The fundamental political question

Bob Dylan sang that regardless of your station in life, “You gotta serve somebody…”

My question today of those who serve in public office, who aspire to future election, or who serve now in other positions of public trust – who do you serve?

When push comes to shove, whose side are you on?

Do you believe that we’re all in this together, or that it’s every person for themself?

Do you believe we have a collective, personal and societal obligation to help the weak and those with less, or for you is it only the strong that should survive?

Do you believe everyone deserves a seat at the table, bigotry is unacceptable, and diversity must be embraced?

We all look at the world through our own unique lens. We all have biases and as much as they might try our government decision-makers cannot be all things to all people. Yes, we must strive to be balanced and fair. But at the end of the day, there are many decisions that can go either way.

Do you see those folks living under the bridge and in the bushes as a blight on our community, or as unfortunate souls in need of our help and support? Do you brag to your friends about how you worked 2 or 3 jobs to get to where you’re at, and they should do the same? Do you say to yourself and others, “It’s their own damn fault”? Or do you believe one job should be enough, that everyone deserves access to housing that is affordable, and that maybe, just maybe it’s not their own damn fault?

Is your inclination to favor the needs of those at the top, confident their success will “trickle down” to everybody else? Or do you believe that those who earn more, own more, and consume more, should pay more and carry a greater share of societal needs?

Are you willing to increase taxes for those at the top in order to fund health care, housing, education, and environmental protection?

Are you willing to say no to developers seeking to build projects that have significant negative environmental, cultural, and societal impacts? Yes, I’m referring to the 30-year-old Coco Palms Resort debacle, and oh so many other poorly planned and unneeded developments.

When the health impacts of dangerous but commonly used chemicals are made known, are you willing to push back against those that use and profit from them? Yes, I speak of pesticides like glyphosate and so many others. Read this excellent and short Civil Beat piece: Are Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Harmful To Humans?

Do you believe all workers deserve a living wage, paid sick leave, and retirement plans that allow them to grow old in dignity?

Do you believe climate change and global warming represent an existential threat to our planet, or is it all much ado about nothing and we should just move along, balance the budget, and worry instead about the potholes and speed bumps?

These are questions we should ask of all who aspire to serve in positions where these decisions are made. It’s not so much what political party you belong to, nor what high school you attended, who your aunty is, nor even about how nice a person you are, how hard you work, or how many events you show up at.

It’s about the core of your values and your bias.

I opened with a song by Bob Dylan and will close with one by Pete Seeger.

“They say in Harlan County, there are no neutrals there.
You’ll either be a union man, or a thug for J. H. Blair.
Which side are you on boys? Which side are you on?”

Gary Hooser
*Trust me on this: Click and view the YouTube Bob Dylan performance that he gave at the Grammys, singing “You gotta serve somebody” – awesome performance. Listen to the lyrics and check out the backup singers.

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Title: Dr. Green Becomes Governor Green – First Steps

Governor-elect Dr. Josh Green will be sworn into office at 12 noon Monday, Dec. 5, 2022 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center Arena.

I wish him well.

It’s no secret that my enthusiastic support in the gubernatorial race was behind Congressman Kai Kahele. I was highly critical of L.G. Green’s candidacy and shared my concerns surrounding Green Health International, and his close relationship with Pacific Resource Partnership (PRP) and related SuperPacs.

I am hoping he will prove me wrong and that he is the man he says he is.

We, as a collective community, need me to be wrong on this. We desperately need the leadership and commitment that will be presented in tomorrow’s inaugural remarks.

A recent news report quoted our new Governor as saying one of his top 5 priorities is to “get rid of the tax on food and medication.”

I support this 100% and it’s long overdue. Thank you, Governor Dr. Green.

My hope is the focus will be on locally grown food sold in stores and markets only.

This would incentivize the purchase of locally grown agricultural products over imports. Perhaps the tax benefit would be only for “fresh food” or “non-processed food” or whatever definition is needed to avoid interstate commerce issues.

Food self-sufficiency in general must be a priority for all of us. We must all make that extra effort to purchase from local farmers and eat at local restaurants that serve local food.

