To those of you too busy to make a difference.

It’s time to get off the couch. Summer vacation is over. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get back to the task at hand – helping to make our community, our world, and our planet a better place.

Ballots will begin arriving in our mailboxes in about two weeks. On November 8th the results will be announced and there will of course be winners and losers. As is always the case, some of these races will be determined by literally only a handful of votes.

To those who think that none of this matters, that the fix is already in, that voting and being involved in the “system” is a waste of time – You are wrong. I understand how and why you may feel this way, but you are wrong, wrong, wrong.

I’ve spent the past 28 years living and working in the “system” and know without any doubt whatsoever that individual voices and actions matter. I’ve seen it up close and personal. When individuals join together, united in collective action – they can move mountains.

By failing to take the time to just open the darn envelope and check a box or two – you my friend are part of the problem.

I’ve seen good, solid, community-based candidates of high integrity – win and lose by just a handful of votes. And I’ve seen major policy issues likewise succeed or fail by only a single vote.

Ditto to when you are too busy to send off a simple email to your state legislator or councilmember – supporting or opposing issues that are before them. By saying nothing you are in fact empowering the status quo.

I get it that you are busy, that life is hard, the kids gotta get to school, you gotta get to work, and bills are due on the 1st. I get it. Been there, done that.

But cry me a river. Filling out a ballot that is mailed directly to your house and returning it in a postage-paid envelope, is really not that hard. Cranking out a sentence or two in an email, signing a petition, or leaving a short voice-mail message with your elected official – all take literally less than 2 minutes to do.

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Let this adage sink in and never forget the truth exposed by these 12 words.

Please, take the time to be involved and take ownership of your civic responsibility.

One side of me wants to apologize for beating up on you for being too busy to be involved, the other side of me wants to shake you even harder because of your neglect.

But there’s a whole lot at stake. We have people living under bridges and in cars because they cannot afford the astronomical rents. Climate change is real, the oceans are rising, and the storms are only getting stronger and stronger. We are losing our mountain streams, our beaches and special places have been monetized and no longer ours to enjoy in peace with friends and family.

We can do so much better. The challenges faced by our community and our planet are not intractable. We are surrounded by enormous wealth, and abundance. It is only the lack of political will that holds us back, not the lack of resources needed to fix things.

Political will comes via community demands, expectations and accountability. Elected government officials will provide the leadership and action demanded of them by those that elect them to their positions of power and influence.

If you’re not sure who to vote for, seek guidance from friends and organizations who are involved and perhaps more informed. If you are not sure about a particular race, leave it blank.

There is no shortage of advocacy organizations, that post their voting recommendations on social media and who promote “calls to action” that give clear, sometimes “one-click” options for you to let your voice be heard on important issues of the day. If your core values can be described as putting people and the planet above profits, you’re welcome to sign up to receive my weekly email missives, voting recommendations, and action alerts at https://policy-and-politics.mailchimpsites.com

Regardless of your ideological bent – get involved, please. We will all benefit from the increased dialogue and inevitable civic synergy that results.

To those of you already involved and engaged in policy and politics, thank you and do more.

Give more to candidates who you support. Give them financial support, show up and help them hold signs at the side of the road. Go with them to knock on doors in the neighborhood. Spread the word to your friends, neighbors, and networks – encourage all to take action, get involved, and make a difference.

There, my rant for today is done. Now let’s go out and change the world.

Gary Hooser
http://www.garyhooser.com

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The People Versus Joe Manchin.

Our 4 member all (D) Hawai’i Congressional delegation came very close to being forced to vote on a deal proposed by Senator Joe Manchin (D – but not really) of West Virginia. 

Fortunately, regular people from all walks of life and all corners of the US rose up to say loudly and in unison to their elected members of Congress, “This is a bad bill, do the right thing. We are watching.”

As a result of this grassroots political pressure, the votes Manchin thought he had, have evaporated and he is now “pulling the bill” which effectively kills it. 

Senator Manchin’s bill was bad for the people of Virginia and West Virginia, bad for us here in Hawai’i and bad for the planet. 

For starters he was asking Senator Schatz, Senator Hirono, Rep. Kahele, Rep. Case and all of his Washington DC colleagues, to approve the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 303-mile pipeline that would move natural gas from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia. 

