Choosing the Chair – Whose Bias Do You Prefer?

Today being the first post-election meeting of the Kauai County Council is sure to be non-eventful on its surface.  But the sub-currents are no doubt running strong, even as the winners are gracious and the losers act like all is ok.

Kauai voters issued five very strong statements on November 6th.

Councilmember now Mayor Elect Derek Kawakami won in a landslide over Council Chair Mel Rapozo.

Councilmember Mason Chock finished as the top vote getter strongly ahead of Councilmember Arryl Kaneshiro.

Councilmember Elect and first time candidate Luke Evslin by a large nearly 2,000 vote margin, leaped ahead of incumbent Councilmember Ross Kagawa into the #3 slot.

Voters resoundingly defeated the “Kagawa Resolution” that attempted to remove existing council term limits (19,146 NO to 4,143 YES).

Voters selected an unabashedly strong progressive and clear voice for environmental protection in Felicia Cowden who gained the #7 slot above numerous other contenders.

These dynamics plus the re-election of Arthur Brun and the return of former Councilmember KipuKai Kualii will make for an interesting and I believe positive future.  

The first major decision of “choosing the next Council Chair” will be made “behind the scenes” between now and “swearing in” which occurs on December 3th. While the Sunshine Law prevents more than two Councilmember’s from discussing this issue in private, many sitting Councilmember’s will likely ignore or forget this detail, and it does not apply to those who have yet to be sworn in.

Speculating on “who will be the next Chair” is something local political pundits are already deeply absorbed in.  

Through a process of elimination the speculation quickly narrows to a choice between CM Mason Chock and CM Arryl Kaneshiro.  Through further analysis it becomes clear that CME KipuKai Kualii is likely to be the “swing vote” and thus has the power to determine the outcome.

A quick overview: The new Chair must be someone with experience on the Council which excludes Luke, Cowden and Brun who is also relatively new and without deep experience.  The new Chair must also be someone who is seen as someone who “get’s along well with others” and has the demeanor and credibility to manage the group.  This eliminates Kagawa and leaves only Chock, Kaneshiro and Kualii.  With Kualii being the new guy coming back in, it seems reasonable for the choice to come down to either Chock or Kaneshiro.

The block of votes that now support Rapozo as Chair include Kaneshiro, Brun, Kagawa.  Remember the magic # is 4, which equates to a majority of the votes.  

It seems reasonable to speculate that Kaneshiro, Brun and Kagawa will continue to stick together.  It also seems reasonable that Evslin and Cowden will lean toward supporting Chock with whom they share a common constituency base and tend to lean more toward community based decision making and environmental protection.

Hence, it is likely IMHO that we have in place essentially a 3/3 tie for the Chair’s position, with Kualii being the swing vote that could push the majority in either direction.  While on paper and via public statements Kualii seems to be a strong progressive and environmentally friendly voice, historically he has often sided with the positions of Kagawa, Kaneshiro and Rapozo.

Each of the top two contenders bring a different skillset to the table and each views the world through a remarkably different lens.  As we all do, both have an inherent bias formed via their childhood upbringing, ongoing life experience and the current professional roles they now serve in.

Chock who owns and operates a leadership training and development program is deeply involved in community involvement.  He is active in leading and/or participating in numerous projects around the island that seek to restore native habitat, and that support Hawaiian cultural values and practices.

Kaneshiro who is an executive with one of Hawaii’s largest landowners, The Grove Farm Land Company, has a business accounting background and would bring a strong skill set to the table as the Council deals with budget issues.

Chock spends his professional life outside of the Council surrounded by both grass-roots community as well as those aspiring to be community leaders. He is trained as a facilitator and is the ultimate calm voice and adult in the room, working well with people from all walks of life.  Chock’s past actions and statements would lead one to conclude that he views the world through a community based lens and leans toward community based decision making and environmental protection.

Kaneshiro spends his professional life working in real estate development and land management.  His employer is directly impacted in major ways by the decisions made by the County Council.  Whether it be the way the County manages and taxes agricultural land, or via zoning and regulations governing development and construction, The Grove Farm Land Company has a major stake in the decisions made by the Kauai County Council.  Kaneshiro via his past public statements and actions clearly views the world via a Chamber of Commerce and land development lens that sees government as an impediment to development.