While the incoming administration has announced many of the new cabinet appointments, the Director of the Department of Agriculture (DOA) has yet to be filled. My hope is it will be someone outside the box who understands both the challenges and the value of local agriculture – small farms producing local food for local consumption.

Too often, past Directors have “talked the talk” as to supporting small farmers, understanding and believing in the value of organic principles, etc. But at the end of the day, they showed their true colors by embracing agrochemical companies and “big ag” as the preferred vision of Hawaii’s agricultural future.

Former Director of Agriculture Scott Enright, a very nice man with a very strong resume, symbolizes the past so well. He could talk the talk with local farmers, and he knew the right words to talk organic as well. However, his bias became ultimately clear when one of his first customers as a paid lobbyist is the euphemistically named Western Plant Health Association whose membership includes 90% of the “crop protection” (chemical companies) in the western United States. He continues as their lobbyist today and will no doubt be lobbying their interests before the 2023 legislature.

Unfortunately, the Western Plant Health Association has scheduled its upcoming October annual meeting on Kauai – ground zero for these companies and a proving ground for the toxicity they bring to the planet.

We need a Director of Agriculture who truly understands and gets it. Small ag and locally grown nutritious food is where the focus should be. We don’t need further wolves in sheep’s clothing who know how to placate the small farmer, but who truly hang with the corporates of big ag.

Ditto with the Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). We don’t need no corporate green-washers. We do need and want someone who understands, supports, and believes in their core the public trust responsibilities that come with this job.

The same goes for the Department of Hawaiian Homelands – I agree getting the land back into the hands of native Hawaiians must be a top priority and it seems an obvious and positive step in the right direction. Thank you again Governor-elect Green.

But let’s look beyond those lands held currently by the DHHL. Let’s take back those lands now occupied by the military, but largely unused (or misused) – on every island.

14 new directors have been named, of which only 4 of them are women. There’s no shortage of qualified women serving in various for-profit and non-profit leadership positions throughout Hawaii. Hopefully, our new Governor will provide a bit more balance as he moves forward to identify his remaining key cabinet positions.

My further hope is that myself and others will be able to testify in enthusiastic support at the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings.

Gary Hooser

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Hawaiʻi Policy & Politics – Swearing an oath is not enough

Soon, our elected leaders will be raising their right hands to swear an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, the State Constitution, and the County Charter.

We should insist our elected leaders actually follow through with that commitment and that they pay particular attention to the words “may” and “shall”.

When writing legislation or legal documents, deciding whether to use the words “may” or “shall” is a major decision. This isn’t just a minor editing choice but a legal decision with legal ramifications.

Our State Constitution Article III, Section 12 says – “Every meeting of a committee in either house or of a committee comprised of a member or members of both houses held for the purpose of making decision on matters referred to the committee shall be open to the public.”

This doesn’t say that legislators may choose to meet for decision-making in private if it happens to be more convenient. And it doesn’t allow private meetings to discuss committee decisions because meeting in public would be awkward, cumbersome, or too time-consuming. It says clearly they shall only have these meetings in public.

Virtually everyone who is familiar with the current legislative process will agree that this provision of the Constitution is violated frequently and with impunity.

The various Committee Chairpersons regularly meet behind closed doors, with other Committee Members, and with lobbyists representing stakeholders “for the purpose of making a decision.” The Chair will then schedule a public committee meeting to announce the decision previously made in private. This process clearly violates the State Constitution.

The County Charters establish the structure and organization of County government. Unlike the Federal and State Constitution, the various County Charter’s utilize broad language requiring each to promote the general welfare of its residents.

The State Constitution however provides specific County mandates.

Article 11 Section 1 of the State Constitution states, “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, minerals and energy sources, and shall promote the development and utilization of these resources in a manner consistent with their conservation and in furtherance of the self-sufficiency of the State.“

The County is a political subdivision of the State and therefore also responsible for the conservation and protection of all of our natural resources. When confronted with environmental threats, the County may not disavow responsibility and just point to the State Department of Health or the State Department of Land and Natural Resources etc..

