Self-Serving Charter Amendments And The Direct Democracy Option  

Not sure if others were as surprised as I was to see the 5 to 2 vote in support of moving forward a measure that if passed by voters would allow council-members to serve an unlimited amount of terms.
Perhaps I am naive. Even my occasionally cynical and sometimes jaded political pragmatism did not envision that a majority of the council would be so brazen. Voting in support of a proposal so obviously intended to benefit a handful of their own members who would otherwise term-out in 2020, would seem to be a risky move in an election year.  The two council-members voting in opposition were Council-members’ JoAnn Yukimura and Mason Chock.

What looks and feels like an attempt to consolidate power by the establishment now in power, probably is. No sense really getting into the story about the duck. It is all so very obvious.

Perhaps it’s time for some “people power”? If we assume for a moment that the established forces in control of business and government will resist any meaningful changes that attempt to limit or reduce their power, we can also assume that systemic change will only come from the grass roots.

I am speaking of the provisions in our existing charter that allow Kauai residents the right to introduce, put on the ballot and possibly pass their own “citizen based charter amendments”.

Basically with a good idea, a lawyer to write it up and 2,500 “valid” signatures, any Kauai resident can become a “citizen lawmaker” and exercise some good ole fashion “direct democracy”.

Let’s think for a moment of what type of charter amendments could be proposed that might provide systemic change to the existing power structure.

Possible charter amendments for discussion:

1) Any Charter amendments that are proposed via Resolution by the Kauai County Council involving the elimination or alteration of term limits, shall not take effect until at least 8 years from approval.

* This would prevent council-members from proposing charter amendments directly benefiting themselves such as what was recently passed.

2) No person who is a lobbyist or who has served as a lobbyist within prior 24 months shall be appointed to any Board or Commission.

* Yes, unfortunately there are individuals now who presently sit on County Boards and Commissions who are lobbyists and are by definition paid to influence government. WUWT?

3) No officer of the County, elected or appointed, shall be permitted to accept any gift whatsoever from any lobbyist or any person or entity who does business with or who has matters pending before the county.
* This seems so obvious but similar proposals have failed to pass the council.  The discussion always becomes bogged down in “How big a gift is too big”? A majority of council-members always fail to grasp the idea that there is only one reason a lobbyist gives a council-member a gift, whether it be a lunch or a travel junket, and that is to influence the council-member.

4) Members of the County Council shall be elected by a combination of at-large and Districts.  There shall be 3 District seats matching the existing 3 Representative Districts, and 4 at-large seats.

*This is the big one. While there are many variations on this theme, this 4/3 proposal seems to be the easiest to understand, the easiest to implement, a significant step toward providing better district representation but still retaining the benefits of the “at-large” existing system.

It is important to note that a charter amendment is not an ordinance. Charter amendments are intended to be foundational in nature where an ordinance will be more prescriptive and often intended to implement the charter provision.

To be safe (in a legal sense), any proposed charter amendment should be similar in format as those provisions currently within the charter.  Amending existing language is much more likely to be acceptable than adding entirely new concepts or provisions.

The process of gathering signatures also has to be attended to with care and the utmost of attention. The above cited 2,500 “valid” signatures is an approximate number intended to represent “5% of the registered voters in the last general election”. “Valid” means the signatures represent registered voters in the County of Kauai whose signatures have been validated by the County Clerk.  This may mean gathering many more signatures than the basic minimum as it can be expected that many will be found to be invalid (not registered to vote, moved, incomplete name, illegible name etc).

There are also “timeline” requirements requiring that the language and the signature petition be submitted to the County Clerk in sufficient time to allow for proper review and placement on the ballot.

Those citizens in our community interested in pursuing this path of direct democracy are strongly encouraged to first READ THE COUNTY CHARTER, specifically sections pertaining to CHARTER AMENDMENT. http://www.kauai.gov/Portals/0/Boards_Commissions/Charter/Kauai%20Charter%20Codified%202016%20(Final).pdf?ver=2016-12-30-090727-520

Finally, after the Charter is reviewed, a meeting with the County Clerk is also highly recommended so that the citizen or citizen group undertaking this task has a clear understanding of the rules and process required.

It goes without saying, that I am open to meeting and discussing the potential of this option, with anyone at anytime.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Realities of Council Service

