I’m not pulling any punches today. The time is too short and the need is too great – read on, please.
If you live in or around Ala Moana, Kaka’ako, or downtown Honolulu I encourage you to vote for Kim Coco Iwamoto. She is incredibly qualified, community-based, and totally committed to serving in a way that is “pono”.
Regardless of where you live in Hawaiʻi, the outcome of this race and the two others listed below, will affect all of us.
Kim Coco is running against Speaker of the House Scott Saiki and came within 167 votes of beating him in 2020. We need to help push her over the top this time.
She is quoted in a recent StarAdvertiser article that her focus will be on “decentralizing the power that Saiki holds over his colleagues right now…I want more openness and transparency. I’m very much interested in holding whoever’s in leadership accountable to the body and not getting petty and vindictive. I want to get away from that petty schoolyard bullying.”
What is she talking about?
Scott Saiki has been in office 28 years and as Speaker of the House supports, perpetuates, leads, or at the minimum enables a legislative culture that most observers on the inside, describe as toxic.
If you’re a State employee and you somehow cross him, he can and will make your life miserable. He will have those that carry his water attack your character, your credibility, and your work. The message sent to every state agency is clear and unequivocal. Fail to kowtow to House Leadership, and you risk paying a very high price.
If you have the audacity to support his political opponent Kim Coco Iwamoto and you are an advocate or lobbyist with bills before the legislature, he will kill your bills.
If you are a member of the House of Representatives and you fail to support his agenda, you risk losing your committee Chair-personship, having your bills derailed, and losing valuable Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding for your district.
This is the reality folks. Ask others who work in and around the Capitol. They will confirm what I say here as truth, of this I have no doubt.
In the Speaker’s defense, this toxic culture of fear and retribution has been supported and utilized by other Speakers in years past. But in the over 20 years that I’ve been working in and around the legislature, this is the worse I have ever seen it.
The unilateral decision-making, the secrecy, the deal-making, and the retribution toward those that don’t go along – is real.
The fact that former Senate Majority Leader Kalani English and former Vice Chairman of the House Finance Committee Ty Cullen pleaded guilty to accepting bribes is further evidence of how far the institution has fallen.
Senate President Ronald Kouchi through his acquiescence is similarly responsible but much less so. Due to the nature of the Senate, the unilateral power at the top is much weaker than in the House. Senators serve larger districts and with 4-year staggered terms, they are more secure in their seats and less susceptible to the petty bullying that goes on in the House.
Ask legislators in private and they will tell you. Rather than being a place where the climate is conducive to creativity and collaboration, the atmosphere in that big square building is fear-based, and the air heavy with apprehension.
Fortunately, in the Senate, there are also new candidates running who have the maturity and strength of character desperately needed and sufficient to hold the entire body accountable.
On Maui, Walter Ritte is running for election to Senate District #7 challenging Senator Lynn DeCoite. Ritte is a proven force of nature, grounded in community. On Hawaiʻi Island, Senator Laura Acasio is completing her first term and running for reelection against Senator Lorraine Inouye (in a district that has been consolidated via redistricting). Senator Acasio has proven without a doubt that she is incredibly capable, values-based, and unafraid to take on the status quo.
We need to take back our government.
Support, and yes make some level of financial contribution and help elect all three: Kim Coco Iwamoto, Walter Ritte, and Senator Laura Acasio – and the world as we know it at the legislature will change for the better. Of this I am sure.
There are other good people running for election on all islands and at all levels. A list of those I feel particularly strong about is here at Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative (PHI).
These opinions are my own and the candidates listed above are not aware and have not given permission or approval of what I have written. While PHI pays for the cost of Mail Chimp’s email hosting services – no one pays me to write this stuff.