This past two years, Hawaii has experienced the birth of an intensely passionate grass roots movement for change. This movement has brought together people from all islands representing many different groups and issues but each sharing at its core the battle for social justice. Whether that battle be manifested in the fight against health and environmental degradation, cultural debasement or economic inequality, at the end of the day it is about social justice.
The 10,000 that marched recently for Unity and Aloha ‘Āina in Waikiki represent just a small fraction of the large number of our residents who are dissatisfied with the status quo and increasingly empowered to stand up and work now for positive change. On Hawaii Island, on Kauai and on Maui, thousands more have marched and are demanding a government that listens and responds to the people rather than simply kowtow to big business and big money.
People across Hawaii are demanding to be heard and and their concerns and issues respected by government policy makers, but the majority in political office have their head in the sand, hoping, I suppose, that this whole “movement thing” will just go away.
To be clear the movement is not going away. The abuse by the status quo has crossed the line and the “in your face nature of the actions” are far too egregious for people to turn away and act like they don’t see.
The rail financial boondoggle, the Kakaʻako “good planning and affordable housing” sham, and the “sustainable agriculture” hypocrisy that accompanies Hoʻopili and so many other ag-to-urban development projects on Oahu and around the islands are just a few examples.
On Maui, over 50% of the voters chose to support an initiative requiring agrochemical companies to prove that their operations are safe; yet the local County government will neither acknowledge that concern with legal support nor offer an alternative solution. The County Councils of both Hawaii and Kauai County also passed laws attempting to regulate this same industry; and yet State government at all levels takes no action, choosing instead to ignore the possibility that additional regulation might be necessary.
In all of these cases and so many more, the common theme is that government is not working for the common good but rather seems focused only on facilitating the business interests who are the “rent seekers” in search of government favors. They come before our government officials and agencies asking for zoning changes, permit variances, subsidies and other dispensations, and our government seems only willing to bend over backward to accommodate them. When their project does not go well or when they feel there is more money to be made, they come back again and ask for even more from the public trough.
The movement surrounding the protection of Maunakea happened not just because of one particular telescope, but rather from decades of State inaction and lack of responsiveness.
There comes a time when enough is enough, and I believe now is such a time.
The word on the street is that the growing movement for change in Hawaii is evolving from marching and carrying signs toward the additional action of meaningful participation in the 2016 elections. There is a movement afoot to register new voters and emerging leaders fueled by the urgency of the moment are making plans to become candidates for public office.
The Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) of which I am the volunteer President of the Board has recently launched the Kuleana Academy, a five-month leadership development and candidate training program. H.A.P.A. is working with Alliance Education Partners representing a wide variety of leading Hawaii public interest organizations. This is a nonpartisan statewide program that will educate the participants through 1) Leadership and Campaign Skills Training, 2)Progressive Values and Statewide Issues Workshops; and 3) Community-Based Hands-On Experience. Space is limited, but anyone in the public is welcome to apply. The evaluation of participants and their acceptance into the program will be conducted by a panel consisting of H.A.P.A. Board Members and Alliance Education Partners.
Please read about and support this exciting new opportunity to create positive change in Hawaii. We need new candidates and we need funding support to make the Kuleana Academy the best that it can be. To learn more and apply please visit http://www.hapahi.org/kuleana-academy/
Please also consider making a generous tax deductible donation to support this important program and the many other projects H.A.P.A. now has underway. We urgently need your help today.
Hawaii needs more progressive government leaders who value ʻaina and the people ahead of corporate profit and who have the courage to stand up for their convictions.
Small numbers matter. While big numbers are important when measuring the success of a march or a concert, when it comes to casting votes at the legislature and in County Council meetings across Hawaii, a handful of votes can make an important difference. At the State legislature a handful of new, forward-thinking, community-based individuals can likewise make a significant difference, giving courage to other likeminded colleagues and catalyzing change within the body.
Please, if you are a leader and want to take your potential to a higher level, apply to the Kuleana Academy today. If you have the financial capacity to help Hawaii’s new emerging leaders to reach out, take on, and carry that mantle of leadership, please offer your financial support.
Together we can do this.