Covid-19 and the 48% living on the edge

Crazy, dangerous times we live in. The fear, tension, and panic of the coronavirus pandemic have clearly taken over all aspects of our daily lives. The entire planet is enveloped in the same hysteria and threatened by the same pathogen … Continue reading

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2020 Kuleana Academy is coming – emerging political/policy leaders wanted

Have you noticed the political awakening sweeping across Hawaiʻi?

Communities on every island are organizing to make their voices heard by government. Direct-action protests are popping up on different islands. More Hawaiʻi residents are registering to vote.

Exciting new candidates are throwing their hats in the ring and running for public office.

People are entering the civic arena for a reason. They feel the status quo isn’t working. Many families in Hawaiʻi cannot make ends meet. Our natural resources are in peril. Our government is simply not delivering the kind of bold reforms needed.


It is no coincidence that the Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) leadership training program, Kuleana Academy, received a record number of applications during 2019.

Now, due to the generosity of many in the community who share our frustration at the slow pace of change, HAPA is excited to announce the 2020 Kuleana Academy!

Clearly, a growing number of our residents see that our current system is broken, and want to fix it. The Kuleana Academy provides them with the tools they need to do so.

As graduates run for office, or lead campaigns serving the public good, they hit the ground running to restore humanity to public policy. Two of our alumni are now lawmakers serving in the State House of Representatives, three on the Maui County Council, and seven have been elected to neighborhood boards on Oʻahu. Dozens more are grassroots organizers and policy advocates.

If you share our values of putting people and the planet first, are interested in running for public office, in supporting others who share those values to run, or otherwise want to increase your leadership skills in the public policy arena – Check out the Kuleana Academy (and watch the short video)!

In solidarity,

Gary Hooser
Volunteer Board President
Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA)

Note: For other interesting reads on related topics, please check out these “quick reads” on The Hooser Blog:

“A new candidates guide to running for office”

“Turning Marchers Into Voters – learning from the revolution of ’54’”

“Corporatists masquerading as Democrats attempting to cloak themselves as centrists”

NOTE 2: Please encourage your networks to subscribe to my regular “Policy and Politics” email list – by going here to subscribe:

Final Note: HAPA’s Kuleana Academy is not an electoral activity; it is a non-partisan educational program. HAPA and Kuleana Academy will not:

* endorse any political candidates for public office.

* make any campaign contributions (monetary or in-kind).

* ask candidates to sign pledges on any issues.

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A new candidates guide to running for office

June 2nd is the deadline for candidates to file for public office and August 8th is the date of Hawai’i’s primary election.

There will be at least 63 open seats in the Hawaii State House and Senate.

While political pundit types will count seats now held by incumbents as “occupied” and thus be inclined to say that the only “open” seats are those without an incumbent, the writers of our constitution clearly did not intend this to be the case.

Just because an individual is sitting in the seat does not mean they own it.

Competition is a good thing and our community benefits from “contested elections” that force incumbents and challengers alike to work for the community’s support and vote. Incumbents should be asked to explain their accomplishments and their lack of accomplishments. Challengers must explain and convince the voter of their ideas, energy, ability, and commitment.

This is the time when voters must ask the tough but obvious questions.

Is traffic better or worse than it was when the incumbent was first elected? What will the challenger do differently to address this long-neglected situation?

Is Housing more affordable or less affordable than it was when the incumbent was first elected? Again, what are the challenger’s ideas?

How often has the incumbent held community meetings to hear personally and directly the needs, thoughts, and concerns of the community? Note: A mailed survey, cookbooks, and fancy brochures do not replace a genuine community meeting.

Unfortunately too often there is no challenger to choose from. Too often the incumbent gets a free pass while the voter gets shortchanged.

Many good potential candidates sit on the sidelines often locked by indecision, not knowing where to begin or what it actually takes to be elected and to serve.

I’m writing today to tell you it’s not that complicated, and that our community needs you. I’m also writing to let you know that serving in public office can be incredibly fulfilling and does not have to be the so-called “thankless job” that many allude to.

The steps to running for election to public office are the same, regardless of what office you choose. The below is a somewhat oversimplification (but not really).

