Time to say thanks to the governor 

Full disclosure – I served for 8 years (2002 – 2010) in the Hawaii State Senate with then State Senator and now Governor David Ige. We were members of the same Senate “faction” – “The Chess Club”. While not close friends, I have always liked Governor Ige as a person and respected him as a true public servant. I believe him to be an honest man who wakes up every morning wanting to do what’s right for the people and the state of Hawaii.

While I have disagreed with many of the multitudes of decisions he has made as governor, I also was a strong supporter of his reelection. Such is the nature of political choices.

With regards to the Maunakea TMT issue, Governor Ige has at times misstepped and misspoke, largely I believe because he was misinformed. Such is the case for all topics and issues – the Governor counts on others to provide him with the information upon which he uses to make “informed decisions”. Clearly, the information provided to him in the early opening days of the protector occupation was inadequate at best.

At the end of the day, I believe we should be thankful that Governor David Ige is our Governor at this particular moment in time.

Governor Ige deserves our thanks and our respect for keeping a level head and a steady hand in dealing with the issues on Maunakea.

While the favorite game of advocates on both sides of the issue seems to require calling him names, making fun, and denigrating him personally – I believe he deserves our thanks.

Governor Ige was presented with circumstances not of his own making, that put him in a truly untenable position – he would be damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t.

Any choice or decision he makes is quickly pounced upon by keyboard warriors of all persuasions. Armchair quarterbacks with baseball bats – quick to bash and criticize but their offering of positive solutions or a path forward, is of course non-existent.

The proposed TMT development was introduced to Hawaii years before Governor Ige took office.

He is obligated by his oath of office to enforce the law. You can be sure the loudest voices shouting in his ear are those business interests and law enforcement agencies, appalled that he has exercised restraint and not literally sent in the troops to open up the road.

Governor Ige has instead taken a deep breath and decided not to take the enormous risk that would come through the exercise of force.

For that, we should applaud his wisdom and be thankful that he is the one sitting behind that desk on the 5th floor of the state Capitol.

While other politicians make pronouncements safely from the comfort of their positions of non-responsibility, Governor Ige is forced to make the hard decisions. And to his credit, so far he has safely navigated waters more treacherous than any in modern Hawai’i history.

The situation could have easily spiraled out of control, but it did not. People could have been physically hurt, or worse- but that has not happened either.

With another Governor the results may have been different. Another Governor instead of putting the protection of the people and the social and cultural fabric of our island home first, may have listened instead to the hawks of big business and law enforcement, who even now are clamoring to put money and an unjust system of laws above all else.

There are no road maps to be followed nor textbooks available to help navigate through this situation.

Mistakes have been made along the way, and mistakes, missteps, and course-corrections will continue to be made as this incredibly complex situation continues to unfold and evolve in the days and weeks, possibly months ahead.

But I for one am thankful that our governor continues to put the principles of restraint, respect, and dialogue above that of force and intimidation.

I encourage all to think for a moment before hurling that next cheap shot. Instead, perhaps consider reaching out to say thank you. Thank Governor Ige for being willing to take the relentless drubbing and below the belt hits, as the price paid to move with thoughtful deliberation focused only on an end result that is safe and just – a conundrum though that may be.

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Hawaii’s government leaders must rise to the occasion.

Governor David Ige is between that proverbial rock and a very, very, very hard place.  The situation seems intractable, but it is not. There is a path forward.

Attempting to arrest and detain 2,000 people is I would hope, not an option. Logistically there is no space for that many people, and unless detained most would return immediately to the Mauna, reinvigorated as to commitment and purpose.  

There are children and kupuna present in large numbers. The trauma, all caught on camera and beamed around the world – would cause huge harm on many levels.

Mass arrests are not possible, and morally reprehensible.  At least not possible in a sane and rational world.

There have already been large demonstrations and marches held on every island, with more being planned.  Any escalation of force initiated by state security forces risk further and serious escalation of demonstrations and ultimately civil disobedience statewide.  

It is important to remember that on the Mauna the protectors and their leadership are exercising strict kapu aloha discipline. They have been trained and continue to train others on how to NOT push back and to conduct themselves only in respectful and non-violent ways.