Asking the US Congress to approve a specific project to benefit one single Senator’s political agenda, in total disregard of local community input, local agency review, and local legal oversight – is so wrong on so many levels. 

According to national and local media reports, Manchin’s bill instructed government agencies in both Virginia and West Virginia to ignore prior court decisions and issue the permits, leases and other authorizations required to operate the pipeline and exempt those actions from judicial review. (Civil Beat – Gist)

While West Virginia Senator Manchin (D) was pushing hard for this, Virginia Senator Tim Kain (D) was pushing just as hard against it saying “It could open the door to serious abuse and even corruption.” (Virginia Mercury)

It gets worse.

The Manchin legislation proposed strict time limits for agencies to review environmental impacts of infrastructure projects built anywhere in the US. 

And as is oh so typical of the Manchin “starve the beast” mindset, the bill provided zero additional funding to help agencies meet the new requirements. This ensures that he and his friends on the far right could then continually complain about the inefficiencies of government and continue to cut government spending to keep it as inefficient as possible. 

His proposed bill would also shrink the statute of limitations on court challenges against agency permitting decisions from six years to about five months – knowing full well it can often take six months just for the public to become aware of the agency decision. 

This was a really, really, bad bill. 

Bad, but predictable. This push to move projects faster and with less oversight is not exclusive to Congress. 

Expect big money and big real estate development interests to soon play the same card here locally in the coming State legislative session. Just insert  “affordable housing development” into the slots now labeled “renewable energy development”. 

Under the guise of “fast tracking”, “streamlining” and “reducing regulatory barriers” the big money guys will be pushing hard to “expedite development” – promising us the holy grail of more affordable housing just as Manchin and his enablers were promising more renewable energy to fight climate change. 

The “streamlining government” line is straight out of the standard conservative playbook. Yes of course we should eliminate duplicative and unnecessary regulation, but only after thoughtful and thorough review – not via Congressional action with less than 30 days notice and not even one single public hearing. 

These developers, the largest of the large who can afford to buy the benefits of owning a US Senator- seek only to maximize profits by minimizing environmental protection’s, community input, and construction oversight. 

If approved, Manchin’s proposal, known as the Energy Independence and Security Act, would have inevitably led to more leaking pipelines, more contaminated drinking water, more windmills located even closer to schools and homes, more endangered species, and more profits for energy development corporation’s. 

We should be extremely thankful for the tens of thousands of regular citizens across the country who called their Senator and Representative, to express their concerns on this critically important issue. 

The people won this one.  Let’s stay united and vigilant, and keep showing up – by phone, by text and email, on the streets, and at the ballot box – to win again and keep the momentum growing. 

El Pueblo Unido Jamás Sera Vencido

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The Question: “How do we get our Council to do this?”

The forward-thinking and bold work of the Maui Council I wrote about previously clearly struck a chord.

If you missed it read: “Policy and Politics – Learning From Maui County”

The question: “How do we get our Council to do this?”

The answer: Stop rewarding bad behavior. Stop reelecting councilmembers who do not put the community and environment first, and/or who talk-the-talk but do nothing except hold space. Instead identify candidates who share common values, actively help to get them elected, and then stick with them as they do their job.

It’s clear a majority of Maui’s councilmembers’ are solid in their values – community-based aloha ʻāina values. They are smart, hard-working, and not afraid to challenge big money and the corporate establishment.

They’re also able to work together toward common goals, setting aside ego and political grandstanding, and they don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.

Most council/legislative bodies are governed by the law of inertia – a body at rest will remain at rest unless pushed, pulled, cajoled, or coerced into motion. Many newly elected policy-makers come into the system raring to go and itching to make change happen. They soon run into the realities of inertia and discover that many of their colleagues prefer to simply balance the budget, bring home some bacon for their district, and avoid controversy and conflict.

The easiest path of action by a councilmember/legislator is often to do nothing. They must talk about doing something, and they must move the pieces around on the board so it appears they are doing something, but doing nothing is the safest and most common path taken.

To be clear, a single individual on any council can make a difference, but to do what the Maui Council is doing and in fact to move any new policy of substance forward requires a majority willing to break the inertia and move in a new direction, taking some risks.

And that’s what they have on Maui – a Council majority of 5 willing to consistently vote for positive change. This is why Maui has the most progressive property tax structure, the most aggressive affordable housing policy, the strongest support for local agriculture, and a moratorium on new hotel and vacation rental development – to name just a few examples.

