Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine July-August 2014 - July-August 2014
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10 Most Intriguing People

They inspire and infuriate us, make us cheer or boo. But there's no denying their commitment to these islands they call home.

(page 6 of 10)



Linda Lingle
Executive Decision

Governor Linda Lingle has often surprised people with her sturdiness and straightforward manner. These traits, plus an incisive intelligence when it comes to bipartisan compromise-building, have helped her put together a remarkable life of public service as a Republican in a virtually one-party Democratic state.

But this year Governor Lingle found her judgment on certain key issues questioned. Many longtime allies on Maui and Kaua‘i feel that they’re dealing with a governor they hardly know anymore. 

This was the woman who came from St. Louis and founded The Moloka‘i Free Press. She became a Maui County Council member and then a two-term Maui County mayor. Her achievements on Maui, where she gained high marks for performance-based budgeting and stimulating job growth, helped propel her to higher office—as Hawai‘i’s first female governor.

Now former allies have accused her of “O‘ahu-centrism.” They wonder how she could propose buying Turtle Bay, on O‘ahu’s North Shore, to keep it from development, while not protecting Moloka‘i’s La‘au Point, and not working harder to bring a second hospital to Maui. Above all, they denounce her unstinting support of the Hawai‘i Superferry, opposed by thousands on Maui and Kaua‘i because of concerns ranging from invasive species threats to danger to migrating whales.

Lingle says she has no regrets about spearheading Act 2 through the state Legislature to allow “an Inter-Island Ferry Service” to continue operation while an Environmental Impact Assessment is being done. “I’m focused on making sure the Superferry succeeds. We won’t have an opportunity again for this kind of transportation alternative for the Neighbor Islands.” She feels the majority on Maui and Kaua‘i are for the Superferry. 

Pointing out how she once convinced the federal Public Benefit Guarantee Corporation to take over Aloha Airlines’ pension fund to help preserve the airline, she insists she made no exception in the case of Superferry. “It’s not about helping a company, but maintaining transportation choices for people.”

And she has no regrets about convincing the state Legislature to, in effect, override Second Circuit Court Judge Joseph Cardoza’s order that would have suspended Superferry operations, pending completion of an EIS. “The judiciary is there to interpret the laws. They don’t decide how we live our lives. People elect legislatures, and our option is to change the laws. This was the exactly appropriate thing to do.”

As always, the governor has tried to build bridges. She met with everyone from the Pacific Whale Foundation to Maui Tomorrow to develop forty new operating conditions for the Superferry to safeguard the environment.

Lingle remains serenely confident of her choices, and she’s determined to use the rest of her term to preserve a range of choices for Hawai‘i’s people. She supports the Moloka‘i Master Land Use Plan as “a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the people of Moloka‘i to determine their own destiny.” She’d like to see another hospital on Maui, but thinks Maui voters have to push their legislators to have the issue actually get a hearing. Above all, she relishes the chance for direct action on issues that range from increasing Hawai‘i’s energy independence, to moving the economy away from overreliance on development and towards health care and new technology.

“This is a tremendously satisfying job. For example, I can see homelessness and do something about it. I can declare an emergency, bypass certain laws, get things done more quickly.” It’s a difficult balancing act to perform, but no one can accuse Governor Lingle of not wanting to get on the wire.
—Michael Stein