Legislative Updates: Cannabis, Criminal Justice, Food/Farms, Reproductive Rights

Aloha Friends,
I wish this were not the case and truthfully the weekend work is wearing on me as well. However, if we do not show up with testimony by Monday morning, we will surely end up paying a price for our neglect. Hence.. here is another “all hands on deck” call to action.

We are approaching the half-way point in the legislative process. House bills are thus in the final House committee and getting ready to pass over to the Senate, and vice versa.

Any bill that does not “cross over” in the very near future, will be dead for this session. Thus, this is the last chance for the very important measures listed below, and your testimony in support is urgently needed.

Committee Hearings Scheduled For
(testimony in SUPPORT needed by 9 am Monday 03/01)

Criminal Justice Reform
SB1260 Eliminates the use of monetary bail for traffic offenses, violations, and nonviolent petty misdemeanor and misdemeanor offenses, with certain exceptions. Must-Read – Civil Beat “Restore Justice: End The Cash Bail System.” ​

Cannabis – Decriminalization, and Legalization
SB758 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=758) – Increases from 3 grams to 1 oz the threshold for decriminalization
SB767 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=767) – Legalizes the personal use, possession, and sale of cannabis

SB335 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billnumber=335&billtype=SB&year=2021) – Requires at least 50% of state ag lands leased for local food production

SB337 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billnumber=337&billtype=SB&year=2021) – Cover Crop Incentives

SB338 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billnumber=338&billtype=SB&year=2021) – Food Hub Pilot Program

SB341 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billnumber=341&billtype=SB&year=2021) – Taro Tax Exemptions

SB1251 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billnumber=1251&billtype=SB&year=2021) – Farm to School
For bullet point bill descriptions and testimony assistance for all 5 measures, read HAPA – “Support Good Food and Agriculture Bills!” (https://www.hapahi.org/blog/support-good-food-and-agriculture-bills)

Reproductive Health Care For Rural Communities
HB576 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=576&year=2021) Reduces costs and ensures that patients and health care providers are not forced to travel to another island for reproductive health care. See Planned Parenthood Hawaii – bullet points (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sSNAjZHsbPq-Bpo1Z2O4ZRo_nBq9fwEZu06Q0fRjD8U/edit) .

Environmental Protection
SB350 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=350) – Clean water shoreline testing, environmental justice, requires water quality testing, and informing the public of health risks.

HB1352 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=1352) – Requires: (1) Inventory of lands that are leased or controlled by the federal government including surplus military lands; (2) Disclosure of known contaminants or environmental hazards associated with the inventoried lands (3) Proposed alternative uses for the lands

Tax Fairness – Budget
SB56 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=56&year=2021) – A progressive and comprehensive proposal increasing taxes on high earners, corporations, and property speculators, and temporarily removes certain GET exemptions, in order to raise the revenue needed to avoid cuts in social services and environmental protection.

HB290 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=290&year=2021) – Eliminates the weight tax exemption for private vehicles owned by military personnel taxing those vehicles the same as Hawaii resident-owned vehicles.

Special Action Alert from Capitol Watch
Sierra Club of Hawaii
OPPOSE HB1015 by Monday, March 1 (https://www.hawaiicapitolwatch.org/2021-blog/2021/2/23/watch-out-for-these-water-license-bills)

Update on HB1286 COVID Travel: Blocking County Protections

HB1286 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=1286&year=2021) proposes to strip the County from its ability to set travel rules during the pandemic and implements a one size fits all COVID screening policy. This measure has passed all of its committees in the House and awaits a final floor vote before it crosses over to the Senate for further deliberation and votes. Please contact YOUR district Representative and ask them to vote “NO” on the floor when it arrives there. You can find out who your Representative is and their contact info by going here: https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/fyl/

Increasing Hawaii’s Minimum Wage

SB676 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=676&year=2021) increases Hawaii’s minimum wage from $10.10 to $12 effective July 1, 2022. This is a modest but good step in the right direction, and certainly nothing business needs to fear.

Regardless of which island you live on, please help send a strong message of support to YOUR district Representative and Senator today if you can. It’s easy. IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY DONE SO – PLEASE Just go to this simple “one-click form” (https://p2a.co/D1SMTxU) and voila, the Representative and Senator who represent you and your district will receive a message indicating your support.