Thus, the two primary contenders for Council Chair, offer clear and distinct choices.  

As the top vote getter during the recent election CM Chock definitely demonstrates a strong level of community support and is eminently qualified to serve the role.

CM Kaneshiro as the “heir apparent” to the outgoing Rapozo faction also finished a strong #2 at the ballot box. He will likely have the business community pushing hard on his behalf and is also fully capable of being the Chair.

With two qualified candidates, at the end of the day it comes down to whose biased world view will most benefit our children and grandchildren?

Or actually and much more pragmatically, it comes down to whomever can garner 3 additional votes in support of their Chairmanship.  

Like you, I am counting on all 7 Councilmembers looking at the pluses and minuses of each contender for the job, and making a wise choice that benefits the long term interest of our island community.  

PUBLIC HEARING HEADS-UP!

A public hearing on BILL 2725 bill is being held today, Wednesday, November 14, 2018, at 1:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at the Historic County Building.  If you feel Kauaʻi is in a housing crisis and a long-term affordability policy is an essential component to the solution, please send email testimony to CouncilTestimony@kauai.gov and/or testify in person at the public hearing!

Bill 2725 will establish a policy of long term affordability for housing that is either developed with state, county or federal (taxpayer) monies and/or required as a condition of zoning.  If passed into law, Bill 2725 will prevent such housing from being sold into the market after a number of years.  Instead, if a qualified family chooses to leave the affordable housing unit, that unit will be available to another qualified family. 

First published in the The Garden Island newspaper (TGI) November 14th, 2018

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A Most Audacious Move – 

In politics, audacity is not a characteristic that many politicians are known for, especially during an election year.  The award for the most audacious politician in Hawaii for the year 2018, certainly must go to Kauai Councilmember Ross Kagawa.

Councilmember Kagawa, who is scheduled to be “termed out” in the year 2020, introduced a Charter Amendment Resolution that if approved by Kauai voters on November 6th, will repeal Kauai Council term limits, effective in 2020.

What makes this move to remove term limits especially bold and over-the-top audacious is the fact that voters overwhelmingly approved putting term limits in place in 2006 with voting 13,226 in favor and 6,139 in opposition.  For a politician to propose something so antithetical to the will of the voters, during an election year, that will potentially directly and personally benefit that politician certainly raises the audacity bar for all.

Kauai Councilmembers are currently limited to serving 4 consecutive 2 year terms (8 consecutive years), and then must sit out at least one term prior to running for election to the Council again.  If passed by the voters, the “Kagawa Amendment” will repeal this provision and allow councilmembers to serve an unlimited number of consecutive terms.

The “Kagawa Amendment” was passed by a 5 to 2 vote in the Council and is truly a testament to the power and influence, and the contumelious nature of the Councilmember.

We will know within the next 48 hours whether his impudence will be rewarded by the voters, or not.  Those who support keeping term limits in place will vote NO.  Those who favor allowing Councilmembers to serve life-time terms, will vote YES.

Here is a short video of both Councilmember Kagawa’s statements in support of the amendment, and Councilmember Yukimura’s statements in opposition.  Please share with your friends on Facebook!

 

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Four Steps For Change: Legislative, Electoral, Judicial and Grassroots

Aloha,

Like you, I care deeply about the problems and challenges facing us here in Hawaii, my home and the birthplace of my children and grandchildren.

There are many pathways to effect change but the lens of advocacy through which I view the world, is one of policy and politics.

The tools/strategies and tactics available are primarily:

  1. Legislative – changing the law
  2. Electoral – changing the people who can change the law
  3. Judicial – challenge the law, the lack of law, or enforcement of the law in court
  4. Grassroots – challenge the system, challenge the lawmakers

Legislative

The 2019 legislative session represents an opportunity to build on the momentum of recent successes in both the 2018 legislative session and more importantly the 2018 elections and related hard fought campaigns.

The 2019 legislative agenda will no doubt include as a top priority a demand to increase the minimum wage to that of a $17 per hour living wage.  2019 will also be the year that increased dedicated funding for public education will finally be passed.  How could this not happen now especially after the collapse of the Con Am effort?  Expanded public funding of elections, automatic voter registration, and other election reforms are also in order.  Protecting reefs and coastal waters from continuous contamination from cesspool and septic system leaching, as well as the legalization of cannabisfor use by responsible adults will be on the “must pass” in 2019 list.