Furthermore, Article IX Section 6 of the State Constitution says, “The State and its political subdivisions… shall plan and manage the growth of the population to protect and preserve the public health and welfare…each political subdivision, as provided by general law, may plan and manage the growth of its population in a more restrictive manner than the State.”

The County shall protect and conserve all of our natural resources and shall manage population growth to protect and preserve public health and welfare.

This doesn’t say that County officials may protect the environment or manage the population if they so choose. It says clearly they shall do it.

Those involved in the actual work of environmental protection and growth issues will tell you the County and the State are failing badly in both of these areas. Take a look at the traffic, or at the lack of sewers and related sewage treatment facilities. Of if you need further convincing check out the coastal water quality monitoring. If you think our population is being managed adequately and that the public welfare is being cared for properly, try to find an affordable house to rent.

We have the correct words in our constitution – we just need our elected leaders to follow the law they are swearing an oath to.

*emphasis in above constitutional provisions is mine

P.S.

Can you help me with something? I want to see if there is any legislator whatsoever who will say I am incorrectly interpreting the Hawaii State Constitution Article III, Section 12 that says – “Every meeting of a committee in either house or of a committee comprised of a member or members of both houses held for the purpose of making decision on matters referred to the committee shall be open to the public.”

Will you take a moment and email politely and professionally as always – Speaker of the House Scott Saiki and Senate President Ronald Kouchi?

repsaiki@capitol.hawaii.gov

senkouchi@capitol.hawaii.gov

If you copy your own Districts Representative and Senator that would be totally awesome as well!

Ask them simply to tell you:

Is it true?

Does the Hawaii State Constitution really say this?

Let them know of course, “The courtesy of a reply would be greatly appreciated.”

If they say it’s true, which they must because it is – Then ask them if they believe legislators and legislative committees are following that Constitutional provision, and if not, what can be done to change things.

This is a serious question that deserves an answer.

Please take the time and send an email out today if you can. The more good folks from across all islands who participate, the more likely it is that our State Legislators will stop ignoring the State Constitution – and stop conducting the people’s business behind closed doors.

gh

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Time sensitive and overdue

I’m thankful that you take the time to click on my blog and open and read my email. Seriously, the fact that you’re taking the time to read what I write, is for me hugely motivating – it makes me want to be better, to always add value, and hopefully on occasion make you smile.

I am especially appreciative when you email testimony and make those phone calls to lawmakers – your involvement makes a difference.

Please take the time this week if you can to send your state legislators a short note, thanking them for their service and encouraging them to support publicly funded elections for Hawaii, similar to Maine and Arizona AND to also support the recommendations forthcoming from the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct.

It goes without saying that financial support for candidates, for Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI), for HAPA, and especially for the Wailuanui/CocoPalms initiative – is also hugely appreciated. No contribution is too small and the collective support of many is important.

Over $200,000 in pledges for Wailuanui have come in so far with individual pledges ranging from $50 to $30,000. While still short of the $1,000,000 goal, the outpouring of community support has been gratifying. For more information on how to make a pledge go to Wailuanuiahoʻāno – reclaiming Coco Palms – fundraising updates.

I’m especially thankful today for each and every candidate who put their name forward and ran for public office. I know personally how hard it is to run a political campaign and the deep emotions that come with both winning and losing.

A huge mahalo and congratulations are in order for the 12 alumni of the HAPA Kuleana Academy who were elected or reelected to serve in the State House of Representatives and on various County Councils. A full list is here at Hoʻomaikaʻi Kuleana Academy Alumni!!!

I’m thankful for my family, for my life circumstances that allow me to live on Kauai, and for the network of friends living across all the islands and beyond.

I’m thankful, and I’m committed to the ongoing work and our collective responsibility of making our planet a better place for all.

Wishing you and your ohana a safe, relaxing, and satisfying Thanksgiving holiday!

Sincerely,
Gary Hooser

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Same Day Voters Choose Aiona/Tupa’i

Kauai County gets bragging rights with the highest voter turn-out of all counties with 51% of registered voters, actually casting their vote. Hawaii County was second with 49.3%, Honolulu third with 48.9%, and Maui was last at 45.7%.