*Answer the question “Why are you running?”

*Assemble a small team of two or three volunteers who will help you manage your campaign – A treasurer accountant type who can help manage the campaign bookkeeping and a campaign manager type who you can consult with and bounce ideas off.

*File an “organizational report” with the campaign spending commission. This is required before you can raise or spend any money on a campaign.

*Open a bank account for the campaign

*Ask 20 friends to contribute $50 or more to your campaign. Note: If you can’t do this, you should stop now. While you don’t need a zillion dollars to run and win, you do need to raise money for basic campaign materials. A credible House or Council race will require at least $35,000 (yard signs, banners, mailers, brochures, t-shirts etc) but these funds are not needed immediately and if you’re a credible candidate, willing to do the work and willing to reach out to others for help – the funding support will follow.

*Design and print a postcard type “walking piece” and a campaign business card. Keep it simple. The first printing should be just a few hundred pieces, enough to get started.

*Head on down to the County Office of Elections and “pull papers”. These are the forms needed to actually file to run for office. Bring a diverse group of family and friends with you. Take pictures, issue a press release, post on social media. Celebrate the huge step you are taking. Get the buzz going.

*Start knocking on doors and handing out your campaign materials. Everywhere you go, every person you meet- give them your campaign card.

*Work with your campaign team. Analyze your district. Figure out what is important to the voters in your district.

*Listen to the voters. Don’t tell them what’s important to you until after you find out what’s important to them.

*Do not worry about having big events. Host one such event possibly just before election day but FOCUS ON THE BASICS – Hold signs in the morning and knock on doors in the afternoon. REPEAT. REPEAT. REPEAT.

*You must be willing to ask people for help. You must be able to ask people for money. If you believe in yourself and in the purpose and mission of your campaign, you should be able to enthusiastically share that message with people when you ask for their help, support, and money.

Be yourself. Have fun. Smile. Speak from the heart. Do your homework. Listen to people.

I suggest you start now. There is a lot of work to do.

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Looking the other way is not an option

Drinking from a fire hose, blind-folded with both arms tied behind your back. This is a description that comes to mind when folks ask me to describe what it’s like working in the legislative arena as an advocate.

The need for citizen advocacy is great. The urgency of the moment for our community, and for the planet – is palpable.

The task is daunting at best and I applaud the many across all islands who take the time to enter this arena daily during the annual legislative session (mid-January to the first week in May), and throughout the year at the local and national level.

I have been blessed really. Representing Kauai in the Hawaii State Senate for 8 years (4 as Majority Leader), was an invaluable and incredibly fulfilling experience. Serving on the Kauai County Council for 8 years, likewise provided me with an opportunity to make a difference and a comprehensive education as to the workings (or not) of local government. The time I spent working with Governor Abercrombie as Director of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC) gave me additional experience from an administrative perspective. For all three opportunities, I am deeply grateful and the experience gained was both valuable and incredibly fulfilling.

Having spent nearly 20 years working on the “inside”, I now spend my hours on the outside, working with grassroots advocacy groups and individuals. Today, while also doing occasional consulting work, my life is mostly spent sharing my experience as a volunteer advocate, helping to train and support other policy advocates.

In the legislative world, most will have a “subject matter focus” and the people and organizations with whom I work primarily focus on issues pertaining to environmental, economic and social justice.

A healthy democracy requires an informed and engaged citizenry. Unfortunately, our democracy on both the local, state and national levels – is not healthy.

For evidence of our democracy in decay, one need only look at the enormous gap between the ultra-rich and the vast majority of people who slave away at multiple jobs earning just barely enough to get by.

If more evidence is needed, take a walk in the mountains or along the coast. There you will see our dead and dying streams, and our shorelines littered with plastics.

Anyone still not convinced of the decline should look into our criminal justice (or rather injustice) system – half the people in jail today are poor people awaiting trial because they cannot afford bail. Many of our incarcerated are there as a result of “victimless crimes” such as drug addiction, mental illness, homelessness (yes, in much of Hawaii being homeless is a crime). Rich people and corporations don’t go to jail, they simply pay their fines and hire expensive lawyers.

