Time to pivot hard to local elections.

If you are both saddened and outraged by what happened to George Floyd, and what is happening in cities and towns across the country – know that I am as well. Inspired by the thousands who have taken to the streets, but sad and outraged that they have been forced to do so.

If you are disgusted by the actions of our political leaders in Washington D.C., I get it.

If you are disappointed with local politics, and tired and broke, and totally over dealing with unemployment, COVID, and the craziness engulfing the world – I get that too.

While we may not be able to change the greater world in the next 60 days, we can change the world locally here in Hawaii.

My hope is that we can shake off the bad stuff for a moment anyway, and focus on our local elections. The 2020 primary election voting will start on July 21 and end on August 8. We have several high-quality candidates and we need to help them get elected.

The reality is we need to do this because of the bad stuff. We need to vote for change because of how COVID has been handled, because doctors and nurses don’t have PPE’s, because we have people in breadlines and others that still await their unemployment checks, and yes because of police brutality and racial inequality.

We need to peacefully protest, and fight for meaningful change here in Hawaii by supporting those candidates who share our values, who believe in economic, social and environmental justice – and who are fighting for the opportunity to serve us.

The primary election is on August 8th, and voting will start on July 21. We have good candidates running on every island. They can win, but not without your help. Your ACTIVE help and financial support is critical. Trust me for a second and know that even a $10 or $25 contribution is helpful and important to these candidates. Equally important is helping with phone banking, letter writing, putting up signs in your yard, and a bumper sticker on your car.

There are over a dozen strong and worthy candidates running for election to the State House of Representatives. These are individuals who support the core principle of putting people and the planet over corporate interests, and who have the strength of character to rise above the culture of fear and self-interest that now permeates the House. Each of these candidates deserves our collective support and I will be highlighting manyß of them in the coming days. If I miss some that you believe should be included, please let me know.

Any candidate that wants to talk is also welcome to call. I understand that some candidates are afraid of being labeled “too progressive”. If that’s the case, the truth is IMHO they are probably not progressive enough, and certainly not bold enough.
#notimeforwimps #noplaceforwimps #boldleadersnow

Bottom line: We are fortunate to have several excellent candidates who are running for election and who can win, but to do so they need our support now. There are less than 60 days left and we must collectively push very hard.

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“All in for Kim” –

Kim Coco Iwamoto’s response she posted on FaceBook (see below) to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser article announcing my decision to step down as Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii and my endorsement of her campaign to the State House of Representatives, brought a tear to my eye and warmth to my heart.

“This is one of the most moving endorsements I have ever received. Thank you Gary Hooser for stepping down in order to raise me up. I don’t mean to be reductive about either of our unique lived experiences, BUT DAMN, Gary!: You might be the first middle-aged, heterosexual, white man to give up such power and access to support a middle-aged, bisexual, transwoman of color to step up to power!#FeministRecoveryPlan #RaisingUpWomen #transgender #PostTimesUp #AlliesInAction #ButDamnGary”

Kim Coco Iwamoto

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On DINO’S and Deadlines

June 2 is the filing deadline for prospective candidates interested in running in the upcoming 2020 elections. Those who might be interested in entering the race for County Council, the State House of Representatives, or the State Senate – need to have by the end of that day gathered the required signatures and had them confirmed by the office of elections.

The primary election is on August 8th. So far there are 10 members of the State House of Representatives and 4 members of the State Senate, who are running for reelection, who have no opposition whatsoever. Unless someone files prior to June 2, they will be getting a free ride, all the way through the primary on August 8 and the general on November 4th.

This is every incumbent’s dream, as no opposition means no campaign. It also frees up the person to help fundraise and assist other candidates while not having to worry about their own race.

I believe strongly that competitive primary elections are a good thing. No incumbent wants to hear this but competition makes us all better and Hawaii is essentially a single-party state, with very little political competition. I say this as the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, and I understand it is not a popular thing to say among incumbent Democrats.

The Republican Party has a presence, as does the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, and now the newly formed Aloha Aina Party – but none have grown to be a force sufficient to challenge the entrenchment of incumbents elected under the Democratic Party banner.

The consequence of such dominance, in my personal and unofficial opinion, is that too many of those who serve in public office and label themselves as Democrats are in actuality, Democrats in name only or DINO’s.

The Hawaii State legislature now dominated by Democrats fails year after year to support the Party’s core legislative priorities. The legislature’s leadership, composed entirely of Democrats are known to block, dilute and often outright kill legislative initiatives that propose to increase environmental protection and expand economic justice.

The COVID-19 situation has changed the way campaigns are being run in the short term with zero door-to-door, no traditional political rallies and minimal sign-waving on the highway. This gives those with existing name recognition a huge advantage.

