The quiet unassuming grip of systemic racism

As a white male, I am compelled to speak out in opposition to the confirmation of Mr. Dan Gluck to the Intermediate Court of Appeals, and in support of a court that represents the diversity that defines our community.

Decision-making occurs through the lens of the decision-maker. White cisgender men view the world through an entirely different lens than that of women of color. People whose life experience is grounded in the privilege of wealth likewise see things differently than those who were born into poverty. Whether the lens is one of class, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, or other unique life circumstances – each individual makes decisions grounded in their own life experience.

Yes, many of us do our best to understand the perspective of others, to empathize, and attempt to make good and thoughtful decisions accordingly. But an uncomfortable truth is that unless we have walked in their shoes, we cannot truly understand, nor can we truly view the same world as those who come from a wholly different place in life.

I do not know Dan Gluck well at all. I have communicated with him on issues in the past and he has always conducted himself professionally and with integrity. Most would say that his values align to a great extent with mine and other self-identified “progressives.” This issue however rises above that basic standard and goes to the fundamental nature of governance.

To ensure the most equitable and the highest quality decision-making possible, every governing body whether elected or appointed needs to reflect the community it’s responsible to represent. The best decision-making for the whole will come about only when a community’s diversity is represented in its governing institutions.

My hope is that Mr. Gluck will recognize that in this situation, his kuleana requires that he withdraw his name from consideration. Publicly acknowledging that at this particular point in time, this particular appointment is not his to accept, would seal his reputation as a stand-up guy, a man of character whose willing to take a hit for the betterment of his community.

Latest updates: Senate Committee Votes “No.” Full Senate vote set for tomorrow Thursday July 28, 2021 Watch the video linked below:

Senator Chris Lee took to the floor for 10-15 minutes in today’s confirmation hearing, attempting to justify his vote by essentially saying, “I recognize that white & AJA males dominate the political power landscape in Hawaii, but we shouldn’t make this decision based on race or gender.” 

This is, quite frankly, the epitome of privilege. And he doesn’t even see the irony.

Senator Laura Acasio, however, faced the uncomfortable truth head-on when she said “Systemic racism is embedded in every aspect of this vote… if we keep kicking the can down the road, and we don’t address those issues – literally today – then it’s just a pipe dream that it will ever happen.”

Watch the full video here: https://youtu.be/9lU8Cx5OiVE (starts at 37:18, Senator Lee’s comments are between 38:30-53-05, Senator Acasio’s comments are between 1:02:24- 1:03:55)

To be clear: Systemic racism is almost never a conscious decision to favor one race over another. It happens innocuously, over time, from one benign appointment of a good white guy over a more qualified Hawaiian woman to the next, and the pattern continues until someone steps in and makes the uncomfortable decision to stop it.

I applaud Senators Keohokalole, Acasio, Kim, and Fevella for taking a tough stance and voting on principle to regect this appointment. I am hopeful that a majority in the Senate will follow suit, should Mr. Gluck decide not to withdraw his name from consideration.

If you feel strongly about Mr. Gluck’s appointment, you should call your Senator today and ask them how they plan to vote on his confirmation: https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/findleg.aspx

Note: I originally posted this two days ago. The final vote in the Hawaii State Senate was held yesterday. I am thankful that Mr. Gluck did the right thing and withdrew his name from consideration.

For those unfamiliar with the issue:

From the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp via citizen advocacy group Stop HB499 Hui- 

* The list of 6 candidates included 3 Native Hawaiian women and a Filipino community member, but the Governor picked the only white male on the list, who was the least qualified of all the candidates based on actual experience practicing law in the courts.

* There are currently zero Native Hawaiians or Filipino-Americans on the appellate bench of Hawai‘i.  With this appointee, a majority of the appellate bench would be white.  There hasn’t been a Native Hawaiian judge on Hawaiʻi’s highest courts in decades.

StarAdvertiser “Our View” Editorialhttps://www.staradvertiser.com/2021/07/24/editorial/our-view/editorial-diversity-in-the-courts/“Gov. David Ige chose Gluck, the executive director and general counsel for the state Ethics Commission, from a list of six candidates provided by the Judicial Selection Commission.

Gluck’s nomination has been challenged, not unreasonably, by those wanting more diversity on the bench and someone with more courtroom experience. Three of the candidates Ige passed over are women of Hawaiian ancestry, with much more experience than Gluck working in appellate courts.

“At present, there are no native Hawaiian, Filipino, Pacific Islander, or African American judges at the Supreme Court or the ICA,” said a letter from the House Native Hawaiian Caucus.

And in Civil Beat – https://www.civilbeat.org/2021/07/senate-committee-rejects-dan-glucks-nomination-to-appeals-court/“For members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the vote on Gluck wasn’t just a vote for a single judicial candidate. Fair or not, his nomination has become a symbol of deeply rooted issues in Hawaii, specifically race and gender diversity.”

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The quiet unassuming grip of systemic racism

As a white male, I am compelled to speak out in opposition to the confirmation of Mr. Dan Gluck to the Intermediate Court of Appeals, and in support of a court that represents the diversity that defines our community.

