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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Who and what am I voting for or against? A look at my Kauai general election ballot choices.

In response to several requests that have come via text, email and FaceBook, I have summarized below how I intend to vote on the various items contained on the General Election Ballot.  Though this is a Kauai specific list…several of the items are also applicable to ballots statewide.

I present my thoughts here with some hesitancy as I do not want to appear to tell others how to vote, and on some issues and people my thoughts and ultimate vote, also rely on the opinions of others whom I respect – I speak here specifically of the votes for OHA.  Like many non Hawaiian voters, I feel somewhat disinclined and unqualified to weigh in and vote on these choices however my friends in the Hawaiian community believe it is important that I do so.

In addition, when suggesting candidates that I am supporting, there is implied opposition to the “other candidates”.  As much as people say “it’s not personal”, I know from experience as a candidate that in fact it is taken as personal and thus breeds hostility…the repercussions of which sometimes reverberate into the future.  

But oh well…the alternative of being silent creates within me even more angst than the concern over what others might think and the offense they and their friends and family might take.  Remaining silent of course would also be abdicating my responsibility as someone who aspires to leadership in our community.

So here goes – I will start with the easy ones:

Governor and Lieutenant Governor: David Ige and Josh Green

U.S. Senator: Mazie Hirono

U.S. Representative: Tulsi Gabbard

Kauai Mayor: Unknown and possibly blank

Kauai County Council:

  1. Mason Chock
  2. Felicia Cowden
  3. Adam Roversi
  4. Luke Evslin

Read here why these 4 are my top choices.

https://garyhooser.blog/2018/10/03/four-excellent-choices-for-kauai-county-council/

5) Norma Doctor Sparks – I have decided that Norma Doctor Sparks will be my fifth vote for the Council.  She has by far the most experience with regards to managing large government budgets, and she has demonstrated through her actions and outreach that she cares about and will be responsible to the concerns of all Kauai residents.  My vote for Norma Doctor Sparks is an insurance vote intended to support the end result that at least 4 new independent and community based voices are elected to the Council. Plus – we need more women serving on the council!

Though Kauai voters are allowed “up to 7 votes”, in an effort to maximize the impact, my personal votes will be limited to these 5.  You can read more about this strategy of “block voting and plunking” here:

https://garyhooser.blog/2014/10/18/on-plunking-block-voting-slates-and-other-such-kauai-county-council-voting-strategies/

Moving to the questions regarding questions pertaining to amending the State Constitution:

I am voting YES on the question: “Shall the legislature be authorized to establish, as provided by law, a surcharge on investment real property to be used to support public education?”  Read why I am voting yes here:

http://www.thegardenisland.com/2018/09/19/opinion/whacking-the-mole-starving-the-beast-and-punishing-our-schools/

I am voting NO on the question: “Shall there be a convention to propose a revision of or amendments to the Constitution?”

Read the basis of my No vote here: 

https://garyhooser.blog/2018/09/20/why-im-voting-no-on-con-con/

On the questions pertaining to amending the County of Kauai Charter:

Relating to the Public Defender — Question 1 – I am voting YES  – Shall the charter be amended by repealing Article IX, Public Defender, as this function is already provided by the State?

Relating to the Electric Power Authority – Question 2 – I am voting YES – Shall the Charter be amended to repeal Article XXX, which empowers the Council to create an electric power authority by ordinance?

Relating to the Zoning Board of Appeals — Question 3- I am voting NO – Shall Article XIV, Planning Department, sections 14.01, 14.03, 14.12, 14.13, and 14.14 be amended by removing all references to the zoning board of appeals? NOTE: My No vote is based on my lack of understanding as to whether or not this diminishes the rights of those who would want to make an appeal.  I understand the Planning Department wants this change, but I am not clear whether the replacement is adequate.

Relating to the Public Access, Open Space, Natural Resources Preservation Fund — Question 4 – I am voting NO – Shall Article XIX, Financial Procedures, Section 19.15 © be amended to permit the Public Access, Open Space, Natural Resources Preservation Fund to include improvements? NOTE: I prefer these funds be used primarily to acquire new properties and am concerned that they will be used up by “improvements” which could drift into the realm of regular maintenance.  These funds should be used to purchase long term assets (property) and not as operational funds.