My hope is that Hawaii residents will continue to step up and run for office. The more choice we can give our community, the better the outcome. My further hope is that all will get involved at some level, researching the candidates and issues, picking a campaign, donating a little money, and volunteering to help. New candidates especially, need funding assistance to purchase signs and do the mailings necessary to get the word out.

Being actively involved in the political process is key to holding those elected accountable.

Ensuring that you actually vote on August 8 is of course most important. This year it will be an all mail-in ballot process. Do not expect to go to your traditional polling place to cast your vote because it will be closed – but this is another story.

Seriously thinking about becoming a candidate? If so, reading the below two short pieces might be helpful.



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Title: Legislature: Budget Work Is Only Half Of It

While Hawaii’s legislative leadership is crowing loudly about their proclivity in spending the COVID disaster money, balancing the state budget, and avoiding public worker layoffs and salary cuts – there is far too much still going undone.

The 2020 legislature is expected to adjourn very soon, rather than tackle the many additional challenges facing our collective community. Essentially, we are being told that the help and solutions needed now, must wait until May of 2021.

Legislative leadership no doubt will claim “there’s no money” or “it’s a federal problem and there’s nothing we can do about it”, or “this can wait until next year”. The truth is that with a little creativity, and just a touch of political courage, there is much the state legislature can do about a wide host of issues facing us, NOW.

Space does not allow me the room to list all that Hawaii’s legislative leadership could accomplish today, simply by adjusting state tax policy, but for starters here are some low hanging fruit:

Eliminate the state income tax currently due on unemployment benefits and the $600 per month “Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)” – This is the least our state government can do to help make up for the pain caused by the gross mismanagement of the unemployment application and implementation process.

Make “rent reductions and unpaid rent” a deductible expense for tax purposes, thus rewarding landlords who forgo or voluntarily reduce their rents to long-term tenants. Landlords would then receive a tax benefit above and beyond simply not being taxed on the income.

Create a punitive sized (as in very big) new tax on lending institutions (and related businesses, law firms, collection companies etc) who institute foreclosure proceedings on any Hawaii properties for a period of X years following the start of the COVID-19 stay at home orders.

Eliminate the General Excise Tax (GET) on “fresh food” (not prepared food or processed food) and “long term rental income” thus reducing the cost of living for all residents while supporting local agriculture and healthy meals. The term “fresh food” is utilized here to avoid interstate commerce and tariff restrictions. Obviously both ‘fresh food” and “long term rental income” would need to be defined in law to maximize the public benefits.

Support small farms that actually sell food for local consumption by exempting them from collecting or paying any GET whatsoever (on purchases or sales). This effectively reduces the cost of all of their expenses (equipment, seed, water, etc.) by 4.5% and gives their agricultural products a similar price advantage in the marketplace.

Implement a significant (as in punitive) short-term increase in the Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) to further deter incoming visitors until appropriate screening and testing protocols can be developed and implemented. The tax could then be reduced but ultimately utilized as a “throttle” of sorts to control the number of visitors according to each island’s carrying capacity. This basic concept was presented by Tim Halliday, the chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Hawaii Manoa in the online news publication, Civil Beat.

Dramatically increase the tax on rental cars while retaining “Kama’aina Rates”. This would result in less traffic on the highways as visitors would spend more time within designated resort areas. Funding realized from this tax should be dedicated to supporting mass transit.

There are many ways that Hawaii’s legislative leaders could amend state tax policy to make life better and more equitable during these COVID-19 times. In addition, there is a long wide-ranging list of public policy initiatives that have already undergone 50% of the 2020 legislative session. This work will be effectively dumped in the trash should legislative leadership decide to adjourn without completing the task before them.

Now is not the time to do the minimal, close up the shop and go home. Hawaii deserves better.

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COVID-19 Conspiracy – Connecting the dots, or not

A friend recently posted concerns about her mother being in a nursing home where residents had tested positive for the virus. A commenter quickly chimed in: “They are doing it on purpose. Sending corona people to those homes.”

That commenter, and many others, appear to believe that the pandemic is part of an international effort intended to depopulate the planet while making billions in profits off the vaccine.

Some versions of the theory end in the total subjugation of the remaining population via “medical martial law”. Others believe the vaccine will contain a microchip allowing government to monitor every citizen’s, every move. 5G cell-phone technology is also seen as a key factor in the overall scheme.

Almost daily, I receive email from people urging me to watch various YouTube videos of interviews with seemingly rational and educated experts asserting with the utmost confidence various scenarios.