Majority rules. We learned this on the playground in elementary school.

When you have a majority of members who share common values, who trust each other, and who aren’t in constant fear of losing their next election – the results can move mountains.

Critically important also is the fact that the community backs them up. The community on Maui shows up to testify, and they show up to help their candidates campaign and win.

It’s like that positive feedback loop you’ve heard me mention before. The Councilmember does good things, and the people recognize and mahalo that achievement, and they show up to help and support keeping them in office as well. It’s a nice positive feedback loop to be caught in – both sides feel the love and both sides are motivated to keep doing more.

My ask today is for only one thing:
Please check out the Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative statewide list of endorsed council candidates, and state legislative candidates. Help them!

The general election will conclude on November 8th. Ballots will be mailed to homes across Hawaiʻi on or about October 20th. There’s not a lot of time.

Please help if you can.

Sincerely,
Gary Hooser
http://www.garyhooser.com

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Kauaʻi Council poised to give $7 million in exchange for 10 words.

The Kauaʻi County Council agenda set for Wednesday 09/21/22 includes Resolution 2022-28 which proposes to transfer to The Grove Farm Company (Grove Farm) approximately $7 million in taxpayer-funded property improvements, newly constructed buildings, related infrastructure, and nearly 6 acres of land – that same land that Grove Farm had previously given to the County.

You can’t make this stuff up. Read the Resolution (https://bit.ly/3Bq2xv8) but also read between the lines.

It seems that the agreement between Grove Farm and the County included a provision that said that if there was not sufficient progress within two years, then the property would revert back to Grove Farm. It further appears that Grove Farm isn’t willing to cut the County any slack on this deadline due to a global pandemic.

Consequently, they have taken us to court seeking a return of the land (which now includes $7 million in improvements).

If Resolution 2022-28 passes, Grove Farm which both literally and figuratively already owns most of Lihue, will receive from the County a brand new 16,000-square-foot residential complex sitting on 5.8 acres of land. This includes enough living space for 16 people to reside there full-time. There’s a separate wing for other uses, there are classrooms that could also be used as offices, and there is a certified kitchen.

According to multiple media reports the construction of the facilities cost the County at least $7 million and was paid for via State and County taxpayer funds, plus private donations.

The County will be giving all of this to Grove Farm in return for their promise to utilize the property “solely for use for adult and adolescent health care purposes”.

That’s it. We give you $7 million and the land, and you promise to fulfill those 10 words (apparently in any shape or fashion that you choose).

Does this mean Grove Farm can then turn around and receive a $10 million dollar tax benefit by donating the entire property to a religious institution that promises to run a faith-based drug treatment program?

Can they sell or lease the property to a profit-focused luxury rehab company, that focuses on serving the rich and famous such as CAPO by the Sea, Passages Malibu, and so many others?

Are future occupants of the property even required to include drug addiction treatment in the services they offer?

Nothing in the Resolution nor in the proposed deed restrictions requires Grove Farm to only use the property for an adolescent treatment and health center for local kids, as was envisioned by the community and sold to donors both public and private. There is no requirement to repay the County should Grove Farm sell or lease the property for a profit.

No doubt, everyone involved has good intentions. The County and Grove Farm both might want to fulfill the communities dream and its needs, but good intentions are not enough.

And if the agreement is not spelled out clearly in writing, it doesn’t exist.

Kauaʻi has a serious drug problem and there is no on-island residential treatment facility available for our young people who want and need help.

I was newly elected and serving on the Kauaʻi County Council in 2013, and voted in support of various measures that moved this project along. I remember having doubts about its financial viability. I voted for it because I knew in my heart how badly our community needs it and I knew that no one else was going to step up and do this, so the County must.

As a State Senator, I remember taking calls from parents desperately seeking a place for their son or daughter who was literally begging to check in somewhere to detox, clean up, and get well. But for these parents, there were no options for residential treatment on Kauaʻi, and statewide there were only waiting lists.

My hope today is that the Council will put Resolution 2022-28 and the proposed transfer on hold.

At the very minimum, the language in the document must be rethought and reworked to protect the taxpayer and ensure the vision.

We’ve come too far on this to just throw it all away.

Gary Hooser
http://www.garyhooser.com

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Wailuanuiahoʻāno – Say the name.

