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)
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).
Let’s do this.