Kauai Council Needs To Rethink – Bill 2774

Councilmember KipuKai Kuali’i and Council Chair Kaneshiro have introduced Bill 2774 that if passed, will effectively eliminate the construction of any future workforce/affordable housing in the town cores of Lihue, Koloa, and Kalaheo.

Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up. I am sure Bill 2774 is well-intentioned, but I am even more sure it is seriously misguided.

Bill 2774 on tomorrow’s Council agenda, proposes to eliminate for a period of ten years the current law requiring at least 30% of all new housing development to be affordable.

The specific language of the proposed Bill 2774 states:

“Sec. 7A-1.4.2 Exemptions.
The workforce housing requirements of this Chapter, shall not apply to
the following:
(a) Projects within the following special planning areas and design
districts, developed at or above the maximum density allowed:
(1) Lihu’e Town Core Urban Design District as defined in
Title IV, Chapter 10, Article 5A.
(2) Koloa Town Walkable Mixed-Use District as defined in
Title IV, Chapter 10, Article 6.
(3) Kalãheo Town Walkable Mixed-Use District as defined in
Title IV, Chapter 10, Article 6.

(In addition to preventing low-income residents from living in the town cores, if passed by the council the construction of new affordable housing will also be eliminated in the below situations as well.)

(b) Projects outside of Visitor Destination Areas and Special Management Areas in residential or mixed-use zoning districts with a density of R-10 or greater, consisting of multiple or single-family attached dwellings, developed at or above the maximum density allowed.
(c) Any affordable or workforce housing development developed by or for the County, either by itself or in partnership with another housing development organization, is exempt from the requirements of this Chapter.
(d) The exemptions in subsection (a) for special planning areas and design districts and in subsection (b) relating to zoning density shall expire ten (10) years from the date of their adoption.”

By eliminating the developer mandate to build a minimum number of workforce/affordable units, you can be assured that there will be no workforce/affordable units constructed. Instead of elimination, the Council should consider incentivization. Don’t get rid of it, but rather make it more attractive.

I have written this in the past, and I will repeat it again here: “The invisible hand makes them do it. Without government serving as a counterbalance, the invisible hand of free enterprise drives all development to sell to the highest bidder. More homes built for the market do not create more affordable housing. The trickle-down theory does not work.”

Developers will build to the top of the market to maximize their profits. Those who believe the addition of market-priced inventory is going to somehow increase the inventory of affordable units have been reading far too much Adam Smith.

In Hawaii, affordable housing equals “below market” housing, which will only be constructed if mandated by the government.

The Council is proposing to create a housing policy that eliminates the requirement for developers to build workforce housing, thus making it more expensive for workers to live in town cores closest to their places of employment.

It is surreal.

Two years ago the Kauai Council doubled the density in the Lihue urban core without obtaining any additional (above the existing 30% requirement) commitment from the landowners to build affordable housing. The value of these Rice Street properties was dramatically and instantly increased, and there was no reciprocal public benefit required by the Council. Now, the Council proposes to increase their largesse to these landowners and many others around the island even further by eliminating completely the meager workforce/affordable housing requirements now in place.

The Council should turn this proposal on its head and increase the requirements for workforce/affordable housing just as they already increased the density. Further, the Council should provide aggressive property tax incentives and other measures that reward and incentivize the development of housing that local residents can actually afford.

Local residents who work in restaurants, offices, and small businesses located on Lihue, Kalaheo, and Koloa deserve to be able to live, work, and play in those same neighborhoods. We need more workforce/affordable housing in our town cores and not less.

Readers, residents, and voters are encouraged to offer testimony via counciltestimony@kauai.gov before noon on Wednesday, July 8th, and/or share thoughts after that date with all seven councilmembers at councilmembers@kauai.gov.

Please, take the time and engage this issue today, with your Kaua‘i County Council.

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Democrats Disappointing Democrats – The realty of policy and politics in Hawaii

“So are you saying that 90% of the House incumbents basically suck?” Question received in response to a recent blog post – at https://garyhooser.blog

“A fair question. Basically, I think that a majority either look at the world through a different lens and/or are too meek to speak out.” I replied.

Readers are invited to grade the State House and Senate themselves. Here are the Democratic Party of Hawaii’s top Legislative Priorities for 2019. Guess how many have been accomplished? Remember, Hawaii’s legislature is composed overwhelmingly of individuals who ran for office and were elected to office under the banner of the Democratic Party. And remember also, this is “pre-COVID-19.”

