BY KATLIN CILLIERS | STAFF WRITER
Colleen Hanabusa, a Democrat candidate for Hawaiʻi governor, reinforced the need to help build and maintain the Hawai‘i that people want by taking an active role in the local community. In a sit-down interview with Kapiʻo News on Thursday, she encouraged students to participate in any way they can.
“For Hawai‘i to continue to be the Hawai‘i that we all want, we all have an obligation, to help shape it, and to maintain it,” Hanabusa said. “And that’s what I hope that [young people] will all recognize, that it’s a bit of a two-way street. What you want, you have to help shape, and you also have to help maintain. It’s almost as much your obligation as it is mine.”
The Wai‘anae native alluded to the sense of community and ‘ohana that permeate the local culture. To her, Hawaiʻi’s progress is in the hands of people in all spheres of society.
“What is relevant is that you participate,” she said. “And I hope that you do not feel that it doesn’t matter, that your vote doesn’t matter, or that your participation doesn’t matter. Voices, debate … all of that are very important.”
On Thursday, Hanabusa sat down for an interview that discussed issues that affect students the most. Among these are the high cost of living in Hawai‘i for single people and young families, limited career opportunities to those fresh out of school, as well as the ever-increasing tuition (and the increasing student debt to pay for school). To the Congresswoman, who has represented the state’s 1st Congressional district from 2011 to 2015 and again since 2016, the main question is related to the amount – or lack thereof – of opportunities for youngsters in the islands.
“I believe that the issue that everyone is probably faced with, whether we articulate it at the same way or not, is whether or not you [the youth] will have a place in Hawaii.”, she said. “In other words, the question ‘Is the Hawai‘i that I grew up in the Hawai‘i that’s going to be there for me? And is there the opportunities for me?’ ”
To Hanabusa, Hawai‘i must offer career opportunities for younger people who would rather stay here.
“I’ve always felt if you want to leave Hawai‘i because there’s something else you want to do, that’s great,” she said. “But if you feel you have to leave Hawai‘i because Hawai‘i doesn’t have the opportunities for you and you’d prefer to stay here, that’s not good.”
When it comes to affording living in the state, Hanabusa said that it is paramount to understand where the youth stand in house hunting and what kind of livelihood the generation envisions, whether it’s traditional housing in the suburbs or what she called “vertical lifestyles,” where facilities, such as public transportation, are within reach in central areas.
Demonstrating awareness of the quick, ever-changing demands of current and upcoming generations, Hanabusa said that responding to these expectations must be done in a timely manner, by adding plans of action to the gubernatorial planning program.
“And what I believe government should do, and can do, is put that into the planning process,” Hanabusa said. “And we want to do it quickly, because we don’t want to get to the point where we’re stuck into a situation where you have no choices, because we haven’t moved fast enough.”
As for education, Hanabusa was adamant in affirming that obtaining financial support to fund college tuition is a two-way street, where students who obtain federal and state help must commit to giving back to the community. As an example, she mentioned the current issues of teacher retention and shortage faced by the state’s Department of Education, which KHON2 reported in 2016. But, she said, teachers who are willing to give back by working for the state could have their education underwritten.
With the Democratic primary elections on August 11, Hanabusa will face incumbent Gov. David Ige. In the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s latest poll, released in late March, the 67-year-old Congresswoman held a 20-point lead (47 percent to 27 percent) of voter intention among Democrats.