The answer of course and the solution to this madness is that citizens must take responsibility and ownership of our policy, our politics and ultimately our government. Abandoning the control and decision-making to those who are elected, without our active involvement as citizens, is an abdication of our personal responsibility as human beings.

We are responsible for the condition of the world and we cannot simply blame the politicians.

Yes, we are busy. But too bad, too sad – you will get no sympathy from me. I also am busy and have children and grandchildren and bills to pay and a yard to mow, and plenty of stuff to do – other than sending in testimony, following the process or meeting with my elected representative

The world is literally burning. Every year there are less fish in the ocean. Instances of various illnesses attributed to environmental causes (cancer, autism, etc) are growing at alarming levels, and our friends and neighbors are increasingly living under blue tarps, sleeping on pallets and under bridges. There but for the grace of God go each of us.

People slave away at starvation wages as a result of a conscious public policy decision to keep our minimum wage below that which is needed for a human to survive. Our own government has determined that $17 per hour is a “substance wage” for a single person working 40 hours a week. Our State legislature has decided that $10.10 per hour is sufficient. While legislators themselves will be getting their raises they continue to refuse to increase that of those at the very bottom of the economic ladder. Let them eat cake is the message sent.

The “affordable housing” public policy solutions (bills) being presented now at the legislature are essentially a collection of “giveaways to developers and landowners”.

The solutions being offered are “developer incentives” that reduce environmental protections, make development permits “automatic” and increase the urbanization of agricultural lands. In return for these government concessions (read public giveaways), the developers must promise that at least 50% of the homes they build will be sold for approximately $800,000 or less, targeting people who earn 140% of the median income in Hawaii. This is what our policymakers consider “affordable”.

Deliberate public policy decisions are responsible also for stream diversions and the subsequent killing of our mountain streams, caused by large agribusiness and others. Rather than pass and enforce public policy that says sufficient water must remain in the stream to keep it alive and allow downstream users to also use the water – public policymakers too often yield to big money and big landowners who simply want to “bank” as much water as they can for as long as they can.

The present challenges facing our local, state and national community are the result of conscious public policy decisions made by policymakers over time. As citizens, we have the power and the responsibility to affect those policy changes to the benefit of people and the planet. We can collectively change things for the better if we collectively take our responsibility seriously and invest the time and energy needed.

Voting is important but it is not enough. Full participation in our government requires becoming educated on the issues and the process, offering testimony via email or in person, and speaking out in public forums. It also requires people to put their names forward to serve on boards and commissions, to run for election to public office, and to help others campaign and win an election.

I encourage all to think about the options and to take action.

“Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom, decency, and justice.” Robert F. Kennedy

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Hawaii is not Iowa – Essential info on our upcoming Democratic Presidential Primary

The news is finally coming out of Iowa!  Well, not really.  I’m guessing it will be several more days before the final, final, final results are announced.

Full disclosure: Though I am Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai’i, this column is not written for or on behalf of the Hawai’i Democratic Party – but is my personal and individual voice only.  

Note: I could write here also about the Hawai’i Republican Party process to select their Presidential Candidate, but they have canceled it for 2020, preferring to maintain their support for the recently impeached (but yes, acquitted), incumbent.

The reality in Hawai’i is that our government is dominated by elected officials at all levels who are members of the Democratic Party.  Conventional wisdom says that you must be a Democrat to win here in a state legislative race.  This results in the status quo with many, some would say a majority who are “DINO’s” (Democrats in name only). But that story is for another time.

Back to Iowa.

Those that follow the news, know that Iowa’s presidential caucus process was a mess, a veritable debacle as many are calling it.

Hawai’i Democrats will be taking our turn at the “presidential primary/caucus/preference-poll” event – on April 4th – via a different process.

If you are a registered Democrat you will be mailed a ballot and you will be allowed to vote in Hawaii’s Presidential Preference Poll, choosing between up to a dozen Democratic candidates who have been campaigning across the United States for the past 12 months or longer.