Tier One – Top Priorities
* Raising the Minimum Wage & Establishing a Living Wage
* Increasing Funding for Public Education
* Legalizing Recreational Cannabis

Tier Two – Important Policies That Need Action
*Establishing Collective Bargaining for Graduate Students
*Investing in Veterans Treatment Court
*Developing Neighbor Island Video Conferencing for Public Hearings
*Establishing Single-Payer Health Care (Medicare for All) in Hawaii

Tier Three – Issues To Begin Working Towards
*Improving Access to Behavioral Health Services
*Reforming our Criminal Justice and Bail System
*Establishing Publicly Funded Elections

The reality is that nothing on this list has been accomplished and barely any meaningful movement at all has occurred. Not in the 2019 session, not in the 2020 regular session and not in the 2020 session now underway. Nada, zip, nothing –

Yes, both the Senate and the House are responsible for the ongoing failure to support the priorities of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, but the House under the leadership of its Speaker, Representative Scott Saiki, has stood out as the #1 culprit in preventing the #1 Party priority from passing into law. In 2019 the Senate was poised to agree to a $15 minimum wage, the Governor had expressed his support for a $15 minimum wage – and House Leadership killed it in conference committee. Meanwhile, the minimum wage sits at $10.10 per hour while the cost to merely subsist, exceeds $17.

So back to the original question: “Do 90% of the House incumbents basically suck?

The answer is clearly no. Are a majority in the House far too timid in their approach to supporting the very basic and straightforward issue priorities put forth by their own political party? The answer here would be yes, and too often that timidity looks and feels like negligence.

Fortunately, there are a handful of champions in the House willing to speak out, who support an actual living wage, who passionately fight for environmental protections, who believe in fully funding education, and that healthcare for all is a human right. And thankfully there are many others who also serve in the legislature that while less bold in their advocacy, would do the right thing and vote the right way IF their leadership actually led the way.

This all begs the question: How do we build a legislative body that has a majority who actually believes in this stuff (economic, environmental and social justice) – and is willing to fight hard for it?

The upcoming Primary Election on August 8th (with ballots being mailed out in less than 3 weeks), is the most urgent and obvious next step toward this goal. Statewide, there are at least 17 candidates running for election to the State House who do believe in this stuff and are willing to fight for it.

The other important part that does not go away regardless of who is elected and who is not – is the ongoing need for basic civic engagement. Each of us must be involved and make paying attention to our government – a permanent requirement of our personal citizenship.

Please take action today, research the candidates running in your district and around the state. Find a candidate or candidates that you like and support them. Get informed, submit testimony, attend the hearings, write letters to the editor and talk to your friends and neighbors about the issues.

We have 3 weeks to meaningfully engage the electoral process statewide, and a lifetime to own our personal civic responsibility.

The choice is ours to make. We can remain complacent and accept the status quo, or fully engage the opportunity before us – and win.

Note: If your values place people and the planet above corporate profits, here is a list of 17 candidates to the Hawaii State House of Representatives you might like. Please support them if you can! https://garyhooser.blog/2020/06/14/rebuilding-the-house-an-almost-complete-list-of-phi-endorsed-candidates/

Please consider also subscribing to my regular (sometimes semi-regular, or even irregular) email newsletter: Go to http://garyhooser.com/#four

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Avoiding The Lines, Avoiding The Chaos,  But Not Avoiding Your Civic Duty

To everyone who values civic engagement and who yearns for a government that is responsive, transparent, and values-based.

You gotta vote.  There are many excellent candidates that can make real change happen, but for them to serve – you need to vote. Here are 17 candidates running for the State House of Representatives that if elected could change the face, the culture, and the direction of policy and politics in Hawaii. https://garyhooser.blog/2020/06/14/rebuilding-the-house-an-almost-complete-list-of-phi-endorsed-candidates/

The upcoming August 8 primary election actually starts in only 3 weeks, when ballots will begin arriving in the mailbox of every registered voter in the state on or about July 21st.

TO RECEIVE A BALLOT IN THE MAIL, YOU MUST BE REGISTERED AND YOUR CORRECT MAILING ADDRESS MUST BE ON FILE AT THE OFFICE OF ELECTIONS BEFORE JULY 9! Visit the Office of Elections website to register to vote or update your information –  https://olvr.hawaii.gov 

Of course, if the Hawaii Legislature would pass SB2005 and institute Automatic Voter Registration (AVR), then you would already be registered and the information on file would be current. Read: https://garyhooser.blog/2019/01/20/the-reforms-that-make-all-other-reforms-possible-starting-with-automatic-voter-registration/

This will be the first regular election that is “all mail-in.” Every registered voter in the state will receive a ballot in the mail and every one of those ballots must be received by the office of elections by August 8th. This is important so I will repeat. For your vote to count, it must be received by August 8th – not mailed by August 8th but RECEIVED.

