck to paycheck because we can afford it.

Now, we do have the surplus. We could always adjust it, of course, but we have resources even if we don’t meet all of our expectations in the out years, which is a challenge. There are billions of dollars that are out there already. I mean, when we talk about doing something like we’re going to do — like build a stadium for $350 million, more or less — I don’t think it’s too much to ask to put tax breaks back into regular people’s lives. So I’m trying to balance these things.

It’s a better way to go about things, because if we don’t do the tax break what will happen will be we’ll have surpluses and we’ll just send out pretty non-targeted $100 checks at the end of the year, which is unpredictable — families can’t plan around that. They won’t know except year to year whether or not they can expect that — it’s almost like a check or a gift at the end of the fiscal year. It’s too late to plan your life around. So the consistency of knowing where your tax breaks will be is better.

Tents along the sidewalk at Moiliili Neighborhood Park as a sweep happens inside the park. The people move their belongings on the public sidewalk to avoid having their possessions taken.
Homelessness persists as a chronic problem for Honolulu and the state. It is just one of many priorities for the Green administration. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022)

Also, it helps all of us because then businesses know, will they or won’t they have a workforce that they can keep in Hawaii? All those people in the ALICE family group are the people that we have shortages. We have a shortage of teachers, they’re in the group. Nurses, they’re in the group, firefighters, they’re in the group. It’s pretty incredible. That’s why to your point, it’s gotten so big. And so these tax breaks would be for them. I look at this as equity. And since everyone talks about affordability in Hawaii, this seems to be the right thing to do.

I think it also will guide us from our values standpoint. If we say we’re fighting for our ohana, let’s actually invest in our ohana instead of what happens, which is we kind of sit back and wait and then everyone else comes in for their rewards in the middle. And we don’t ever really get to the root of it, which is supporting people who are going to be our local workers. So I think it’s a better approach by far, but that’s why we have two branches of government.

There was at least $50 million of additional tax relief built into smaller programs, smaller breaks on certain parts of the general excise tax. And that would be fine. That would not hurt us in any way. The reason they passed all of those different pieces is because the House has taken the lead on this and they, of course, passed the first budget out and then it goes to the Senate. The Senate didn’t hear some of these tax provisions. And so this gives them an opportunity to once again look at it.

There’s another provision, the $500 tax break for teachers. Right? A refund if they buy materials (for their students). Right now that’s coming out of the pocket of teachers who have tended to be struggling from paycheck to paycheck because we have not paid teachers that well. Now it’s improving a lot and that’s a good thing. So we’ll see.

But I would say this is pretty par for the course that at the halfway point in the Legislature. A lot of the real kind of hand-to-hand combat begins. The reason I meet with the speaker and the Senate president so frequently is because I want them to be able to give me feedback and for me to share what our threshold is for helping people.

And I will say this: I will make sure that we stay here until we get some package that helps people. No matter what. Because historically — and I was in the Legislature for 14 years — there were years that we did very little and no one got any help. I’m not going to lead that way. We’re going to get some relief. We’ll compromise for sure.

I will make sure that we stay here until we get some package that helps people no matter what.

In fact, I will meet the Legislature more than halfway, but I will not allow sine die (when the session adjourns May 4) unless we’ve done something meaningful for people that are living right at the edge. I won’t do it. We owe it to people to solve some of these problems so they can go forward with their lives.

Now, some of these challenges are going to take a decade. The housing challenges, that takes a long time. But we can provide immediate relief to our working class people. Now. And so that’s my commitment. We don’t have anything better to do than help people. That’s why we’re here.

So what you just said was you won’t allow sine die unless they do something. So you would call them back?

We would stay on. And I don’t think that’s going to be necessary because they usually pass bills by the end of session. And usually it’s that fierce negotiation in the last 48 hours, but sometimes it’s a week.

But I’m making it very clear as I talk to you that we have to have solutions.

Are there things that are emerging now, even though we’re only halfway through, that you’re seeing that you just can’t live with? What’s the Legislature doing now that’s kind of bugging you?

Oh, nothing. I can live with where they are. This is exactly where they always are, in my estimation.