Actually, Kauai County has had those same bragging rights for the past 3 election cycles and had the highest voter turnout of all Counties also in 2020 at 72.1% (versus 66.4% for Maui) and in 2018 with 58.1% (Maui was 52.4%).

Drilling down deeper we find that District #16 (Wailua to Puhi) had a 52% turnout, #17 (Koloa to Kekaha) was 51.7%, and #15 (Kapaa to Haena) was at the bottom with 47.4%.

What else do the numbers say? For those with time on their hands, go to the Office of Elections “Results” page https://elections.hawaii.gov/election-results/ – select 2022 “Statewide Precinct Detail” and scroll down.

Kauai voters showed the least amount of enthusiasm for the Green/Luke gubernatorial ticket of any County with 57.5% voting in support. Hawaii County with 65.1% showed the strongest support, followed by Maui with 64.7%, and Honolulu at 61.5%.

Another interesting tidbit: 3.4% of Kauai voters left the gubernatorial selection blank. All other counties had 1.5% or fewer blank votes for this choice.

Kauai has a history of being the renegade, the separate kingdom, and the island that was never conquered. Where else does Kauai County stand out when the election numbers are tallied?

3% of Kauai residents chose to vote on November 8th, the final day of the election. Hawaii County was next at 2.4%, Maui had 2% and Honolulu was at 1.7%.

If the election for Governor and Lieutenant Governor were decided by Kauai residents that voted “in-person” then Duke Aiona and Seaula “Junior” Tupa’i would soon be moving into the 5th-floor suite at the Capitol. They won the in-person vote in every single precinct.

The voters of Niihau also voted overwhelmingly for the Aiona/Tupa’i Republican ticket with 80% of their 61 votes (mail and in-person) going for that duo.

If the in-person voters were selecting our U.S. Senator, it’s also likely that Republican Bob McDermott would have defeated incumbent Democrat Brian Schatz.

Conventional wisdom would say that many but certainly not all of the in-person voters are those that do not trust the “all mail voting system”. These would tend to fall into the categories of “election deniers”, Q’anon, MAGA Republicans, independents, and other procrastinator types who may or may not have drunk the Kool-Aid.

When analyzing the data it is interesting that each of the 3 Republican candidates running for State Representative: Greg Bentley, Steve Yoder, and Michael Wilson each received about 23% of the votes. This would lead one to believe that the Republican-leaning base equals about this same number. However, the Gubernatorial Aiona/Tupa’i Republican ticket garnered 39% of the vote. Translation: About 16% of the voters chose Aiona/Tupa’i but did not choose the other Republicans.

What does this all mean? Frankly, it’s troubling to think that nearly 40% of voters are willing to support two individuals positioned so far to the right. Both Aiona/Tupa’i oppose marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose. They would prefer the church control the decision on marriage and the government control a woman’s choice over her own reproductive health.

The next thing you know, they will be telling us what books we may or may not read. Oh, I forgot, they are already doing this.

And yes, the Green/Luke ticket was imperfect as well and I’ve not shied away from saying so.

If there is a silver lining, it’s that the vote was 57.5% to 39% and not the 49.7% to 49.5% we are seeing in other places.

Fortunately, we live in a place where though we may have our differences, we can discuss them without vitriol – occasional snarkiness and sarcasm perhaps but without the vitriol. For at the end of the day we are neighbors who count on each other.

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Hawaiʻi Policy & Politics: We need changemakers, not placeholders.

What do we want those we just elected or re-elected to actually do during the coming year?

Personally, I’m looking for changemakers, not just placeholders.

Yes, balancing the budget is important but there’s an algorithm for that. We need more than just balancing the budget, much more.

Pie in the sky you say. Our politicians will do what they’ve always done. A few will propose the changes to public policy (bills) needed to move us forward. Others will argue in support of maintaining the status quo saying that there are too many unanswered questions and the risk of unintended consequences is too great. Most will simply wait to see which way the wind is blowing. They will talk about it, strike a pose for the camera, speak with force and passion, and then they will do nothing. They will simply hold the space, vote to balance the budget and show up at the next community event or ribbon cutting.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But to change things, we must get more involved and we must reach out to our elected leaders, via email, telephone, and in person – and let them know of our expectations and priorities.