Yes, you can register and vote on the same day of August 8th but trust me on this one – August 8th is going to be a crazy day for people who wait until the last minute. There will only be two locations on the entire island of Oahu for people to “vote in person” or receive personal assistance on election day, August 8th.  Locations for “vote in person” options on every island will be very limited.

In addition, as you and I both know so very well – many would-be voters will wake up on August 8th and “not be able to find their ballot,” or claim they never got one, or inadvertently “spoil” their ballot and need a replacement. All of these voters will require “in-person” help. At best the main problem will be long lines, but complete chaos on August 8th is not an unlikely scenario.

Imagine for a second what August 8th could be like when an unknown number of voters wake up that morning and go “Oh poop! I forgot to put my ballot in the mail. I need to go down, drop off my ballot and/or vote in person.” On this same day, an also unknown number of new voters are going to have a similar epiphany and realize they forgot to register to vote. 

These hapless but well-intentioned souls will then head to whatever location they have gone to in the past, only to find it is closed. Then, they will call the office of elections to find out where they should go – and that number, of course, will be busy. When and if they eventually find the correct location and arrive there – the line will for sure, already be stretched around the block and then some.

So trust me on this. When the ballots arrive on or about July 21st, please exercise your civic duty and vote promptly. Don’t throw the ballot away thinking it’s junk mail and don’t throw it in the pile on the kitchen table to “look at later” and then end up spending your Saturday on August 8th standing in a long line wishing you were somewhere else.

Your vote matters. Please share this message with friends and family and double-check to make sure you are registered and the correct address is on file. It’s easy, just go to https://olvr.hawaii.gov

And after you do that, please contact your legislator and ask them to schedule and pass SB2005 this year, and pave the way for making it much easier to vote in future elections.

Mahalo for taking ownership of your government.

Best,

Gary Hooser
http://www.garyhooser.com

If you would like to be on my email list and receive additional updates on occasion, please consider subscribing at http://garyhooser.com/#four

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It’s crunch time, and I will not mince words.

As described in “Fear and Loathing and Hope at the Capitol” (https://mailchi.mp/garyhooser/fear-and-loathing-and-hope-at-the-state-capitol) we have before us an opportunity to #RebuildTheHouse

But it ain’t gonna happen without your help. That’s the bottom line my friends. We have a genuine opportunity to fundamentally change the very nature of our government, but to close the deal and make this happen requires you and many others to step up and help.

Across the islands, there are many qualified and credible individuals running for election to the State House. The Pono Hawaii Initiative has endorsed 13 (https://ponohawaiiinitiative.org/endorsements-2020) so far and we continue to review another 5 very promising House candidates.

The 2020 Primary Election of August 8th has the potential to be a game-changer for policy and politics in Hawaii.

The election of Kim Coco Iwamoto (https://www.kimcoco.com) alone would remove the culture of fear and shake the very foundations of the State House. With Kim Coco Iwamoto serving in the State House, issues of economic justice would no longer be shunted to the back of the line. She is experienced in business, is a former legal aid attorney, and has served as a member of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, and on the Hawaii Board of Education. Her commitment to environmental protection is unequivocal.

Currently, no person of Hawaiian ancestry sits on the House Water, Land & Hawaiian Affairs Committee. How does anyone in House Leadership think this is acceptable? No Hawaiians on the Hawaiian Affairs Committee? Clearly, there are Representatives in the House now who are of native Hawaiian descent, so either they have chosen not to sit on this committee or leadership does not allow them to. Both options are untenable. The election of Walter Ritte (https://ritte.org/) to the State House of Representatives would ensure this would not be the case in the future, of that you can be absolutely sure. Likewise, his election would mean that the House would no longer pass in relatively muted silence measures that attempt to sell our public trust resources to the highest bidder.

I know Kim Coco Iwamoto and Walter Ritte personally and do not exaggerate the huge positive impact either or both of them would have on the Hawaii legislature. Both need your active support – please contact their campaigns directly to volunteer and or make a financial contribution.

Today I write especially to help and support the following three remarkable women: Kau’i Pratt-Aquino (https://www.kauiprattaquino.com), Becky Gardner (https://www.beckygardnerhawaii.com), and Shannon Matson (https://electshannonmatson.com). Each is without question highly qualified to serve in the State House, each share our core world view of putting people and the planet above corporate profits, and each can win.

But they need today an extra push that I am hoping you can help with. Like every candidate, they need people to help with phone calling and putting up yard signs – but most of all they need today your financial contributions.