Decision-making occurs through the lens of the decision-maker. White cisgender men view the world through an entirely different lens than that of women of color. People whose life experience is grounded in the privilege of wealth likewise see things differently than those who were born into poverty. Whether the lens is of one of class, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, or other unique life circumstances – each individual makes decisions grounded in their own life experience.

Yes, many of us do our best to understand the perspective of others, to empathize, and attempt to make good and thoughtful decisions accordingly. But an uncomfortable truth is that unless we have walked in their shoes, we cannot truly understand, nor can we truly view the same world as those who come from a wholly different place in life.

I do not know Dan Gluck well at all. I have communicated with him on issues in the past and he has always conducted himself professionally and with integrity. Most would say that his values align to a great extent with mine and other self-identified “progressives.” This issue however rises above that basic standard and goes to the fundamental nature of governance.

To ensure the most equitable and the highest quality decision-making possible, every governing body whether elected or appointed, needs to reflect the community it’s responsible to represent. The best decision-making for the whole will come about only when a communities diversity is represented in its governing institutions.

My hope is that Mr. Gluck will recognize that in this situation, his kuleana requires that he withdraw his name from consideration. Publicly acknowledging that at this particular point in time, this particular appointment is not his to accept, would seal his reputation as a stand-up guy, a man of character whose willing to take a hit for the betterment of his community.

Latest updates: Senate Committee Votes “No.” Full Senate vote set for tomorrow Thursday July 28, 2021 Watch the video linked below:

Senator Chris Lee took to the floor for 10-15 minutes in today’s confirmation hearing, attempting to justify his vote by essentially saying, “I recognize that white & AJA males dominate the political power landscape in Hawaii, but we shouldn’t make this decision based on race or gender.” 

This is, quite frankly, the epitome of privilege. And he doesn’t even see the irony.

Senator Laura Acasio, however, faced the uncomfortable truth head-on when she said “Systemic racism is embedded in every aspect of this vote… if we keep kicking the can down the road, and we don’t address those issues – literally today – then it’s just a pipe dream that it will ever happen.”

Watch the full video here: https://youtu.be/9lU8Cx5OiVE (starts at 37:18, Senator Lee’s comments are between 38:30-53-05, Senator Acasio’s comments are between 1:02:24- 1:03:55)

To be clear: Systemic racism is almost never a conscious decision to favor one race over another. It happens innocuously, over time, from one benign appointment of a good white guy over a more qualified Hawaiian woman to the next, and the pattern continues until someone steps in and makes the uncomfortable decision to stop it.

I applaud Senators Keohokalole, Acasio, Kim, and Fevella for taking a tough stance and voting on principle to regect this appointment. I am hopeful that a majority in the Senate will follow suit, should Mr. Gluck decide not to withdraw his name from consideration.

If you feel strongly about Mr. Gluck’s appointment, you should call your Senator today and ask them how they plan to vote on his confirmation: https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/findleg.aspx

Testimony Summary:79 Support 151 Oppose

For those unfamiliar with the issue:

From the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp via citizen advocacy group Stop HB499 Hui- 

* The list of 6 candidates included 3 Native Hawaiian women and a Filipino community member, but the Governor picked the only white male on the list, who was the least qualified of all the candidates based on actual experience practicing law in the courts.

* There are currently zero Native Hawaiians or Filipino-Americans on the appellate bench of Hawai‘i.  With this appointee, a majority of the appellate bench would be white.  There hasn’t been a Native Hawaiian judge on Hawaiʻi’s highest courts in decades.

StarAdvertiser “Our View” Editorialhttps://www.staradvertiser.com/2021/07/24/editorial/our-view/editorial-diversity-in-the-courts/“Gov. David Ige chose Gluck, the executive director and general counsel for the state Ethics Commission, from a list of six candidates provided by the Judicial Selection Commission.

Gluck’s nomination has been challenged, not unreasonably, by those wanting more diversity on the bench and someone with more courtroom experience. Three of the candidates Ige passed over are women of Hawaiian ancestry, with much more experience than Gluck working in appellate courts.

“At present, there are no native Hawaiian, Filipino, Pacific Islander, or African American judges at the Supreme Court or the ICA,” said a letter from the House Native Hawaiian Caucus.

And in Civil Beat – https://www.civilbeat.org/2021/07/senate-committee-rejects-dan-glucks-nomination-to-appeals-court/“For members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the vote on Gluck wasn’t just a vote for a single judicial candidate. Fair or not, his nomination has become a symbol of deeply rooted issues in Hawaii, specifically race and gender diversity.”

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United in pursuit of a vision – Kauaʻi stands ready

The auction of the Coco Palms Hotel held this past Monday at noon on the courthouse steps, was at best, anti-climatic. The bottom line is that the “bank/lender” took back the property from the prior would-be developers who owed them the money that was used to purchase the property in the first place. As has been the case in previous attempts to develop the property, the deal-makers were never able to make the deal work.

