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Democratic leader challenges
Lingle on plan for homeless

State Democratic Party Chairman Brickwood Galuteria said "it's about time" after Republican Gov. Linda Lingle unveiled a six-year plan to battle homelessness.

In a written statement Friday, Galuteria said: "These are issues which Democrats have been calling attention to for years. I sincerely hope the governor is not going to politicize the homelessness."

Lingle is the first Republican governor in 40 years in a state where Democrats have controlled the Legislature for 50 years.

Bob Awana, Lingle's chief of staff, said he could not let Galuteria's statement go unchallenged.

"This statement illustrates how out of touch the Democrat Party is with the serious problems facing our state," Awana said. "The fact that homelessness has risen to the level it has today means that they simply didn't take care of it for the past quarter of a century."

Lingle unveiled her plan to develop 17,000 lower-cost rental units statewide during the next five years in a speech to the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii at the organization's annual membership meeting Thursday. The units will be for families making up to 80 percent of the communities' median income. Her plan includes finding land suitable for affordable rental housing, increasing the state housing agency's bonding authority and increasing the standard deduction on state taxes.

Galuteria said many Democrats were surprised when Lingle said she is planning to use hundreds of acres of state land for affordable-housing projects.

"A truly workable solution will require much more than choosing some sites on which to build housing," he said. "The answers lie not just in finding the land and developers, but in sorting out and addressing the factors that cause homelessness and how best to help the homeless get back on their feet economically."

Galuteria said the Democrats believe this requires involvement of social service agencies, mental health advocates, job training experts, potential employers and labor unions.

"Homelessness has been a chronic problem long enough. If the governor is truly serious about solving what has become a terrible dilemma for all of us, I urge her to open the process up and abandon any political labels," he said. "Let's do it as a community."

Awana said those who have followed Lingle's political career know she is sincere about addressing the homeless problem in Hawaii, saying she initiated projects as Maui County mayor that are still in effect.

The Associated Press and Star-Bulletin reporter Nelson Daranciang contributed to this report.

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