While the official date of the Primary is August 8th, because of the “all mail-in voting” nature of this particular election – ballots will begin arriving on or about July 20.

It’s crunch time. People start voting in less than 30 days from now.

Printing and mailing a single postcard to registered voters cost each candidate approximately $4,000 to $5,000. None of these three candidates are wealthy and all have young families. They have put their personal lives on hold in the hopes of serving in public office, in order to make the world we live in a better place. Of this core motivation, I am certain.

Campaigns cost money to run and the candidates must have help to pay these expenses. This is the home stretch. They cannot let up, and neither can we.

Please give what you can today if possible, be it $20, $200, or up to $2,000. Contributions made prior to Monday, June 29th are especially important.

Kau’i Pratt-Aquino (https://www.kauiprattaquino.com) – House District 48 (Kaneohe, Kahaluu, Waiahole) Kau’i Pratt-Aquino goes to sleep every night and wakes up every morning thinking about how to help and support her community. She is a mother, a lawyer, and an extraordinarily effective community advocate. Raised in Koʻolaupoko, she is a seventh-generation Native Hawaiian who brings over seventeen years of experience in community advocacy and development to the legislative arena. All Hawaii will benefit from the election of Kau’i Pratt-Aquino. Donate online to Kau’i Pratt-Aquino’s campaign here. (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/friends-of-kau-i-pratt-aquino-1)

Becky Gardner (https://www.beckygardnerhawaii.com), House District 20 (St. Louis Heights, Palolo, Maunalani Heights, Wilhelmina Rise, Kaimuki) Becky Gardner is an attorney with extensive experience working at the state legislature. She is an elected member of the Kaimuki Neighborhood Board and a founding board member of Envision Kaimuki. As the child of a Filipina mother and an English-German father, Becky learned the value of diversity and honoring culture early on. She is driven by a passion to help create a better world for her two daughters and to share with the community her vision for a just, equitable and sustainable future. We need Becky Gardner serving all of us in the Hawaii House of Representatives. Donate online to Becky Gardner’s campaign here. (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/friends-of-becky-gardner-1)

Shannon Matson (https://electshannonmatson.com), House District 3 (Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown, Volcano) Born in Honoka’a and raised on Hawaii Island, Shannon Lopeka Matson, is a graduate of U.H. Hilo and has been an active community leader in the Hilo and Puna area for over 15 years. Kealoha Pisciotta says it best, “I support Shannon Matson in her run for the House Of Representative for my District. She embodies a new kind of leadership that is needed in this time of great change. As a Mother, Business Owner, Environmental, and Social Justice Advocate, I believe she has what it takes to be a champion for the people and the land.” Donate online to Shannon Matson’s campaign here (https://electshannonmatson.com).

Please if at all possible, focus your help and attention today on these three women. As individuals and certainly as a group, they have the capacity to change our world here locally. Whether you live in their particular district or not, please offer them your help and support, as their election will help all Hawaii.

I cannot over-emphasize the urgency of this request. Please help each of them today if you can.

For our children, for our grandchildren, and for the planet – let’s do this.

Sincerely,

Gary Hooser
http://www.garyhooser.com

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Rebuilding The House – A list of endorsed candidates

An almost complete list of candidates for the Hawaii State House of Representatives that if elected, could change our world here in Hawaii-
#rebuildthehouse

Driven by a strong sense of urgency and a keen awareness of pervasive injustice, Pono Hawai’i Initiative (PHI) has identified 13 emerging leaders who are willing and able to challenge the status quo; willing to fight for economic, social, and environmental justice AND willing to put people and the planet above corporate interests and petty politics.

Imagine for a second, the potential for positive change these candidates represent, and then please do your part and help them.

Regardless of where you live, please make a contribution to their campaigns today and prior to June 19 if at all possible. Whether it is $20, $200, or $2,000, these candidates need your help to make that extra push down the home stretch. If you live in the district, put up a yard sign or contact the campaign and volunteer.

Ballots will be mailed on or about July 18th which leaves us only 5 weeks to help make this happen. To vote you must be registered and your current and correct mailing address MUST on file with the office of elections. Check your voter registration status here prior to July 9th! https://olvr.hawaii.gov

Please. Join with me now in pushing as hard as we can.

We can do this.