Thirty years ago — on Sept. 11, 1992 — Hurricane ʻIniki made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane destroying many homes and businesses including the property then known as the Coco Palms Hotel Resort located on the sacred lands of Wailuanuiahoʻāno.

Since then a seemingly endless stream of owners/developers/speculators have made our community endless promises and then gone on to break them. Over and over again they come before the Council and the Planning Commission, hat in hand, heads bowed, pledging their love for the island, speaking in lofty platitudes about the special nature of the place.

Over and over again, they come and they go – another smiling face from some other place, another actor following the same predictable script.

And the County has been the willing rube, hoping and wishing that with the next round of cards we will win and can then leave the table happy.

This is a game of 3 card monte folks and it’s well past time for us to end the con and send the dealer packing.

We don’t owe the owner/developer anything. We don’t owe them a profit and we don’t even owe them the right to build a hotel. Franky, for decades the County has bent over backward to help these folks and has gotten nothing but hollow promises in return.

Yes, the property is zoned for a hotel. But any such development must be approved and constructed according to today’s County and State laws – not the laws in place in 1952 or in 1992 but in place today.

Continuing to allow development based on a hotel footprint and density from 1952, without requiring them to build to today’s standards and without any environmental review as is required by state law HRS343 is both bad planning and illegal.

Yes, it made sense to help homeowners and businesses in the time immediately following ʻIniki. But this 30 years later stuff is nonsense.

The historical and cultural value of this property, properly referred to as Wailuanuiahoʻāno is immeasurable.

An owner that truly honored this value and cared about our community would have demolished the buildings, cleaned up the property, and partnered in restoration efforts with community groups a long, long time ago.

As the former home of Hawaiian royalty, and the final resting place of ancient iwi kūpuna, Wailuanuiahoʻāno is literally hallowed ground.

But for the various Utah-based LLC’s, insurance companies, real estate speculators, and deal-makers who have controlled this property over the past 30 years – it’s just a line on a balance sheet to be sold, traded, or borrowed against – over and over again.

The developer/owners of this property will say anything to maintain their permits and thus keep the property value at its highest point possible.

But the jig is up.

It’s time for the County to pull the plug, say enough is enough, and send the owner back to the drawing board. Too many promises have been broken, too much time has passed, too little progress has been made, and the County is legally entitled to revoke its prior approvals and require the owner to comply with today’s State and County laws.

Whether you agree or disagree, I encourage you to email Mayor Derek Kawakami mayor@kauai.gov as well as the Kauai Planning Commission planningdepartment@kauai.gov and let them know you you feel about this – professional and courteous as always, please.

Soon, there will be still yet another meeting when the owners’ representative, whomever that new person may be – will come before the Planning Commission to make more promises. Please let our County leaders know, – enough already.

Gary Hooser
http://www.garyhooser.com

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Policy and Politics: Learning from Maui County

We don’t want to end up like Maui has been the refrain of many a Kaua`i resident fighting to preserve our rural character. On Maui, I’m guessing they say, “We don’t want to end up like O‘ahu”.

But when it comes to policy and politics, the Maui County Council is now leading in many areas. In just the past 5 years, they’ve gone from being a voice for the pro-development, pro-growth, pro-tourism business sector, to now being a voice for balanced growth, environmental protection, and for the average local resident.

I’m thinking and hoping our own Kaua`i County Council and all of Hawaiʻi actually, might learn from the good, forward-thinking public policy work now being done by the Maui County Council.

So what exactly have they done?

A majority on the Maui Council voted to eliminate county funding for tourism promotion and instead allocated funds toward micro-grants for small farmers,- focusing on locally-owned farms that produce food for local consumption.

They created a Maui County Department of Agriculture dedicated to supporting local Maui farmers.

In addressing over-tourism, the Maui Council passed a moratorium on new hotel and short-term rental development while the County develops a plan to better manage tourism, balance the economy by investing in other industries, and provide more housing for residents.

The Maui Council also has passed into law an ordinance prohibiting the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers on all county-owned and managed land. Only the use of methods compatible with organic systems and permitted under the USDA National Organic Program may now be used on County property.

This new law bans the use of glyphosate (and other toxic, synthetic herbicides) from use on County roads, parks, and other county facilities. Glyphosate, commonly referred to as “Round-Up,” has been proven to increase the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by 41 percent.