Truly affordable housing – must be everyone’s priority. There are many tangible things that can be done on the County and State levels to make this happen. Increased investment in sewer and water infrastructure, tax incentives, density bonuses, and a focus on the redevelopment of existing urban areas make sense. What doesn’t make sense is expanding development into virgin agricultural lands, building more highways, and sacrificing the environment to generate increased profits for developers and landowners.

Another huge priority and the one reform that makes all other reforms possible is publicly funded elections. Several states offer this option for State and County elections and it’s well past time for Hawaiʻi to join them. Big money influence on local elections must be dramatically reduced and publicly funded elections will help make this happen.

“There is no money for affordable housing and no money for publicly funded elections” will be the placeholder’s retort. The changemakers know of course, “When they tell you there’s no money, what they’re really saying is, it’s not a priority.”

There is of course money available for all kinds of things – stadium re-development and endless cost overruns for the rail system are just two that come to mind. Oh, and don’t forget the $7 million drug treatment center in Līhuʻe that’s just sitting there empty.

There are many who profit from our islands but who are not paying their fair share. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) export their untaxed profits to the continent. Mainland real estate investors pay lower property taxes here than back home, wherever they may be from. No hotels are closing up and going away because our taxes are too high. Tell me again why are we giving these guys a break?

If the electorate (you and me) let the elected know what our expectations are now, before the next legislative session or the next Council meeting – perhaps 2023 can be different. And if 2023 is no different, in 2024 we can encourage and support others to run and replace the do-nothing placeholders with do-something changemakers.

What we absolutely don’t need is more politicians flooding the airwaves and our mailboxes bragging about how much money they brought home to the district – much of this is automatic and would happen regardless of who is sitting in that chair.

We need to see instead, election brochures from incumbents bragging about the increased availability of affordable housing, the establishment of publicly funded elections, real steps made toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, expanded mental health services and increased local food production.

The key of course is active community engagement, and that must start today – before the swearing-in. And it must continue relentlessly until the elected do what we the electorate are asking them to do.

Gary Hooser

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11/14/22 – Maui Election Alert!

Maui Election Alert!
Action needed today 11/14/22

Apparently, over 900 Maui ballots have signature issues or were otherwise rejected. Noe Ahia (Wailuku) who is key to maintaining a progressive majority is down by just 504 votes!

Please take action now and go to https://elections.hawaii.gov/ and click on “TRACK YOUR BALLOT” and follow the simple instructions. If you get a message back saying “BALLOT REJECTED,” please call the Maui County Clerk at 808-270-7749 and also email county.clerk@mauicounty.us immediately to “cure” your ballot to make sure it’s counted! This must be done ASAP today 11/14/22 if at all possible.

Note: I went through the “TRACK YOUR BALLOT” process and it’s very easy to do.

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Post election debrief from Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative, “So how did we do?”

For those that value putting people and the planet ahead of profits – I’m calling it a win.

While the national results remain close, it’s clear from a “blue perspective” that we did much better than was being projected almost universally by political pundits on both sides of the aisle. Let’s give a big “hurrah” for John Fetterman, send our love and aloha to Stacey Abrams and Beto O’Rourke, and pray that our friends in Georgia will step up for Warnock.

Below are my thoughts and a summary of what happened last night, focusing only on candidates that were endorsed by Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative (PHI).
https://ponohawaiiinitiative.org

Obviously, there are many candidates who came out on top in their bid for election who were not endorsed by PHI. Some did not seek our endorsement, some did not need it, and some did not want it. But all deserve our heartfelt congratulations for being willing to serve, and for doing the work needed to win. My hope is that all who have been elected will seek to serve in a manner that is honest, open, and collaborative.

Fern Anuenue Holland whom I have known and worked with for years finished a strong #9 but was out of the running in a 7-member Kauaʻi Council race. Fern is verifiably awesome, and an incredibly hard worker with a deep commitment to her community. This was Fern’s first attempt County Council race and I am confident and extremely hopeful that she will run again and win election in the future.

