Why I’m voting no on Con Con

This is a tough one.  On the one hand I want to celebrate and embrace the concept of a grass-roots “people’s democracy” that a Constitutional Convention (Con Con) symbolizes. On the other hand, risking our existing constitutional protections on a roll of the dice, makes no sense at all. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not risk-averse.  Going into business, running for elected office, buying my first home, starting up new organizations, and embarking on various issue campaigns were all high risk ventures.  Trust me, I know, understand, and often embrace the risk involved with putting it all out there and “going for it”.

But it is one thing to risk it all when you have nothing, and an entirely different thing when you risk your entire treasure.  And this is what a vote in support of Con Con equates to.

At risk is having our Constitution changed to diminish the strong language it now contains protecting the environment, indigenous rights and working men and women.

Here are just a few of the provisions that could be deleted, or changed from a “shall” to a “may” (two of the most important words in lawmaking).

“For the benefit of present and future generations, the State and its political subdivisions shall conserve and protect Hawaii’s natural beauty and all natural resources, including land, water, air…All public natural resources are held in trust by the State for the benefit of the people.”

Article XI Section 1

“Each person has the right to a clean and healthful environment, as defined by laws relating to environmental quality, including control of pollution and conservation, protection, and enhancement of natural resources.  Any person may enforce this right against any party, public or private…”  

Article XI Section 9

“The State reaffirms and shall protect all rights, customarily and traditionally exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes and possessed by ahupuaʻa tenants.”

Article XII Section 7

“The State shall promote the study of Hawaiian culture, history and language.”

Article X Section 4

“The State has an obligation to protect, control and regulate the use of Hawaii’s water resources for the benefit of its people.” 

Article XI Section 7

“Persons in private and public employment shall have the right to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining…”

Article XIII Section 1 and Section 2 (combined here)

The above are just a handful of provisions that make Hawaii’s existing constitution exceptional.  Please read the entire constitution here and see for yourself the many positive items contained that provide a civilized framework for us to preserve all that we love about Hawaii and make life here sustainable and healthful for all . https://www.noconcon.org/

We recently completed the Primary Election and I was encouraged by the fact that those who support bold progressive change focused on economic, environmental, and social justice did fairly well.  We picked up a few seats in the House and in the Senate. Those few seats represent a significant step forward.

But Progressives are a long way from holding a majority, and, of course, the majority rules.

Should voters say YES to a Con Con on November 6th, those who hold a majority of the delegate seats and those who hold the money will drive the process. It isn’t hard to predict the outcome.

The process would be as follows:

  1. During a special session of the legislature in 2019, the existing House/Senate would establish the number of delegates and the manner in which they are elected (at large or by district), staffing, and budget for the Con Con.  Proposed budgets for a future Con Con range from $7.5 to $48.8 million, as per the Hawaii State Legislative Reference Bureau. 
  2. Based on the rules established by the 2019 legislature, there will be an election of Con Con delegates.  In past Con Con’s there was no prohibition against legislators themselves running for these positions.  In the 1968 Con Con approximately 1/3 of the convention delegates were legislators; a majority of the rest were closely connected to the legislature.  In 1978, fewer legislators served on the Con Con.  As is true in all elections, existing political incumbents and former office holders (with big money behind them) have a much greater chance at being elected than the grassroots citizen advocate.
  3. The Convention is convened after the delegates are elected and the delegates divide into factions, select their own leadership, form committees, and proceed to develop proposed constitutional amendments.  As is the case in every democratic structure, the majority will decide which proposed constitutional changes will be placed on the ballot and which will not. 
  4. At the November 2020 General Election, the proposed Constitutional Amendments approved by the majority would be placed on the ballot for voters to approve or not.
  5. Organizations and interest groups with money (think local as in carpenters/PRP and national as in Koch Brothers) will form Super Pacs and drown the airwaves with “vote yes and vote no” messages.
  6. Those with the most money will win.