Others participating in the many sometimes spontaneous actions around the state have not been so diligently trained or informed. Inevitably, a random provocateur on one side or the other will do something foolish and either intentionally or not…ignite the emotional tinder-box that grows more volatile by the hour.

The only responsible action by the Governor at this point is to acknowledge the situation is untenable, that the state cannot ensure the safe passage of people or equipment, and at a minimum, call for a 90-day moratorium of activity on both sides. 

The developers of the TMT should by now see the writing on the wall. If they care about our community (and their own budget, timeline, and personal reputations) they will soon announce a decision to relocate the project to the Canary Islands.  They already have permits in place there, the atmospheric conditions are also very favorable, and apparently, there has been no community opposition.

It is time to end this before it spirals even more out of control.

The TMT advocates will say “it’s not fair” and that the developers have “checked all the boxes and followed all the rules” and therefore entitled to build the 18 story structure situated on an area equivalent to 4 football fields. 

The protectors will say (and rightfully so), “don’t talk to us about being fair”. 

The University/TMT obtained a state permit to build on Mauna Kea. The Hawaiian demonstrators also have un-relinquished claims to the (un)ceded lands of Mauna Kea. The state permit did not address those claims. The courts have said that this is a “political question” that they cannot address. Here and now on the Mauna, without recourse to the court and without relief from the legislature, people have properly decided to press their claims over lands that matter most.

The lands upon which the TMT is proposed are state-owned public trust conservation lands, considered sacred by Hawaiians.  Our state constitution states these lands “…shall be held by the State as a public trust for native Hawaiians and the general public.”  There are no private property rights being violated. 

The TMT advocates will then say, “What about the science?  What about the immense value to astronomy and the opportunities to explore the universe?”

The science will not stop, neither will the exploration of the universe and all the incredible value that will be yielded from the telescope’s development. You can be sure this work will continue, whether on the Canary Islands or elsewhere.

Our government needs to follow-through and ensure the decommissioning and removal of the 5 telescopes that are currently obsolete or scheduled to be closed (of the 13 total). 

It is well past time that those in positions of leadership, rise to the occasion – unite behind calling an end to the TMT debacle and put forward meaningful initiatives that preserve and protect our public trust resources.

Gary Hooser

Board President – Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA)
Hawai’i State Senator (2002 – 2010)
Director Office of Environmental Quality Control (2011 – 2012)
Kauai County Council (1998 -2002, 2012 -2016)

Note1: If you agree, I ask that you also consider supporting the protectors on the Mauna by making a contribution of any amount ASAP to the Aloha Aina Support Fund.

Note2:  I want to thank everyone who was able to make a contribution to HAPA in support of economic justice issues.  Of the $8,500 goal, we received just over $5,000!  If you can help close that final gap please visit HAPA online if possible by July 24th, to make a secure and tax-exempt donation.  

Note3:  Please take moment if you can to read my latest blog piece that better explains the ADC issue of polluting Kauai’s west side waters with pesticides and heavy metals.

“Every single day of the week, the Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) dumps millions of gallons of water polluted with pesticides and heavy metals into the ocean in areas where Kauai’s west side residents fish, surf and recreate with their families.

“This is not wild speculation, exaggeration or hysterical hyperbole.”  READ MORE HERE  

Gary Hooser – http://www.garyhooser.com

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Worth listening to in these turbulent times

I encourge you to listen to this beautiful little song sent to me by a friend yesterday.

She said: “Gary, this brought the protectors on Mauna Kea – and you, and demonstrators elsewhere – to mind.

Thought you might enjoy hearing it – a good reminder from long, long ago.