Really, the bills are going to cross over and almost everything’s alive. I do not feel a sense of ownership of any of these ideas. I don’t care what the description of the tax breaks for ALICE families is, as long as it helps them. So whatever they come up with, as long as it helps enough people with a large enough break, I’m going to be excited to sign into law.

Same thing goes for the budget. The budget, whether it’s ends up being $700 million or $900 million, that’s just another opportunity for debate.

I will tell you this, though. I also am going to govern in a slightly different way. If we have problems in between the end of session and then the other eight months of the year. If a new problem continues to plague us, I will happily bring the House and Senate back to work for two weeks on a new problem.

Now, I haven’t seen that in my time here. And a lot of legislatures nationally meet all year long. I’m not proposing that. I’m proposing that when we have a big problem or something that needs to be adjusted — what if there’s a crash in the stock market? What if there’s a crash in the economy? What if we see a much larger surge with Japanese tourism ahead of schedule and we have more monies? Well, that’s a good problem to have. So we would come back to solve problems, not to aim at each other with bows and arrows and guns, but instead to actually help all of our people.

What do you say to those who say, “I don’t trust the military anymore because of what happened at Red Hill?” Do you have concerns about trusting this very major presence that’s in our islands?

Yes, I do. And they’re right. So it’s trust, but verify. Our leases and some of these other relationships don’t have to be resolved until 2029, some 2027, some 2029. We are able to get the result that we demand on Red Hill before that. We are able to get the infrastructure investments that we need before that. So we’re able to actually see the progress. Some land is being given back. I think one of the things we were very proud of was 363 acres got sent back to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for beneficiaries.

Is this Molokai?

Yes. And we’re expecting thousands of acres to come back to beneficiaries on the Big Island. They’re cleaning it up now. So this is another part of (how) we want to see real results, and if we see the results, then we feel better about the relationship.

Big Island — do you mean Pohakuloa?

Near Pohakuloa. This is in Waikoloa. It’s 100,000 acres I believe that could be restored. And I mean, that’s an enormous tract of land. The question of respect for the Hawaiian community, I think, hinges on results. And there’s been distrust — and that you saw reflected on the protests on Mauna Kea over TMT. If all of us demonstrate respect to the Hawaiian people and restore land, clean up land, commit to our promises and give back the Hawaiian homelands program the way it’s supposed to be, I think that that will build unity again. And I think that that’s how you may get past some of the impasses that have existed.

I can’t say for sure, but what I can say is we intend to be very proactive about restoring land to the Hawaiian people. I want to give large tracts of land from DHHL to the Hawaiian homesteads. I want to expedite building. That’s one of the reasons it’s frustrating to see your nominee (for DHHL director) go down like that. Not because I don’t think that that’s going to happen from time to time, of course, but it’s hard for us to do our job if old politics gets in the way of new plans.

And old politics is what took Ikaika Anderson down. And old politics threatens people like Sabrina Nasir, who is this extraordinary young woman, our deputy director nominee for for Budget and Finance, but there’s an old conflict between she and one of the senators. I’ll leave that to you guys to tease out. It’s irrational and not fair to the state of Hawaii.

We have to be working on projects. And so I think we should just be allowed to do our job for a couple of years and be judged.

Ikaika Anderson appearing before his Senate confirmation to lead the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Lacking the support of the Senate, he withdrew his nomination. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

So that’s why I spend so much time talking about we should be civil, give people a chance. If you don’t think they can do the job, that’s totally understandable. You know, a vote against Ikaika (Anderson to lead DHHL) if you felt he could not do the job, okay. And I can accept that and so can Akaka.

Don’t do that to a Chris Sadayasu (director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism), who’s a nice young man who already got the tourism contracts out, which was an impasse that lasted two years under Ige, and Sadayasu and his team already have that out. Don’t do that to a guy like that. We’re going to get the stadium thing fixed before they even hear his nomination. And you watch. He’s still going to be a political football, no pun intended.

So people like him, Sabrina and others, they deserve a chance to serve. And I hope that you who have the power of of the pen will call people out if they’re judging people based on politics rather than performance.