Electoral

Many of you have asked, so here are my election choices (from Governor through Mayor, Council, OHA and Charter/Constitutional amendments) from a Kauai Ballot perspective.  I am especially hopeful that Felicia Cowden, Adam Roversi and Mason Chock will be elected to the Kauai County Council.

I am hoping my friends on Maui understand that EVERY MAUI RESIDENT CAN VOTE FOR EVERY MAUI COUNCIL SEAT.  

Like the OHA races, it is a bit confusing as people who live in Kihei for example sometimes don’t realize they can (and should) vote for all council seats in all districts.  For example, Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who is a fabulous candidate running for the Molokai seat, will serve both her home community of Molokai and all of Maui county as well.  I encourage all my friends and associates on Maui, regardless of where you live to read up on Keani and consider giving her one of your votes!

The other Maui Ohana Candidates also have my personal support and represent a solid community based cross section of experience and perspectives.

If you are still undecided as to the Con Con, please consider reading: “Why I am voting No on Con Con…”

And just for fun, take a moment to read and share with friends:
Indulge for a moment, my rant on voting…”

Judicial

Nationally and locally there are both public interest law firms and “plaintiff’s law firms” gearing up to pursue the chemical companies, the State of Hawaii and the various Counties for failing to protect students, children, and the general public from the now very well publicized negative impacts of RoundUp and other dangerous chemicals.  A defense focused on plausible deniability might have worked 5 or 10 years ago but the mounting evidence, related court cases, and the ubiquitous publicity has effectively taken the “I didn’t know” defense off the table.  The historical and well documented cavalier attitude by local government toward the use of these chemicals will no doubt come back to haunt those who continue to keep their heads in the sand on this important public health issue.

Grassroots

At the grassroots level we continue to build and expand our networks.  On each and every island there are increasing numbers of informed advocates, who not only understand the process and the issues but are motivated and engaged.  On January 16th (hold the date) opening day at the legislature, many will be gathering at the Capitol to express their thoughts, feeling, concerns and priorities.  No doubt, a fair number of teachers will also be present this day.

Summary – Next Steps

My role and that of Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI) is one of support, education, and communication.  Working together with the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and many others our mission is to facilitate, support, and help catalyze the change that is so badly needed.  My job is to push, and to lead, and to find others who will also push and lead.

To continue doing this work, requires the help and contributions from many, and it requires fundraising – constant fundraising.  At this moment we are investing in building the mother of all constituent contact systems (MOACCS).  This will GREATLY enhance our ability to network and communicate with advocates from all islands.  You can read more about it here “Doubling Down and Next Steps To Win”.

Fundraising – a soft ask for a hard need

To complete the design and build of the MOACCS system, and to continue funding our basic day to day costs (which are minimal) we still must raise an additional $8,765 by November 1st.  So many have already given, and it is my goal today to reach NEW people who have not given in the past (or at least not recently).  $100 contributed by 90 people by November 1st, would alleviate the stress and allow us to move forward and maintain momentum.

Please know that I would not be asking if the funds were not urgently needed for us to continue the work.  The nature of fundraising (for me anyway), is to wait until the last minute (hoping that no ask will be needed)…but in the end…asking is always required…and one would think I would have learned this by now.  So please, if you support the work we are doing and would like us to continue strong through the end of this year and into the 2019 legislative session – a donation of $100 or any amount by November 1st would be tremendously helpful.

Contributions may be made online or mailed to:

Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI)
P.O. Box 871
Honolulu, HI 96808

Pono Hawai’i Initiative is a 501c(4) entity and is required to clearly disclose to donors and potential donors that contributions are *NOT* deductible as charitable contributions.  Contributions or gifts to Pono Hawai’i Initiative are not deductible for Federal income tax purposes.

Mahalo to all for your concern and interest in helping to move Hawaii forward on so many important levels.  As always, never hesitate to contact me directly should you have ideas, suggestions, or concerns you would like to share.