Congratulations are in order for Dr. Addison Bulosan in his second attempt at election to serve on the Kauai County Council slammed it home finishing in a very strong #3 position on the 7-member roster. I was greatly pleased to see him quoted in the media this morning saying that his top priority is to support additional affordable housing construction and use increased taxes on transient vacation rentals (TVR) to pay for it.

Huge kudos also to first-time candidate Matt Weyer who fended off a “big name” and won an important seat at the table of the Honolulu City Council. Unfortunately, my former colleague in the State Senate, Ron Menor came up short in his bid to come back to the Council. Tommy Waters, not surprisingly totally dominated his race and returns to the good work he has been doing on the Council.

On Maui, the progressive block of 4 held on to their Council seats but was not able to reach that vital #5 majority. Mahalo plenty to Keani Rawlins-Fernandez – Molokai, Gabe Johnson – Lanai, Tamara Paltin – West Maui, and Shane Sinenci – East Maui. If ever there was a dream team this is it. My hope is that this journey will only strengthen the bonds and mutual commitment that have led to so many incredible accomplishments for Maui County.

The voters of Maui also elected 3 very strong mana wahine to serve in the State House of Representatives: Terez Amato, District 11 (South Maui), Mahina Poepoe, District 13 (Haiku, Ko’olau, Hana, Kaupo, Kipahulu, Paia, Lanai, Moloka’i), Elle Cochran, District 14 (West Maui, Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu).

First-time Maui Council candidates who did not make it this time: Noelani Ahia – Wailuku, Waihee, Waikapu, Nara Boone – Makawao, Haiku, Paia, Jordan Hocker – Upcountry, and Robin Knox – South Maui. These 4 should hold their heads high as all represented their communities well, all ran strong campaigns, and I hope all will run again in 2024.

A special shout-out to Jenn Kagiwada who in her very first election attempt succeeded in securing a seat on the Hawaii Island County Council. She joins a stellar group including Heather Kimball, Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder, and Rebecca Villegas.

State House candidate Natalia Hussey-Burdick (Kailua, Kāne’ohe) prevailed finishing very strong against a well-funded anti-choice opponent. Natalia probably deserves the “best campaign award” as she did it all by knocking on doors, holding signs on the highway, attending coffee hours and community meetings, telephone and text banking, investing in social media and traditional media, direct mail, and raising the funds to make it all happen while rejecting PAC and big business/development money.

Progressive incumbents in the State House who also will be coming back include: Amy Perruso, District 46 (Wahiawā, Whitmore Village, Launani Valley), Sonny Ganaden, District 30 (Kalihi Kai, Pearl Harbor/Hickam), Adrian Tam, District 24 (Waikiki, McCully, Moiliili) and Jeanné Kapela, District 5 (North Kona, South Kona, West Ka’u).

Unfortunately and somewhat surprisingly for me, Corey Rosenlee, District 39 (‘Ewa, Waipahu, Kunia, Ho’opili, Waikele) was not able to garner the votes needed. My hope is he will give it another go in 2024 as his values and strength of character would be a huge asset to the institution. Matt LoPresti, District 41 (Ocean Pointe, Hoakalei, ‘Ewa Gentry, ‘Ewa Beach, Kalaeloa, Ko Olina) also struggled to gain traction and fell short. His consistent vote in support of progressive issues will be missed.

Of the 10 Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative endorsed candidates for the State House, 8 made it through the night. To no one’s surprise, another former State Senate colleague and now U.S. Congresswoman Jill Tokuda won a resounding victory in her quest to serve the CD2.

So, as is normally the case – we won some and we lost some.

We must remember to honor, respect, and offer our deep appreciation to those who were willing to “put it out there” on our behalf, but who fell short.

We must also remember that merely casting a vote is not enough. We must show up to testify and to support those who we helped elect. We must back them up. When they are facing the inevitable pressures from big money interests – we must fill the room and push back.

As someone who has felt the sting and the pain of losing my own first race – I know how it hurts. I also know the tremendous personal satisfaction that comes with the knowledge that you are engaged in something important and meaningful.

To all of you who ran – I say thank you. Your willingness to put yourself out in the public light, to do the work, and to make the personal sacrifices needed in order to run the campaigns that you did, is greatly appreciated.