So with these couple of candidates, how are you navigating things with with the Senate and with these problem senators? Have you been meeting regularly with those folks to support your nominee?

So that’s a pretty broad question. First of all, all of our nominees reach out constantly to ask to get interviews. Some are rebuffed in the cruelest of ways. Which is not okay. You know, many senators had decided they were voting against Mr. Anderson before he even had his hearing. Unacceptable, unacceptable. Hear a person out. Let the testimony come in. Find out whether or not they actually have answers to the questions that are being asked. That’s sunshine. Right? It’s necessary.

So that’s one thing. Two, we do have a team that’s trying to encourage the senators, “Give these guys a chance.” So we have deep relationships. We have (senior advisor) Blake Oshiro, for example, who has lots of long-term relationships, like I do, downstairs.

We intend to be very proactive about restoring land to the Hawaiian people.

If you just did these things blind in a vacuum, all these people would be confirmed, maybe with one or two exceptions. It you didn’t allow people to get ganged up on, I guarantee you, if they didn’t have to be bullied by their own. If if there wasn’t bullying that goes on even in and amongst the senators themselves, all of these people would be given a chance to serve, maybe with the exception of a Ikaika who was on the fence. So that’s what people deserve — a good shot.

We will call out cruel behavior. It was unconscionable the way (UH) President (David) Lassner was recently treated. It was very regrettable that people made it personal on Ikaika. But I’m reaching my limit on tolerating that kind of behavior because these are good people that want to be public servants.

This raises all sorts of things here. There are some who said you probably should have known going ahead that Ikaika wasn’t going to make it out of — I mean, he didn’t even make it out of committee. It was a 4-to-1 rejection. That was a really humiliating defeat for you, the very first (rejection of one of your nominees).

Not humiliating in the least. The truth is that Maile Shimabukuro (chair of the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs) cares about him, thinks highly of him, and should have voted for him. And she was bullied by some of her own colleagues. That’s one person. And (committee member) Les Ihara I also thought would vote for him because Les gives people the benefit of the doubt and believes in process. But unfortunately, politics behind the scenes got in the way.

And I will tell you that several of the nominees are going to get fast-tracked and approved. So we end up playing politics, which is playing into their game. I think instead people should just be forced into answering exactly why you do or don’t support someone.

Well, the reason I ask is you’ve made a very big point in saying business as usual doesn’t work anymore. What did you learn from the Anderson nomination? Now that you have these other ones, some may be fast-tracked through, but others are probably going to be pretty contentious. What did you learn going forward to get your folks nominated and get them on board?

Well, I asked their opinion of Kali Watson, who served before, and I was told that they had no problems with him. Even those who had tangled with Kali in the past had already reconciled years ago. So I view Kali in this case as a project manager because we have a $600 million project and he is intent on spending that resource the way the Senate would prefer. Ironically, the comments that were made the other day about magnifying that money were exactly the points Ikaika was making. But look, that was politics. It was clear politics in kind of the wide open. But apparently they gave me a signal that they support Kali.

You know, it’s been obvious, for example, that General (Ken) Hara supported (for confirmation to adjutant general) and Cathy Betts to be confirmed (for Human Services). So I think most if not all of them will be confirmed.

But the ones that aren’t getting confirmed it’s because of grudges. Grudges and personal conflicts like that, based on moments where people felt that they didn’t get their way? It’s not good. That’s not good for our state. And you guys have seen too much of that from a small cadre of senators who are then asking others to follow. And I’m saying every individual senator should assess what they think is right and vote that way. They should be independent thought leaders. And yes, we all work together at the end. We’re going to pass tax reform, we’re going to build housing.

But there should not be that kind of mob mentality which you saw in full effect over Ikaika. Afterwards, all these comments about what a good guy he was and how much people liked him, well, give the guy a chance. He actually had the experience. He led significant parts of policy for the state as a council member.

So what did I learn? I learned that it’s going to take time. It’s going to take time for the culture in the Senate to change to where we believe it should be, which is just to be kind to people and give people a chance to do their job

I mean, you had to raise the issue of harassment with the Senate regarding Kurt Favella and your housing director (Nani Medieros). Are you going to be doing more of this, this direct intervention and calling people to the carpet, if you will?