After considering this process, remember that we already have contained within our existing constitution, very strong provisions protecting the environment, indigenous rights, and labor.  Voting YES for a Constitutional Convention puts all of this on the table and gambles that delegates who support our world view will gain a majority during the delegate elections.

Some will argue that the people could gain the right to initiative, referendum and recall, cannabis legalization, and possibly publicly-funded elections (three of the most talked about measures).  Others are hoping to put term limits for state legislators into place.  

A majority of the elected delegates (barring a major miracle) will in all likelihood, consist of forces representing the status quo establishment and institutions now in power.  Their natural agenda is to preserve the status quo and to strengthen their own power and influence.  

So they ain’t going to give us publicly funded elections, and nor will they be in support of term limits, of that you can be sure. It is pure folly to think otherwise.

To be clear, I believe in miracles. David can, and does occasionally conquer Goliath, and a small group of focused individuals can indeed triumph in the end to change the world for the better.  But I also believe that it would be irresponsible to gamble with the future of our children and grandchildren at this particular point in time. 

Please join me in voting NO on Con Con.

Excellent Resources:

Legislative Reference Bureau – short easy-to-read explanation of how the process works: https://hawaii.concon.info/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/2018-09-06-AmendingTheConstitution-PublicAccessRoomNewsletter-LegislativeReferenceBureau-September2018.pdf

A must read for policy wonks – Journal of the 1978 Constitutional Convention:  https://digitalcollections.hawaii.gov/docs/concon/1978/1978%20Con%20Con%20Journal%20Vol-1%20Journal.pdf

Probably the most comprehensive source of Con Con info: https://hawaii.concon.info

Vote No on Con Con: https://www.noconcon.org

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Political, Judicial, Legislative = #winning

This was a good week for the grassroots on the political front.  Actually it has been a phenomenal year on many levels for the grassroots citizenry working hard to protect health and environment, and to expand and improve citizen based democracy.

On Saturday, August 25, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) voted to end the practice of “Superdelegates” voting on the first ballot during the 2020 Democratic Party National Convention. When rank and file pledged delegates attend the Convention, their votes will be counted first and the insider/establishment “Superdelegates” will only be allowed to vote on subsequent ballots or to confirm the choice of the rank and file pledged delegates.

This historic rule change and other important reforms passed during last week’s winter DNC meeting in Chicago is a testament to the power of the grassroots, and to the Democratic Party’s responsiveness and willingness to embrace change.

As the Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii and voting member of the DNC, I was honored to work alongside both grassroots Party activists and mainstream establishment Democrats to help make this historic change happen.

This major win at the DNC in Chicago is amplified by the many Primary Election wins that are now occurring across the continent and here in Hawaii by progressive and environmentally friendly candidates.  At least for now anyway, the good guys are winning at the ballot box while the corporate polluters and poisoners are not.

On the judicial front the same is true, with two major, major, humongous victories for health and the environment.

On August 9th, a Federal Appeals Court ordered the EPA to ban Chlorpyrifos nationwide.

Judge Jed Rakoff wrote, “There was no justification for the EPA’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neuro-developmental damage to children.”

Chlorpyrifos is used widely in Hawaii and testing by the State of Hawaii has confirmed evidence of its presence in small amounts at the Waimea Canyon Middle School and in other areas of West Kauai.

Then on August 10th a San Francisco Superior Court ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages over their cancer causing RoundUp.

Monsanto “acted with malice, oppression or fraud and should be punished for its conduct,” Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos announced in court.

Thousands of additional plaintiffs are in line with similar claims and the potential net financial impact on Monsanto (now Bayer) is astronomical. The chemical giant will of course appeal.

I wish I could report that government agencies across Hawaii have reacted quickly to the mounting evidence that RoundUp/Glyphosate causes cancer and have banned its use at parks and schools across the State.