Candidates for election to the State House of Representatives that have been endorsed by Pono Hawaii Initiative:

Shannon Matson
House District 3 (Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown, Volcano)
Born in Honoka’a and raised on Hawai’i Island, Shannon Lopeka Matson, is grateful to call Hawaiian Acres her home. As an alumni of U.H. Hilo, she has been an active community leader in the Hilo and Puna area for over 15 years. Fellow community leader Kealoha Pisciotta says it best, “I support Shannon Matson in her run for the House Of Representative for my District. She embodies a new kind of leadership that is needed in this time of great change. As a Mother, Business Owner, Environmental and Social Justice Advocate, I believe she has what it takes to be a champion for the people and the land.” https://electshannonmatson.com

Jeanné Kapela 
House District 5 (Naalehu, Ocean View, Capt. Cook, Kealakekua, Kailua-Kona)
Jeanné was born in Kona and raised on a small coffee farm in the nearby town of Captain Cook. She graduated from Konawaena High School in 2012 and currently serves West Hawai’i as a member of the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival Board of Directors, Lions Club of Kona member, communications chair of Konawaena High School’s 100th Anniversary Committee, and Director of the Miss Kona Coffee Scholarship Competition. Jeanné believes that it’s time to guarantee that the workers who drive our economy are able to thrive financially by raising the minimum wage to at least $15/hour and establishing a statewide paid family leave program. She is also committed to raising teacher pay, fully funding our schools, and creating a Green New Deal.
https://www.jeannekapela.com

Tina Wildberger 
House District 11 (Kihei, Wailea, Makena)
Representative Tina Wildberger has 23 years of work experience in Hawaii both as a hospitality professional in Food & Beverage and a small business owner. She is a progressive employer who understands the issues faced by business owners working hard to make ends meet in our island economy. In the first legislative session following her election, Tina showed her willingness to speak truth to power when she stood up and spoke out against the corporate water theft bill being promoted by House leadership. If not for her willingness to speak out, public trust rights to stream waters on Maui would have been transferred for free to a private real estate investment trust who had already essentially sold them to another entity for $62,000,000. Please help support and ensure the reelection of Representative Tina Wildberger.
https://www.tinawildberger.com

Walter Ritte
House District 13 (Haiku, Hana, Kaupo, Kipahulu, Nahiku, Paia, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Molokini)
Uncle Walter Ritte is a legend, a visionary, and a force for the people. In the past, he has moved rhetorical mountains – including the U.S. Congress, the State of Hawaii, and the University of Hawaii – and he has protected real ones. His election and presence in the House of Representatives would be a monumental win for the aloha aina movement.

Haʻikū, Hāna, Pāʻia, Lana’i, Molokai

Becky Gardner
House District 20 (St. Louis Heights, Palolo, Maunalani Heights, Wilhelmina Rise, Kaimuki)
Becky Gardner is an attorney with extensive experience working at the state legislature. She is an elected member of the Kaimuki Neighborhood Board and a founding board member of Envision Kaimuki. As the child of a Filipina mother and an English-German father, Becky learned the value of diversity and honoring culture early on. She is driven by a passion to help create a better world for her two daughters and to share with the community her vision for a just, equitable and sustainable future. Becky Gardner’s election would bring valuable personal and professional experience to the Hawaii House of Representatives.
https://www.beckygardnerhawaii.com

Adrian Tam
House District 22 (Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kakaako)
Adrian K. Tam was born and raised in Honolulu. In 2015, Adrian graduated from Penn State University and returned to Hawaii to join his family business and ultimately serve as legislative staff for former Speaker Calvin Say and current State Senator Stanley Chang. He has served in multiple capacities for the Hawaii Democratic Party, is a board member of Young Progressives Demanding Action, a member of the Waikiki Lions Club, and the former vice-president of the Taiwanese American Professionals. “I know Adrian to be caring, hardworking and deeply committed to supporting progressive initiatives that help the people, ecology, and economy of Hawaii.” – Malia Nolan, Community Advocate
https://www.adrianforhawaii.com

Kim Coco Iwamoto
House District 26 (McCully, Kakaako, Ala Moana, Downtown)
Kim Coco Iwamoto’s victory in this race would shake the House and Hawaii’s political establishment to its core. She is experienced in business, is a former legal aid attorney, has served as a member of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, and on the Hawaii Board of Eduction. She is a strong advocate of fulling funding public education and says succinctly:”If the legislature can find the political will to fund elevated rail, it can find the funds to elevate our schools”. As to affordable housing and economic justice, she walks the talk: “Kim Coco is part of the solution. She reached out to programs serving the homeless and rented an apartment to a hard-working father of three who had slipped into homelessness and had been living in their van for three years.”– Catherine Graham – Housing Advocate. Kim Coco is a champion of justice and a fearless advocate who puts the interest of people and the planet above all else.
https://www.kimcoco.com