People are often curious about the reality of serving as a member of the Kauai County Council. How much time does it take to do the work?  How much does it pay?  Do you really have to give up your private life in order to serve?  Do you have to quit your existing employment to serve on the council?  Is it really a “thankless job”?
Let’s take those questions in the order listed.
How much time does it take to actually serve as a member of the Kauai County Council?
The answer of course is “it depends”. The absolute minimum requirement is that you have to show up to one meeting per week. Sometimes these meetings last two hours and sometimes they last 12 hours, but one official meeting per week is the minimum requirement. Each elected member of the Council decides how much time he/she wants to put into the job above and beyond this minimum requirement. The position is defined as “part-time” in some areas yet considered “full time” for purposes of some employee benefit and legal provisions.  In the 8 years total that I served on the Council, I have known members who worked at their council job 24/7, attending evening meetings in every community and spending countless hours researching the issues prior to council meetings. I have also known council-members who did the bare minimum.
How much does it pay?
The current salary of a council-member is $56,781, with the council-chair making $63,879. Council-members also receive an auto allowance of $350 per month and cellular phone allowance of $150 per month. Starting with the next council term and pursuant to the Salary Commission Resolution, council-members will make $63,140 and the council-chair will make $71,033. The auto and cellular phone allowance will remain the same.  Note: A separate “Salary Review Commission” makes formal recommendations to the council that covers all salaries for the council-members, the Mayor and all directors. The language in the law is such that the passage of pay increases is contingent upon the council “failing to reject” the recommendations. Thus the council is technically never in a position of “voting for their own raises”.  They can vote against them (and all others as a group) but they cannot vote for them.
How much privacy is given up once you are elected?
Council-members by definition are “public figures” and are subjected to more scrutiny than the average person on the street. Because they are public employees, and in charge of protecting and managing public resources (land, budgets, contracts etc) council-members and other elected and appointed persons must comply with “Financial Disclosure” requirements where they must disclose things that might cause them to have a conflict of interest, or otherwise influence their decision making. These financial disclosure documents are available to the public and on file with the County Office of Boards and Commissions in Lihue.
Can you have a second job while serving as a member of the county-council?
The answer is yes and a listing of these are as follows (per financial disclosure forms).
In addition to their employment on the council:
*  Council-chair Rapozo works as the night auditor at the Kauai Beach Resort. He also owns M&P Legal Support Services, LLC.
*  Councilmember Brun is employed by Hartung Brothers (formerly Syngenta) as their “community liaison” and he operates a small business.
*  Council-member Chock operates Kupua’e, a small business focused on leadership development and training.
*  Council-member Kagawa is a full-time teacher at Kapaa High School for the State Department of Education (DOE).
*  Council-member Kaneshiro is employed by Grove Farm Land Company and Haili Moe Inc. and also operates a small business.
*  Council-member Kawakami works for MFM Inc. (retail grocers) and derives income from at least 4 additional business entities including Kahili Development, Eleele Associates, Haupu Associates and Commercial Properties.
*  Council-member Yukimura holds no other employment.
The total annual pay received by members of the Kauai County Council ranges from a high of $180,000 to a low of $76,000 (per their financial disclosures listing all income sources including council salary).
Note: The median annual household income on Kauai is approximately $65,000.
Some readers will no doubt object to the thought of elected members earning signicant incomes for a job that takes only one day per week. Others will wonder how can a council-member hold two government (one state and one county) jobs simultaneously? And still others will wonder how can a council-member be responsible for regulating an industry that employees them? All valid questions and concerns for which there are no short and pithy answers.
Oh, and the final question?
Is it truly a thankless job?
The job is certainly not without its stress, and there is no shortage of controversial issues. But in my experience the residents of our community as a whole are very appreciative of the work and sacrifice many elected officials put into their jobs.  As to the pay, there is also no shortage of people who would say “no amount of money in the world” would be enough to warrant putting yourself and your family through the trials and tribulations, that come with the job.  Personally, I do not believe anyone actually does it for the money and all should be thanked for stepping up to serve.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Comments Received From My Recent Email Outreach

Below is a sampling of comments that have come in since I sent out an email asking:

  1. Please tell me which new progressive candidate you would like most to see elected in 2018, and why.

2)  Please tell me what is the single most important issue you think a candidate should focus on, and what personal attribute or characteristic you most want to see in a candidate and elected leader.

The responses are below with submitters names and email addresses removed:

********************************************

Most important issue is getting a county manager, so that the mayor is free to create progressive plans for the island.

Most important characteristic for a candidate is competence.

Thanks for asking, Gary.

*****************************

Please endorse Randy Gonce for House District 48.  He is a true progressive and a positive force in Hawaii politics.

********************

I’m for Hanabusa for governor, for Joanne Yukimura, Derek Kawakami and Kipukai Kualii for Kauai Council. I’m most concerned that we move forward to ban as many pesticides as possible. I’m for raising the standards of education by paying more for quality teachers and by making all schools face a much more rigorous course of study so that our kids can go to Harvard and Yale too. I’m for placing limits on the number of tourists we get here, I’m for building not more hotels for tourists but instead building small tiny house communities on every island so that the needs of our homeless population are met. I’m for no guns, I read about one country that keeps everyone’s guns locked up at the local police stations, if people want to use their guns to hunt or target shoot they can sign them out. Sounds great to me. I’m for mandate recycling, to make it easy give all consumers colored bins that will be picked up as weekly garbage is. I’m for banning styrofoam and mandating paper products instead of plastic. I’m for throwing out the military on Kauai by cutting most of the Pacific Missile Base’s operations. That’s all I can think of right now. Thanks,

************************************

Hello, Gary,

Great to know you are in the leadership team for the 2018 elections.  My time, energy, and

resources are already committed to Don Guzman who is running for Mayor, out of three

candidates, all who have a solid supporter base and history in the Maui County Council.