The Maui Council also enabled the electorate to amend the charter through a ballot question to dedicate 3% of property tax revenue toward affordable housing – which the voters approved.

A similar measure dedicating 2% of Kaua`i tax revenue to support affordable housing recently fell short by a single vote.

The Maui Council voted to increase taxes on hotels, vacant luxury investment properties, and vacation rentals while decreasing taxes on owner-occupied homes and long-term rentals.

Once again, a similar Kaua`i County Council proposal to increase transient vacation rental tax rates to support affordable housing failed. In this case, falling two votes short of approval.

To stop the pricing out of generational families from their ancestral land, Maui passed what is referred to as their ‘Āina Kūpuna legislation – which provides tax relief to lineal descendants struggling with a steep rise in property taxes due to skyrocketing real estate values.

In addressing individuals currently unsheltered, the Maui Council established the Commission on Healing Solutions for Homelessness and is in the process of creating a safe and legal space for residents who are living in their cars, to sleep at night. This would not be a houseless camp open 24/7, but simply a dedicated, secure, and safe parking area open only in the evening.

I’m thinking and hoping our own Kaua`i County Council, the one that will be elected on November 8, will learn from and possibly emulate some of the good work being done on Maui. Perhaps the two Councils can learn from the experiences of the other, and the residents of both Counties will benefit.

Kaua`i County could also use a moratorium on new hotel development tied perhaps to an environmental impact study establishing limits based on carrying capacity.

The funding of micro-grants for small local farmers, local food processors and shared commercial kitchen facilities is another worthy public policy initiative.

And yes, Kaua`i County workers should not be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals as part of their daily work. And Kaua`i residents should be able to enjoy County parks without wondering what chemicals have been sprayed in the grassy areas where their children are playing.

Daily I hear from friends who have full-time jobs but are unable to find affordable housing. Some are forced to live in their car or van. They tell me firsthand of how they are awakened in the middle of the night by the police or private security, telling them to “move along” or risk getting arrested. All they want and need is a safe, legal place to park for the night. Our Kaua`i Council could make this happen as well.

There is no shortage of wealth in our community and no shortage of need. Increased taxes on hotels, vacant luxury homes, and vacation rentals, while decreasing taxes on owner-occupied homes and truly affordable rentals only makes sense.

To their credit, Council Vice-Chair Mason Chock and Councilmember Luke Evslin have proposed several solid measures that if passed would have moved Kaua`i County forward, especially with regard to affordable housing.

Unfortunately, those measures failed due to the lack of just one or two votes.

My hope is that on November 8, Kaua`i voters and voters throughout the islands will elect individuals who see and feel deeply the needs of our residents, who are willing to make the tough decisions, and who will be that one extra vote needed to make good things happen.

Closing note: Yes, the big money, big business, big development, and big tourism interests on Maui are not happy campers and are mounting a SuprePac dark money campaign to elect their own pro-development candidates. We of course have to push back and protect and support those candidates who put people and the planet above corporate profits and outside influence.

From Civil Beat, “A number of those candidates, especially those backed by Maui’s progressive movement, have pledged to reject cash from corporate donors and special interest groups. At the same time, donors from Maui’s political establishment — like developers, real estate investors and their attorneys — are pouring thousands of dollars into their opponents’ campaigns.” More on this topic is coming soon.

Gary Hooser
*The basic substance of the above email was first published as my weekly column in The Garden Island Newspaper on 09/07/22.

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Pushing Back Against SuperPacs Via State Law: 50-state shout-out to policy wonks, legislators, and attorneys

Let’s use our collective “hive-mind” to develop state laws that push back against dark money SuperPacs.

We might not be able to pass federal legislation and Citizens United means we cannot limit the amount of money they are spending to buy our elections – but there are things we can do at the state level.

To start the discussion: Here are three ideas/proposals that could be used to counter the impact of SuperPacs. Please add your ideas, suggestions, and thoughts in the comment section on my blog if possible.