Hawaii has the highest cost of living, yet 20 states have a higher minimum wage.

Pandemic or no pandemic, the minimum wage is going up this year in 26 other states. Our frontline workers who literally slave away at minimum wage jobs in stores, offices, and fast-food restaurants across the state – deserve a raise.

While $12 in 2022 is a good start, we continue to encourage legislators to amend SB676 to include an incremental phased-in increase to $17 in 2026.

Kuleana Academy Leadership Development

Perhaps the most important action of the day: Regardless of where you live in Hawaii, if you have roots within your community, have a burning desire to make our world a better place, believe in putting people and the planet ahead of corporate profits, and have some track record of community involvement (not just talking about it on FaceBook) – please consider applying to the Kuleana Academy (https://www.hapahi.org/kuleana) .

Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) is now accepting applications for the 6th Kuleana Academy. This is a five-month political leadership development and non-partisan candidate training program for emerging leaders in Hawai‘i. Watch this short video and apply here (https://www.hapahi.org/kuleana) .

Other Stuff

Many readers ask me how they can be most effective with the least amount of energy and time. This short blog piece I wrote recently provides that answer: The Political Power You Don’t Know You Have

Please take action and then share this email with your friends and networks. And then, after the work is done, please join me in taking the rest of the weekend off 😉

Gary Hooser
Pono Hawaii Initiative

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Wednesday 2/24 – Please Show Up @ Capitol: Defend and Respect Workers – employed and unemployed

Regardless of where you live, please join us, either virtually or in-person Wednesday February 24 to demonstrate your support and your respect for workers, both the unemployed and those fortunate to still be working.

There are two tracks:

If you live on Oahu, please show up: Meet at the Unemployment Office on Punchbowl Street Wednesday, February 24 at 10:15 am. Then, march to the Capitol for peaceful but determined action in support of workers, Bring your mask and social distance safely, but stand in solidarity with workers across the islands. Bring a sign if you can!

If you live on a neighbor-island, please join in a virtual storming of the gates (even more peacefully) via email, telephone, and social media during this same time period – from 10:15 am until 12:30 pm.

On Maui – Please also join in a coordinated action from 11am until 12:30pm
@ 200 S. High St. Kalana O Maui Bldg, Wailuku
Bring your mask and social distance safely

Our message to legislators and to the governor is simple.

1. Open the unemployment office for in-person service.
2. Increase Hawaii’s minimum wage.
3. Stop taxing unemployment benefits.
4. Support the right of employment recall.
5. Ban forced over-time.

The bottom line message is that Hawaii’s workers, both the employed and the unemployed deserve respect.

It’s true, some workers are forced to work over-time or risk getting fired. It does not matter whether they have children waiting for them at home or not.

It’s also true that some businesses, hotels, resorts, and others are using the pandemic as an excuse to lay off employees that have dedicated 20 and 30 years of their lives to serving that company, cutting off their health insurance and replacing them with new lower-wage workers.

The 590,000 people who have filed for unemployment benefits this past year will soon be sent a bill for the state income tax owed on this income, plus penalties and interest for late payment. The state should of course waive this tax for 2020 and 2021. It’s the least they can do for their gross mishandling of the situation.

Fortunately, the Hawaii State Senate has moved forward a modest increase in the minimum wage, proposing a $12 per hour increase effective July 1, 2022. While far short of the $17 minimum that is needed, it’s a step in the right direction. This measure SB676 must still be scheduled for a hearing in the House and be passed there. It is uncertain at the moment whether or not the House will be supportive.

Hawaii workers deserve respect.

They deserve to be able to go to the unemployment office and speak to someone in person, just the same as someone obtaining a building permit or paying their taxes. Being forced to make endless telephone calls to numbers that are never answered is unacceptable.

There is no good reason that a physical office staffed by real human beings cannot be opened. Our many friends who through no fault of their own have lost their jobs, should be able to meet and discuss with a live human being, face to face, their unemployment application. Every day on every island people are meeting in person to do their banking, accounting, shopping, dine in restaurants and interact with various government agencies.

The unemployed should be granted the same privilege. This of course should be done safely as it is being done in other offices and stores. Prioritize these state employees as essential and make the vaccine available to them if that has not already been done.