We’re having a very tight race this time … and our current mayor, who is now term limited,

will be running for Guzman’s council seat, in another interesting race just developing.  Your

Mayor Bernard was here on Maui last Sunday for the Sierra Club annual meeting, at which

time all candidates and elected officials in the audience were given a little time to talk, so I

was happy to be sitting directly in front of the stage to hear them.  Are you backing your

Mayor in the Lieutenant Governor’s race?

************************

The candidate that I most want to see elected is Elle Cochran,

running for Maui County Mayor.  Elle truly cares about Maui’s most important

issues, affordable housing & protecting our environment.

The Council candidates that I support are Kelly King, Tamara Paltin, Keani Rawlins-Fernandez,

Alika Atay, Gabe Johnson & Shane Sinenci.

***********************************************

You ask about candidates for office I support:

Here are 3:

Jessica Wooley House District 48

A women of experience and integrity. A strong supporter of social and environmental causes.

Anthony Austin

Candidate for Congressional  House of Representatives District 2

Honest without doubt. has been active in DEM Affirmative Action and Environmental Caucus

He is a local businessman and consultant helping organize and manage startups. He is extremely well organized and focused. Fiscally conservative and socially progressive.

Mo Radke, House District 49

Local Businessman and Golf Pro.

Chair of the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board and does an exceptional job.

Smart, honest and concerned about how Kanohe develops. quality jobs, affordable housing, homeless, environmental and social issues.

*******************************************

I like you & like majority of kamainas are barely able to support themselves based on their income & rising costs of food, property taxes, utilities & everything else to sustain their lives.  Many as you are aware of are too sick or disabled to hold a job or working for wages so low they have to work 2 or more jobs.  Almost 25% of our population are retired & the numbers are growing.  That’s why when every candidate no matter how sincere or dedicated they may be ask for donations to fund a campaign, it just angers me to realize that the people will never be able to have the candidate they need or want elected into office.  They can’t afford it.  As long as we have a system that favors what money can buy, there will not be a level playing field for every candidate or potential candidate to be able to get in the game.  As it is, no matter the party, the leaders of the party are also corrupt.  The people are not allowed to know all the potential candidates who file an application.  They are pre-selected by the party.

I feel since the GOP believes government should be run like a business, perhaps every candidate should fill out a job application along with a personal financial credit history report to verify fiscal responsibility.  If a candidate can’t manage their own finances, how can the people entrust him or her to manage or make financial decisions for the rest of the country?  A health evaluation report by a 3rd party physician to verify mental, emotional stability & current physical health status.  A statement by the candidate giving full background description of self & qualifications for position applying for.  There should also be a vision statement of the goals he or she hope to achieve & positions on other issues.

These should be able to be posted freely online via email, fb, tweeter or what have you that is available today or printed in the local newspapers for those without modern technology.  Another way to get around costs is to post all the potential candidates job application on a public viewing bulletin board at any County, State or Federal buildings or Libraries or Schools.

They require it of any employee applying for a job.  The people should require no less.  Their title does not make them more powerful than anyone else.  It should not provide them entitlements beyond reasons.

The problem is we are still a very segregated Country.  They keep us segregated by States, Counties, religion, race & financial status.  As long as they retain these divisive situations to exist, they also retain their control over the masses, because it prevents a bonding to evolve.  That’s why we always have to answer these questions on forms, applications, etc.  Sure the reasons is they try to be fair & offer positions to a quota of each, but eliminating such divisive inquiries would make it more fair to those who have the most qualification for the job.

Point is I think with todays technology there are ways to get the message out there in a more affordable way than before.  As long as public media & the internet is not censored.  That would be the hammer that hits the nail on the head & end our civil rights for good.  That & taking our right to own a weapon to protect our physical selves.

****************************************************

Thank you Gary for your email.

 

I do not wish to nominate any new candidate right now because as an incumbent I need to be able to work with whoever is elected and it would be difficult to get my bills through if I back someone who loses because the winner will remember what I have done.

 

As far as character:  I think we need to find someone who is willing to buck the trend.  Being in the Hawaii legislature, I have found that it is easy to be pro-environment and in fact, we have policies already in place towards energy sustainability.

 

Although it is still a good idea to be vigilant and ensure that we do not back-track from those goals, I think it is more difficult for a candidate to embrace penal reform.  It is a knee-jerk reaction to punish everyone who doesn’t agree with our goals by making them a criminal and that includes making the sale of oxybenzone a crime because it won’t be the president of CVS who will be arrested, it will be the Avon lady; or tying up a dog when you go to work because it will more likely be a disgruntled neighbor turning in another neighbor rather than a puppy mill owner.  It is far more potent to exact heavy fines proportional to income on abusers rather than to burden an already over-taxed judiciary and jails with petty crimes where the offender will learn to be a worse criminal.  The community correctional centers like OCCC which house misdemeanants and pretrial detainees are the most overcrowded so it’s the petty crimes that we create that is creating the overcrowding.  1 reason why I introduced the decriminalization of drug paraphernalia which passed the first year I introduced it and it was signed by the governor into law in 2017 – I felt that was the most progressive bill in 2017 because it bucked the trend and made Hawaii the only state to decriminalized drug paraphernalia (It was a Class C felony which gave the prosecutors an unfair advantage over otherwise petty crimes)

********************************

Good luck finding ELECTABLE candidates.