Yes, here we are. Absolutely. And one of the reasons that I like the request that you made about doing the editorial board and to have transparency is not just because I’m keen on transparency. I am, because I think you should do that, because it makes it more likely we’ll get normal policy passed.

But for example, I think that we should know why bills die. We should know why bills didn’t get heard. We should find out from the Senate why they didn’t hear our tax package last week. What on Earth are they thinking? Everybody knows we have to do this. So these are some examples.

Grudges and personal conflicts based on moments where people felt that they didn’t get their way? That’s not good for our state.

So, yes, I would absolutely call it out if I were given the forum, which I think you are eager to have these kind of conversations. So that’s one of the reasons transparency is so important, but just one of them, because I want to change the culture of how we do things here, because people in Hawaii have gotten sick and tired of no change for the better.

And that is all rooted in these small turf battles that go back decades. Some people actually described in the hearing over Ikaika that they had a problem with him 22 years ago. What is that? You know, 22 years ago?

You won in a landslide. You won a very big mandate. How come that mandate isn’t translating directly to the folks right below us here?

There’s a couple of reasons they want. One of them’s a good reason, the rest of them are not. So I won a mandate amongst the people because I’m very close to the people of Hawaii. Because I was a doctor for a long time, which made me close to the people Big Island. And then I became close to most of our state during Covid.

So I won the mandate because of that relationship. That does not mean that I have a mandate necessarily amongst other elected officials. They each are of their own mind. Now they all won with essentially the same proposals, policy recommendations and discussions about our values.

So now it’s my job to make sure we’re all held to account. We say our values are aloha and ohana. Well, then we better start treating each other with some aloha. And we better start taking care of our extended ohana. That’s what I’m saying. I’m going to be held accountable and everyone else should be, too.

Now, the reason I think it’s okay that we are jousting is because if I completely adopted what the Legislature wanted or they completely adopted what I wanted, one of us would be not relevant. We were all elected to be relevant and represent our constituency.

So it’s completely appropriate that we fight over the details of the tax package for people. We fight over the details of the housing program. We fight over the different opportunities to deal with homelessness or the new prison or the stadium. That’s appropriate and important. What’s not appropriate is to treat people in a toxic manner or to neglect acting on affordability. So that’s why it comes back to where we started earlier, where I said we’re staying here until we get some things done.

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green speaks to the Civil Beat Editorial Board, March 2, 2023, at the governor's office. (Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2023)
The famous whiteboard is back but now on Whiteboard Wednesdays, Gov. Josh Green told the Civil Beat Editorial Board. (Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2023)

We spoke with Gov. Ige several times, had ed boards with him during his eight years. And like any person in this job, it’s tough. He had the false missile alert, Covid, the storms, many things. And of course, you were there for the last four years. He used to jog. It was difficult to find time to do that. He would eat when he got stressed. What do you do to relieve the stress for both your mental health and your physical health? Because I don’t think there’s a more stressful job in this state than the governor.

Well, it’s kind of interesting. On the one hand, my stress has dropped off a little bit because I was doing two jobs for 20 years. Which was serving as a legislator turned lieutenant governor, which is not that stressful, right? But also as a physician on the weekends. And that’s why I have bags under my eyes, honestly, because of years of doing that. So I don’t have that anymore. I don’t work as a physician any longer except rare volunteer opportunities. So I reduced my stress, but then I magnified it tenfold by becoming governor rather than lieutenant governor, maybe 100 fold. Because in truth, with the exception of Covid, I didn’t have real responsibility for decision making. And even with Covid, it was a team.

So what do I do? So three times a week, I’m now lifting weights at 4:45 in the morning. I go to a gym where I can do it privately and I’m getting a lot stronger. So I maybe won’t need the cardiologist for an extra five or 10 years. So I’m doing that. And otherwise I walk seven miles a day. I do tend to do it before dawn, except for Saturdays where I like to walk over to Ala Moana and go to the farmer’s market. So I’m actually doing what I can to get stronger and fitter so that when the Senate jacks my appointees, I can stand up for them.

You’re making your security guards do the walking too.

And you know, it’s good for them, too.


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