 1. Establish a significant state tax or fee on SuperPacs. This should adjust according to the amount of funding they spend on actions to support or oppose candidates. Proceeds of this tax/fee would be used to finance publicly funded elections.
  Note1 – Almost every state has a variety of taxes charged for different reasons: sales tax, general excise tax, liquor tax, tobacco tax, hotel room tax etc. Clearly different items and services may be charged different taxes. It would seem reasonable that political advertising, that supports or opposes candidates could be charged a separate additional tax. Another example: Property taxes are much higher on “investor-owned” properties than on “owner-occupied” properties – it would seem reasonable then that a tax on SuperPac advertising could be much higher than a tax on individual candidate advertising.
  Note2 – Some states already require a “filing fee” for “non-candidate committees” when registering with the campaign spending commission/authority. A similar filing fee could possibly be charged to SuperPacs and “scaled up” depending on the amount of funds it expends.
 
2. Require SuperPacs to provide for public review their proposed electioneering materials in advance of the actual commercial dissemination. This would allow all parties the time needed to review for accuracy and respond as may be appropriate.
·   Note1 – The Hawaiʻi Campaign Spending Commission already requires non-candidate committees, including SuperPacs, to comply with an existing electioneering disclosure requirement. https://ags.hawaii.gov/campaign/electioneering-communications/  “An electioneering communication means any advertisement that is broadcast from a cable, satellite, television, or radio broadcast station; published in any periodical or newspaper or by electronic means, or sent by mail…that is not susceptible to any reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.”
   Note2 – Under existing Hawaiʻi law this requirement does not apply to candidates or candidate committees but does apply to non-candidate committees such as SuperPacs.
   Note3 – This proposal only involves expanding the existing requirement so that it includes “advance notice” and an actual copy of the “electioneering communication” to be made public at the time of that notice.
 
3. Require SuperPacs to present their “advertising disclosures” already now required by law, in a manner that meets the spirit and intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) so that viewers of the television and radio advertisements can actually see, read, and hear the words describing who the sponsor of the ad is and other legally required information
    Note1 – At the present time the common practice of SuperPacs is to have the audio disclosure be stated so fast that it is often literally impossible to understand, and visual disclosure similarly so small and/or flashed on the screen so quickly that it is unreadable.

Gary Hooser
http://www.garyhooser.com
former Hawaiʻi State Senator

Please email me directly at garylhooser@gmail.com AND post your ideas and suggestions for other state laws that might be passed to help regulate SuperPacs.

Let’s get rid of this crap.

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Cleaning House, and the Senate – 6 proposals for systemic change

It’s time to pivot to policy. 

Mail-in voting for the general election begins around October 20th, with votes counted on November 8th. The 2023 legislative session opens on January 18th. Subtract out major holidays – and you can see there are not a whole lot of days left to prepare for the session.

The issues and proposals around ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance reform will hopefully be at the top of the 2023 legislative agenda.

I’m cautiously optimistic that the recommendations due on December 2 from the “Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct (CISC)” will include the strong specific legislative proposals needed to help clean up our government, disempower the lobbying class, and level the playing field for candidates.

The Commission was initiated and established by the State House of Representatives in response to a federal investigation that’s put two legislators in prison for accepting bribes.

Its purpose is to review and assess existing state laws and rules and provide recommendations to further the goals of the Code of Ethics, lobbying laws, campaign finance laws, and other applicable laws…” (paraphrased)

I’ve attended via Zoom a few of the Commission meetings and have been impressed with the quality discussion and earnestness expressed by Chair Judge Daniel R. Foley (retired) and the various Commission members.

The Commission continues to discuss and consider a long list of issues and proposals. They are actively seeking additional public input.

My hope is that the below list of proposals, or similar, will be included in their final recommendations offered to the legislature.

1) Allow voters to decide whether or not to establish term limits for State legislators. *Legislators in 15 other states including California are term-limited.

2) Establish a publicly fully funded election program providing qualified candidates sufficient means to run credible campaigns. Maine and Arizona both have established successful programs that can serve as models.
  
3) Require the legislature to comply with the state constitution Article III – Section 12 which 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 a decision on matters referred to the committee shall be open to the public.” *In other words ban backroom secret meetings that now occur in both the conference committee process and in regular committee meetings.

4) Require recorded votes by committee members for every decision impacting bills referred to their committee. Remove the unilateral power of the Chair replacing it with rules making it clear that the Chair may make decision recommendations, but all decisions are validated and made public by a recorded vote of committee members. *The current practice of allowing the Chair to kill bills, behind closed doors, without a vote, violates the core principles of our democracy and is inherently corrupt.