It was predictable actually. All of it. It’s like Ground-Hog day or deja vu all over again. The deal-makers arrive in our community, pledge their love and commitment, promise us the world, seek permit concessions from the County, are granted such concessions, string out the process for years, and then fail.  Full disclosure: When the Council vote granting the initial “Iniki” permit concessions for this go-around was held, I’m proud to say I voted no.

Meanwhile, the buildings burn, the rats infest, and the desecration continues.

Remember, this is a deeply sacred place. Properly referenced as Wailuanuiahoʻano, it’s the birthplace of kings and queens. These are historic crown lands and once hoste royal compounds, stately temple sites, a royal birthing site, and other religious locales. The eminent residences for the aliʻi were here, and it was the primary domain and seat of government for the reigning chiefs of the Puna moku, or district. Hidden beneath the earth are iwi kupuna – bones of the ancestors.

What’s next? 

The community sentiment is unequivocal – no hotel, no resort, no time-share, and no luxury homes. Over 10,000 names have been collected of individuals who oppose a hotel development there. Even the Royal Coconut Coast Resort Association has stated they support converting that parcel into a cultural/educational center. From political leaders to the business community to the grassroots, the people of Kauaʻi are united on this one.

I Ola Wailuanui Working Group member and Kauaʻi Museum Director Chucky Boy Chock, speaking on his own behalf said it most succinctly, “My puʻuwai always had a place for Coco Palms….but today my naʻau humbly cries “Wailuanuiahoʻāno”.

The goal of the I Ola Wailuanui Working Group, which I am honored to be a part of, is that Wailuanuiahoʻano, is to be owned by the community, developed by the community, and managed by the community — based first and foremost on a community vision honoring the deep history and culture of this sacred spot. The Working Group is further committed to a model that those who ultimately lead the discussion are those with ancestral roots in this aina.

So then, what is next? There are two significant bridges yet to be crossed.

A community plan that will bring form to the vision and guide the future development of the property must be completed. It’s not enough to simply state support for a cultural center.  What about canoe hale, educational facilities, music and entertainment, fish pond restoration, coconut harvesting operations, kupuna and keiki gathering places, and other possibilities?

The funds must be raised to purchase the property and support the community plan. These funds will come from individuals, trusts, foundations, and organizations who share our love and commitment to Kauaʻi and most of all to – Wailuanuiahoʻano. This effort will require everyone to step forward, from the grassroots $20 donation to the major donor $20 million anchor contribution. If you share the love of our island community and want to share in the work and in the satisfaction of helping to make this vision a reality – please join us at https://www.wailuanui.org

Just in case the above is too nuanced. We need a major donor to serve as the lead “anchor contributor” with the capacity to provide the confidence needed for other major donors to step forward. At the end of the day, this vision will become a reality through collaboration and partnerships. Many hands will make lite work.

Please help if you can. As always, I am more than willing to speak directly to anyone interested in discussing this or any topic relating to Kauaʻi, Hawaii and policy and politics – GaryLHooser@gmail.com

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Auction Day Arrives Tomorrow, July 26th, as Community Unites In Support of Wailuanuiahoʻāno

In less than 15 days over 10% of Kauaʻi residents have signed a petition opposing new resort development at the site of the former Coco Palms Hotel. 

Please sign the petition today and help push the numbers to the highest level possible prior to the auction scheduled for July 26th, tomorrow at noon! https://www.change.org/p/prospective-developers-protect-wailuanui-former-coco-palms-land-from-development?  Please also share with your networks!

Mayor Kawakami issued a public statement on Friday stating in part, “There is a growing sentiment from our residents that the site not be returned to a resort, but instead become a community gathering place, such as a park with agricultural and cultural elements.” He went on to say, “We will work with the new owners to ensure that whatever becomes of the property, we honor the sacred nature of this site and the wishes of our community.”

The I Ola Wailuanui Working Group wailuanui.org/the-team began forming in April of 2020 around the core goal of transitioning the former Coco Palms hotel site, Wailuanuiahoʻāno, into a community owned, developed and managed place for Hawaiian culture, education, restoration and more. This effort will be done so in a way that honors the deep history of this sacred place as the once social and political center of old Kauaʻi.

Working Group member Fern Anuenue Holland says, “We are confident that no hotel will be rebuilt on the grounds of the historic Coco Palms Hotel site in the future. Given the incredible cultural and historical significance of the site we are sure that our shared vision to restore this to a place that benefits the community and honors its rich history is the only acceptable path forward for this place. The time has come for Wailuanuiahoʻāno to be restored to a flourishing space for cultral enrichent, education, conservation and food production.”

As the auction date, Monday July 26th, quickly approaches, the support for the I Ola Wailuanui vision continues to build in the community. At press time nearly 10,000 people had signed the online petition with the vast majority being Kauaʻi residents.

Former Mayor JoAnn Yukimura wrote recently in The Garden Island, “It is the destiny of Coco Palms to be more than a hotel site. A group of far-sighted, heartfelt community leaders called I Ola Wailuanui has been working on an exciting new vision for Coco Palms-a vision that honors Coco Palms’ ancient past as part of a dynamic cultural, economic and political center on Kaua‘i that flourished along the life-giving Wailua River, and melds it together with the future we want to see on Kaua’i.”

