Friday | January 19, 2018
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Hanabusa considers Big Island ‘future of the state’

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who officially launched her gubernatorial bid this week, said she wanted to show support for the neighbor islands during a visit to Hawaii Island on Wednesday.

“One of the things I do believe is Hawaii’s strength is the uniqueness of the islands and the resources of each island,” she said during an interview at the Tribune-Herald. “… You have challenges, but you also have the island that I consider to be the future of the state.”

Hanabusa, who is challenging Gov. David Ige in the Democratic primary on Aug. 11, said she was visiting neighbor islands to meet with supporters, organizers and others as she ramps up the campaign. Her district includes urban Oahu.

She has criticized Ige for a perceived lack of leadership on major issues. Hanabusa said she has the experience and skill sets to better guide the ship of state.

“I think David has a difficult time in making decisions,” she said. “I don’t think he makes decisions.”

In an emailed statement, Ige said the election will be decided on “action and accomplishments, not just talk.”

“Leadership is about getting things done,” he said, while noting increased visitor arrivals to Hawaii Island and additional construction on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway. “I may not have touted the accomplishments of our administration as much as we should have, and I take responsibility for that. But I am proud of my record of action.”

Hanabusa said she has supported the Thirty Meter Telescope but thinks a lot more work needs to be done to sort out the future of Maunakea, including the University of Hawaii’s role. She didn’t offer a plan but noted that leadership is needed to bring all sides to the table.

“There is no way you can proceed on Maunakea without coming to some sort of agreement or consensus with the Native Hawaiian population,” she said.

“Maunakea is too great an asset but it’s also a very culturally significant site as well,” Hanabusa added. “There’s got to be some way it all comes together. I don’t see that happening; I just see a disconnect.”

Asked about the prospect for more protests and opponents again blocking the access road if construction of TMT moves forward, she said her actions would depend on the circumstances.

“It’s not as simple to say, ‘Clear the way.’ That’s not it,” Hanabusa said. “… I think it’s something we have to see how it emerges and how it plays out.”

Regarding homelessness, she said she doesn’t think removing homeless from public spaces alone is the solution, and that “safe zones” could be established.

“Each homeless group is not the same,” Hanabusa said. “You need to have some sort of immediate solution.”

Wednesday’s trip to the island, which didn’t involve public events, marked her first official campaign visit here since losing a hard-fought election to replace the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye in 2014.

That campaign saw her and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz scrambling to win over Puna voters after Tropical Storm Iselle delayed voting at a couple of precincts. Schatz, who former Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed to the seat, won by 1,769 votes.

“What I did learn is the strong sense of independence that the people feel there,” Hanabusa said.

She said Pahoa is not what you’d expect.

“It’s a very eclectic place,” Hanabusa said. “… I’m watching it because I think it’s going to be a real microcosm of this island and just how people meld together.”

She said she didn’t want to run again after that election. But she didn’t stay out of public view for long.

In 2015, Hanabusa joined the board of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, which she chaired when she stepped down the following year to run for Congress again, this time to replace Rep. Mark Takai, who died of cancer. She said she was asked to run.

While she has bounced between different roles the past few years, Hanabusa, who was previously a state senator and labor attorney, said she knows where her career should end.

“This is where I think my political journey has led me to,” she said. “I now believe that I have a ball of skills or skill sets now that can best serve the people of Hawaii and it’s for them to decide whether they think that’s true or not. The one thing I will not do is I will not shy away from any kind of major task if I’m asked to take it on.”

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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