Here’s my take.

In Hawaii, politicians (and the State and County employees they help get their jobs)

virtually all cater to special interests.

I’m not talking about just the usual crowd which includes the likes of A & B, Grove Farm, Sygenta, et.al, even Big Save. The biggest special interest group of all is ORGANIZED LABOR. Here I mean unions like Longshoremen, Teamsters, Electrical workers, etc.

And the most powerful of all  ……………  HGEA

These guys back candidates who will play ball with them – Union leaders look out for their own interests.

HSTA wants to improve pay, benefits and working conditions for it’s members while paying lip service to

improving education for our keiki. More pay and benefits for HSTA members (and the bloated staff of DOE)

has not and will not result in better educated children.

Sadly, even HAPA is sucking up to HSTA, — example the comment in the HAPA email dated Feb. 19.

“In solidarity with our teachers at the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA ), we share their request to support legislation seeking to address our chronically underfunded schools”

Why should the HSTA Board be deserving of kudos because they “voted to support state legislation requiring

mandatory disclosure & notification, and buffer zones around schools.”  ALL responsible citizens should favor

such legislation.

It will take a paradigm shift to get better government at the State and County level. Voter turnout is pathetically

low on Kauai. Round up the usual suspects, and it’s easy to get the ten thousand or so votes needed to take and maintain political power on Kauai.

I am quite disturbed to by the fact that half the ballots cast in the last election were mailed in. How many of those were filled out by the voter’s friendly foreman at work or their shop steward ?

I love Kauai – I can’t think of another place I’d rather live. When we moved here a couple of decades ago –

the quality of local government was NOT one of the attractions.

**************************************

Aloha Gary,

In response to your PHI letter, I’ll answer you in strictly local terms;

 

The candidate I most would like to see elected now to our council is Luke Evslin.

The issue I feel we most need to address now is limiting further tourism development, and only supporting development of truly affordable housing for local residents (not homes that cost $400,000.)

I live in Kapahi, and Kapa’a right now is well beyond carrying capacity for water, sewer/septic, and roads.  The 2 or 3 new hotel/condo things waiting to be built cannot happen- it is completely crazy to think its possible to shoehorn any more people and cars in this area, and that is true for the entire island as well.  We are pau and the tourism people need to face that before we become an overdeveolped third rate Maui that no tourists are interested in.

As always, my number one interest in any candidate is how well they support protecting our natural environment from the myriad assaults it suffers from daily.

thank you for all you do, I feel you’re doing a fantastic job without being constrained by being an elected official!

Mahalo nui,

*********************************

Aloha Gary…. It’s like the TGI said in a recent opinion.. We have many people on the island who have resumes of experience in business management skills and yet because of the popularity contest they won’t run and waste their time applying. If we could change the process by hiring the people we need I think they would look at the situation a lot differently. How would we change to hiring the skilled people for the job instead of electing people for the job? Thanks for your time

***************************

Dear Gary,

My advice is to watch “Trumping Democracy” Its an eye opener.

(Its free on Amazon prime.)

Best regards,

***************************************

Aloha Gary… On kauai the “popularity contest” election process takes hold and has forever. Times are changing the county is no longer the way it was and the only change you will make when it comes to the best people is you need to hire them not elect them. Look at the idiots on the council. They are the product of popularity contest candidates. Look at the embarrassing pounding that JoAnn receives daily.The worst of the worst. If we don’t change the way we put people on the council it will remain a frustrating situation and continue to show the lack of quality for the lives for all those who live here. It is the main reason for my most recent letter. The reality is we need well educated masters of business management for our council if we want to stop kicking cans and move this island forward for all of us.  You hire pro’s for the job not friends and family.Thank you have a great day.

*********************************

I would actually like to see two strong progressive women elected together in 2018  – Tiare Lawrence and Amy Perruso. Both are experienced political leaders with the ability and desire to create a people’s movement. They have different areas of policy expertise, but neither has problematic political instincts in any policy area. I personally favor Dr. Amy Perruso, not just because she has been conducting a solid campaign thus far, but also because hers is the kind of academic, professional and political background, in these troubling times, that will most benefit the legislature.

In my view, the most critical issue facing the people of Hawaii is political corruption, among other things, the widening gap between the people’s needs and the legislature’s ability to act to meet those needs.

The most important attribute we need in progressive candidates is a deep commitment to public service.

Mahalo for asking great questions,

*************************************

Iʻd love to make every politician, elected or candidate, be offered the opportunity to sign a public pledge to never henceforth take any money from the NRA.  Iʻd like to see any firearm that is not used traditionally to hunt be classified in the same class as nuclear bombs and tanks — weapons of war —  and be made just as unavailable to private ownership as tanks and missiles.

Mahalo Gary for this opportunity.

*********************************

I’ll vote based on there opinions on GMOs.    Get rid of them

********************************

Thank you for being willing to serve!