Margy Parker, spokesperson for the Coconut Coast Resort Association, said in a statement, “Two years ago, our organization, the Royal Coconut Coast Association, embraced converting that parcel into a cultural/educational center. This concept had full support of our Board which includes representation by 14 hotels and condo resorts, plus Smith’s and KVB.”

I Ola Wailuanui Working Group member and Kauaʻi Museum Director Chucky Boy Chock, speaking on his own behalf said most succinctly, “My puʻuwai always had a place for Coco Palms…. but today my naʻau humbly cries “Wailuanuiahoʻāno”.

Wailuanuiahoʻāno is the birthplace of Kauaʻi’s past kings and queens. These are historic crown lands that host former royal compounds, stately temple sites, a royal birthing site and other religious locales. The eminent residences for the aliʻi were here, it was the primary domain and seat of government for the reigning chiefs of the moku of Puna and continued to be after the island was united under one ruler.

The property has two ancient loko puʻuone (dune banked inland fishponds), named Weuweu and Kaiwiiki, or Kawaiiki. These fishponds are estimated to be at least 600 to 800-plus years old. This ancient site should be restored and preserved for future generations and are an important part of our future, culture and food security.

Part of the former Coco Palms Hotel was built on a graveyard. Mapped on the old maps from the Māhele, this site included the The Mahunapuʻuone Cemetery. In 1973 during Coco Palms Hotel expansion of the north wing, thirty-four (34) sets of human remains were unearthed during construction. It is unknown how many others were in the original development. The remains of iwi kūpuna buried in this sacred land must be honored.

Pua Rossi-Fukino, a founding member of I Ola Wailuanui Working Group whose ancestors are directly connected to these lands summed up the status quo and speculated about what might happen on auction day saying, “With the help of Ke Akua, the steadfast commitment of many, and the generous support of those who would honor and respect our shared vision, at the end of the day, on Monday July 26th, these sacred lands will be heading back to our community where they belong. Either gifted through the generosity of a community benefactor, or if not, we with roots deep in this ʻāina know for certain that there will never be another hotel built in this sacred place.”

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Unpacking the 2022 Hawaii Reapportionment/Redistricting Discussion

Summary description of the process

  1. Based on most recent census determination of total permanent residents for the entire state and then broken down by County
  • For example in 2011 the total population of Hawaii was determined to be: 1,251,534
  • Oahu was 846,589. 
  • Hawaii County 183,596
  • Maui 154,544
  • Kauai 66,805

So the big question is how will these population numbers change when the new census information is released later this year? The data is expected to show a loss of population for Oahu and an increase in population for the neighbor-islands – Maui and Hawaii County in particular.  Depending on the amount of population shift it is possible that Oahu could lose 1 to 2 House seats and possibly a Senate seat – and a neighbor-island or 2 could gain those seats.

This is how the raw formula works:

The total resident population of the entire State as determined by the Census is divided by 25 (Senate) and 51 (House) to determine the average/standard number of permanent residents per district.

In 2011 the math concluded that on average all House/Senate districts would contain approximately this many permanent residents per each electoral district:

Senate districts 50,000 permanent residents

House districts 24,500 permanent residents

  • The appropriate number of Senate and House seats are then allocated to each County according to population with some deviation allowed and balanced between House and Senate Seats.
  • Once the size (per population count) of the House/Senate districts is determined and seats allocated amount Counties – then the Reapportionment Commission “redraws the district maps” attempting to maintain the average/standard permanent resident population plus or minus 10%
  • Adjustments can be made as needed: Kauai Example – Receives only 1 Senate seat which is 33% larger than average and but also gets 3 House seats which are smaller than average. Hawaii County Example similar but reversed…they received an additional Senate seat that was smaller in size than average and their House seats were larger.
  • The Reapportionment Commission also designates 12 Senators who will receive initial two year terms so as to ultimately achieve ultimate “staggered terms.”
  • Note: In 2022 all 25 Senators will be up for reelection, 12 will receive an initial 2 year term and 13 will receive a 4 year term.

STAGGERED TERMS FOR THE SENATE

Section 8. The reapportionment commission shall, as part of the reapportionment plan, assign two-year terms for twelve senate seats for the election immediately following the adoption of the reapportionment plan. The remaining seats shall be assigned four-year terms. Insofar as practicable, the commission shall assign the two-year terms to senate seats so that the resident population of each senate district shall have no more than two regular senate elections for a particular senate seat within the six-year period beginning in the even-numbered year prior to the reapportionment year;