However both, the State and the County government, continue to ignore the warnings put out by the World Health Organization and this particular court decision.  One would think, that in the abundance of caution, they would at least begin limiting the use of this pesticide around schools and places where children frequent.  Perhaps a law to this effect will need to be passed during the 2019 legislative session.  It’s a shame really, as administrative agencies could make this happen without the necessity of legislation.

This month was a bit of a triple whammy for Hawaii’s chemical companies.  On August 9th, the court orders the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos, on August 10th a different court hammers Monsanto with a $289 million fine and then locally on August 11th, two of the industries most vocal advocates were soundly trounced in their bid for election to the Hawaii State House and Senate.

On the legislative front, all of this, follows on the heals of the passage into law of Hawaii’s SB 3095 on June 2nd.  This measure created a “first in the nation” phased ban of chlorpyrifos, modest buffer zones around schools, and full disclosure of all Restricted Use Pesticides (RUP).

Yes, this past few weeks and months have been good ones for those of us engaged in the fight to expand democracy and protect health and the environment.  The pendulum it seems, is finally swinging our way. It behooves us however, to keep growing the movement for change, to take nothing for granted, and to keep pushing hard to protect the world our children and grandchildren deserve.

First published on August 29th, 2018 in The Garden Island Newspaper

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Progressives put incumbents on notice

Progressives across the island chain made it clear on primary-election night that, as Nina Turner of Our Revolution says, “any ole blue will not do,” vigorously challenging incumbents, and targeting open seats at all levels — county, state and federal.

The progressive movement made solid net gains in the Hawaii House and the Senate, picking up at least two House seats and three YUGE Senate seats. In addition, several candidates running on an unabashedly progressive agenda lost by only a handful of votes. Two striking examples are Maui progressive challenger Terez Amato who finished only 106 votes behind incumbent Sen. Rosalyn Baker, and Sonny Ganaden who landed just 51 votes short of defeating veteran politician, Romy Cachola for House District 30.

Two chemical-company-endorsed candidates — one running for the state Senate, one running for state House — were soundly defeated by candidates who supported increased pesticide regulation. Voters had clearly noted the grassroots effort that culminated in Hawaii’s pioneering legislation banning brain-harming chlorpyrifos and requiring greater transparency from the chemical companies. And they said NO to giving corporate ag companies more clout in our Legislature.

Qualified progressive candidates ran strong credible campaigns in over 20 state legislative races, giving status quo establishment candidates a run for their money. Consider this: the entire Republican Party was only able to field candidates for 25 legislative races.

You can be assured that if the Republican Party picked up two House seats and three Senate seats, they would be doing backflips right now. But no, that is not going to happen anytime soon.

The message sent on Aug. 11 by the progressive base in the Democratic Party was loud and strong. We are greatly disappointed in the glacial pace of change toward increasing economic, environmental and social justice.

Progressive candidates are willing and fully able to aggressively challenge those who are deliberate impediments to change.

One hopes that those who survived the challenge can read the writing on the wall. That alone should help move the needle significantly toward policy initiatives that put people and the environment first. They have been given notice that people must come before corporate profits and “good ole boy, business-as-usual” politics.

While it may seem like adding two new House members and three new senators may not make much of a difference, these small numbers matter. A handful of new legislators can, and will change the leadership dynamics, particularly in the Senate.

In addition to adding five strong progressive voices to the mix, there is now a veritable army of new battle-tested candidates who are already planning their 2020 campaigns. Incumbents in the House and Senate know that these candidates will be waiting for an opening. That should make incumbents more receptive to a bold economic, environmental and social justice policy agenda.

This should mean a 2019 Hawaii Legislature that passes a $15 minimum wage bill, a paid family leave initiative, stream-flow restoration legislation, and renews the emphasis on building truly affordable housing. 

It is worth noting that the progressive and environmental community were key players in ensuring David Ige’s primary-election win. He has shown through his actions and public statements that he welcomes a change agenda that advances justice on many fronts.