I hope you consider these:

Most important issue for Democrats nationwide is to find somewhat MODERATE -electable candidates. It seems our “progressives” have become somewhat  radicalized, intractable and divisive and  typically malihini with a limited appreciation of what’s pono ..at least here on Maui.

That being said I’d like to propose the following priorities.

1. Tourism: focus on QUALITY of visitor experience and  on high end tourism. We don’t need to try to accommodate more to earn more $$$ or provide more jobs. (Let Mexico and Florida attract mid market). Our infrastructure is threatened as is the very environment that attracts people to Hawaii. Let’s not “kill the goose…”

2. Related: Address those who are mentally ill who live in our streets and beaches by GREATLY expanding mental health services. 1/3 + of homeless population have brain disease and their increasing  presence is negatively impacting visitor industry especially in City and County of Honolulu.  Since Susan Chun-Oakland left the legislature their has been no champion for this cause.

3. We owe the our people a home! Break the barriers to affordable housing for Hawaii’s citizens and also encourage the return of long term RENTAL apartments…state wide. The condo conversions in the 70’s and 80’s squeezed many out. This includes limiting B&B and vacation rentals.

Mahalo nui loa,

*******************************************

Mahalo for Ms. Saint-Marie’s piece on the war makers.  As I see it the only thing that can the system is a national strike.  The kids from Florida are making a difference in this way.  Dems and progressive’s need to pay attention on how their elected officials vote and if the vote is for their lobbyists interests and not the common than local and national businesses need to be boycotted.

Here’s another native american perspective on rich man’s wars:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDOZ00A1aos

and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0dcG8oLhTw

John Trudell always inspires me.

Good luck with your political aspirations.  Here’s what you are up against according to Jesse Ventura:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7uLA2p2IZE

*******************************

Aloha Gary,  I will review the PHI website to determine its correspondence with my value set; however, I will respond to your e-mail right now.

The #1 task for this legislature is to pass a “Death With Dignity” law.

Too many of us have had to witness the suffering of our grandparents and parents who only wished to say farewell to kin and friends and then pass peacefully without further suffering and erosion of family assets.  I am now 73 years of age and while still very healthy, if/when I become terminally ill, I do not want to suffer; be a burden to my family or society; or exhaust financial resources in vain attempts to prolong my life.

Please assure me that you and your organization will support this bill!

**************************

Aloha,

Integrity is my highest priority for a candidate. Also someone who has the ability to cooperate with others and ideally not alienate those with a different perspective.

Preservation and respect of the ‘Aina, na po’e Hawai’i and strengthening the use of The Hawaiian language are also high on my priority list.

Thank you for including me in you list. Sadly I am short on funds as I am retired an am considered very low income.

A hui hou,

**********************************

The single most important attribute is integrity coupled with humility. The most important issue for me is attention to public education with an emphasis on early education. I haven’t heard of any true progressive candidates but you seem to have a clue. Please inform us.

*******************************

We already blew it.

*****************************

Aloha,

Cicero in mind – what I want to see happening, is: showing Monsanto the door! Or, less polite: kick them out of HI.

Mahalo –

***********************

Aloha Gary,

Thank you, friend. Buffy Sainte-Marie for any office she wants!

Ditto for former U.S. Representative candidate Kathryn Xian.

And former Republican, Hawaii State Representative Beth Fukumoto.

FYI: UH-Mānoa has enthusiastic new grass roots voter registration.

Dozens of instructors invite Civic Engagement volunteers to their classrooms.

For more info contact: james.koshiba@gmail.com or UH Matsunaga Institute.

****************************

If you’re not already working with Luke Evslin, he’s a great candidate for Kauai council.  He’s thoughtful, smart, engaged in the community, and just an all-around great person.  I really hope we can get him elected!

*************************

Gary, the candidate that I would most like to see elected in 2018 is Kaniela Saito Ing.  I support the issues that concern him, from Medicare for all, to GMO labelling and pesticides, to getting corporate money out of politics.  I understand that he does not take corporate contributions.

********************************

Aloha, Gary. I don’t know if or where this fits, and I don’t even know if he is interested in running for council, but I thought Adam Asquith was spectacular at our last water hui meeting in Kapaa re: the diversions on Waialiali. He told the reps. from CWRM in a very direct and professional way, not to come to Kauai, unless they were coming to help.

It was really very powerful, and allowed no wiggle room. I would love to hear him be direct with certain members of the County Council.

***************************************

Closing note to readers: I did yes, respond to each and every person that sent in a suggestion or comment.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Humongous 2018 Election Opportunity

The 2018 election season is here.

Across the state, many strong, values based, credible and highly electable new progressive candidates have already began their campaigns,pounding the streets knocking on doors, putting up signs and speaking with voters.

As you know, the election of even just a handful of solid, high integrity, bold progressive leaders to the State House, Senate or city/county councils would be a game changer.  

Small numbers matter.

Working in alignment with like-minded individuals and organizations on every island the Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI) is fully committed to making 2018 a revolutionary year in Hawaii politics. 

As the Executive Director for PHI, I am asking today for your advice, your input and if possible your active help and financial support.

Please tell me which new progressive candidate you would like most to see elected in 2018, and why.  If you don’t know, that is ok.