Many residents think they are Democrats simply because they normally vote in the regular Democratic primary elections.  This is not the case – You have to actually go to the Democratic Party of Hawaii Website and sign up to be a member of the Party to be considered a Registered Democrat and thus qualify to vote in the April 4th, Hawaii Presidential Preference Poll.

All the info to join the Hawai’i Democratic Party is here:

Register to vote here:

The Democratic Party process in 2020 will be by mail-in ballots, with a limited number of polling stations open on the final day -April 4th.

To participate in the first round, residents have to be both registered to vote in the State of Hawaii AND be registered members of the Democratic Party of Hawaii – by February 18.

The second round of ballots will be mailed to those who register after Feb. 18th and prior to March 8th.

While people can also register to vote, enroll with the party and vote in person on April 4, polling locations will be limited and thus people are strongly encouraged to vote early and vote by mail.

Those who are not sure if they are a member of the Party, or have moved during the past year, are encouraged to register again just in case.

In order to avoid the fiasco that was Iowa, Hawai’i residents who intend to participate in the Democratic Party of Hawai’i Presidential Preference Poll (presidential primary) must become informed and share the info with friends and family.

  1. The Democratic Party of Hawai’i Presidential Preference Poll will be conducted mostly by direct mail.
  2. To participate residents must be registered to vote in the State of Hawai’i and must be actual members of the Democratic Party of Hawai’i (not just people who normally vote democrat).
  3. People that are registered Democrats by February 18th, will receive their ballots in the mail first.
  4. Those that register late but before March 8th will receive their ballots also in the mail during the second mailing.
  5. For everyone else, there will be limited polling places available for “walk-in” voting (and registering) on the final day of April 4th.
  6. This election will feature “ranked-choice voting” allowing voters to list their preferred candidates from 1 – 3.

So please, let’s avoid Iowa.  Register to vote and register with the Democratic Party of Hawai’i now, before February 18th – then vote by mail early.  That is if you want to participate in our democracy and help choose the next president of the United States of America.

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Testimony on Pesticide​ Bills needed TODAY – Tuesday,​ Feb. 4th

URGENT call for testimonies! Three important bills are being heard at the State Capitol tomorrow Wednesday 2/5 in the House Agriculture Committee (9am Conference Room #312). SO TESTIMONY MUST BE SUBMITTED TODAY.

Click on links to read the bills, make up your own mind and submit testimony.

It’s best to submit testimony via this testimony link  – but if you have trouble logging in and navigating the system, you can use this email address:

Support HB2114 – increases fines for pesticide violators

Support HB1665 – bans glyphosate statewide

Oppose as written and suggest amendments HB2565 – proposes an amnesty program for Restricted Use Pesticides that is good for small residential users but could be a massive “give-a-way” and literally “get-out-of-jail-free” card for the large chemical companies who will transfer the cost of disposal to the public, and avoid fines and penalties.

Please submit testimony by the end of today, February 4th so your voice can be heard at tomorrow’s hearing! The HEARING NOTICE is HERE and is the best “one link” source of information to these Bill’s.

More info on the bills is below, but you are encouraged to read the bills via the links above.

SUPPORT: HB 2114 will require the Department of Agriculture (DOA) to issue a first warning whenever there is a pesticide violation. This is an important step in improving incident record documentation. DOA then must issue a fine for subsequent violations, such as improper or illegal pesticide uses. The bill also increases the fines associated with violations giving the department the ability to fine violators more appropriately for severe and repeated violations. If you submitted testimony last week for Friday’s hearing PLEASE RESUBMIT testimony for this new hearing date!

HB2114 is an important step towards protecting our people and environment from exposure to toxic pesticides. We need more transparency and higher penalties for pesticide use violations, so they are not simply a “cost of doing business” in Hawai`i. Please support raising the maximum fines for pesticide violations and better records and reporting. Despite the huge risks associated with exposure to improper pesticide use, pesticide misuse has, and continues to occur within the State and poses a threat to adjacent communities, our keiki, the environment, and farmworkers.

SUPPORT: HB 1665 is a statewide glyphosate ban. This bill would ban the use of all herbicides with glyphosate as an active ingredient. The science is clear on the dangers of glyphosate. Please support a ban on products containing glyphosate as an active ingredient.