The progressive candidates who fell short in their quest for election should take pride in knowing they helped to move us all forward. Because of them, the momentum of our collective movement for change grows stronger.

It is time now to turn our attention toward the general election and encourage greater voter turnout in support of those who will deliver on the change that is desperately needed. And we must begin immediately developing a bold agenda to move forward during the 2019 legislative session. Imua!

First published on August 19th, 2018 in the Honolulu StarAdvertiser.

Gary Hooser is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

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2018 Kauai Primary Election Re-Cap

While I’m sure Council Chair Mel Rapozo will put up a valient fight, the bookies in Chinatown are no doubt giving heavy odds in favor of Councilmember Derek Kawakami being elected Kauai’s next Mayor on November 6th in the General Election.

But, as those who follow these things well know, anything can happen. 

Coming out of the August 11th primary election with 48% for Derek Kawakami and 22% for Mel Rapozo, means Rapozo will have to get all of Lennie Rapozo’s votes and all of JoAnne Yukimura’s votes just to start breaking even.

The likelyhood of this happening seems slim. But you just never know.

As we speak, the Mel Rapozo team is probably deep into developing their strategy. We can only imagine the conversation as the different options are discussed.

Typically in an election of this nature, there will be an inclination by some on the campaign team to “go negative” as without “bringing his votes down” and weakening the support of the stronger candidate, all the positive talk in the world will not sufficiently build the votes needed to overcome the candidate ensconced firmly at the top. Others on the team will loudly protest that this strategy is “not Kauai’s way” and caution that it will backfire.

Where will JoAnn Yukimura’s supporters go? That is the question everyone who follows Kauai politics is likely asking. For if they swing to Kawakami early, then this race is already over. No doubt, at this very moment the Rapozo team is frantically trying to figure out how to garner her support. 

Taking into consideration the manner in which she has been treated over the last few years on the Council, I would say good luck but don’t hold your breath on this strategy.

As to the Kawakami strategy, it is simple and basic – steady as she goes. He will keep smiling and shaking hands, he will keep raising and spending money, and he will avoid at all costs, doing anything foolish or taking any risks.

As to the top 14 council candidates:

It was no surprise to see Arryl Kaneshiro and Mason Chock at the #1 and #2 slots, respectfully. I was somewhat surprised to see Ross Kagawa hanging on to #3, while the big winner of the night was no doubt first time candidate Luke Evslin who finished in a strong #4 position, ahead of a sitting councilmember Arther Brun at #5. Former councilmember Kipukai Kualii finished in the #6 position with Felicia Cowden garning the all important last and final position #7.

At the bottom of the pile, we have Adam Roversi sitting in the #14 slot preceded by Kanoe Ahuna at #13, Milo Spindt at #12, Shaylene Iseri at #11, Juno Apalla at #10, Billie DeCosta at #9 and Norma Doctor Sparks, just out of the money in position #8. The big surprises in this group are that Milo Spindt and Shaylene Iseri finished so poorly. Milo was probably the first candidate to start campaigning and has been very active around the County putting up signs and banners. And of course Shaylene Iseri is the former County Prosecuter and also served on the Kauai County Council, so her name recognition is stronger than most.

My predictions: Kaneshiro and Chock will remain firmly embedded at the top. Kagawa and Brun will drop in the standings as voters start looking more closely at what they have done, or not done on the Council. But the truth is, that unless they take their campaigns for granted and attempt to coast through the next few months, they are still likely to get reelected.  

Evslin will remain high and strong in the standings, while Cowden and Sparks will both rise a notch or two.

Kipukai who has run in many elections, does not always finish strong. Given the communites desire for new energy and new leadership, I suspect he will also drop in the standings. Iseri likewise seems to have peaked-out and to many in the community represents a past council they would rather forget.

DeCosta and Apalla are in a decent position to move up, but the slots above them are already crowded with others equally as hungry to serve on the Council.