  • The Commission consists of two members appointed by each of the President of the Senate, Speaker of the House, and the minority leader in the House and Senate – plus one more voted on by the 8 appointed…for a total of 9.
  • Public hearings are held and the decision is subject to court review
  • State Law https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol01_Ch0001-0042F/HRS0025/HRS_0025-.htm
  • State Constitution Article 4 https://law.justia.com/constitution/hawaii/conart4.html
  • A reapportionment commission shall be constituted before May 1 of each reapportionment year.
  • One hundred fifty days from the date on which all members of the commission are certified, the commission shall determine whether or not the plan is in need of correction or modification, make the correction or modification, if any, and file with the chief election officer, a final legislative reapportionment plan.
  • No district shall be drawn so as to unduly favor a person or political party;
  • Except in the case of districts encompassing more than one island, districts shall be contiguous;
  • Insofar as practicable, districts shall be compact;
  • Where possible, district lines shall follow permanent and easily recognized features such as streets, streams, and clear geographical features, and when practicable, shall coincide with census tract boundaries;
  • Where practicable, state legislative districts shall be wholly included within congressional districts; and
  • Where practicable, submergence of an area in a larger district wherein substantially different socio-economic interests predominate shall be avoided.

Updates: U.S. Census Bureau will provide a legacy format summary redistricting data file to all states by mid-to-late August 2021. Unfortunately most states lack the capacity or resources to tabulate the data from these summary files on their own, thus the Bureau will also be providing all states tabulated data in a user-friendly system by Sept. 30, 2021.  

Upon the release of the “legacy format” data, the initial determination of the new allocation of House/Senate seats between Counties can be approximated.  However the actual drawing of new district maps cannot be initiated until the more detailed and more easily usable data is release in late September.

Conclusion: We should have a good idea of which County will lose House/Senate seats and which will gain them – By September 1, 2021. However we are not likely to see the finalized “district map lines” until February of 2022 – possibly earlier or later if the matter is taken to court as has been the case in the past.

This link provides additional information including the names of all of the Reapportionment Commission members and the names of the connected “Advisory Council” – https://elections.hawaii.gov/about-us/boards-and-commissions/reapportionment/

Excellent historical information: Final Report of the 2012 Reapportionment Commission

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Back from limbo and Coco Palms – Wailua Nui

Seems like my writing has been in limbo during the past few months. While previously my The Garden Island (TGI) column was weekly, it is now just once per month (first Wednesday). This is good news and bad news. The good news is the weekly pressure is off and the bad news is the weekly pressure is off. If you are a writer, you will understand. 😉

The weekly columns forced me to write regularly about the work and life I love, and provided the additional content needed to post here on this blog, on social media, and for my email list. To join that email list please simply add your email here: http://www.garyhooser.com/#four

Then, I decided to explore other email list services, take some time off to travel to the continent, AND WordPress decided to change their formatting…forcing me to take the time to learn their new system (which I inherently resist/hate doing).

But here I am, back in the saddle so to speak. I’ve decided not to let WordPress beat me, I’m now fully onboard with my new email system “Octopus,” am not planning any further extended trips in the foreseeable future, AND have a long list of topics that I need to write about!

Note on the email: PLEASE CHECK YOUR JUNK AND SPAM FOLDERS! Because of the large volume of email that I send out, the email is sometimes routed to these folders. If you have multiple email accounts, please either unsubscribe the extra ones, or let me know and I will do so for you. I am still working out the bumps in my new email system, and I greatly appreciate feedback from readers – so don’t hesitate to reach out and share with me your thoughts.

Kauai Peeps

The property once known as the Coco Palms Hotel is up for auction on July 26th and there is a move afoot to nix any and all plans for a hotel/resort AND instead convert the property to a community use that honors its significant history and culture. To make this dream a reality will require the community to come together in support of the vision, the generosity of private donors large and small, and government and community leaders at all levels stepping up and voicing their support.

Everyones help is needed – TODAY:

a) Read more about the effort in The Garden Island newspaper: https://www.thegardenisland.com/2021/07/07/hawaii-news/group-no-hotel-at-coco-palms-site/

b) Kauai residents – Sign the petition! https://www.change.org/p/prospective-developers-protect-wailuanui-former-coco-palms-land-from-development?I don’t normally ask folks to sign petitions…but this is important.  Getting to 3,000 signatures of Kauai residents is our goal and we are almost half way there!  Please sign!

c) Visit the website for the I Wailuanui Working Group (which I am a part of). Read about the historical significance of this very special place, become familiar with the initial vision that could be realized, and yes donate if you can – https://www.wailuanui.org

d) Read more as to why the time for hotel/resort development is no longer appropriate in this short piece I wrote a few months back: https://www.thegardenisland.com/2021/02/03/opinion/hooser-coco-palms-defilement-must-stop/

Please help if you can.

Sincerely,

Gary Hooser  http://www.garyhooser.com

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Women in politics – we need more of them

At the risk of entering the volatile realm of so-called “identity politics,” here goes an old white guy diving deep into it…

What percentage of Hawaii lawmakers at the State and County level are women? The below information details the gender equity or inequity that currently exists among lawmakers currently serving in public office at the State and County level. The gender identification is drawn from references contained within the official County and State websites.