Yours truly,
Gary Hooser

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The Quisling’s of Wailuku

Four years ago the elected leadership of Maui County, betrayed the people of Maui. Betrayal is a strong word, but after much reflection I do not hesitate to use it. Many thanks to the Maui Independent for the excellent article (see link at bottom) reminding me of this important piece of history.

I am speaking of course about the “Maui Miracle”, and the shameful actions and inactions of the Maui government that followed.

The people of Maui, led by the grassroots citizenry, for the first time ever in the history of Maui County gathered the signatures required, placed on the ballot and voted in support of a moratorium on the growing of genetically modified crops until adequate studies were done proving their safety.

The elected leaders on Maui failed the Maui citizenry not in some esoteric, vague, or simply perceived manner – but directly and completely failed them by refusing to legally defend the will of the people in court.

The people of Maui followed the law, they worked hard, followed the rules and against all odds won with over 50% of the votes.  And then a majority of their elected councilmembers and their Mayor, deserted them and climbed into bed instead with Monsanto and the GMO chemical companies.

This information presented now, especially in light of all that has come forth in the past 4 years with regards to the clear and present harms of glyphosate, chlorpyrifos, and a host of other pesticides used heavily on the GMO crops – makes the betrayal of Maui’s people by their Maui County government even more egregious.

Very recently in the Dwayne Johnson RoundUp trial the jury found that Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression” which is a mild and somewhat sterile expression for the kind of corporate thuggery that the chemical companies exercise in Hawaii and around the globe.

The government enablers of Monsanto’s behavior on Maui and throughout Hawaii need to be held accountable. The passage of four years does not absolve them of responsibility for the treachery dealt to democracy and the citizens of Maui County, specifically.

To my friends on Maui, stay strong and vote those who betrayed you out of office.  On November 6th, my hope is for a second Maui miracle.  If you show up, and if you make sure your friends, neighbors, and family members show up – you can make this happen.

In solidarity,

Gary Hooser

#theywillruetheday

IMPORTANT: Please click on the below link, read and share this piece widely, encouraging others to do the same – especially to your friends on Maui.

https://mauiindependent.org/bhttps://mauiindependent.org/betrayers-of-maui-democracy-ask-voters-to-re-elect-them-this-november/

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“The strange and tortuous path of the education Con Am” – for legislative nerds and policy wonks only – 

The Con Am as we now know it, was born on January 24, 2018 as SB2922 with the primary introducer being Senator Michelle Kidani, Vice President of the Senate and Chair of the Senate Education Committee.  

After months of intense and divisive community debate, on October 18 the Con Am’s short but turbulent life was ended via a declaration by the Hawaii Supreme Court stating the measure was invalid.  According to the court, the proposal did not comply with legal requirements that ‘the language and meaning of the ballot question be clear and not misleading.

While the Con Am is now dead, it may be useful to review at least briefly, the twisted and somewhat unusual path of its legislative history.

Numerous Bills relating to the issue were introduced in the House and in the Senate during 2017 and in 2018, but it was SB2922 that for whatever reason was selected to be the vehicle for this well intended but ill fated public policy measure. 

For purposes of this narrative, the only language quoted will be the final key statements as to what would eventually be printed on the ballot.

The original SB2922 stated:

The question to be printed on the ballot shall be as follows:

“Shall the legislature fund a quality public education for all of Hawaii’s children, including the retention of teachers, public preschools, lower class sizes, special education programming, career and technical education, art, music, Hawaiian studies, Hawaiian language instruction, and afterschool programs, by establishing a surcharge on visitor accommodations and residential investment property valued at one million dollars or greater, excluding a homeowner’s primary residence, as provided by law?”

Originally referred to the Senate Committees EDU/ETT/JDC, WAM (Education/Economic Development/Tourism and High Technology/Judiciary, Ways and Means) – SB2922 was then “re-referred” to just EDU, JDC meaning only two committees in the Senate would review and potentially amend and/or vote on the issue.  WAM as the all powerful “money committee” which normally reviews all Bills having potential budget impacts was for some reason removed, as was ETT.  Re-referral decisions are made by “leadership” and ultimately the Senate President signs off in agreement.

The Senate Education Committee on February 5th conducted the one and only public hearing that was to be held in the Senate and passed out SB2922 “as is”.