While historically it is extremely difficult for a candidate to rise from #14 or #13 into the top 7, Adam Roversi got a very late start in the Primary, as did Kanoe Ahuna.  Both are potentially strong candidates and either could break the mold and plow through to the top 7, if they are able to turn up the steam and run very strong campaigns during the next few months.

At the end of the day, except perhaps for the incumbents, those who win seats to the Kauai County Council on November 6th will be those who want it the most and who are willing to do the work needed to get there.

First published on August 15, 2018 in The Garden Island Newspaper

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A Look At My 2018 Kauai Primary Election Votes

In preparation for the final day of voting on August 11th, many in the Kauai community have been asking my thoughts on the various candidates running for office.

To make it easy, I have listed the candidates I voted for below.  I encourage all to review the candidate websites, attend the forums and contact the candidates directly to ask questions and seek additional information.

Voting in the Primary is happening today Thursday August 9th from 8am until 4pm in the Historic County Annex Building on Rice Street.  And on the very last day of August 11th at polling stations around the island.

For those who are interested I voted a few days ago for the following candidates:

Governor:  David Ige http://www.davidige.org

To a great extent this explains why I am supporting Governor Ige: https://garyhooser.blog/2018/06/21/governor-ige-leadership-core-values-and-resolve-under-pressure/

Lieutenant Governor:  Kim Coco Iwamoto https://www.kimcoco.com

Why I support Kim Coco Iwamoto https://garyhooser.blog/2018/06/07/why-gary-hooser-is-supporting-kim-coco-iwamoto-to-be-hawaiis-next-lieutenant-governor/

Kauai Mayor: JoAnn Yukimura http://joannyukimura.com

County Council: 

Mason Chock https://www.mason4kauai.org

Felicia Cowden https://www.feliciacowden.com

Adam Roversi https://electadamroversi.org

I chose to only vote for these 3 and not expend my full 7 votes. These three are the endorsed candidates of Pono Hawaii Inititiative (PHI) of which I am the executive director. Read more on the voting strategy here:  http://www.thegardenisland.com/2018/08/08/opinion/on-plunking-block-voting-and-breaking-through-the-14-mark/

2nd Congressional District Blank – No Vote

I have issues with all of the 2nd Congressional candidates on their “military” positions.  None are willing to speak in support of decreased military spending.  I believe in a strong defense but believe the United States spends far too much of our national budget on weaponry. 

State House District #15

Queenie Daligdig

https://www.facebook.com/pages/biz/political_candidate/Friends-of-Queenie-Daligdig-618028798554766/

State House District #16

Daynette “Dee” Morikawa

I do not live in District #16 but if I did, I would vote for Dee. I have found Rep. Morikawa to be a bridge builder and a professional, thoughtful legislator who does her homework and then works hard for the betterment of her community.  It is critically important that Dee be re-elected and I am asking friends who live in District #16 to help spread the word.

Oha was a tough one for me and I fee less confident making recommendations. I encourage folks to review the Sierra Club endorsements as I know they employed a thorough evaluation process and these candidates are likely strong on environmental issues as well as being strong on issues relavant to their community.

https://www.votesierraclubhawaii.com/2018-primary-endorsements/2018/6/22/and-the-endorsees-are 

Also you might want to consult with other friends active in the Hawaiian community to get their input.  If you are not sure, simply leave it blank.  Please do not just guess or choose based on simply name familiarity.

Good luck!  gh

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Waiting for the shoe to drop. Expect attacks as they will be coming.

When we set out to rock the boat, we should expect to get wet. 

History tells us that when a power structure is threatened by change they may not be able to control, they will do “whatever is necessary” to retain that power.  And in the arena of government and politics, when the potential disruption of power involves a multi-billion dollar budget and fundamental changes to public policy, “whatever is necessary” is a description that knows no bounds.

Such is the nature of any serious quest to disrupt the status quo and create systemic change at the Hawaii state legislature.

And that my friends is what we are doing.