50% U.S. Senate: 1 woman, one man

0% U.S. House: 2 men

0% Governor and Lieutenant Governor: 2 men

36% State Senate: 9 women, 16 men – 25 total

31% State House of Representatives: 16 women, 35 men – 51 total

66% Maui Council: 6 women, 3 men – 9 total

55% Hawaii Council: 5 women, 4 men – 9 total

55% Honolulu Council: 5 women, 4 men – 9 total

14% Kauai Council: 1 woman, 6 men – 7 total

While Honolulu, Maui, and Hawaii County are setting a good example, governmental and political power in Hawaii remains firmly ensconced under the control of men.

Historically and globally this has been the case, and look where that has gotten us. Our natural environment led by man-made climate change is on the verge of collapse. The chasm between the ultra-rich and those living in bushes and under bridges grows wider each day. Genocide, racism, mass incarceration, and endless war, is so commonplace it barely makes the news anymore.

Decision-making occurs through the lens of the decision-maker. White cisgender men view the world through an entirely different lens than that of women of color. People whose life experience is grounded in the privilege of wealth likewise see things differently than those who were born into poverty. Whether the lens is of one of class, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, or other unique life circumstances – each individual makes decisions grounded in their own life experience.

Yes, many of us do our best to understand the perspective of others, to empathize, and attempt to make good and thoughtful decisions accordingly. But an uncomfortable truth is that unless we have walked in their shoes, we cannot truly understand, nor can we truly view the same world as those who come from a wholly different place in life.

To ensure the most equitable and the highest quality decision-making possible, every governing body whether elected or appointed, needs to reflect the community it’s responsible to represent. The best decision-making for the whole will come about only when a communities diversity is represented in its governing institutions.

We need to elect more women to public office at all levels – Statewide. As stated so eloquently by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”

At the present time, there seems to be no women interested in serving as Governor or Lieutenant Governor. Personally I would love to see a woman at the top of the ticket – a woman who understands and honors the history and culture of this place, who understands the true meaning of “the law of the splintered paddle,” and who puts the protection of the public trust first.

There is no shortage of highly qualified women already in leadership positions within the public, non-profit, and private sectors – and in the community at large.

The 2022 elections are right around the corner. Ballots will be placed into the mail for early Primary Election voting approximately 1 year from now.

Making that first step into the political arena can be a daunting bridge to cross. Support from friends and family is hugely important. Money must be raised and countless doors knocked on.

I write this today thinking all of the strong, caring, smart, and tenacious women I have been blessed to know and work with over the years. I think about their immense talent both present and future, I think about their strong internal compass and their incredible commitment to making positive change happen. And I think about how much better off the world would be if they were in charge.

“As the prevailing voices in the public spotlight are predominantly men, stepping into the spotlight with the truth of who you are as a woman is political change.” ― Tabby Biddle, Find Your Voice: A Woman’s Call to Action

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Catching up…recent travels…a hard pivot to 2022

Yes, my bad. I have been extremely remiss in posting to this blog, and I have not sent out an email “thought-letter” recently either (it’s not a newsletter!) 😉

But…trust me…am getting back on track. My goal today is simply to reconnect and catch up a bit.

These past several weeks I have been consumed and somewhat overwhelmed with post-legislative session communications, tax and administrative catch-ups, and a long overdue trip to the continent to visit with my 89-year-old mother and dad, siblings, and extended family.

Like many, this was my first travel since March of 2020. A quality visit with family (utilizing appropriate safety and health precautions) was long overdue.

Mom and dad are doing well thank you. They are slowing down a bit, but overall doing well.

I am hopeful that the pandemic will continue winding down and in the near future, I will be able to resume frequent (and safe) travel to all islands. I truly miss the social interactions and meet-ups with small groups and old/new friends.

If you would like to meet up or perhaps put a small group together to “talk politics” – please let me know. I’m also open to presenting small group “advocacy and/or campaign workshops” if your organization or group is interested (free…because I love it and the more people that are informed the better our community will be).

But for now, it’s one day at a time with most work and communication being conducted via email, text, phone, and zoom 😉

My attention is increasingly turning towards the 2022 elections with a goal towards encouraging new candidates statewide who are electable, willing to do the work needed to get elected, have roots in the community, and who share our basic world view – putting people and the planet first.

The Primary Election is set for August of 2022 and early voting will begin only 13 short months from now. Serious candidates running serious campaigns must start stepping forward very soon.

Electing only a handful of new strong voices to the State House of Representatives could change the world as we know it here in Hawaii. Ditto to the various Council positions and the State Senate. We have good people who share our core values, now serving at all levels – we just need to help elect a few more to join them.

It is possible to create a tsunami of positive change at the ballot box in 2022. To get there will require all of us pulling together and helping those candidates that share our passion for environmental, economic, and social justice.

Best wishes to all. Please never hesitate to call or reach out should you have questions, ideas, or concerns. I have mostly caught up on past emails and follow-ups but if I have not responded to your’s for some reason – just call or text and I’ll get right back to you.

Sincerely,

Gary Hooser

808-652-4279
http://www.garyhooser.com

P.S. I welcome calls, texts, and or emails from prospective candidates and/or people who want to get involved in upcoming campaigns. Let’s talk!

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Hawaii’s Democratic legislature – A misnomer?

