HONOLULU — Incoming Gov. Josh Green delivered a message of unity at his inauguration on Monday, where he was sworn in before a crowd of thousands that included a delegation of Kaua‘i legislators.
“Hawai‘i is one ohana — one family,” said Green in his first speech in the executive role. “When we come together, we can meet any challenge, and accomplish anything we set our minds to. We can set an example for the whole world on the issues of housing, homelessness, poverty, and climate change if we truly come together and commit to putting our values of ‘ohana and aloha into practice — and make them a reality for everyone in Hawai‘i.”
Green, a Democrat who hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a former doctor, state legislator, and lieutenant governor under outgoing Gov. David Ige. Fellow democrat Ige served two terms marked by a series of crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
Green cruised to victory in November with 62.2 percent of the vote, compared with Republican challenger Duke Aiona’s 36.3 percent.
Though still the preferred choice, Green was less popular on Kaua‘i — where he took home 57.4 percent to Aiona’s 39 percent.
The Kaua‘i delegation included Mayor Derek Kawakami, newly reelected Kaua‘i County Council Chair Mel Rapozo, Vice Chair KipuKai Kuali‘i, and council members Felicia Cowden and Bernard Carvalho.
“Monday was a new beginning for our state,” said Kawakami in a statement on Monday. “Gov. Green and Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke will hit the ground running and I’m excited to see what the state and counties can accomplish together in the way of affordable housing, early childhood education, climate change, and other priorities for the people of Hawai‘i.”
Green expressed his intention to expand to neighbor islands the kauhale project he helped spearhead as lieutenant governor — where small villages of tiny homes are used to house the homeless. He said he would release $50 million in grants-in-aid to make the projects a reality.
In addition, he said his administration would focus on leading the way on climate change, addressing health care disparities, and eliminating regressive taxes on food and medicine.
“We dealt with the worst pandemic in a century better than anyone else, but we’re still witnessing an epidemic of poverty and injustice in our own backyard,” said Green.
Hawai‘i currently taxes the sale of food and nonprescription drugs, the burden of which tends to fall disproportionately on the poor. Eight states and the District of Columbia currently exempt food and medicine from sales taxes, and five do not have a sales tax at all.
Incoming Lt. Governor Sylvia Luke delivered a speech that was half comedy routine, making a series of playful remarks directed at her former colleagues in the state Legislature. Luke, the first person of Korean ancestry to be elected to statewide office, previously served as chairperson of the House Finance Committee.
Referencing a bipartisan prison reform effort she spearheaded, she also touted the importance of working together to get things done.
“Leave your titles at the door,” said Luke. “Leave your partisanship at the door. It is for us to work together and get things done for the community.”
She said she would focus on expanding internet access and implementing universal child care.
Senate President Ron Kouchi (District 8 – Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau) thanked the outgoing governor for his eight years of leadership.
“As we look forward to this period of Huliau or new beginnings, I look forward to working with Governor Josh Green, Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke, and their new administration,” said Kouchi in a statement. “With many challenges facing the state, it is my hope that our three branches of government can work collaboratively towards a common goal of improving the quality of life for the people of Hawai‘i.”
Source: The Garden Island