On February 23, the Judiciary Committee (JDC) chaired by Senator Brian Taniguchi held a “Public Decision Making” meeting that does not permit public testimony to occur at the meeting (though the public is notified and written testimony is accepted). This is standard procedure in Senate “A bracket” committees and permitted within the Senate rules.  JDC then passed out SB2922SD1, that amended the original Bill in numerous ways including changing the language suggested to be printed on the ballot to:

SB2922SD1 – SECTION 4.  The question to be printed on the ballot shall be as follows:

“Shall the legislature be authorized to establish a surcharge on visitor accommodations and on residential investment property, excluding a home that qualifies for a homeowner’s exemption, valued at one million dollars or more to fund public education for Hawaii’s children, as provided by law?”

The full Senate then passed SB2922SD1 with only Senator Gil Riviere voting NO.

On March 6, SB2922SD1 was transmitted to the House of Representatives where on March 8 it was referred only to the House Finance (FIN) committee, chaired by Representative Sylvia Luke.

The measure sat without any activity in FIN for approximately 3 weeks and then on April 2 was “re-referred” (by House leadership) to the House Education (EDN) committee, chaired by Representative Justin Woodson who promptly scheduled a public hearing on the measure with 48 hours notice, for April 4.

The House EDN committee then passed out a further amended version SB2922HD1 that stated in SECTION 4: 

The question to be printed on the ballot shall be as follows:

“Shall the legislature be authorized to establish, as provided by law, a surcharge on investment real property to be used to support public education?”

This is the language that ultimately was placed on the ballot, and ruled invalid by the Hawaii Supreme Court. And it begs the question as to how the Chair of Education came about to amend the measure in such a manner?  These types of decisions do not happen by accident and do not occur in a vacuum.

Was the language change suggested to him by House Leadership?  Did the House staff attorneys make the suggestion? Nowhere in the written public testimony is there overt reference to the need to make such changes, and nothing in the committee report provides any hint as to the impetus for the move.  Normally the “subject matter chair” deals only with issues pertaining to the core subject matter, in this case that would be the measures impact on education. The legal language and other constitutional matters would be left to review of JUD, and in this case of course that vital part of the process was missing.

After the House EDN committee action, the House of Representatives voted unanimously in support.  Interesting, even all Republicans in the House while acknowledging “reservations”, ultimately were counted as YES votes.

The next step in the process would normally be “Conference Committee” and a process of further review by House and Senate Conferee’s, and potentially further amendments.  But in this case, on April 18th the Senate discharged its Conferees and simply agreed to the “House version” (that contained the final language that ultimately was used on the ballot and then found invalid by the Hawaii Supreme Court).

While SB2922HD1 was “enrolled to the governor” on May 3, the Governor does not have the power to veto these types of proposals and apparently simply receives them.  For normal Bills the process would be for the AG to review and make recommendations to the Governor if there were concerns that might warrant a veto.  In this case, the Hawaii State Constitution states in Section 4: “No proposal for amendment of the constitution adopted in either manner provided by this article shall be subject to veto by the governor.”

Upon reviewing the legislative history there are numerous actions and inactions that stand out as unusual.  Bear in mind that we are discussing a fundamental change in the Hawaii Constitution.

1)  Only two public hearings were held during the entire process, one in the Senate with 3 days notice and another in the House with 2 days notice.  

2)  Only three committee’s were involved, Education and Judiciary in the Senate & only Education in the House.

3)  Neither the Senate Ways and Means Committee, nor the House Finance Committee reviewed or voted on the measure.  It should be noted that both money committees normally review all legislation that will have a potential budget impact.  This is especially true in the House of Representatives where the House Finance Committee has a history of being used as a “back stop” to review and filter/amend/block any and all legislation regardless of budget implications.  One could argue I suppose that there would be no immediate budget impact and so a “money committee” review was not needed.  Still yet, given past practice and the huge significance of this measure, bypassing both WAM and FIN seems out of character.

4) The House Judiciary Committee (JUD) chaired by Representative Scott Nishimoto did not review or vote on this measure.  