The basic premise is that entities such as Bill Gates, the Rockefeller Foundation, George Soros, the Deep State, Jeff Bezos, the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC), and/or (fill in the blank), have individually or collectively, in collaboration with China, Russia, the Central Intelligence Agency CIA), Israel, and/or (fill in the blank), engineered and deliberately released into the world the COVID-19 virus.

The online chatter supporting various theories as to the origin of the virus and the intent of various persons, countries, and organizations, has in my opinion, gone way, way over the top.

The nature of a conspiracy theory is that it connects the dots of “known truths” with dots of “well, it could be true”, “it was once true”, “someone told me it was true”, and circling back around to “known truths”, with the dots accumulating and spreading in an ever-widening ring. The more the cycle is repeated, the more believable it becomes.

It is true that overpopulation is seen by many as a primary cause of much of our planet’s problems. It’s also true that many organizations have studied and implemented various strategies over the years, from increased access to birth control to government mandates, in an effort to slow population growth.

It’s also true that there is a segment of the population for whom vaccines aren’t good for, with some people becoming sick, or dying, from adverse reactions to certain vaccines.

Various groups and governments have over the years prepared for a COVID-19 type pandemic and even stockpiled supplies in anticipation. That does not mean they engineered it and made it happen.

The well known right-wing talk radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh is fond to say, “Well it could be true!” He is of course, correct. And also incorrect. This type of empty rhetoric echoed by many around the globe is the fuel that every conspiracy theory relies upon.

The earth could also be flat and, in fact, I could show you a dozen studies and a bunch of YouTube videos by ostensibly credible people to prove it.

But it ain’t true.

To be clear, I have an inherent distrust of “big pharma”, “big healthcare” and “big money” and I am fully aware that there are bad people, countries, businesses, and various organizations that do bad and arguably very evil things in the world.

But I cannot imagine or believe a scenario where a virus like this is developed and intentionally released as a strategy to achieve world domination, or as a way to make money.

I do my best to also “connect the dots” and come to my own conclusions about life. I look first and again last to those people in my community whom I trust. I also review a wide range of media. When a provocative “statement of fact” is made, I look for the source and do my best to determine if the fact is credible or not.

I often bounce these columns off of friends for review prior to submitting for publication. I was told by a reviewer today: “You are writing an article attempting to reason with irrational people; I don’t know if you can win”.

Perhaps that is the case. But if true, and I cannot win, at least I can have the last word. Suffice to say in conclusion, that we are all better served by making sure the dots we connect are based upon facts, reason, and an underlying faith in humanity.

https://garyhooser.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/gary-in-black-jacket-in-geneva-e1568144076442.jpg?w=200″ alt=”” width=”200″ height=”300″ class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-1677″ />

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Hawaii’s legislative leaders need to step up, or step aside

Our economic house is on fire. Passing a handful of budget measures supporting shovel-ready construction projects is not enough. Borrowing money from the federal government to avoid public worker layoffs and pay cuts, while critically important, is still not enough. There are far too many critical issues.

At the very top of the list are 230,000 newly unemployed workers struggling to pay their rent and feed their families. Most have spent many weeks without income and remain locked in a 24/7 seemingly futile effort to just submit an application for benefits they are entitled to.

The Legislature must step up now to provide immediate emergency financial support for those many families who through no fault of their own, remain entangled in this massive government fail.

Many of our recently unemployed friends and neighbors will also soon be losing their employer-mandated health insurance. Will the rush for MedQuest result in a similar administrative overload and subsequent breakdown?

Hard, tough, and thoughtful decisions surrounding our economic future must be made and they should not have to wait until the 2021 legislative session concludes next May, to be resolved.

Restarting and diversifying our economy needs immediate attention and the effort must start with a commitment to local agriculture and food self-sufficiency. Importing 90% of our food while exporting 100% of those dollars, is beyond ludicrous. The multiplier effect of those same dollars spent on local food, supporting local farmers is beyond significant. Add in the world market for high quality, organic and “Hawaii branded” agricultural products, and the economic potential goes through the roof.

Small farmers, small technology, small entrepreneurship and small business is where Hawaii should put its hopes, dreams and its dollars. To further kick-start and “seed” Hawaii’s economic diversification, the Legislature should consider a grant-in-aid program for local entrepreneurs focused on food-self sufficiency, import-substitution, recycling and natural resource protection.

Tourism remains a pillar of our economy, but its reopening must be managed with great care.

Anyone listening to the coconut wireless is clearly aware that the once-pent-up hostility among residents toward visitors, is no longer so pent-up. Increasingly, the anger and resentment have become more open and more ugly.