5) Require all elected officials in State or County office to disclose all outside income. This disclosure shall include the specific source of the income, the amount of income received, and the service provided in return for that income. *This should include client/consultant income from LLCs owned in whole or part by the elected official, and include income from legal clients of those elected officials who are also private attorneys.
 
6) Restrict the use of campaign funds for use only in the campaign cycle they are donated in, and only for activities directly related to that campaign. *This means no hoarding of funds, and stopping the practice of using campaign funds as a general slush fund for non-campaign-related purposes.

Other important but less systemic in nature initiatives:

* Ban the acceptance or solicitation of campaign contributions during the legislative session. *28 other states place restrictions on giving and receiving campaign contributions during the legislative session.

* Ban all campaign contributions from corporations and registered lobbyists.*22 other states completely prohibit corporations from contributing to political campaigns.

* Reduce the maximum campaign contribution to $500.

Whether you support the above proposals or not, or if you have suggestions to improve them, and/or if you have other thoughts or ideas to offer – PLEASE PARTICIPATE IN THIS VALUABLE DISCUSSION AND LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD. Email the Commission directly at StandardsofConduct@capitol.hawaii.gov

All comments and testimony is placed on their webpage and available for public review at https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/specialcommittee.aspx?comm=cisc&year=2022

This is important. I truly believe the CISC Commission is taking its job seriously and will do the right thing, but strong and broad-based public input is an essential element of making this happen.

Gary Hooser

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What I did on my summer vacation – in addition to sending out about 1 million or more emails ;-)

I wanted to check in briefly, say thank you, and apologize if I’ve not gotten back or responded to you promptly over the past 45 days or so.

Needless to say, I’ve been swamped with pre and post-primary election activity.

And I’ve been immersed in family activities. I’ve been enjoying time spent with my son Dylan and his awesome wife Leeona, momma of my new granddaughter Kaliyah and grandson Rixon who’s a big boy now attending Kindergarten at Kōloa School. Claudette and I have also been fortunate to be able to spend time with our daughter and my political confidant Kelli-Rose, mother of the ever-precocious 5-year-old Isabella, while her daddy our son-in-law Justin, is deployed overseas. (family photos at bottom)

In addition, my Kaua`i family has been hosting an array of nieces, nephews, grandnieces and nephews, cousins, and friends paying us long overdue summer visits – forcing me to stop, smell the pīkake, and enjoy the ocean.

And my beautiful mother Loretta Eileen Barron turned 90 years old! We joined her, my dad, other siblings, and still yet more cousins, nieces, and nephews for a wonderful birthday celebration.

So yes, my summer has been jam-packed. I’ve been doing my best to squeeze in email, text message, and zoom meetings but it’s been between extended conversations with 5-year-olds, long days hanging out at Keʻe, Hanalei, and Poʻipū Beach Park – and sometimes just stretched out with my incredible newborn granddaughter sleeping on my chest.

Now you know why if I’ve not responded to you promptly or missed responding completely over the past few months – it’s for good reason.

With the primary election now over, the summer guests departed, the grandchildren all accounted for, and my beautiful mother over the 90-year milestone – I’m spending some time catching up.

Job #1 is to personally thank the candidates and those that actively helped them. They deserve huge kudos from all of us.

To those who have been there helping, and working with me side by side over the years, please know that you are greatly appreciated. Whether that help is via a simple message of acknowledgment, forwarding of calls-to-action to your networks, or financial support to the Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative (PHI) – please know that I greatly value your help and encouragement.

And yes! PHI achieved and actually surpassed its recent fundraising goal!

Mahalo to all who were able to offer a contribution, large or small – and of course with more, we can do more 😉

My coming week will be spent “clearing my desk” catching up and following up with individual emails, texts, and calls – and scheduling future personal meet-ups on every island.

If for any reason I’ve missed responding to a question or request you’ve made in the past, and/or if you want to connect on something new – please do not hesitate to reach out.

Bottom line – know that I greatly appreciate your support and your involvement in our common quest to help make our community and our world a better place.

Sincerely,
Gary Hooser (http://www.garyhooser.com)
Read Hooser blog post “Coco Palms Resort goes rent-seeking and continues to play 3 card monte with Kaua`i County”

Must read special guest post by Dawn Morais Webster (also published in Honolulu StarAdvertiser) Democracy Faces A Crisis In Hawaiʻi

Some family photos you might enjoy 😉

Me and Mom at her 90th birthday party!