Trish La Chica
House District 36 (Mililani Mauka, Mililani)
Trish La Chica has dedicated her entire career fighting against unjust systems and policies favoring those with wealth and power. As a community advocate, Trish believes that government should work hard to ensure that the people it serves should never, ever have to feel powerless. Trish is currently the advocacy and policy director for the Hawaii Public Health Institute and also serves as the Chair of the Mililani/Waipio/Melemanu Neighborhood Board. Her public policy focus can be summed up in 7 words – “Championing issues that impact Hawaii’s working families.” It is without question that working men and women on all islands, in all communities here in Hawaii, would benefit from the election of Trish La Chica.
https://www.trishlachica.com

Matt LoPresti
House District 41 (Ewa, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ewa Villages, Hoakalei, Ocean Pointe)
Matthew S. LoPresti, Ph.D. (University of Hawai‘i at Manoa) has been teaching philosophy at the university level since 1999, and has served two prior terms in the Hawaii State Legislature, House of Representatives for District 41. Matt’s work-ethic and his care for the land and the environment comes from both of his grandfathers, each of whom were farmers and small business owners. His passion for education comes from his mother who was a teacher. Matt’s past record in the House of Representatives demonstrate clearly that he is a strong voice and a solid vote for progressive issues – putting people and the planet first. https://matt4ewa.com

Amy Perruso
House District 46 (Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, Launani Valley)
AmyPerruso works hard for her community. First and foremost Amy is a teacher and says that “Teaching and surfing for decades in Hawai’i led me to the practices, people, and politics of aloha ʻāina.” Her stated mission is to “help create a more sustainable, just, and prosperous future for our community and our islands.” Because of Amy’s hard work and initiative, the Department of Education announced a “no herbicide policy” for ALL public schools in Hawaii. While hundreds of people and many organizations were essential partners in this success, it was because of Representative Amy Perruso’s leadership and initiative that it came to fruition. Let’s all get behind this incredible woman and support her reelection. https://www.voteamyperruso.com/

Kau’i Pratt-Aquino
House District 48 (Kaneohe, Kahaluu, Waiahole)
Kau’i Pratt-Aquino is about community empowerment. She goes to sleep every night and wakes up every morning thinking about how to help and support her community. She is a mother, a lawyer, and an extraordinarily effective community advocate. Raised in Koʻolaupoko, she is a seventh-generation Native Hawaiian of the area who brings over seventeen years of experience in community advocacy and development to the legislative arena. She was raised in Pūʻohala Village where she and her family have resided for nearly 40 years. Kau’i says “I am running for the State House of Representatives because I care deeply about our future and the needs of our community. As I travel around the district, talking with people too often I hear they do not feel their interests are being represented in government. I want to change that.” All Hawaii will benefit from the election of Kau’i Pratt-Aquino.
https://www.kauiprattaquino.com

Micah Pregitzer 
House District 50 (Kailua, Kaneohe Bay)
Micah Kalama Pregitzer is a longtime resident of Kailua and the Windward side of O’ahu. He has been teaching science at Kalaheo High School for the last 16 years and currently serves as Windward Chapter President for the Hawai’i State Teachers Association. A champion of economic justice, Micah is committed to ensuring that Hawai’i’s economy works for people, not corporations. He will fight to fully fund public schools, raise the minimum wage, build truly affordable housing, and establish paid family leave programs that uplift working families. Micah is also committed to strengthening Hawai’i’s efforts to combat climate change and protect our natural environment.
https://www.micahpregitzer.com

Alan Akao
House District 51 (Kailua-Waimanalo)
Alan K. Akao, Esq. is a life-long Kailua resident. He received his B.A. in Classics with a minor in Philosophy from Rutgers University. In 2015 he earned his Juris Doctorate (J.D.) with a certificate in Native Hawaiian Law and subsequently became a practicing attorney licensed to practice in Hawaii in both state and federal courts. Alan has received the enthusiastic endorsement of both the ILWU and the HSTA who stated “Alan is the candidate who can best advocate (for the rights of working people and for education) in the state legislature for House District 51.”
https://www.alanakao.com/meet-alan

Other strong candidates who have not yet been interviewed for a Pono Hawaii endorsement but who are deserving also of consideration.