Allowing visitors to return prematurely without adequate health screening/testing and setting off a new round of COVID-19 infections, risks the explosion of an outright war between locals and tourists. This situation must not be treated lightly by the industry or by government. It is reality.

Many local residents are tired of the traffic and of the crowded beaches. They are tired of sharing the islands with “outsiders” and getting little in return. Unless they actually work in the industry, the average citizen sees no tangible benefit, only the inconvenience, and hassle.

Via changes in state and county laws, rules, permitting requirements, tax incentives, and tax/penalty disincentives, Hawaii’s visitor industry must be reshaped to the benefit of local residents.

For starters, hotels, resorts, airlines, and vacation rentals must pay every worker a living wage and health benefits; purchase their food from local farms and ranches; and educate their guests on cultural and local norms.

Visitor industry “carrying capacity” has exceeded its limits. New resort development must be frozen, and vacation rentals reduced. The transient accommodations tax must be increased with future automatic increases linked to rising visitor counts. Rental car taxes must also be significantly increased, decreasing traffic and supporting public transportation.

Commercial activity in public recreational areas should be banned on Sundays, and beach parks must set aside free parking for residents.

This moment in time represents a unique opportunity to reshape and revitalize our collective future. Our legislative leaders need to step up, or step aside.

First Published in the Honolulu StarAdvertiser on May 10, 2020

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Putting policy, politics and a pandemic into perspective

There is nothing quite like taking a long walk on the beach to put life in perspective.

While it’s far too easy sometimes to wallow in our misfortune, the truth is that many, if not most of us who live here in Hawaii, are among the luckiest people on the entire planet.

So my albeit uninvited advice for the day is to take a walk on the beach. Smell the ocean, feel the sand and the seawater between your toes and think about how fortunate you truly are. Yes, social distance and wear a mask as may be appropriate but take some time today or tomorrow, and go for a walk.

Those of us fortunate to live here and who are able to actually take that walk on the beach, are indeed privileged. If you have a family member or friend who is elderly or otherwise unable to walk, perhaps offer them a chair on the sand while you walk so they might also feel the ocean breeze and soak in the beauty of nature and the sea.

Credit for my walks without question goes to my wife Claudette. She is an avid walker and recently taken to dragging me out of bed early so we can be on the beach walking by 7am. We walk a stretch of coastline nearby that’s mostly deserted and devoid of other humans at that time of the morning.

Accompanied by our dog Max we walk a few miles along the coast, navigating the massive tree trunks buried in the sand, the twisted piles of driftwood, and the occasional rain squalls that come through from the east. We have that hour or two mostly to ourselves, sharing it only with an occasional fisherman or random jogger who without fail, gives us a smile and a pleasant good morning.

Our walk is mostly one of solitude. Claudette searches out and collects small pieces of driftwood, scraps of fish-net and other unique treasures to be incorporated into her craft creations that have taken up what seems like permanent residence, across our kitchen table.

Meanwhile, with Max on the requisite leash, he and I are on our own, walking together mostly along the high wash of the waves. Myself deep in thought while Max pulls me every-which-way smelling (and occasionally attempts to chew) anything and everything in his path. Max (Maximus Aurelius) is a bundle of joy, who also when permitted to do so, loves to play in the ocean. On some days, once we reach a point along the coast where no other human being or animal can be seen for at least a mile in either direction, Max is allowed to frolic in the waves. For those that worry about such things (and as a former State Senator and Councilmember, I count myself as one of those people), the leash law does not appear to apply to dogs swimming in the ocean.

During those early morning walks the troubles of our world seem to melt away.

Like everyone else, I worry about paying bills on the first of every month and about staying healthy. I worry about my family, about my extended ohana, and about the future of our community. Frankly, I worry about the planet.

But taking a walk on the beach early in the morning helps clear the worry from my brain. Looking out over the ocean, looking down what is essentially a wild coastline, watching Claudette intent on searching out and finding her treasures and Max who is locked into a veritable dog-heaven of smells and sensory overload – brings me a sense of peace and contentment.

Regardless of what the future might bring, we who call this place home are truly the luckiest most fortunate people alive on the planet today.

To be clear, I am optimistic about our future. Perhaps it’s because my life has historically been filled with very high peaks, and also sometimes deep almost bottomless valleys. Yet those valleys did have a bottom, and I know without a shred of doubt that this valley too has a floor, and across that floor on the other side lies another peak.

I encourage all to remember where you live and remember and appreciate just how fortunate you are. Go for a walk on the beach, recharge your batteries, and then get back to work protecting that which you love and building a positive future for yourself, your immediate ohana, and for our collective community.

First published 05/05/2020 in The Garden Island Newspaper

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