After giving current Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie an historic plastering in the 2014 Democratic Primary Election, and then cruising to an easy victory over two far-better known rivals earlier this month, Governor-elect David Ige’s rise to power has been revolutionary in every sense of the term. This is fascinating, because Ige himself is as status-quo as they come.
And nothing illustrates this better than Ige’s first act, taken just a few days after the election. On Nov. 7, Ige made Michael McCartney, who has run the Hawaii Tourism Authority as its president and CEO since 2009, his new chief of staff.
“Together we have persevered through tough times and by remaining authentic and committed to preserving and promoting Hawaii’s unique people, place and culture, we have succeeded in recovering and boosting the state’s tourism economy,” McCartney said in a Nov. 7 statement on his promotion. “Two years of record-breaking visitor arrivals and spending, which is on track for a third year of growth, is the result of your hard work, and I am proud and honored to have had the opportunity to work with and learn from all of you.”
You know all that talk these days about changing up Hawaii’s dependence on squeezing all the tourist dollars we can out of Hawaiian land, history and culture? Diversifying our economy and job base so the state isn’t so dependent on people taking vacations? Yeah, Ige would like to do all that, as long as the tourist industry still comes first.
“Tourism is the single largest component of our economy, and I will do all that I can to support and grow our visitor industry,” Ige said in the first sentence of the “Economy” chapter of his campaign “Action Plan.” “The value of tourism to our economy cannot be overstated. It brings billions of dollars into the economy and provides thousands of jobs.”
Then a few paragraphs later, he added this: “I have continued to support the vital function of the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority to promote Hawaii as a destination for vacations and conventions,” Ige said in the Action Plan. “I rejected the current Governor’s proposal to reduce the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority’s marketing budget by $10 million in 2011.”
And of course, just because McCartney’s getting kicked upstairs, he’ll still make sure servicing tourists remains Hawaii’s preeminent industry. “In my new position, I will continue serving the state of Hawaii and will do all that I can to continue to support you and Hawaii’s visitor industry,” he said in his Nov. 7 statement.
Oh, and McCartney gave Ige’s campaign $2,530 during the 2014 election, Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission records show.
Photo of David Ige courtesy Ige Campaign