Gary Hooser
http://www.garyhooser.com

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The Hawaiʻi election is pau, but the work continues

Regardless of the final outcomes of the 2022 elections, the real work and the real leadership necessary to improve lives and save our planet – will come only from the electorate and not the elected.

Only through the active engagement of the broader community, will our elected politicians find the strength and courage to make the critically important changes needed. This is the reality at all levels – Federal, State, and County.

Trust me on this. I’ve been there, and know the reality of how our political system works. The votes necessary to regulate environmentally harmful industries will come about only when people on the streets demand it. The political will needed to increase taxes on the very rich to support affordable housing for local residents is only going to happen when the halls of government fill with citizens insisting upon it. And only when the people’s voice drowns out that of the insurance lobby will universal health care for all people, regardless of their ability to pay – become a reality.

A people united will never be defeated, “el pueblo unido jamás será vencido” – comes from one of the most important protest songs in the world.

This is really what it’s all about. Our government leaders are elected by us to represent us, but it’s up to us – to be loud and clear as to our wants, needs, and expectations.

No single charismatic leader is going to rise up and lead us to the promised land. This my friends is not going to happen – at least not to the promised land that I envision. If one should rise up and attempt to be such a leader, you can be sure the forces of money and power would take her out – and/or he would fall to the corruption that such power inevitably leads to.

Elected representative leadership who “lean our way”, directed and supported by an informed and engaged community who take ownership of and responsibility for their government. This is what democracy looks like and this is the only model that will get us through to a better tomorrow.

Translation: We can’t just go vote then go back to Netflix, and expect the world to change for the better. And no, watching Face the Nation, listening to National Public Radio, and posting on social media, are not enough either.

We need active engagement in a true “Civic Square” both in a metaphorical sense and in a real tangible civic infrastructure sense. We need to get to a place where civic matters are regularly discussed at our dinner table, and where not voting, not submitting testimony, and not showing up at a public meeting are the exception and not the rule.

How do we get there?

For starters, we need to demand of those elected to serve us, to instigate and support the civic infrastructure needed. The public needs and deserves legislative bodies that value civic engagement rather than treat it with thinly veiled disdain while waiting impatiently for the 2 or 3-minute testimony clock to beep.

We need legislators at both the County and the State levels who embrace the Sunshine Law rather than seeking ways to avoid it.

We need to get money out of politics and instituting a true and robust publicly funded election program is how we get there.

Fortunately, many of the items needed to rebuild the Civic Square will be contained in recommendations forthcoming by the Hawaii State Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct (CISC). The Commission’s final recommendations are due out on December 2, 2022, and bill drafts and rule change proposals can be found on their website. https://bit.ly/3TeP2oX

The CISC report and how our State Legislature reacts to it will be a litmus test. The recommendations will either be ignored, embraced, or given meaningless lip service accompanied by robust statements of support but no real action.

Please take the time to visit the CISC website, review the proposals, and email them your thoughts now at StandardsofConduct@capitol.hawaii.gov – prior to when the final report is due. This will allow them to possibly include your ideas and suggestions in the final draft.

This is important. I believe the CISC members are sincere in their effort to produce the best, most meaningful report possible.

So let’s help them. And let’s always remember, that el pueblo unido jamás será vencido!

Gary Hooser
http://www.garyhooser.com

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Breaking: Development interests attempting take over of Maui Council

This morning KGMB Hawaii News Now is reporting that big development interests, fueled by millions of dollars of outside money are literally trying to take out and take over the Maui County Council.

The breaking news story is here on Hawaii News Now – Union PAC focuses on Maui races that could flip council to more pro-growth posture

Fortunately, the community is fighting back. Watch this excellent 2-minute video that describes “the competing visions of Maui’s future” and what is really going on.

File this under “can’t make this stuff up”.

Outside big development money is literally attempting a coup in an attempt to take over the Maui County Council.

The audacity of the pro-development forces knows no bounds. It’s disgusting really.

Good luck to the residents of Maui. I don’t live there, but if I did I would be angry, disappointed, and determined not to let this happen – and I would be voting for the Maui ‘Onipa’a 2022 slate!

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