Please tell me what is the single most important issue you think a candidate should focus on, and what personal attribute or characteristic you most want to see in a candidate and elected leader.

Remember however the words of Cicero when you formulate your response: “Brevity is a great charm of elequence.” 😉

Please also sign up to help with our PHI grass-roots “on the ground” candidate support system: https://ponohawaiiinitiative.org/join/

Financial support is needed as well.  While exact strategies and the degree of support offered to each endorsed candidate will vary, the cost of a single mailing can cost from $3,000 to $5,000 each. In addition, we have basic administrative infrastructure which though minimal, still must be funded.  As the Executive Director, I now draw a modest monthly stipend of $1,000 and we have a very part-time staff support person who works approximately 10 hours per week. While my time dedicated to making positive change happen in Hawaii is of course, 24/7, my stipend will remain capped for the foreseeable future.  Our plans however do include a gradual increase in supporting administrative staff time, including if possible eventually part-time representation on every island.

Whether it’s $27, $270, $2,700 or more, your help is really, really needed, especially at this particular point in time as we launch our political action support of the many worthy candidates.  Contributions may be made online or by mail at:  https://ponohawaiiinitiative.org/donate/

Contributions made prior to March 10th are especially helpful and allow us to launch support immediately for our endorsed candidates who will be announced in mid March.

2018 is the year to begin charting a new course for Hawaiʻi, a course that puts people and the environment above corporate and political greed and obstinacy.

Please join us and help if you can.  Your time, experience, energy and yes your financial support as well are greatly needed, especially at this particular point in time.

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

P.S.  Please listen to this strong new release The War Racket by our friend and Kauai resident Buffy Saint-Marie, and SHARE with your friends and networks:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzG_4e8yGew

Note1: We are now in the first stage of our candidate review and endorsement process.  Any candidate on any island running for the State Senate, State House or for county/city council election who is interested in receiving an endorsement and consequently the support that might accompany that endorsement is urged to request a “candidate questionnaire” asap by emailing info@ponohawaiiinitiative.org  The PHI Board is presently reviewing the candidate responses, and will be scheduling interviews then announcing endorsements in the very near future.

Note2: Contributions to PHI are not tax deductible.

Note3: PHI will be acting as a “non-coordinating committee” and will be supporting candidates, and working with other similar entities, but will not be coordinating that support with those candidates.

Note4:  Approximately 20 of these new candidates have gone through HAPA’s Kuleana Academy political leadership and campaign training program. Though they share a basic core progressive value structure, neither the Kuleana Academy nor HAPA is part of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.  http://www.hapahi.org/kuleana-academy

The Kuleana Academy is a nonpartisan training and education program and does not actually support specific candidates, nor does it target specific races or incumbents.  FWIW – The vast majority of the Kuleana Academy graduates (and now candidates), were unknown to me prior to their participation in the program.  HAPA is a 501c3 non profit that operates the Kuleana Academy and is supported through private donations that are tax deductible. http://www.hapahi.org/donate/

Imua!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Compromise, Meeting In The Middle and Litmus Tests

Much has been said about the need to compromise, about the need to “meet in the middle” and that there should not be “litmus test issues”.

I beg to differ.

Yes, it would indeed be nice if we lived in a world where everyone put the greater good of the community and the planet first, but unfortunately that is not the case.  In the world of policy and politics, people mostly fall into one of two categories.  Either they conduct themselves in a “survival of the fittest and every man for himself” mindset, or work from a perspective that “we are all in this together, and we are our brother’s keeper” value base.

While there are shades of grey that cloud the boundaries and overlap that occurs between these two perspectives, these two positions seem to represent the primary values base upon which most people approach the table.

Meeting a profit centered corporation who is causing harm to people and the environment “half-way” when representing the public trust is difficult and sometimes unconscionable.  How much harm to people and the environment is acceptable, and what price must the corporation pay for the right to cause the harm?

How many jobs does it take to offset one child’s birth defect, or reoccurring asthma among a neighborhood community for that matter?  How many jobs does it take to offset the pollution of a coastal waterway caused by the industry that creates those jobs?

We need elected officials willing to say NO and who recognize that compromise is not always the best strategy.  Yes, compromise is often a necessary part of reaching solutions between competing interests, but this should not be the default position of those charged with protecting the public interest.

Corporations and others in positions of power and wealth are constantly at the public policy and government entitlement table pushing to gain an advantage, and increase their profits. This is how the world works when it comes to the intersection of government and free enterprise.

We need elected officials whose default position is a willingness to push back against the power and influence, rather than simply roll over under the guise of compromise.

There are many issues and values that for me anyway do in fact represent litmus test issues when it comes to evaluating those in government leadership positions.  Supporting international corporate interests that cause harm to health and the environment on a global scale is one such litmus test, regardless of how many jobs they claim.  Supporting large landowners in circumventing the public process in order to fast track their own land development interests is another deal breaker for me.  The litmus test list for me is long actually and includes those politicians unwilling to disavow the policies and positions of the NRA and those who do not support equal rights and equal treatment for all people.