Me and the youngest member of our family Kaliyah!

Rixon and Isabella – growing up way to fast!

Ohana at Haʻena Beach Park

Ohana food and fun in Koloa.

Maximus Aurelius

Kaliyah is all smiles!

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Coco Palms Resort Goes Rent-Seeking

It’s Ground Hog Day, as the Coco Palms Resort development is yet again on the Kauai Planning Commission agenda.

It’s been 30 years and the parade of various owners and developers continue to tell us to trust them, everything is on track, and they will soon be restoring the property to its former glory.

How long will we be fooled?

Allowing a major resort development to proceed based on its original 1952 footprint, utilizing an emergency ordinance passed following a disaster in 1992 that was illegally amended in 2013 to benefit one particular developer/owner, AND does not provide the required HRS 343 environmental review – is wrong, illegal, and without question not in the best interests of the people of Kauai.

As a resident of Wailua Homesteads, I am impacted directly by the proposed development. In reality, every one of us on Kauai is directly impacted.

The significant and immediate impact this project will have on the adjacent shoreline is of special concern. The broader impacts involving historical and cultural preservation, visitor industry carrying capacity, water usage, waste disposal, adjacent wetlands, and affordable housing are also critically important areas of concern. Needless to say, traffic congestion and access to this area is already at or exceeding capacity.

None of these impacts have been evaluated via an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement – as is required by state law, HRS 343.

As a former Kauai Councilmember and State Senator representing Kauai and Niihau, and as the former statewide Director of the Office of Environmental Control (OEQC), I have worked closely in both the formulation and the implementation of Hawaii’s environmental laws – specifically HRS 343 pertaining to Environmental Impact Statements (EIS).

The County does not have the legal authority to exempt the developer from provisions contained within HRS 343.

It’s clear and unambiguous that the proposed development “triggers Chapter 343” in at least 3 ways.

HRS 343 states in part: An Environmental Assessment shall be required for actions which: Propose the use of state or county lands, propose any use within the shoreline area, propose any use within any historic site as designated in the National Register or Hawaii Register.

In the case of the Coco Palms Resort development all 3 triggers apply.

Appropriate permit conditions needed to mitigate inevitable environmental impacts cannot be put into place until the appropriate environmental reviews have been conducted as is required by State law. Chapter 343 review must come first prior to the issuance of other permits. This legal requirement has not been met and no legal exemption to the law has been put forth.

In addition, the very basis upon which these permits have been granted, the so-called “Iniki Ordinance” which was extended by Kauai County specifically to benefit the Coco Palms Hui, LLC – is fundamentally flawed.

The passage of a “special law” to benefit only a single entity is unconstitutional.

The Hawaii State Constitution states in Section 5. “The legislative power over the lands owned by or under the control of the State and its political subdivisions shall be exercised only by general laws.”

The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision on March 16, 2009 that a measure effectively exempting the Hawaii Super Ferry from HRS 343 was unconstitutional because laws may not be written to only benefit specific businesses and must be “general laws”.

I was in the room as a State Senator representing Kauai and Niihau when the law exempting the Superferry was passed, and I voted no. I was also in the Kauai Council Chambers as a Councilmember when the final amendments to the Iniki Ordinance were passed, and I voted no on this as well.

In both cases, both laws were without question written in a manner to specifically benefit a single specific business – which is unconstitutional.

The original Iniki Ordinance was never intended to support real estate speculators, but rather to benefit only Kauai landowners who needed to quickly rebuild their properties.

In summary: The permits now held by the developer/owner are legally flawed and due to the lack of progress on the project, have lapsed. The new owner/developer must be required to reapply, start the process over, and comply with all existing laws, rules, and requirements.

Full disclosure: I am Board President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA), part of a coalition of environmental and social justice organizations in support of a petition before the Planning Commission stating that due to the lack of progress, the developers SMA permit has lapsed. In addition, I am actively working with various members of the community on ideas and actions that might advance an alternative vision for this unique property – one that seeks to preserve, protect, and perpetuate its historical and cultural significance AND does not include a resort component.

Rent-Seeking “The practice of manipulating public policy or economic conditions as a strategy for increasing profits.”

Gary Hooser

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