Aloha,   Mary

How Can I Keep From Singing? (trad. updated by Joel Mabus)

There is a song we seem to know
That’s just beyond our hearing
Softly now it seems to grow
And through the fog is clearing
The music sweet, the lyric keen
A message to us bringing
I hum along and I join the tune
How can I keep from singing

From time to time, there comes a song
It matters not the singer
A song of grace and charity
No trace of guile or anger
As harmonies around me build
A new world just beginning
My faith renewed, it beckons me
How can I keep from singing

When warriors come and bang the drum
And march their troops before us
Then friends of peace link hand in hand
And join as one in chorus
Their voices rise from every land
An anthem sweetly ringing
I hear their song of peace on earth
How can I keep from singing

A song of hope, a song of love
A song of understanding
A song to lift me up above
This world of strife and yearning
So long as blood within me flows
This song shall know no ending
So while I yet have breath and voice
How can I keep from singing

 

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Reflections on the Mauna

Friends and fellow HAPA Board Members Walter Ritte and Kaleikoa Ka‘eo –
Chained to a cattle grate for 11 hours to protect the Mauna.
*photographer unknown

How did we get to a place where hundreds of Hawai‘i police officers dressed in full riot gear are arresting kupuna and carting them off in paddy wagons?

More importantly, how do we get out of this very dangerous situation before it blows up further?

The roots of the conflict on the Mauna are complex, but not really.

Our state government has mismanaged the telescope issue since inception, just as it continues to mismanage public trust natural resources in general – on all islands.

Too many promises have been broken and too many concessions already have been made.

Now the people have risen to say “enough already”.

There are at least 13 other telescopes already on Mauna Kea. The TMT will be 18 stories tall, encompassing an area equivalent to 4 football fields.  The cumulative impact of the new proposal and the existing development equates to a massive industrial complex – all situated on conservation land and a site most sacred to Hawaiians.

Being against the TMT does not translate to being “anti-science” or “anti astronomy”.  Similarly, being against a hotel development on the beach that will generate jobs, does not equate to being “against jobs”.

Denying the TMT development will not stop the astronomy. The developers have already indicated publicly they can build the project in Chile or in the Canary Islands where they have already secured permits.

This is public land, so it’s not a question of denying someone their private property rights. The state can choose to allow the development, or not. 

In addition to the poor stewardship and broken promises directly associated with Mauna Kea…there is a vast litany of negligence, ongoing mismanagement of public resources, and an abuse of the public trust – on all islands.

A recent audit of the DLNR Land Management Division concluded there was “no strategic plan for its public lands”.

On Kaua‘i, the state is knowingly and consciously dumping millions of gallons of pesticide-contaminated water into nearshore waters on Kauai’s west side, where families recreate, fish and pick limu.  The state knows these waters contain a wide array of pesticides and heavy metals, they know they are breaking federal law – yet they continue the daily dumping.

On Maui, for decades the state has transferred the rights of public trust stream waters to major corporations, effectively killing countless mountain streams and denying downstream users the benefit of the water – also without the constitutionally and legally required permits and without adequate compensation or public protections.

On O‘ahu, massive underground military fuel tanks situated directly over major drinking water aquifers have been leaking fuel for years and it took the release of 27,000 gallons to prod the state into action.

Who are the primary beneficiaries of this de facto desecration and defilement of our public trust resources?  The answer, of course, is multinational chemical companies, real estate investment trusts (REIT’s), Canadian pension funds, a global university conglomerate and ultimately the U.S. military.

And all of this takes place against a backdrop of statewide political and governmental corruption that is in the news every day.

It is not surprising that people across the island chain, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian alike, have had enough and consequently have drawn the proverbial line in the sand…on the Mauna.

The governor and his security force must stand down.  Bringing in more armed police and making more arrests will escalate the passion and increase the likelihood of physical harm coming to those now on the mountain.

The only winning path for the people of Hawai‘i is for the state to immediately announce their intent to cancel the TMT project.  Yes, there will be a price to pay for this action, but it will be far less of a price than that which will be incurred by pressing forward with troops and batons.

This is about much more than a single telescope being built on this particular mountain.

Please reach out today and ask Governor Ige, do what is pono.

Ask him to not use force to achieve his goals on Mauna Kea.  Ask him instead to lead with aloha, statesmanship, and restraint. 

Please call his office at 808-586-0034 and leave a message with his office staff, or on his voice mail.  While it may be difficult for some, please state your message with courtesy and politeness.  The person who answers the phone is not responsible for the Governors decision.

With respect and solidarity,

Gary Hooser
Board President – Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA)
Hawai’i State Senator (2002 – 2010)
Director Office of Environmental Quality Control (2011 – 2012)
Kauai County Council (1998 -2002, 2012 -2016)

Note1: If you agree, I ask that you also consider supporting the protectors on the Mauna by making a contribution of any amount ASAP to the Aloha Aina Support Fund.

Note2:  I want to thank everyone who was able to make a contribution to HAPA in support of economic justice issues.  Of the $8,500 goal, we received just over $5,000!  If you can help close that final gap please visit HAPA online if possible by July 24th, to make a secure and tax-exempt donation.  

Note3:  Please take moment if you can to read my latest blog piece that better explains the ADC issue of polluting Kauai’s west side waters with pesticides and heavy metals.

“Every single day of the week, the Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) dumps millions of gallons of water polluted with pesticides and heavy metals into the ocean in areas where Kauai’s west side residents fish, surf and recreate with their families.

“This is not wild speculation, exaggeration or hysterical hyperbole.”  READ MORE HERE  

 

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Kauai’s west side deserves better.  We all deserve better.

Every single day of the week, the Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) dumps millions of gallons of water polluted with pesticides and heavy metals into the ocean in areas where Kauai’s west side residents fish, surf and recreate with their families.

This is not wild speculation, exaggeration or hysterical hyperbole.  

United States District Court Judge Derrick K Watson on July 9th, 2019 ruled that the ADC is polluting the waters off of west Kauai and doing so without a permit required by the federal Clean Water Act.

Please read the court decision yourself: https://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/Order_Summary-Judgment-and-Dismissal_2019-07-09.pdf

Read the court decision and then send out your mahalo to community groups Na Kia‘i Kai, Surfrider Foundation, and Pesticide Action Network — and most especially the law firm Earthjustice who represented them.

Yes, the unfortunate reality is that it took private action by local residents and private nonprofits to press the issue in federal court and finally begin to hold this state agency accountable. 

The ADC is a public agency who manages public agricultural lands. They are knowingly and consciously polluting public waters daily without a permit.

It gets worse.  Please read the court decision yourself, it will blow you away.

The court findings are eyeopening and include statements such as:

There is no question (emphasis added) that ADC discharges polluted water into the near-shore waters of the Pacific Ocean off Kauai’s western coast on a daily basis via the Mānā Plain drainage ditch system, and that it does so without an NPDES permit…It is undisputed that the water discharged contains various pesticides and agricultural chemicals, byproducts of agricultural chemicals, and heavy metals (emphasis added), as well as sediment from the unlined canals through which it passes.”

“…chemicals that seep into the drainage ditch system, including amniomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), a degradate of glyphosate; dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), a degradate of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT); glyphosate, ametryn, atrazine, bentazon, chlorpyrifos, cispropiconazole, diuron, fipronil, hexazinone, MCPA, metolachlor, prometryn, propoxur, simazine, and trans-propiconazole…”

The ADC and the agrochemical industry based on Kauai’s west side will of course be quick to assure the public that the above listed toxic soup of “various pesticides and agricultural chemicals, byproducts of agricultural chemicals, and heavy metals…” are all there in only small amounts and it’s perfectly safe to swim in them.  A “little bit” is ok they will tell you.

But they won’t tell you that for some of these chemicals there is no acceptable level of exposure for a fetus.  They will also not tell you that chronic exposure to “a little bit” every day over decades results in negative health impacts that have yet to be fully understood.  Scientists and medical professionals alike though will agree that long term exposure to even small amounts of these chemicals is not good for your health, nor for the health of our reefs and nearshore fisheries.

If you live on Kauai’s west side, I encourage you to make an informed decision: Take a second to google these chemicals, read their labels and decide for yourself if you want to continue taking your family to the beach or eat the fish caught from the nearshore waters.

The ADC manages tens of thousands of acres of state-owned agricultural lands located primarily on Kauai and on Oahu. Their largest tenants are the agrochemical corporations (Dupont, Dow, Syngenta/Hartung, etc) doing genetic research and growing thousands of acres of GMO seed corn on Kauai’s west side.  These same tenants apply tons of Restricted Use Pesticides (RUP’s) on a regular basis to crops grown on the adjacent fields.

The ADC is the enabler of the pollution but not the originator. The contaminants themselves are generated by the ADC’s industrial tenants and then make their way into the ditches managed by the ADC, and then into the nearshore waters.

The application of RUP’s is controlled by federal law, which strictly prohibits them from being used in a manner that allows them to drift on to neighboring properties or waterways.  The mere presence of these pesticides in the ditch water and ultimately in the ocean is de facto evidence that the companies using these chemicals are breaking the law.

It is reasonable, that our community should expect our state government to investigate the source of the contaminants and enforce the law.

It is reasonable to request that the governor and the Department of Agriculture mandate that the ADC review its tenant leases and include provisions further prohibiting them from applying RUP’s in a manner that allows them to drift or runoff into the ditch system and ultimately the ocean.

It is reasonable to levy stiff fines and penalties should the ADC and/or their tenants – continue to pollute and contaminate Kaua’s nearshore waters.  The ADC and these tenants know the law and yet they continuously and consciously seek ways to circumvent those requirements established to ensure public safety.

And finally, the ADC should immediately stop discharging this contaminated ditch effluent into the nearshore west side waters until they secure the permits they are legally required to have. The permit process allows for further public disclosure and closer scrutiny as to the nature, volume and source of the pollutants. The EPA and the State Department of Health can as a condition of the permit, set pollution limits as well as specify reporting and enforcement parameters.

Please read the court case in its entirety. It’s easy reading and very informative. Read the case and then after your anger and disgust subsides…call the governor and each of your elected representatives.  Ask them for action and for accountability – our community deserves it.

First published in The Garden Island Newspaper 7/16/19

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Huge news for Kauai’s west side waters – chemical companies take another hit.  

FEDERAL JUDGE FINDS HAWAI‘I AGRIBUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (ADC) IS UNLAWFULLY CONTAMINATING KAUAʻI’S SHORES

Click here to read the courts decision: Hawai‘i’s Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) has violated the federal Clean Water Act 

Community groups Na Kia‘i Kai, Surfrider Foundation, and Pesticide Action Network — represented by Earthjustice — sued the state agency for each day discharging millions of gallons of waters contaminated with pesticides, sediment, and heavy metals from the drainage ditch system it operates on the Mānā Plain.

The ADC manages tens of thousands of acres of state-owned agricultural lands located primarily on Kauai and on Oahu. Their largest tenants are the chemical companies (Dupont, Dow, Syngenta/Hartung, etc) doing genetic research and growing thousands of acres of GMO corn on Kauai’s west side.  These same tenants apply tons of Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs) on a regular basis to crops grown on the adjacent fields – and they have for decades refused to disclose the when, where and what details of their chemical usage.

It is important to note that in order to secure the permits as ordered by the courts, the ADC will now need to determine what pesticides, heavy metals, and other pollutants are contained within the waters being proposed for discharge.  And they will have to monitor and report them as well.  Translation: The chemical companies claim that their pesticides do not drift into adjacent soil, air and water will finally be refuted in detail – with research done by the state and with the results being public information.

The court findings are eyeopening and include statements such as:

“There is no question that ADC discharges polluted water into the near-shore waters of the Pacific Ocean off Kauai’s western coast on a daily basis via the Mānā Plain drainage ditch system, and that it does so without an NPDES permit. It is undisputed that the water discharged contains various pesticides and agricultural chemicals, byproducts of agricultural chemicals, and heavy metals, as well as sediment from the unlined canals through which it passes.”

“…chemicals that seep into the drainage ditch system, including amniomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), a degradate of glyphosate; dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), a degradate of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT); glyphosate, ametryn, atrazine, bentazon, chlorpyrifos, cispropiconazole, diuron, fipronil, hexazinone, MCPA, metolachlor, prometryn, propoxur, simazine, and trans-propiconazole…”

One of my favorite lines is “The parade of horribles ADC sets forth is unmoving.”  This refers to the “Sky will fall if we have to get the permit…” claims made by the ADC.

Read the Earthjustice press release HERE 

For other related breaking news please also read: Hawaii GMO industry footprint shrinks by over 50% AND DOE bans herbicides in all Hawaii public schools

 

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Economic Justice – In defense of the invisible

When bills are introduced to protect dolphins, whales, bees or birds – it is a given that the chamber will be full of testifiers. Likewise, if there is a measure before any legislative body that purports to regulate fishing, or hunting, or dogs or cats – you can be sure it will be standing room only.

But for issues pertaining to economic justice, not so much.  Oh yes, the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii will show up to say no…to any and all initiatives that have any impact at all on their membership. And the Hawaii Restaurant Association will show up to say no to anything that impacts their members. Government agencies will likewise be there in opposition, as they know from past experience the legislature will not properly fund their existing responsibilities, let alone new mandates.

But the down and out, the disenfranchised and those who stand to benefit most from economic justice legislation, will be mostly invisible.

Public interest organizations will, of course, show up in support. They will present clear unequivocal research, backed by mountains of data produced by credible highly regarded think tanks. Other supportive advocacy groups, including faith-based and millennial progressives, will also show up at the hearings, offering strong and compelling testimony in support.

In most areas of public policy, the most effective testifiers are those from the “impacted community”.  In this case those individuals at the bottom of the economic ladder – the homeless, the incarcerated, the mentally ill and those slaving every day at multiple jobs just trying to eke out a basic living.

It is no surprise the turnout at public hearings from this impacted community is weak to sometimes non-existent.

Perhaps low-income working people are fearful to ask the boss for time off work to testify in support of increasing their minimum wage.  Perhaps those without homes are also without access to the public notice of such meetings.  Or maybe they sit in jail awaiting trial for a crime for which they have not been convicted, but just can’t afford bail.

Most struggle mightily with basic daily survival and showing up at the Capitol to testify is not something that they have on their calendar.

The 2018 state legislature failed to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage that sits now at $10.10 per hour. Our state government has determined that $17 per hour is the amount needed for basic subsistence and anything less is simply starvation wages. 

Hawaii has the highest homeless rates per capita in the nation.

PayDay lenders are charging those who can least afford it, up to 400% interest and fees on small loans often needed to just “get by until the 1st”.

Nearly 1/2 the people now sitting in Hawaii jail cells are “pre-trial detainees” who have not been convicted of the crime for which they are accused, but are poor and cannot afford bail. Rich people, for the most part, don’t go to jail while awaiting trial – they simply post bail. 

According to the Aloha United Way who commissioned ALICE: A STUDY OF FINANCIAL HARDSHIP IN HAWAI‘I, 48 percent of Hawai‘i households struggle just to make ends meet with 11% of this group living in poverty as defined by the federal government.

Some readers may think that being poor is “their own damned fault”. They will look at the homeless huddled under the bridge and say to their friends, “they should just get a job”.  To those readers, I suggest that perhaps no one will hire them if they are missing teeth, or if they are mentally ill, or don’t have clean clothes and a dry safe place to sleep at night. For many, there are no jobs and the jobs there are don’t pay a living wage. 

Most of our friends and neighbors are already working two or three jobs and living with parents and grandparents. The hope of ever buying their own home is but a distant dream, with reality consisting of just getting by while hoping the kids don’t get sick and the car doesn’t break down.

According to the U.S. census, 66% of Hawaii residents have less than $1,000 in savings.  One medical emergency, two weeks of job layoff or any multitude of unexpected situations could cause 66% of us to plunge into a financial spiral that some never recover from. 

There but for the grace of God, go each and every one of us…

My ask for each of you who have read this far is to please make the time to advocate in support of economic justice. Ask your legislator to publicly support increasing Hawaii’s minimum wage to at least $17 (phased in over time), to clamp down on predatory lending practices, reform our criminal justice system, increase the supply of truly affordable housing and make increasing mental health services a priority.

The naysayers will say, “how are we going to pay for all of this”? The truth is we are already paying for it.  There is a price to pay no matter what, and the price for inaction – far exceeds the cost of doing what is right and just.

First published 07/09/19 in The Garden Island Newspaper

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