People from outside Hawai’i often assume that because our State Legislature consists overwhelmingly of Democrats, and because in 2016 Hawai’i voted solidly for Bernie Sanders, that out legislature must be progressive or at least liberal in the traditional sense.

It is awkward at best to have to explain that a majority of our state legislators are Democrats in name only (DINO). They are essentially corporatists posing as centrists while getting elected as Democrats. They look at the world through the lens of corporate America and genuinely believe that the Chamber of Commerce and big business knows what’s best for the rest of us.

The recently concluded legislative session provides 4 clear examples proving unequivocally that in Hawai’i corporate values rule. These 4 bills are essentially litmus tests. Each provides little to no wiggle room for politicians wanting to straddle the fence.

 Unfortunately, from the perspective of core Democratic Party values, all of leadership in the State House of Representatives and a majority of its members, were/are on the wrong side of all 4 issues. The State Senate, to its credit did far better in these areas than the House.

There are 51 members in the State House, 47 were elected as Democrats and 4 as Republicans. There are 25 State Senators and 24 are Democrats and only one is a Republican. So yes, at first glance Hawaii’s legislature is overwhelming Democratic.
One would think they would be overwhelmingly in support of issues pertaining to economic, social and environmental justice. But sadly, this is not the case.

HB499 CD1 deals with extending leases on ceded and other public lands. Every single credible organization in Hawai’i dealing with environmental or Hawaiian land and public trust protections is vehemently opposed to this measure.

The vote in the House was 15 opposed to 36 in support. 9 Senators opposed and 16 were in support.  

SB676 SD1 if passed, would have increased the minimum wage from $10.10 to $12 in 2022 and was actively supported by over 38 different labor/worker organizations, the Democratic Party of Hawai’i, and numerous others. Though SB676 passed in the Senate, the House chose not to even schedule it for a hearing.

The most common excuse given by Representatives was “this is not a good year.”  Needless to say it’s never a good year for the business lobby. Even though SB676 SD1 was not scheduled to take effect until July of 2022 and 20 other states are in fact increasing their minimum wage this year, the House chose to not even allow low wage workers a chance to voice their opinion.

SB614 SD2 if passed, would have eliminated the state income tax on unemployment benefits received in 2021 as a result of COVID. Again, while the Senate voted in support and passed it, leadership in the House refused to even schedule a public hearing on the issue.

Yet every Representatives and every Senator voted yes on HB1278 CD1 which awarded businesses $700 million in tax relief. That’s correct. They gave business $700 million and gave the unemployed nothing. Not even a public hearing on the issue.

SB726 CD1 also known as Breonna’s law would have prohibited “no-knock warrants” and required police officers in Hawai’i to knock and announce themselves prior to breaking someone’s door down. 

SB726 CD1 was passed in both the House and the Senate however in an 11th hour parliamentary maneuver, House Speaker Scott Saiki killed it on the floor of the House. There was no public reason given, the Speaker simply said he was killing the bill and the entire House or Representatives went along with it. While several Representatives promptly objected to this action in writing – the vast majority did nothing.

I know and have worked closely over the years with many who serve in that big square building in downtown Honolulu. The vast majority are pleasant, personable, and well-meaning members of their community. 

However if the goal is to protect the environment and public trust lands, level the economic playing field, help those that need it the most, and push back hard against injustice at all levels – we need much more than pleasant, personable and well-meaning.

We need leaders who truly understand the urgency of the moment and the importance of these core values.  

2022 will be a watershed year in Hawaii politics. I encourage all to step up to the challenge. Run for office. Find a candidate you like and join their campaign. Do something. Get involved. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Looking at the political landscape across the archipelago, and not wanting to risk the core message getting buried in nuance – I will close with the obvious: Electing just 11 new State Representatives and 4 new State Senators – can change our world here in Hawaii for the better.

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Who is behind HB499CD1 – ?

As you may have heard by now, unfortunately a majority in the House and Senate voted to pass HB499CD1.

The good news is that there was an actual public vote so legislators had to openly declare whose side they are on.

The below 24 legislators deserve our deepest appreciation for making the right choice. Please send an email of thanks to these friends in the House and Senate who voted No on HB499CD1.

15 Representative(s) DeCoite, Eli, Ganaden, Gates, Har, Hashem, Kapela, D. Kobayashi, Kong, LoPresti, McKelvey, Perruso, Takumi, Tam, Wildberger – voted No.
All Representative Contact Info is here.

9 Senator(s) Acasio, Fevella, Ihara, Keohokalole, Kim, Nishihara, Rhoads, Riviere, Shimabukuro  – voted No.
All Senator Contact Info is here.

For those who are wondering what the magic number is, it’s 26 votes in the House and 13 votes in the Senate. That’s what it takes to pass or kill a bill. So we were 11 votes short in the House and 4 votes short in the Senate.

Any legislator not on the above list cast a vote in the affirmative and chose to side with development and business interests over environmental and public trust protections. 

This is democracy at work. Unlike so many other bills that are decided without public votes, at least with HB499CD1, constituents now know clearly where their Senator and Representative stand on this issue.