Colehour Bondera
House District 5 (Naalehu, Ocean View, Capt. Cook, Kealakekua, Kailua-Kona)
Colehour Bondera is a farmer and long time resident in the District. He is the President of the Board of Kona Coffee Farmers Association, and a board member of the Kona Farm Bureau and Beyond Pesticides.
https://colehourbondera.com

Simon Russell
House District 12 (Spreckelsville, Pukalani, Makawao, Kula, Keokea, Ulupalakua, Kahului)
Simon Russell was raised in Hawaii, works as a farmer, and lives in Upcountry Maui (Makawao). Simon is “everything agriculture” and is totally committed to helping to create a Hawaii that is food self-sufficient. He helps farmers today through Hui ‘O Mālama ‘Āina LLC, an agricultural consulting company, and Farm Maui LLC, a licensed contracting company focused on farm operations and management. His background includes: Hawaii Farmers Union Foundation (HFUF) – Founding President (2015-2017), USDA Farm Service Agency – State Committee Member, Affordable Agriculture Worker Housing Working Group – Founder, and involvement with many other agricultural and community organizations. Simon Russell is a staunch advocate for Hawaii farmers, Hawaii families, and Hawaii’s natural environment.

Simon Russell 2020

Ka’apuni Aiwohi
House District 8 (Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku, Waikapu)
Ka’apuni Aiwohi says that “Growing up in a Hawaiian household taught me the foundational value of mālama. To care for those that can not care for themselves and for those that do not have a voice.” He will advocate for improving Hawaii’s educational system and for building an economy that will provide jobs for the next generation. He believes strongly also that we must restore trust in our government, protect Hawaii’s sacred places and “bring a holistic and sustainable approach to our `āina so the next generations can enjoy the natural luxuries that we currently use.” https://votekaapuni.com

Sonny Ganaden
House District 30 (Kalihi, Halawa, Sand Island, Airport)
Sonny Ganaden loves Kalihi, the community where he lives and works. He is a writer, an attorney and the program coordinator at a non-profit in Kalihi, mentoring young people and helping to build community. As an attorney, he represents small local businesses, indigent defendants, juveniles, and victims of domestic violence. As a journalist, his focus is on the dignity and creativity of ordinary heroes.Sonny is committed to working hard for the people of his district and he is committed to a reform of the criminal justice system that is fair and equitable for all people, not just the rich and connected. http://www.ganadenforhawaii.org

Vickie Kam
House District 42 (Kapolei – Makakilo)
Vickie Kam is committed to the service of her community through addressing the needs of working families, economic equity,and environmental stewardship. She is an educator, small business owner, bee keeper, mom, and a new grandparent. Vickie Kam is tireless in her community work as evidenced by her involvement with: West Oahu Alumni, Blue Zones Project, Kapolei Chamber of Commerce, Hawaii Working Families Coalition, Founding Member of Women’s Island Soccer Association, Democratic Party of Hawaii (Labor and Women’s Caucus), NEA Teacher Leader Initiative, ACLU, and The Southern Poverty Law Center.
https://www.vickiekam.com

Gary Hooser
Executive Director
Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI)
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Fear and Loathing…and Hope at the Capitol #RebuildingtheHouse –

The fear, self-interest, indecision, and disfunction now enveloping the state legislature must end. There are over 15 new and highly qualified candidates running for election to the State House of Representatives (see list below). The election of Kim Coco Iwamoto, Walter Ritte, and Kau’i Pratt-Aquino alone would change the very nature of how business is conducted in that big square building. Add in a relatively small group of incumbent Representatives who share the core values of economic, environmental and social justice, and boom – do the math.

2020 can be the year we rebuild the House.

The existing corrosive climate that puts politics before people must be replaced by thoughtful civic-minded leaders who put people and the planet first.

The culture of fear among the rank and file, and self-interest amongst the leaders that currently permeates our state legislature is real. Ask anyone who interacts with the State House or Senate. But do so in confidence, of course, because they will be afraid to publicly criticize those legislators who hold the purse strings, who control “position numbers” (the specific positions of specific state workers), and who have the power to call them before a committee and subject them to public humiliation if they fail to recall every detail of every part of their job.

It is common knowledge within the big square building, that individual legislators and legislative leadership will kill bills and cut budgets for personal and political reasons. 

This is not some legislative urban myth and is not an uncommon practice in legislative bodies nationally, and around the globe. But in Hawaii, because there is no real competition among political parties, it is worse. While flying under the flag of the Democratic Party that is supposed to represent the working man and woman, those with power kill those very same bills that speak to those values–like a living wage and healthcare for all. With impunity, they then cut budgets to punish opponents and to “send a message” to state agencies or community advocates who don’t play ball.

Those Hawaii legislators who dare to challenge the status quo and vote against, or even speak against House/Senate “leadership,” run a very real risk of being “punished’ via a reduction in funding for public projects in their district (think school improvements, highways, and park funding).