  • This is probably the most significant factor which violates both past practice and best practice.  Why the House Judiciary Committee (JUD) whose subject matter purview is core to the proposal of a constitutional amendment chose not to review this matter is significant.
  • Why House leadership or why the EDU Committee did not insist on review by House JUD, is also difficult to fathom.
  • Perhaps there was an “informal review” by the Chair and/or legal staff that gave House leadership and the JUD chair a level of comfort that they felt holding a hearing unnecessary?  
  • Or perhaps the JUD Chair did not support nor want to hear the Bill, and in that case House Leadership kept his committee off the referral list? It is inconceivable that the discussion over whether or not to refer the measure to JUD, did not occur.

5) Except for Senator Gil Riviere, no other member of the House or Senate voted in opposition to the proposal.

6) Nowhere in the public record of testimony does there seem to be any input from the Attorney Generals (AG) office. The caveat to this is that searching the public testimony files can be an imperfect exercise and it is possible that the AG did in fact consult with members of the legislature on this measure, however if so that is not readily apparent. It is also not clear whether any legislator actually requested an AG opinion.

7) The governor is ostensibly absolved of responsibility for the language, as per our constitution, he does not have the legal authority to veto proposed constitutional amendments.

At this point, I do not believe climbing aboard the “blame game train” is a productive exercise.  You can be sure there is plenty of this going on right now in the back rooms at the Capitol as both key staff, committee chairs and House/Senate leadership scramble to accomplish the essential survival tool code-named CYA.

Suffice it to say that it was everyones (ie the majority) fault in both the House and the Senate.  The House approved a referral process that failed to include its own Judiciary Committee and allowed and accepted key changes to the ballot question language proposed by the House Education Committee.  And the Senate, then acquiesced to those same House changes by failing to engage the Conference Committee process.

For context, this all occurred in an election year and involved an issue supported by one of the strongest constituent groups in the State.  The pressure from teachers, parents and community supporters was intense and I am sure many in the legislature simply felt, “they had to pass something”.

It is fascinating to review the history and speculate on why certain decisions were made along the way.  But clearly what is more useful and essential at the moment, is for leadership at all levels, legislative, community and business, to unite behind the common goal of increased funding for public education.  Our teachers, students, families…and our communities future deserve that much.

Note: I encourage all to review the source information contained at http://capitol.hawaii.gov Simply type into the search box SB2922. All the information is there.

First published in Civil Beat on October 24th, 2018

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Indulge for a moment, a rant on the topic of voting.

Voting is such a boring topic so I figure a rant is in order.

People that already vote, will yawn and say “been there done that…move along…I’ve done my part and now I can get back to working in the yard.”  

People who don’t vote will likely have already skipped this column after reading the first sentence, saying to themselves with a double yawn…”why bother…nothing changes…and I am far too busy complaining about all the stuff that is wrong in our town…plus I have yard work to do”.

Pardon my obsession with the yard work, but that also has been at the top of my list lately (to be clear not willingly).

To both the voter and the nonvoter, I say a pox on you both.  Frankly I am sick and tired of the excuses from both sides.  Hawaii has the worst voting turnout in all of America and it is your fault.  It is more than just embarrassing and it should be criminal.  Not voting and not making sure others vote, is like walking away from the helm of a ship full of people that is heading for the rocks.

Abdication of your responsibility as a citizen is not something to be taken lightly.  If you neglect your job, you can be fired and if you neglect your children, you can go to jail.

But you can neglect your community and get away with it.  Many of you don’t even feel guilty about it.  Shame on you.  Our entire community for generations to come, pays the cost of your neglect and you go about your business oblivious to the harm you are causing.

I am betting that most in the community do not realize that whether you voted or not in the last election is public information.  Yes, I can simply look up your name on a data base of voters that is public information and see whether or not you voted.  The information available will not say who you voted for, nor what political party you belong to, but it will indicate whether you voted or failed to vote.

Maybe that information should be public, as in posted online or in the local newspaper?  Does anyone think that public shaming would increase voter turnout?

As you can tell by now, I am mad as hell and am not going to take it anymore.

To those few who are still reading today’s rant on voting, thank you!  We can only manage our community problems and steer our community forward to a positive place, if we all take responsibility for the decisions and decision makers.  In desperate situations, sometimes a rant is in order.

I ask that you stick with me for a few more paragraphs, please.

To those who now vote, thank you for doing so but simply filling out the ballot is not enough. 

