There’s a wave of criticism of Gov. David Ige’s handling of the coronavirus invasion that I’ve resisted riding.
He’s been getting whacked by mainland commentators on politico.com, by a number of local Facebook posters, and by the two primary Star-Advertiser columnists who get to display their opinions on the news pages rather than the traditional placement on the op-ed page.
David Shapiro wrote on May 3: “Painful to watch in the coronavirus pandemic is Gov. David Ige’s callous lack of urgency in getting unemployment checks to the more than 200,000 Hawaii workers left without income in the local economic shutdown.”
Lee Cataluna wrote on April 19 of what she saw as “Ige’s ham-handed, empathy-challenged style” as he broached the idea of some state worker pay cuts.
And last summer as he had the police arrest road-blocking protestors against the Mauna Kea telescope project, she opined: “Shame on David Ige. The one time in his entire limp life he decides to play tough, he takes on the grandmas and the people assembled to protest a project that they believe is wrong, as is their right.”
Ige ranks #4 in Politico contributor Bill Scher’s “Gubernatorial Busts” category, a listing of state executives which he identifies as among the worst performing during this crisis in the country.
Ige is the only Democrat ranked in the bottom six where he is joined by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (ranked #1), Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (#2), Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (#3), Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (#5), and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (#6).
Back in March when this virus crisis was just building to a peak, House Speaker Scott Saiki wrote Ige that the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic “has been utterly chaotic and there is mass confusion among the public.”
Ige’s stance was that he was taking in advice from medical experts, his lieutenant governor-doctor, and the county mayors. To that, Saiki said “The directives from the Lieutenant Governor and Mayors are mere recommendations. As Governor, you are the only person in this state who has the direct authority to instate these actions.”
State of Reform, a non-partisan group examining public healthcare versus health policy, asked some of its medical advisers about Ige’s performance and says this anonymous assessment is typical:
“The Governor has been slow to mandate social distancing and self-quarantine, acting only after mayors had already taken steps. He has refused to ask the president to halt non-essential travel, even when 3 mayors have done so. (True, the Interstate Commerce Clause may make it impossible, but these are unprecedented times and there have already been a lot of temporary actions taken that would be unconstitutional restrictions to personal freedoms in normal times).”
I dissent. Not as an expert but as a journalist who has watched Hawaii government in action for 57 years.
We’re not much for strongman, shut-up-and-follow-my-directives governance. We like talk, more talk and accommodation.
And in this case, we know so little about the SARS-Cov2 virus, it’s survival rate, precise means of transmission, and our natural immunity to it. Last week, researchers at the Columbia University School of Public Health warned that easing stay-at-home orders and allowing people to mingle more freely would mean that “new COVID-19 cases and deaths will rebound in late May.’’ The Columbia researchers predict a resurgence of cases two to four weeks after beginning to reopen.
It seems to have made sense to consult lots of people and not rush into preventive measures or half-baked openings that might have been useless and confused people more.
That popular theme of “we’re all together on this” can be taken as an admission that we’re all unsure about counter measures, shutdowns, social distancing and washing your hands while singing Happy Birthday to yourself. Masks seem good but what if you’ve just breathed on your hands before you donned the mask at the supermarket?
Also, Ige has to constantly balance our health versus so much economic damage that we come out of this alive but 100% bankrupt, houseless, hurting for food purchases and scared to ever touch another person, let alone have normal sex.
He could scare us to death.
My read is that Ige is doing no worse than most other governors experimenting with solutions and getting batches of conflicting advice= and criticism.
About his handling of the Mauna Kea TMT: Yes, he’s blown that one badly, set bad precedent, and been a wimp.