In these final days leading up to the critical August 11th primary day, there is already evidence that the entrenched powers are pushing back. The messages of anger and implied threats of retaliation against us have evolved from a faint murmur of irritation, to now tangible expressions of acrimony.  Those pesky, inevitable and intractable things called “screen shots”, capture the words, thoughts and threats in text message, email and on Facebook.

So it behooves us to be prepared.  During these final 7 days anything can happen.  No doubt those on the other side will at a minimum begin throwing even more money on their candidates, in a last minute attempt to turn back our momentum.

Yes, that inevitable negative “hit piece” is even now in the mail heading our way. You can bet also that daily there are also attempts to “plant negative stories” in the local media. As that fails, these same stories will then leak out into social media and fake news sources, attempting to spread rumor and innuendo.

We should know that it is coming, but we should also not let it distract us from winning on August 11th. To be clear, it is too late for negative attacks to have much of an impact as over 1/2 of the vote has already been cast.

So long as we remain focused, keep our eye on the prize and push hard all the way through the tape – on August 11th we will win.

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The Voter Non-Voter Conundrum

I often find myself wondering how I can get the attention of the non-voter.  Should I yell, or beg or attempt to shame them?  Should I tell them their vote really does matter even though nothing ever seems to change?  Should I tell them that all politicians are not crooked and many do truly care about the future of our community?

Or should I just ignore their cynicism, accept their ambivalence and speak to the people who do vote?

This is the question every person running for office must ask themselves.  Do I spend my limited time and resources speaking to non-voters, or to people that vote?

There is a fundamental rule of politics that goes something like this: “No matter how smart you are, no matter how hard you work and no matter how good you are in your heart, you cannot serve in public office without first getting elected.”

So, the answer of course seems obvious.  Candidates primarily focus on those who actually show up at the polls and vote.  Statistically this means old people, government workers, higher income demographics, and other specific groups with a defined history of regular voting.

Young people, low to moderate income earners, and new residents have the worst voting records of any demographic.  Consequently, they often get less attention from candidates. and less attention when it comes to public policy support and public funding priorities.

If low to moderate income earners voted in large numbers, affordable housing would be a mandate and not a political talking point that never seems to rise to the top of the priority list.  If young people became engaged and started voting in large numbers, our schools would be properly funded and there would be universal access made available to all residents who wanted to pursue a higher education.

If history repeats itself, which it normally does, the results of the 2018 Primary election that ends on August 11th, will be decided by only 30% of the voting population.

30% of the voting population will decide who makes the first cut for election to our County Council, and for the Mayor’s race.  State legislative races will begin and end at the Primary level, because there is no functioning Republican Party fielding candidates at the legislative level.  Some would say, WUWT?

The office of the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor will also to a great extent be determined in this upcoming Primary.

It is an inaccurate statement to say that the Primary will be decided by the 30% who vote.  The truth is that the 70% who choose to ignore the Primary election and stay home, are the ones really making the decision.

Please know that your vote can make a difference.  After running in 10 elections myself over the past 20 years, winning six and losing four, I know very clearly and sometimes painfully so, that every vote does indeed count.

The 2018 Primary election concludes on August 11th, but early voting is happening now!  Regardless of where you live in the State, you can vote now through August 9th, Monday through Saturday from 8am until 4pm.

For all statewide early voting locations – click here: https://elections.hawaii.gov/voters/early-voting/

Do a little homework, search out information about the candidates, ask your friends and neighbors for their thoughts, then exercise your civic duty and vote.

If you are not registered to vote, that is not a problem either.  Simply bring in your Hawaii driverʻs license and they will register you on the spot and you can vote at the same time.

Those of you who are regular voters, please spread the word and encourage your friends, neighbors, and family members to vote early as well.

We are responsible for the quality of our government leadership.  By voting we take active ownership of that responsibility.  By not voting we are being neglectful and have no one to blame except ourselves for the conduct of our government and the condition of our community.

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