Do I need to say it again?  Filling out the dang ballot is not enough and you must do more.  You need to take your civic duties to the next level and talk to your friends, family and neighbors; ask, insist, beg them to vote.  Then ask them again to make sure they voted.  Then drop the hint that whether or not they voted is public information and you will find out (possibly the whole world will find out), whether or not they are lying to you.

To those that do not vote, and perhaps have never voted…I will take a kinder gentler approach and appeal to your higher angels.  Please, we need you to participate.  And your vote, truly does matter.  In the recent Primary Election there were candidates who won or lost by literally a handful of votes.  Your vote, the vote cast by those who have never voted in the past, is in many respects the most important vote as it reflects the future.  New voters are often the youth, and God knows we need the spirit, guidance, and vision of the youth today. 

Finally…to the 5 nonvoters who may still be reading, don’t believe the office of elections when they tell you “The deadline for voter registration is (blank) day.”  

I know it is hard to believe that while I tell you with one breath how it is important to vote, in the next breath I tell you that the Office of Elections does not have its act together.  But it is true.  While they WANT you to register to vote early, there is no requirement to do so, and you can register to vote on the same day that you actually do vote.

Thank you all who have gotten this far, for letting me get this off my chest.

Now, go vote, and bring a friend and neighbor with you.  Please.

First published in The Garden Island Newspaper – October 17th, 2018

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Funding Public Education – The art of kicking the can down the road

Watching and listening to various individuals and organizations beating up on public school teachers and their effort to increase funding for public education is disheartening.

Every single opponent leads with, “I support public education and teachers but…(fill in the reason for opposing paying more for education)”.

Almost everyone acknowledges that public education is underfunded but those holding the reins of power and money, refuse to support any increased funding.

Their children of course go to private school, as did mine.

But the vast majority of Hawaii’s children attend public schools, as I did when I was in school. We as a community are morally obligated to make available to all children an education that provides them with the foundational skills needed to survive and prosper in an increasingly complex world.

Hawaii teachers are the lowest paid in the country, when the cost of living in Hawaii is factored in. Each year 1,000 teacher positions remain vacant, and positions are often filled by uncertified and unqualified long term substitutes. In addition to low teacher pay, small class sizes which have been proven to increase student learning also require a public investment. The list of funding needs for public education is long, and the neglect by the legislature to adequately funding those needs extends even longer.

The legislature and the public has been playing a game of “whack a mole” for a long, long time, effectively dodging the responsibility of properly funding Hawaii’s public education system. They say no to increasing the General Excise Tax (GET), no to raising tourist taxes (except for rail of course), no to taxing sugar drinks, and no to legalizing and taxing cannabis, taxing retirement income, casino gambling and/or a lottery.

Whack the mole, pass the buck, and kick the can down the road is how our state has dealt with funding public education, and we all should be a little ashamed of ourselves for letting that happen.

The Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Realtors, the big banks and the big landowners and developers, rarely if ever support any tax increases for any reason. Their world and the world of politics and policy is driven by self interest. I get that.

But don’t shovel out the shibai narrative that the Department of Education (DOE) needs to be audited first. Can’t we audit and increase efficiencies at the same time we are increasing funding? And don’t give us the disingenuous hyperbole that “this is going to cost everyone”. Shouldn’t it cost everyone? Shouldn’t we all pay a little?

The legislative intent is clear. The new surcharge will be targeted at the wealthy investor who does not live here and who does not rent to local residents. The intent and the actual language in the amendment is clear as well. The funds will go to education.

Though the opposition’s favorite whipping boy of the moment are teachers, the funds raised should this pass, will not necessarily go to them. I would hope that it does, but the language simply says to fund “public education”. Teacher pay is an issue of collective bargaining and subject to contract and negotiation as are all public worker salaries.

We owe teachers a debt of gratitude. They work long hours for substandard wages, and we rarely even say thank you. Now, when they take an upfront role in pushing to increase funding for public education, they are bashed and pounded upon by the bastions of the business community who themselves have failed to step up and help.

There is no right way to raise taxes so the result is nothing happens.

This insane cycle of neglect must stop.

The proposed constitutional amendment, allows the public to choose to increase the funding for public education via a surcharge on investment properties, or do nothing and just keep whacking the mole.

The choice is ours. I am voting yes.

*first published on October 17th, 2018 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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