When asked about why various bills stall or fail often in the dead of the night without explanation, House/Senate “leadership” will shrug their shoulders and say “We leave policy decisions up to the Committees to work out.” What they don’t say is that a Committee Chair that does not toe the line and attempts to pass a measure opposed by “leadership” can expect to lose their position.

The vast majority of legislators assume office to do good and serve those who elected them. But they quickly collide with reality. They learn that they must “go along to get along.” All too quickly, idealistic fervor is replaced with pragmatic compliance. New legislators become accustomed to the system. They learn what it takes to survive within its inherently corrupt confines.

The system as it now operates prevents change, except in tiny incremental doses that are inevitably too little, too late.  

Bold action is impossible because those in charge at the legislature do not want change. Change brings political risk and those who hold the reins of political power abhor political risk.

Witness the current extended legislative recess. Thousands of Hawaii residents are literally standing in line for food, tens of thousands continue to await their first unemployment check, and uncountable numbers of local businesses are on the edge of bankruptcy. Our state legislature’s response? They go into an extended recess after stashing away $1.3 billion dollars in a “rainy day fund,” preventing the Governor from accessing the funds, while ostensibly “waiting for more information.”

Instead of investing these funds now into supporting those people and businesses teetering on the brink of financial devastation, legislative leadership does a “tuck and roll.” They collectively mumble words equivalent to “wait and see” and sit safely on the sidelines, continuing to nod their heads wisely and mouth platitudes to demonstrate how much they care.

In addition to providing tangible financial help to the people and local businesses now living on the edge of survival, there are many public policy initiatives the legislature could implement today if they were in Session. For starters, they could remove the state income tax on unemployment benefits, and then take meaningful steps to limit the impending wave of foreclosures and evictions. The need for, and awareness of the importance of food self-sufficiency has never been greater, yet the legislature just sits on its hands and waits.

This is not the time for fear-based indecision.

Kim Coco Iwamoto, Walter Ritte, and Kau’i Pratt-Aquino are each running for election to the State House of Representatives. Both as individuals and collectively, they are fearless and motivated only by the satisfaction gained through supporting people and protecting the environment.

Representative Tina Wildberger showed her willingness to speak truth to power when she stood up and spoke out against the corporate water theft bill being promoted by House leadership. If not for her willingness to speak out, public trust rights to stream waters on Maui would have been transferred to a private real estate investment trust which had already promised them to another entity for $62,000,000.

Because of the initiative of Representative Amy Perruso, public school grounds across all Hawaii are essentially herbicide free. Though hundreds of individuals and numerous organizations were also involved, it was Representative Perruso’s willingness to stand up to the establishment that pushed this issue forward to success.

Imagine for a moment how much more Reps Wildberger and Perruso could do, if re-elected. Imagine how their ranks would be immeasurably strengthened if Kim Coco Iwamoto, Walter Ritte, and Kaui Pratt-Aquino joined them in the State House of Representatives.

But we are in the crisis of our lifetime. And we should aim big. We can effect even greater change if all 15 of these well-qualified and deeply caring individuals were elected to the State House. (link to full list)
https://garyhooser.blog/2020/06/14/rebuilding-the-house-an-almost-complete-list-of-phi-endorsed-candidates/

Without exaggeration, the election of even half of these individuals would shake the House to its very foundation. The conversation would shift dramatically away from unethical and inherently corrupt fear-based decision making, towards bold, forward-thinking, integrity-based action that can change our world for the better, in our lifetime.

Yes, we can rebuild the House and change our world here locally for the better.

But we each must do our part.

We each must dig down deep and help these exceptional candidates win their respective upcoming primary elections. Voting by mail will begin on or about July 20th, only 40 days or so from now. Help others to check their voter registration at https://olvr.hawaii.org to be sure they receive their ballot in the mail. It’s ALL Vote By Mail this year. 

Each candidate needs funding to complete the vital home stretch and your contribution is important, whether you live in the district or not. Anything you can give between now and June 19th is critically important.  Whether it’s $20 or $200 or more, your contribution is needed today.

If you live in the district, please contact the candidate directly and offer to put a sign in your yard, or to volunteer in some capacity.

We can win, but to do so we need to push hard and keep pushing. Please share this message widely with your friends and networks, especially to those who live in the districts of the various candidates listed here (link to complete list).
https://garyhooser.blog/2020/06/14/rebuilding-the-house-an-almost-complete-list-of-phi-endorsed-candidates/

Let’s do this.

Gary Hooser

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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.

https://garyhooser.blog/2019/09/03/key-questions-every-candidate-must-answer/

https://garyhooser.blog/2020/03/02/a-new-candidates-guide-to-running-for-office/

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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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