OPPOSE – Offer Amendments: HB 2565 establishes an amnesty program for the disposal of Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs). Although we absolutely support the safe disposal of RUP’s and the intention of the bill to provide easy and safe ways for small individual users to dispose of RUPs, this measure needs to ensure that this is used appropriately and that large agrichemical corporations operating in Hawai`i do not use this as a way to offload their responsibility of disposal onto state government and taxpayers.

Here’s how you can help:
Show up and provide oral testimony for these bills this Wednesday at the State Capitol in Honolulu, House Conference Room # 312 at 9AM

Thank you!

3 testimony pesticides

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Legislative Primer #101 – the basics

A testifier stated at a recent legislative hearing, “I’m very happy to participate in this process because I was born in a country where this is not possible.”
With this very sobering thought in mind, I encourage all to take ownership of our government, learn about the issues and participate in the process.
The Hawaii 2020 legislative session is off and running.  The official “60-day” session will actually last until May 7, where it will be “sine die” unless formally extended.
Thousands of bills have been introduced, hundreds of public hearings will be held over the coming months, and at the end of the day upon approval by the governor 200 to 300 of these bills will pass into law.  Most of the measures debated and passed will be “tweaks and adjustments” to existing law.  Some will be consequential but many perhaps most will be not.
Although some bills may appear at first glance to be insignificant to the majority of us, they very well may be critically important to specific individuals, groups or a particular class of individuals (various professions, etc).  It’s also safe to say, that whenever a bill is passed into law, someone’s ox is gored.  There is a price to pay for every piece of legislation, and there are two or more sides to every argument for and against.
Living on a neighbor-island, our participation as citizens is limited to emailing testimony, and or meeting with our own District State Representative and Senator.  During the legislative session, our Senator and Representative will spend the majority of their time at the State Capitol on Oahu which means our direct communication is often limited to telephone and email.
But make no mistake about it – your voice matters.  It especially matters to your District’s Representative or Senator who depends on your vote to be reelected.  And it matters to the Chair of the Committee hearing the bill, who will at the end of the day “tally up the testimony” into neat piles labeled “support and oppose” – numbers matter.
An essential tool for anyone who desires to embrace their civic responsibility fully is the Capitol website, https// (editor note…please spell out).  This website provides access to all legislation and can be searched by “keyword” (agriculture, tax, education, drugs, etc) and by “bill number” (HB19XX or SB19BB, etc).  HB stands for House Bill and SB for Senate Bill.  Bills are proposed laws.  Once a bill is passed by both “bodies” (House and Senate) and signed by the Governor, it becomes law and is considered an “Act”, and given yet another number.
Once a bill number is identified, the bill can be read in its entirety on the Capitol website.  In addition, automatic hearing notices can be requested and testimony provided – from this same website.  In addition, a complete record of the bills “progress” through the system is also easily accessible, including copies of all testimony and a complete record of all votes cast by legislators.
First, determine your priority issues, then do a “word search” and locate the bills that might interest you (hint choose those with a 2020 date. Next, request hearing notification of those bills, and when hearings are scheduled – submit your testimony!  
Another option – you can request to be notified of all hearings being held by a specific “subject matter committee”, say agriculture if that is where your interest is.  Then, every time the agriculture committee schedules a hearing (on any and all bills) you will be automatically notified and provided an agenda (where you can review/read all bills).  If the committee agenda contains items of interest, then once again the option to present testimony is available and easy to implement.
To further sharpen your ability to target issues especially important to you, consider joining an organization that shares your “subject matter focus”.  For example, the Sierra Club is the main organization for general issues pertaining to the environment.  There are many different organizations covering a wide range of subject matter and most of them have “legislative committees” who track and monitor legislation that impacts their particular focus.  These committees will do much of the homework for you and send you “action alerts” when issues come up that need attention such as testimony etc.
I encourage all to take ownership of your government, visit the Capitol website, join an organization that you can support and begin engaging in the civic process.  It’s much easier than you might think, it can be fun and entertaining, and your testimony and your involvement can truly make a difference.
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