Relating to the Salary Commission — Question 5 – I am voting NO – Shall Article XXIX, Salary Commission, Sections 29.01 and 29.03 be amended to give the salary commission authority to establish the maximum salaries of all elected and appointed officials, and to add the director of human resources and the director of finance as ex-officio members of the commission? NOTE: If passed this will result in higher salaries for councilmembers, the mayor and top administrative heads – without the Council being involved which means they escape political consequences.

Relating to term limits for the office of Councilmember — Question 6 – I am voting NO- Shall the term limit of office for Councilmember be removed?  NOTE: This was put on the ballot primary to benefit Councilmember Kagawa whose term expires in 2020.  The people overwhelming support limiting the terms of councilmembers, if passed this allows unlimited terms.

You can read more about the basis for my decisions on the Charter Amendments, and about who NOT to vote for for the Kauai County Council here:

https://garyhooser.blog/2018/10/02/candidates-that-dont-show-up-dont-deserve-your-vote/

http://www.thegardenisland.com/2018/09/05/opinion/charter-amendment-questions-on-the-nov-6-ballot/

For the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Every voter in the State votes for every District race.  Here are the suggestions:

Maui: Ke’eaumoku Kapu

Oahu: Esther Kia’aina

At Large (vote for up to 3):

Lei Ahu Isa

William Aila

Brendon Lee

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Who I am. Why I am doing this. How you can help. (my recent email message in case you did not get it)

Aloha,

The goal of this email is to enroll your help in making our community and our world a better place. If we have not yet met in person, this message will further serve as an initial introduction as to who I am, and why I do the work that I do. Mahalo for this brief moment of your time.

I suspect that you are as outraged and also as saddened as I am over what has been happening in D.C. and around the world.  I am hopeful that you will join with me today in turning those feelings into action.

Climate change, species depletion and massive environmental degradation of air, land and water is happening now, on our watch right before our eyes. The economic disparity that exists between the top 1% of the population and the bottom 99% is beyond the pale of simply sad and unjust.

I believe we can and we must continue to fight back and take back what is our birthright – a healthy planet and a just world.

We can win but each of us must do our part. Some can do the constant and sometimes brutal heavy lifting, and some because of circumstances can help in smaller but important ways – together with all of us pitching in, we can win.

Hawaii can be a model for the change that is needed globally.

Working together with many others from across the state, we have a plan in place that can bring about significant positive change but we need your help – Please, join with us at: Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI) (https://ponohawaiiinitiative.org/join/) and Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) (https://www.hapahi.org/take-action/) today.

Or if you have questions, concerns or suggestions that you would like to share with me directly, please email me at GaryLHooser@gmail.com (mailto:GaryLHooser@gmail.com)

If we have not yet met, let me tell you a little about myself.

While based on the island of Kauai, I travel frequently through-out the archipelago and beyond, working with a wide and diverse network of individuals and organizations who share a common focus of putting people and the environment over profits.

My full bio is here (http://garyhooser.com/#two) and a brief list of career highlights here (http://garyhooser.com/#accomplishments) .

Prior to first entering politics at the County level in 1998 and then being elected to the Hawaii State Senate in 2002, my background was in small business.

I understand the value of entrepreneurship and the need to build and maintain a strong economic base.

However it has become increasingly clear in recent years that our world is dangerously out of balance and that large corporate interests that put profits above all else combined with a dysfunctional political/government structure are to blame.

My life and work is dedicated toward fighting back and reversing the environmental, social, economic and political degradation that is occurring in Hawaii and across the globe.

Together, we can do this. Please join me today.

Sincerely,

Gary Hooser

Executive Director – Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI) (https://ponohawaiiinitiative.org)

Board President – Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) (http://www.hapahi.org)

Gary Hooser Blog: Why I am voting NO on Con Con (https://garyhooser.blog/2018/09/20/why-im-voting-no-on-con-con/)


							
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Four Excellent Choices for Kauai County Council

I recently had the pleasure of co-hosting a KKCR “Out Of The Box” radio show that featured a discussion among four candidates for Kauai County Council.  I was genuinely impressed by each and every one of these individuals and found myself at the end of the show, hoping that each will be elected on November 6th.

The show was co-hosted by community radio stalwart, Jonathan Jay and we were joined in the studio by Kyahnasun Dakini, who shared her mana’o and among other things, asked the four candidates the “dairy question”.

Jonathan Jay had designed the show around exploring the embedded wisdom of the Hawaiian Proverb – ʻŌlelo Noʻeau –  “He Waʻa He Moku; He Moku He Waʻa”  – “The Canoe is an Island; The Island is a Canoe”.  He invited these particular 4 candidates to be on the show because each has experience in the canoe paddling world.

It was an interesting and thought-provoking show, a new generation of leaders sharing life lessons and attitudes about the value of trust and teamwork they learned from paddling waʻa. 

Besides the most obvious “we are all in this together” correlation with the canoe metaphor, many other common themes were brought to the surface as well.

Experienced canoe paddlers know and understand that once they are in the canoe, individual egos must be set aside for the common good and each paddlers strengths and weaknesses must be considered when evaluating their placement and paddle position.  The individual paddler must be self-aware enough to recognize their own tendencies and abilities in order to “play their position” as best as they can.  Each must accept, respect, and support the others so long as they are giving it their best, even if they may not be the strongest or the most talented.

Foremost is keeping the ultimate destination always in mind and all four agreed that ultimately that goal with regards to the Council centers around improving and protecting the quality of life for local residents.

All four recognized and supported the fact that the ultimate destination will only be reached ostensibly via a common vision supported by good planning, and steady management. 

In my experience serving in politics, these quality of life objectives are relatively easy to agree on but the specific proposals for solutions to real world, here and now problems are often debated and rarely achieve unanimous consensus.  The perfect storms that confront any legislative body attempting to reach consensus on public policy are inevitably controversial, and passing through unscathed is further complicated by the injection of ego and arrogance, often referred to as “the big dog syndrome”.

Anyone who watches the Kauai County Council knows what I am talking about.  While we never really got to the question as to what happens in a canoe when the “big dog syndrome” rears its ugly head, I suspect the answer would be somewhere between “throw him overboard” and “ignore him and just keep paddling”.

Keeping your eye on the long view, dealing proactively with the problems facing us today, and ignoring and disempowering the ego driven distractions, are the true tests of leadership especially needed now on the Kauai County Council.  I believe all four of these individuals, while each being uniquely different from the other, meet that test.

Mason Chock who presently serves on the Kauai County Council, is a solid rock of character and integrity.  He is grounded in community, pragmatic in his approach to problem solving, and serves as a leadership bridge of sorts on the existing Council.

Felicia Cowden cares deeply about all of Kauai as demonstrated by the countless hours she spends attending meetings and functions occurring throughout our island.  She is driven to learn and know more about the challenges that face us, and is committed to searching out solutions to those challenges.

Luke Evslin is likely the most analytical of the group and you will find that his eye will never leave the ball.  His focus will always be on the long game and achieving the end vision, but he is pragmatic enough to understand that in order to get to that end destination, stops and adjustments have to be made along the way.

Adam Roversi is a candidate who I know the least, but in many ways the one with whom I am most impressed.  He possesses a rare combination of deep thinking and realism.  A pragmatic idealist, he understands the need to find and develop tangible solutions to problems before the County today.  Adam Roversi is a former building contractor who put himself through law school (with a focus on Hawaiian and environmental law), and then came home to serve as a Kauai Deputy County Attorney.  Each and every endeavor he pursued was fraught with challenges, but in each case he rose to the occasion, learned the lessons that needed to be learned, and then achieved the goal he had set his eyes on.  I have no doubt if elected to the Kauai County Council on November 6th, that Adam Roversi will once again rise to the occasion and serve our community with distinction.

While each of these candidates is possessed with sufficient personal confidence and self worth to be “a big dog” in their own right, each also possesses the maturity needed to be able to set aside their personal egos in pursuit of the common good.  As proven by their existing life and past accomplishments, each is also incredibly hard working, knowledgable, and committed to our community. 

Oh, and about the dairy question? All four of the candidates answered it similarly and to paraphrase; “Based on the information that is available, I do not support a dairy of this size and scope in the area in which it is proposed.” 

 

Please talk to these four individuals yourself and in fact, reach out to all 14 council candidates.  Attend the forums and review their websites and FaceBook pages.  You’ll find the process of elimination is fairly straight forward.  Of the 14, some will not return your email and several will not have a website or a Facebook page.  When you attend a forum or two you will also find that unfortunately more than a few (those who believe they are the true big dogs) do not even bother to attend these worthwhile public events.  

Do your homework and make your own scorecard.  Talk to your friends and family and make your own informed decision as to whom can best lead our county forward in the coming years.

Most importantly, vote!

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Candidates that don’t show up, don’t deserve your vote.

In approximately two weeks, the first round of absentee ballots will be mailed out for the General Election.  Like many in the community, my mind is still not totally made up as to who I will be voting for the Kauai County Council or for Mayor.  As mentioned in my last column on September 26, I have settled on at least 4 of my council choices (“4 Excellent Choices for Kauai County Council”).

https://tinyurl.com/ydy9tkv4

But as to whether or not I will limit my vote to just the 4 (which is my inclination), or vote the full 7 – I frankly do not know.

Kudos to the Kauai Community Coalition in partnership with other organizations for hosting a wide array of political forums in locations spanning the entire island.  These forums have allowed Kauai residents to meet, hear, and watch the candidates in person.The small group discussions have been invaluable in offering voters a tangible experience in which to base their decisions.  To date, eight separate candidate forums have been held in locations stretching from Hanapepe to Hanalei.

Only Councilmember Ross Kagawa, Councilmember Arthur Brun and Councilmember Arryl Kaneshiro have failed to show up and respond to the community questions presented at these forums.

The next and final Council forum is scheduled for October 18 in Kilauea at the Pavilion at Anaina Hou Community Park, from 6:00pm-8:30pm.  The topic will be climate change.

Other community groups focused on the environment, solid waste, community planning and water quality have also sent out “issue surveys” to the candidates, seeking their responses to important questions that impact all of us. You can read the responses here which are very, very interesting: https://tinyurl.com/ydy78pu7

Councilmember Ross Kagawa, Councilmember Arryl Kaneshiro and candidates Kanoe Ahuna and Shaylene Iseri have chosen not to participate and answer these questions.

The Kauai Chamber of Commerce should also be commended for conducting “candidate interviews” and posting these individual Q & A sessions on YouTube, for all of us to review and use in our decision making.I highly recommend viewing these excellent 15 minute individual interviews here: www.bit.ly/2OpcKl5

Unfortunately, Councilmember Ross Kagawa and candidates Kanoe Ahuna and Shaylene Iseri did not participate in this valuable Chamber of Commerce program either.

The bottom line is that you, as a voting resident, have a wealth of information available to you that will allow you to make an informed decision as to who will represent you on the Kauai County Council.  Please attend a forum in the future, review the survey responses, and take the time to watch the Chamber of Commerce Videos.

And please, do not vote for those candidates who have chosen not to show up.

While missing one or two forums is certainly understandable, incumbent candidates especially who choose to ignore and skip them all are sending their own message of contempt and arrogance. One has to wonder if someone is not available and interested in public input while campaigning, how available and open to public input will they be once elected?

There are at least two somewhat tricky, but important, questions on the ballot that pertain to proposed Charter Amendments:

Councilmember Ross Kagawa introduced to the Council a proposed amendment that attempts to eliminate term limits for councilmembers.  At the present time, councilmembers are limited to four consecutive two year terms.

The question on the ballot will say “SHALL THE TERM LIMIT OF OFFICE FOR COUNCILMEMBERS BE REMOVED? 

A “NO” vote will keep in place existing term limits.  A “YES” vote will allow councilmembers to serve an unlimited amount of terms.

Another important charter amendment being proposed attempts to change the way salaries for councilmembers, the mayor, and members of the county administrations are determined.The proposed amendment eliminates the existing County Council authority to reject all or part of the Salary Commission’s annual salary resolution thereby giving the Commission sole authority to set the maximum salaries of elected and appointed officials.

Historically the Salary Review Commission regularly recommends robust salary increases under the premise of keeping salaries competitive with the private sector.  The pressure to maintain pay equity among County administrators who sometimes earn less than the employees they supervise, also drives recommendations to increase County salaries.

To the contrary, the County Council has historically resisted granting salary increases to themselves and to top administrators.  Though it may seem counter-intuitive, by taking “politics out of the question” (as this charter amendment proposes to do) will likely result in salaries for everyone being increased at a greater degree than they might otherwise.  Councilmembers and others will receive raises based on the actions of the Salary Review Commission and then will rightfully so be able to say “I had nothing to do with it”.

The question on the ballot will state: SHALL ARTICLE XXIX, SALARY COMMISSION, SECTIONS 29.01 AND 29.03 BE AMENDED TO GIVE THE SALARY COMMISSION AUTHORITY TO ESTABLISH THE MAXIMUM SALARIES OF ALL ELECTED AND APPOINTED OFFICIALS, AND TO ADD THE DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES AND THE DIRECTOR OF FINANCE AS EX-OFFICIO, NON-VOTING MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION? 

A “NO” vote will retain the status quo and most likely (in my opinion) keep salaries lower and will continue to require councilmembers to make the decision.  A “YES” vote will take councilmembers out of the equation and allow them to receive salary increases without being involved in the decision and thus avoid potential political repercussions.

For what it’s worth, I will be voting NO on both the attempt to eliminate term limits and the effort to take councilmembers out of the decision making loop as to the Salary Review Commission and increased salaries.

Read the charter and see the actual amendments and full language here: www.kauai.gov/charter

And please, take ownership of your government.  Study the issues.  Meet directly with the candidates. And vote!

First Published in The Garden Island newspaper on October 3, 2018

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Doubling Down, Next Steps and a Plan To Win

Below is our “next step” plan and strategy to win. I think you will like it and am hoping you can help.

Following up on our successes in the Primary Election , Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI) is doubling down and pushing even harder – focusing on the Kauai/Maui Council Races in the General Election, and on the upcoming 2019 legislative session.

We are currently building the mother of all constituent contact systems (MOACCS). This will be a statewide contact management database of Hawaii residents/voters who self-identify as progressives and who support environmental, economic and social justice.  The “issue affinity” of Hawaii residents will be identified state-wide by District via multiple strategies.

These efforts will be conducted over the next 3 months via email, social media, direct mail and door-to-door canvassing in targeted districts. The initial fruits of this effort will be directed toward driving quality, informed testimony in support of landmark progressive legislation that will be proposed during the 2019 legislative session.

The effort of building and expanding the statewide base of qualified constituent contacts will continue aggressively through 2019 in anticipation of putting into place a massive GOTV effort in support of progressive candidates in the 2020 elections.

Our goal is to identify voters by District in sufficient numbers necessary to win a House seat.  These same individuals/voters will also be encouraged to actively participate in the legislative process by submitting testimony on issues pending before the state legislature and/or county councils.

Game on.

We have high quality experienced candidates on every island. Now, working together with friends and allies around the state and across issue focuses, we will build the support structure necessary to help push them over the top.

Please help. The system we are building will be a potent and powerful tool, but it also requires a significant investment to design, build, populate and maintain.

Though we run very lean, PHI does have continuing administrative operating costs and following the heavy push during the recent Primary Election our reserves are at minimal levels. In the interest of full disclosure, as the PHI Executive Director I earn a whopping $1,000 per month.  And as most of you are aware, I work on this stuff 24/7.  I love the work and will continue doing my job, full steam ahead – but need your help to sustain the effort.

We need to raise at least $20,000 by the end of October in order to design, build and begin a robust effort to populate the MOACCS, and to support the basic operations of PHI.  At least 50% of this must be raised by October 5th if we are to maintain our momentum.

Contributions of any amount are welcome and may be made via our new Act Blue portal or checks may be mailed to: Pono Hawaii Initiative, P.O. Box 871, Honolulu HI 96808

Note: Contributions to PHI are not tax deductible.

As always, I welcome your input and am available to meet in person or speak on the telephone, at your convenience – anywhere on any island.

Mahalo to all for your ongoing help and support.

Sincerely,

Gary Hooser

Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI)


							
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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:

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

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

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