If there is a fear that these unemployed individuals who have been waiting weeks, some perhaps months just to get a return telephone call will become irate, that is understandable and expected. While an understandable and rational concern, it’s not sufficient reason to continue keeping unemployment offices closed, statewide. Add security, stagger hours, start with kupuna, or make it by appointment only. But bring in human beings to answer the darn phones and set the appointments.

Enough is enough. The failure to reopen is either due to a lack of resources, a lack of political will, or a lack of respect for workers. The Governor, The Senate President, and The House Speaker have access to the resources, and if they respect and value workers they should marshal the political will – and just do it.

I encourage all to please join in the effort and strongly but courteously demand that the unemployment offices be opened for in-person service and Hawaii’s workers, both the unemployed and those with jobs – be treated with respect.

Please take a moment today and personally call and or email those who are in a position to provide the resources needed. Ask them politely but firmly to take action, demonstrate the political will and show Hawaii workers the respect they deserve.

Please take the time on Wednesday, February 24th, from 10:15 am until 12:30 pm to show up at the Capitol if you can.

If you live on a neighbor-island or otherwise unable to attend, please join in the effort virtually on this same day and at the same time: By sharing the information on social media AND calling and emailing the 3 individuals who have the power to fix this mess and show their respect for workers – IF they have the political will to do so.

Governor David Ige
(808) 586-0034
david.y.ige@hawaii.gov (mailto:david.y.ige@hawaii.gov)

Contact the Governor

Senate President Ronald Kouchi
senkouchi@capitol.hawaii.gov (mailto:senkouchi@capitol.hawaii.gov)

House Speaker Scott Saiki

As always, your communications should be courteous and professional, but firm.

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The Political Power You Don’t Know You Have

Every day it seems I get an email or call from someone who wants to get involved with legislative advocacy, but they want the process “simpler.” Many just want to “point and click,” send in their testimony and then get back to their life, knowing and feeling good about doing their civic duty. I say mahalo to you all for being willing to give even a small amount of your time for this work. Even short testimonies and brief emails can be impactful when done strategically.

As a member of the public, I’m hoping you will embrace and utilize the political power many of you don’t even know you have. You are not powerless. It may feel that way sometimes but in the world of politics where one vote really does matter, the power is in fact yours to wield…or not.

Every legislator loves serving and wants to continue doing so as long as is humanly possible. This not necessarily a bad thing. If someone is doing their job properly, loves their job, and wants to keep doing that job, this is a natural and positive inclination.

The most important person to any legislator is the person who can help them get elected.
Yes of course I am over-simplifying things. Yes of course issues matter, facts and data matter, and doing the right thing matters. But at the end of the day the question every elected official asks themselves whether consciously or unconsciously is, “Is this decision/vote going to help or hurt my re-election?”

The vast majority of votes cast daily by legislators are routine, mundane, tedious, and housekeeping in nature. However, many inevitably rise to a level of community importance so as to become political hot potatoes. Some legislators embrace and live for these moments and others fear and hide from them. This is when the voice and testimony of constituents who live in the district carry the most weight.

To be absolutely clear: The opinions of people offering testimony or sending in email on an issue who live in the legislator’s district matter more than people writing the same exact words who live elsewhere.

To take it a step further, if you live in the legislator’s district and if you are active in politics and campaigns, you have more influence than almost anyone else. The legislator needs and wants your vote, and he/she definitely does not need or want your opposition whether it be you running for office against him/her or you helping someone do the same.

All testimony is important, but not all testimony is equal. If you happen to live in a district represented by a legislator who is also Speaker of the House, Senate President, Majority Leader or the Chair of a major committee – then your voice is even more impactful than others.

But in order to use your power, you must first know who your district Senator or Representative is! More importantly, they must know who you are. To accomplish this, you must begin a dialogue with them, and there is no better time to start than now.

This is the place anyone who aspires to affect the public policy process should start. Find out who your district Senator or Representative is, send them an email introducing yourself, and let them know what issues/bills are important to you. Ask about their position on bills and gently but specifically request a reply.

If they fail to reply send them a follow-up and make sure they know that you live in the district. Of course, all communications should be polite and professional, and you probably should acknowledge that you know how busy they are, but that you would appreciate a response. This is where it all starts. This is how a relationship with YOUR Senator and Representative begins.

So if you are too busy to follow the process and read all the bills, just start by emailing YOUR legislator requesting they support/oppose whatever bill that might be important to you. They may or may not sit on the committee that will “hear” the bill, but they still must/should have a position on the measure and will likely have to vote on it at some point in the process.
To find out who exactly YOUR district Senator and Representative is AND to get their email and phone # – use this handy tool provided on the Capitol website https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/fyl/ Just put in your address and voila! The information you need will appear.

AFTER communicating with YOUR legislator, please also submit formal testimony on the bills when they are scheduled. It’s easy, and if you need help just ask YOUR legislator’s staff for guidance!

For more read: Lessons from the Ledge – An almost complete primer on how things really work at the legislature

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Abolish the ADC – All State Owned Agricultural Lands Should Grow Food For Local Consumption

Your testimony is needed NOW!

Please testify in strong support of BOTH HB1271 and SB335.

HB1271 Abolishes the Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) and transfers its responsibility and budget to the Department of Agriculture. HB1271 is scheduled for a hearing before the House Agriculture Committee this Friday at 10 am. Testimony is due ASAP and prior to the hearing (late testimony is better than no testimony). See here for info: https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=1271&year=2021

SB335 mandates the Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) lease out at least 50% of its land to farmers and ranchers whose business is “local food production.” SB335 is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee this Friday at 3 pm. Testimony is due ASAP and prior to the hearing (late testimony is better than no testimony). See here for info: https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=335&year=2021

Why does there need to be a law requiring the agency (ADC) managing State agricultural land to actually lease that land for local food production? The answer: According to a recent State audit the ADC’s management has failed miserably over the past nearly 30 years.
Read Audit Here: https://auditor.hawaii.gov/summary/report-no-21-01-audit-of-the-agribusiness-development-corporation/

The ADC in my opinion should actually be abolished but until then it needs to be tightly controlled – and there needs to be a mandate to lease these state agricultural lands to farmers and ranchers who actually grow food for local consumption – regardless as to whether they are managed by the ADC or the DOA.

The ADC manages over 22,000 acres of state-owned agricultural land, most of which is located on Kauai and central Oahu. The vast majority of this land is not used to produce food, certainly not food for local consumption. Spoiler alert: The large fields of corn you see are mostly “seed corn”  grown by agro/chemical companies, intended for export, and used to produce ethanol, cattle feed, and high fructose corn syrup. No one actually eats this corn.

🌱A state audit recently revealed that throughout the entirety of its 27-year existence, the ADC has failed to accomplish much of its mission aside from acquiring large acres of land.

🌱The special powers and exemptions granted to the ADC have led to an opaque and unfair leasing process. Small farmers and ranchers have been denied leases with no justification.

🌱Instead of being used for local food production, the majority of ADC lands are currently being leased to agrochemical companies for experimentation and GE seed crops for export.

🌱Mismanagement of ADC lands and a lack of accountability has led to lawsuits, Clean Water Act violations, and other illegal activities on ADC lands that create liabilities for the government.

🌱The results of the audit show that the corporation is incapable of carrying out its basic statutory responsibilities and functions. It also shows that they’re unable to fulfill the recommendations contained in the auditor’s report. Therefore, the ADC should be dissolved.

🌱Lawmakers should prioritize regenerative farming operations on state agricultural lands that utilize soil and water conservation practices. These farming practices provide additional environmental benefits such as improved soil health and preventing run-off.

🌱A stakeholder engagement and planning process is needed so Hawai’i’s agricultural lands can be utilized for sustainable, local food.

Testifying Is Easy
I encourage all to be involved and take action. All you need to know about submitting testimony, tracking bills and contacting your legislator can be found at https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov  Just register, plug in the bill # (HB### or SB###) and you are good to go.

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Coco Palms: The Desecration Must Stop

I awoke the other morning angry and thinking about the ongoing desecration occurring at the bottom of the hill. I’ve been driving by that place every day for the past 40 years. Since 1992 it has been a total wreck. The weeds grow tall, the buildings sit in what seems like a perpetual state of semi-demolishment, and every few years there are fires.

The owners of this property clearly don’t care about us. The former Coco Palms Resort is simply one line item among many on their balance sheet. Every few years the owners “sell” the place to developers who blow into town, tell us how much they love our island, promise to restore the place to its former glory, and then con the County of Kauai into extending the “Iniki permits” and other development concessions.

It’s been 29 years now and well past time we say enough is enough and demand that the desecration be stopped.

I use the word desecration intentionally. There are hundreds of iwi kupuna buried here.

There are ancient fishponds, just waiting to be restored. The area abounds with native birds and plants. The history both ancient and modern deserves to be preserved.

The area upon which this former resort sits is literally the birthplace of Hawaiian royalty.

According to the book, “The Story of the Coco Palms Hotel” by David P. Penhallow, the Coco Palms Resort is on an ancient site of Hawaiian royalty and hospitality situated at the mouth of the Wailua River … well known to Hawaiians as a place of many legends and events of historical, cultural and religious significance. This is the landing place of the Kahiki voyagers, who came ashore here at Kauai at about 500 AD.

Those Kanaka who have occupied this property over the years should be applauded for their conviction. It’s the foreign “owner” and the wannabe developers who deserve to be evicted for their ongoing neglect.

I warned you early on that I woke up angry. The desecration, insult, and abuse to our community and to this land is real and those in positions of leadership need to step up and say enough is enough.

The defilement of this special place has gone on way too long, and it’s sad and disgusting that we, collectively, have allowed it so.

The property should be taken away from those that now control its ownership, and developed as a community asset that honors and respects its history, culture, and sacredness. Yes, of course they need to be paid fair market value. I am angry, but not that angry.

Our County government must hold the developers to the letter of the law, revoke permits that are not in compliance, and begin condemnation proceedings. We as a community, led by those with ancestral roots in that aina must hold the vision. And yes, individuals and institutions of wealth and influence must join in partnership and support of that vision. All three components are needed and all three must join together, united in purpose.

No doubt it’s a big lift. I get that.

But we need to hold the intention.

No hotel will ever again be built on that property.

A comprehensive, inclusive community vision that honors the history, the culture, and the sacredness of that place will in fact move forward and become a reality.

Published January 3, 2021 in The Garden Island newspape – Hooser Policy and Politics

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State House Moves To Gut Auditor’s Budget & Block County COVID Travel Restrictions Plus – a note on the “long game.”

The most common excuse offered to justify inaction by legislators at all levels of government is a claim of pragmatism. Lawmakers are fond to talk about playing the “long game” preferring to keep their heads down, avoid risks, build seniority, and hold on to their seats.

We have residents living under bridges and in encampments along the side of the road. Far too many of our friends and neighbors struggle daily, working multiple jobs just to get by. Our streams and reefs are dying, and our coastlines rapidly dropping into the ocean.

The legislative session in Hawaii is on. Hawaii residents on every island, must via our collective action impress upon our legislators state-wide that we will not wait passively in the shadows while they play their long game.

The urgency is real and the needs are great. Click on this Mailchimp link to read the rest and to take action! https://mailchi.mp/garyhooser/house-moves-to-block-county-covid-travel-restrictions

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If you live on a neighbor-island, HB1286 will impact you and the health of your island.

This is important. If you live on a neighbor-island, HB1286 will impact you and the health of your island. HB1286 will be scheduled for hearings soon and your testimony is vitally important.


If HB1286 passes into law – Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii County will no longer have the power to choose their own level of COVID health protections.

HB1286 is a one-size-fits-all COVID policy for incoming travelers, that says Honolulu rules, rule.

“Notwithstanding chapter 127A or any other law to the contrary, this Act shall take precedence over all conflicting statutes concerning this subject matter and shall preempt all contrary laws, ordinances, rules, orders, or proclamations adopted by the State, a county, or any department or agency thereof.”

HB1286 further proposes that “…the department of health shall establish conditions under which persons may be deemed automatically exempt from the pre‑travel testing requirements and mandatory self-quarantine.”

We all know how pleased everyone was with the DOH leadership during the first months of the pandemic, so yes, let’s take control away from elected leaders who actually live in the County and give it to the “professionals” in Honolulu.


State law and DOH rules should set a floor of protections and not a ceiling. If a County desires stronger health protections, they should be allowed to put them into place.

How many more Honolulu centric policies do we need? The blatant disregard for the different needs and circumstances of the neighbor-island communities is astonishing but sadly predictable.

Please contact your State House Representative and say “no thank you.” A list and contact information is here: https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/members/legislators.aspx?chamber=H


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If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck – it’s probably a duck.

January 14: Civil Beat reports on a scathing audit of the Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC). Auditor: State Agriculture Agency Is Failing To Fulfill Mission
Read actual audit here httpsauditor’s.hawaii.gov/auditor/Reports/2021/21-01.pdf

January 20: House Speaker Scott Saiki launches probe of the auditor’s office intended to possibly remove the State Auditor, Les Kondo from office. Civil Beat: “House Speaker launches probe of State auditor”

January 20: Speaker Saiki submits a bill to chop the auditors budget in half. Do the math if you are interested. No other agency in this budget is being cut so drastically.

UPDATE: Here is the latest Civil Beat story on the 50% budget cut published on January 23, 2021. “Proposed Budget Cuts Would Basically Gut Hawaii State Auditor’s Office”

The current proposed legislative budget for 2021 is here in HB1:

It is shocking really. The State Auditor comes out with what is arguably the strongest and most important audit of the year. Within 7 days, the Speaker of the House Scott Saiki calls for his head and for good measure chops his budget in half.

What’s going on here?

The Office of the State Auditor is intentionally shielded by law from excess political influence. The Auditor is appointed for an 8-year term and can only be removed for cause, with a 2/3 majority vote of both the House and the Senate.

Decide for yourself: Please read the Civil Beat articles and the actual audit linked above. After you’ve had a chance to read and digest the information that is available – please contact your legislator directly and share with them your thoughts on the matter.

Here is a complete list and contact information for all Representatives and Senators.

Summary remarks from the Hawaii Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) audit: “We found that ADC has done little – if anything – to facilitate the development of agricultural enterprises…After almost 30 years, ADC has yet to develop an agribusiness plan…ADC did not follow the state procurement process…as a result of the Board’s abdication of its policy-making and oversight responsibilities, ADC has yet to provide the necessary leadership to facilitate the transition of agricultural lands…after almost 30 years since its creation.” Read an eye-opening official summary of the ADC audit.

In addition, UHERO issued a separate report also highly critical. Read Civil Beat – Economists: Agribusiness Development Corp. Is A ‘Fiasco’

I encourage all to monitor HB1 and submit testimony in support of blocking the 50% budget cuts being proposed by Speaker Saiki.


Gary Hooser – http://www.garyhooser.com

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Nothing to fear except the rabbit hole.

Wednesday January 20, 2021 was a big day in policy and politics. Actually, they don’t get much bigger than this. The President of the United States was sworn into office, and it was opening day of the Hawaii Legislature.

Rocked by a global pandemic and political discord not seen since the civil war, the expectations and the needs are high. My hope is that our leaders and our community will in the days ahead, rise to the occasion. 

In Honolulu, the Capitol building was essentially shut down with none of the normal pomp and circumstance. There was no music, no food, and no speeches. It’s a shame really. I am a bit surprised there was not at least a virtual opening day ceremony.

At the national level, the most hopeful moment was when the youngest poet in inaugural history, Amanda Gorman took the stage.  Please take the time with friends and family to watch and listen to her inspirational words of hope and unity. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LZ055ilIiN4

President Biden spoke well and delivered the message that needed to be delivered at this particular time in history.  He is of course facing a very high bar. He must lead the country through the anger, the angst, the pandemic, and the conspiracy ridden societal discontent. An impossible task I think unless the majority of us who voted for him start talking to our neighbors.

Really, that’s the only way we are going to win. We have to align ourselves in support, and as kindly and as gently as possible inform our friends, neighbors, and relatives – that there is no micro-chip hidden within the vaccine, the mob that stormed the capitol was not organized by BLM and/or ANTIFA, and that President Biden won the election fair and square. Not a single court nor any State elections office or legislature has concluded there was any significant incidence of fraud that might even come close to impacting the results.

This is job #1. We must do our best to convince our once rational friends that they have been lied to. I am serious here. We cannot keep looking the other way when it comes QAnon or whatever conspiracy du-jour is floating around. The misinformation and disinformation is intentional, the rabbit holes are deep, and the whole thing is dangerous.

Next, we need to explain to all who will listen that supporting the equal and fair treatment of all people regardless of their station in life is not some outrageous communist plot. Affordable health care, quality public education, good jobs that pay a living wage, and protecting public resources from private exploitation, are not radical ideas.

Another eminently un-outrageous thought is that we must have a tax structure that is fair and equitable. Those who extract more from the public commons, those who waste more, consume more, and pollute more, should pay more. And yes, those who have more should also pay more.

It’s really all pretty tame, main-stream stuff. Certainly, there’s no reason to be afraid and to go charging up the Capitol steps, wearing horns and a fur cape, looking for a hidden socialist. Most of us are right here in plain view.

Talking to our friends, neighbors, and co-workers and letting them know there is nothing to be afraid of is critically important. They must understand we’re not going to tax them to death, take away their religion or their 2nd amendment, and their 401k will be just fine.

All we really want is a more just and fair society – for all of us. 

Gary Hooser
Published January 20th, 2021 in The Garden Island Newspaper (the above version has been slightly edited from the TGI version to put the date of publication in context)

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After the insurrection, accountability and reconciliation – Honolulu Star/Advertiser by Gary Hooser

President Donald Trump lied, and people died. This is the unvarnished truth. He and his enablers and those who participated in acts of violence, must be held accountable.

The unsettling and dangerous situation that occurred inside our nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, is pressing heavily upon all of us. Urged on by words from the president of the United States, a mix of domestic terrorists, political zealots and narcissistic hooligans stormed the seat of our Republic. Death, destruction and fear was their objective, and they were successful in achieving that outcome.

The threat and specter of continued violence hangs like a dark and ominous cloud. What can and should be done now?

From a distance, separated both literally and figuratively from the halls and chambers of government power and authority — the answer for most of us is to simply hold on.

We must hold on, remain aware, and keep our personal safety a priority during the coming weeks. Then, when the storm passes as it surely will, we must seek a path that demands both accountability and de-escalation.

Accountability and consequences are the first order of business. Those who broke the law, regardless of their title or position, must be brought to justice. Those enablers who maneuvered intentionally in the political grey areas of ethics and integrity, must also pay a price of public exposure, censure and condemnation.

Ultimately we must move past accountability and consequences, and through the anger and divisiveness. Both in our local communities and at the national level, we must begin a conversation soon that starts the healing and de-escalates the hate and animosity.

The cynics of course will say that it can’t be done. And for the fringe, the bigots and the zealots, it indeed may be impossible. But for the vast majority of us, we can and we must move soon to rebuild relationships and restart conversations.

There is no shortage of common ground and that’s where our focus must turn.

We need to create jobs. Good jobs that pay a living wage. We need to rebuild our public infrastructure, protect our natural environment and ensure that all communities have clean water to drink. Quality health care and a quality education must be available for all regardless of income or station in life. And supporting all of this, we must have ethical, transparent, and a truly representative inclusive government that is held accountable by honest and open elections.

To pay for our public and societal needs, we must have a tax structure that is fair and equitable. Those who extract more from the public commons, those who waste more, consume more and pollute more, should pay more. And yes, those who have more should also pay more.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates himself stated recently on CNN, “ … the government should require people in my position to pay significantly higher taxes.” Fellow billionaire Warren Buffett said similarly on CNBC, “The wealthy are definitely undertaxed relative to the general population.”

Yes, there is much common ground. While the strategies and tactics to achieve these common goals and objectives may differ, most will agree as to where we ultimately want to go as a society.

The coming weeks will be difficult and challenging. President Trump and others must be held accountable. Those in positions of leadership and power must know that their words and actions have consequences. And the people must know that laws are for everyone, regardless of your wealth, race or title.

But then, after those who brought this grave harm to our Republic are held accountable, we must move on. We must move on to build a more just society where a diversity of people break bread and share ideas, where justice and equality is the norm and where bigotry and violence are an unacceptable aberration.

by Gary Hooser
Published in the Honolulu Star/Advertiser
January 18, 2021

Column: After the insurrection, accountability and reconciliation

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