I am sure that each of the Yes voting legislators will have their justification arguments figured out by now. 

Please do not accept the excuse by legislators who purport to be “friends of the environment” or “progressives” and yet chose to straddle this issue with a WR (a yes vote but “with reservations”). 

To be clear – these indivuals let us down. Big time.

If 4 of the WR’s in the Senate had voted No instead of WR, HB499CD1 would have died.

On one side you have champions of the environment and public trust lands opposing HB499CD1.  On the other, you have development and big business in support.

Leading the charge in opposition testimony is the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). Also offering testimony in opposition and signatories of a collaborative letter urging legislators to vote NO are:

The Sierra Club of Hawaii, Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, EarthJustice, Conservation Council for Hawaii, KAHEA: The Hawaiian- Environmental Alliance, Kanaeokana, ʻĀina Aloha Economic Futures, Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi Kōmike Kalaiʻāina, Nā Kiaʻi Mauna Kea Hui, Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative, Kai Palaoa, King Kamehameha Hawaiian Civic Club, Na Kupuna Moku o Keawe, Dr. Jon Osorio, ʻĪlioʻulaokalani Coalition, Real Food Generation, Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action, Kūpuna for the Moʻopuna, Malu ʻĀina, Waialua Hawaiian Civic Club, Aloha ʻĀina Legal Group, James “Sparky” Rodrigues, Hawaiian Affairs Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi Peace and Justice, Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, West Maui Preservation Association, Mauna Kea Moku Nui ʻAelike/ Consensus Building ʻOhana, Nanaikapono Hawaiian Civic Club, Aloha ‘Āina Life and Education Center, Law Office of Aaron K. Wills, Oʻahu Council of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, Kupuʻāina Coalition, Kahuku Community Association, Temple of Lono, Kū Kiaʻi Kahuku, ‘Ohana Ho’opakele, Pratt Law Hawaiʻi LLC, Edward Halealoha Ayau . Hundreds of individuals also testified in opposition.

On the other side, a review of the public testimony, indicates HB499CD1 was supported by primarily 4 entities: The Department of Land and Natural Resources; Prince Kuhio Plaza; Pacific Resource Partnership; and Stanford Carr Development, LLC.

So yes, the lines drawn are pretty clear. 

HB499CD1 is being framed by its supporters as being about the small leaseholder, the veterinarian, the produce store, and the long time mom and pop enterprise built on leased lands. This argument is simply a smoke screen shielding the bigger players.  

It’s called “rent seeking” and it’s how big business increase their balance sheet purely via the passage of legislation such as HB499CD1.

I encourage all who believe that this legislation is about “helping the little guy” to read the testimony.  You will not find a long line of little guys sending in testimony in support. Instead, you will find major players in the development world who understand Real Estate #101 – The longer the lease the more valuable the asset.

Bills such as HB499CD1 do not happen by accident. Someone asked the primary introducer, Big Island Representative David Tarnas to introduce it and provided the initial language. This is how things work at the legislature. Usually a lobbyist, advocacy group, and or other representative of an “impacted entity” will approach “leadership” and/or their favorite legislator and request a specific bill be introduced.

This is the fundamental question that must be asked.  Who is behind this?  Where did it come from?  On whose bequest did Representative Tarnas introduce it ? 

Anyone who says HB499CD1 is being driven by small leaseholders and mom and pop businesses is either extremely naive or blatantly disingenuous. 

In the area of construction and development advocacy, the Pacific Resource Partnership is without question the most influential organization in the State of Hawaii. They do what they are paid to do and they do it well – but they don’t work for produce stores, veterinarians or mom and pop stores.

My hope is that you will first and foremost contact all of the legislators listed above and thank them for standing strong and voting NO on HB499CD1. 

I would ask also that you make the effort to determine how your own district Representative and Senator voted and acknowledge them appropriately as well. It is critically important for the long game, that your legislators know you are paying attention and following their votes and actions.  Enter your address to Find Your Legislator.

While we lost on this vote, we now know who we can count on when it comes to issues pertaining to land use and the environment. As the 2022 election cycle draws closer, this information will be important.

To all who took the time to, identify their district legislators, and to send the email and make the calls encouraging a No vote on HB499CD1 – please know that your action made a difference. While we did not win this particular round, your actions made a huge impact.

Sincerely,
Gary Hooser
Pono Hawaii Initiative
*Stay tuned for updates on reaching out to the governor to request a veto on HB499CD1.

IMPORTANT DATES
Join with friends in solidarity on May 1 – march and rally in Kalihi and celebrate International Workers Day and the one-year anniversary of the Hawaii Workers Center!  March begins from Kalihi District Park (Kam IV Rd) at 10 am and ends at the Towers of Kuhio Park for an 11 am rally!  Sponsored by the Coalition to Defend and Respect Hawai’i’s Workers. Watch this fun 60 second promo video and help spread the word!

Sign up for free online organizer training. Please join me and many others and be trained in the art and science of community organizing.  Deadline to apply is May 3.  Information is contained here (scroll down and see links mid-way in this past email.

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