Hawaii governor touts accomplishments, ignores missile alert
HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii Gov. David Ige touted accomplishments from his first three years in office in his State of the State address on Monday, including boosting pay for teachers and outfitting more classrooms with air conditioning, and vowed to keep tackling the state’s housing shortage.
But Ige’s annual address to lawmakers didn’t mention a missile alert his emergency management agency mistakenly sent to residents and visitors on Jan. 13. Several lawmakers criticized that omission.
A chunk of the governor’s 42-minute talk focused on housing and homeless initiatives.
Hawaii had 51 homeless people for every 10,000 residents last year, the highest ratio of any state. Officials estimate Hawaii needs about 65,000 housing units more than it has.
“Owning a home is out of reach for many families, with housing costs rising faster than wages,” Ige said.
The governor asked lawmakers to set aside $100 million this year to support the construction of more affordable homes.
The governor pointed to some progress: He noted that on a statewide basis, the number of homeless declined 9 percent from the year before — the first decline in eight years.
The governor also celebrated how 1,200 Hawaii classrooms have been newly equipped with air conditioning, exceeding his administration’s goal of 1,000. He cheered increases in teacher compensation, saying “we have given our educators the pay raises they long deserved.”
But multiple lawmakers said Ige failed to make note of other important issues facing Hawaii, including eliminating cesspools, managing short-term vacation rentals and the Thirty Meter Telescope.
“It seemed to be looking back at things that we’ve accomplished together,” Senate President Ronald Kouchi said of the speech. “And so we’re kind of left to wonder what we’re going to do going forward.”
House Speaker Scott Saiki said he was disappointed the governor didn’t reiterate his support for the Thirty Meter Telescope project.
Ige told reporters afterward that he limited the scope of his address because he didn’t want to talk for two or three hours. He said his budget proposals include many details.
One glaring omission was any mention of the missile alert that made mistakenly led people to believe Hawaii was facing an imminent nuclear attack.
Ige told reporters he didn’t think it was appropriate to mention the bungled alert.
“We have made corrections to assure that two Saturdays ago will never happen again. We’re moving forward,” he said. He noted he has asked Hawaii National Guard Brig. Gen. to study what happened and make recommendations for additional changes.
State Sen. Will Espero said he believed Ige didn’t mention it because he’s trying to move forward. But he said a short comment noting reforms and improvements made since that error could have “reassured everyone that they’re still on top of it” and that it remains a high priority.
Saiki said he was hoping the governor would include a short paragraph in his speech about what he plans to do to prevent such alerts from going out again. He said he was disappointed by the omission.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Kalani English said the governor already addressed the missile alert at a joint House and Senate hearing and at press conferences. He said the speech underscored the numerous issues facing the state.