In each of the above examples, the interest groups that benefit from government actions have invested heavily in the political process.  In some cases the elected officials responsible for regulating an industry are employed by companies within that same industry.  In a small community, the impact of corporate donations to local charities, schools and sports teams wields significant political influence as well.  Direct campaign contributions are of course also an important part of the financial influence mix.

Anyone who believes that there is a level playing field and that our elected leaders should be sitting at the table and attempting to meet these corporations and wealthy power players half-way, has clearly never endured that experience.

For starters, those holding the reins of power and money set the parameters to determine what “half-way” really means.  They have legions of marketing people whose job it is to “frame the narrative” and thus manage the discussion.  The question from industry to government is never framed as a yes or no, but rather the yes is assumed and it is only about “How much can we get?”

And as an elected official, who will be joining you at the table?  Try to visualize this for a moment. Sitting next to you will be an elected colleague employed by the industry (expected to set aside his bias in favor of the public interest), and across from you will be another representative of the industry (who officially represents the industry but professes love of the community as well).  Advising you will be government agency people (planners, attorneys etc)  who one day will likely seek to be employed by these same industry interests.  Advising the industry will be former government agency people who now have that job the existing agency person will one day be seeking.  Truth.

Those serving in public office are elected to represent and protect the interests of the people, and not the interests of the corporations and our own little oligarchies here in Hawaii.  In an election year especially, they need to be reminded of that.

best speaking into mic photo

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Current status and my testimony on SB3095 – Pesticide Disclosure and Buffer Zones

Note: On Monday February 12th the Hawaii State Senate Committees on Agriculture and Health and Consumer Protection held a hearing on SB3095 that proposes to regulate the use of Restricted Use Pesticides by requiring the largest users to disclose that use, and put into place buffer zones around schools (a pilot program involving only 5 schools).  Yesterday, Wednesday February 14th they announced their decision.

The good news is that SB3095 remains alive and will continue to move through the process.  The bad news is that the Senate Committee’s bowed to pressure from the industry and stripped out of the measure all references to disclosure and all other meaningful enforcement provisions, leaving only a one year pilot program for 10 schools and a reference to instructing the Department of Health to conduct some drift monitoring.

Why/How does this happen?  Normally all bills of any significance are guided by “leadership” in the Senate and in the House.  “Leadership” in this case is Senate President Ron Kouchi (from Kauai).  The process would normally be one where “leadership” consults with the committee chairs and with the state departments and with “stake-holders” (chemical companies and big agriculture) – and then makes a recommendation which everyone follows (assuming they want to keep their chairmanships).  In this case, clearly the voices that were heard, were the voices of the corporations.

I am hopeful that in the coming weeks, the voices of the community will grow louder and more insistent, and more persuasive, demanding the protection of health and the environment.  If so, it is possible that the bill can be strengthened again in future committee hearings in the Senate and or in the House, so ultimately it passes into law putting into  place meaningful and reasonable protections.

The original bill, SB3095 can be read here: https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2018/bills/SB3095_.htm

In the next few days the amended bill, SB3095SD1 can be found here along with testimony of all both for and against, and a record of the votes and hearings etc: https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=3095&year=2018

My testimony on the original bill is below.

Testimony in strong support of SB3095 establishing mandatory disclosure and buffer zones for heavy users of Restricted Use Pesticides (RUP).

My testimony in strong support focuses on four inarguable facts.

1) The science and research is unequivocal: Pesticides in general and Restricted Use Pesticides in particular cause harm to the people and the environment, especially in areas where they are heavily used.

2) In Hawai’i, because of the existence of 3 growing seasons and the presence of large agrochemical and other industrial agricultural operations, there are areas where communities are exposed daily to the impacts of heavy pesticide use.

3) In order for individuals and for government agencies and organizations to make informed decisions that protect health and the environment, the disclosure of what types of pesticides are used, how much are used and when and where they are used is necessary.  NO ONE KNOWS THIS INFORMATION NOW EXCEPT THE CORPORATIONS USING THESE CHEMICALS.  THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE KNOWS SOME OF THE INFO BUT THE VAST MAJORITY IS KEPT HIDDEN BY THE CORPORATIONS.

4) Pregnant women, and children are especially vulnerable to the negative health impacts that result from long term chronic exposure to heavy pesticide use.

Therefore the strengthening and passage of SB3095 to ensure that there is mandatory disclosure for the largest users of RUPs, and that buffer zones are put into place around ALL schools and other sensitive areas is critically important.

Any legislators who question any of the above statements should review the below information.

 

The United States Environmental Protection Agency:“Exposure to a variety of pesticides have been linked to increased risk of birth defects.” http://bit.ly/2AdzXNK

American Pregnancy Association: “If you discover you are pregnant and you live near an agricultural area where pesticides are being used, it is advised you remove yourself to avoid exposure to these chemicals.”  http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/pesticides/

National Institute of Health: “A significant association was found between the season of elevated agrochemicals and birth defects.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2667895/

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Chronic toxicity end points identified in epidemiologic studies include adverse birth outcomes including preterm birth, low birth weight, and congenital anomalies, pediatric cancers, neuro- behavioral and cognitive deficits, and asthma.” http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2012/11/21/peds.2012-2757.full.pdf

Families living near farming areas experience greatly increased rates of health disorders. This is the conclusion from the following report summarizing more than 25 peer reviewed scientific studies on this topic over the past 30 years. Illnesses found to occur at higher rates for people living close to agriculture include birth defects, brain cancer, autism, infertility, miscarriage, Parkinson’s Disease, immune system damage, leukemia, developmental brain damage in children, higher rates of child cancers, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, lupus and diabetes. https://www.chem-tox.com/agriculture/index.htm (cites numerous studies and research)

American Cancer Institute agricultural workers health study. “…the rates for certain diseases, including some types of cancer, appear to be higher among agricultural workers, which may be related to exposures that are common in their work environments. For example, farming communities have higher rates of leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and soft tissue sarcoma, as well as cancers of the skin, lip, stomach, brain, and prostate.”  https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/ahs-fact-sheet

California implements STATEWIDE PESTICIDE BUFFER ZONES AROUND SCHOOLS!“Because of health safety concerns, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) recently adopted rules that prohibit the application of pesticides on crops within a quarter-mile of K- through-12 schools or day care sites during working hours. The statewide regulations, which are similar to but more restrictive than Santa Barbara County’s already existing pesticide conditions, will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.”  http://www.santamariasun.com/news/16799/growing-boundaries-state-further-restricts-pesticide-use-near-schools/

Chlorpyrifos-“Brain and Behavioral Effects of Prenatal Exposure to a Widely Used Pesticide” Virginia A. Rauh, ScD. COLUMBIA CENTER FOR CHILDREN’S ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY  https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/translational/peph/webinars/neurodevelopment/brain_and_behavioral_effects_of_prenatal_exposure_to_a_widely_used_pesticide_508.pdf

Chlorpyrifos contaminates fisheries and whales: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/21/trump-administration-lawsuit-pesticide-orca-salmon

A good overview of pesticide impacts: http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/dept/comguide/effects_excerpt.pdf

Multiple sources confirm a strong association between pesticide exposure and birth defects:  https://garyhooser.wordpress.com/2017/11/29/pesticides-birth-defects-who-do-you-believe/

The May 25, 2016 State/County Joint Fact Finding Group concluded: “there is simply not enough information to definitively conclude if its [pesticides] use by the seed companies plays any adverse role in the health of Kauai’s residents or environment.”  The report recommendsincreased testing, studies, buffer zones and other common-sense measures.  Testing and proper studies cannot be conducted without disclosure as to what is being used.  https://jffkauai.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/jff-kauai-final-report1.pdf

In Hawaii, those who apply Restricted Use Pesticides in fields near communities, parks, schools and roadways, are not required to disclose which pesticides they are applying, the location, date, or time in which they are applied, thus making it impossible for any individual to make a truly informed decision.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A letter to my granddaughter Isabella.

Dear Isabella,
On this, your very first birthday, I sit here in Hawaii typing you this note while you are in Japan thousands of miles away.
 
Your grandmother and I miss you very much today, and every day. But we see the pictures and videos of your smiling face that are sent to us regularly by your mom and dad.
 
When in the years ahead you look back on this message, the world without question will be very different from what it is today. I suspect FaceBook will be gone and telephone and video/tv communications will be taking place in a form that is unrecognizable and unfathomable to us today.
 
I want you to know that I am working hard today and every day to make sure that when you grow up and have children of your own, that you are able to breathe clean air, drink clean water and eat food that is safe and healthy. I work also along with many friends who share the same concerns, to help make the world a little bit more fair for those people who have less and deserve more. I am both fearful of the direction our planet is going, and at the same time optimistic and inspired by the goodness, love and beauty of the world we are blessed to live in. My goal is that the world and the people in my community benefit from the time I have spent here, and I hope as the years unfold ahead of you that perhaps this goal might appeal to you as well.
 
In my dreams, you will return to Hawaii with your mom and dad to live near us and you will be able to enjoy the beauty of Hawaii and perhaps raise your family here as well. Maybe even on Kauai!
 
Until you do return, I hope you enjoy your time traveling the world. Please make sure your mom and dad read aloud to you every night and when it’s time to begin your schooling, please work hard and learn plenty! Your mother and father are great role models for you and I know they will be there for you whenever you need them. Always know also that your grandfather will drop his life in a heart beat to come help you, should you ever need him. Know that I will never be too busy to take your telephone call and be there to support or help, should you ever need me.
 
As you grow up, please set your goals high knowing that you can achieve anything at all that you set your eyes on, and that you are willing to work hard for. But know that success is not measured by money, but in service and in the good that you can accomplish in the world.
 
Your mother will always be my little girl, and you too now share that special place in my heart.
 
Please give your mom and dad a huge hug for me. And don’t forget to call us now and again! And, please call and visit once in a while your great-grandmother and grandfather in Alabama too! Of course, I know we have to share you with the Simmons family as well, and it gives me comfort to know that your circle of love and support is wide and strong.
 
Take care for now.
 
Love you girl.
 
Your grandpa,
Gary Hooser
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment