Crickets from Legislative Leadership on Furloughs

As labor unions and progressives take turns pounding on Governor Ige for his decision to furlough public workers, Hawaii’s legislative leaders watch safely and ever so quietly on the sidelines.

House Speaker Saiki, House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke, Senate President Kouchi, and Senate Ways and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz could fix the problem if they wanted to.

But yet they stay quiet, hiding in the politically safe space wedged between support and opposition. Like so often is the case, they straddle the middle ground while wringing their hands and bemoaning the situation.

One would think that someone at the top in the House or Senate would have said by now, “Not on my watch.” But instead, all we get are crickets.

The legislature has both the responsibility and the legal authority to change the tax laws and raise the funds needed to protect these workers and the valuable services they provide.

The reality is they should have called for a special session months ago in anticipation of the budget and other emergency needs brought about by COVID.

Fortunately, some individual legislators have begun to speak out opposing the proposed furloughs and the accompanying austerity mindset. House/Senate leadership however has remained silent preferring it seems to watch the Governor twist in the wind, sidestepping their responsibility and framing the issue as one that’s between the governor and the unions.

If our legislative leadership continues to remain silent, they are as much to blame for the furloughs as the governor. If they support and value public workers, they should say so, and announce now their willingness to increase revenue and avoid furloughs.

Cutting valuable public services to balance the budget is a bad idea. Anyone thinking this can be accomplished without negative tangible impacts to health, environment, and education is fooling themselves.

We are talking about the men and women who protect our health and environment, process our permits, clean our parks, pave our roads, and provide essential social services to the neediest in our community.

Teachers are included in these furloughs. Teachers are already woefully underpaid. We ask them to put themselves in COVID high-risk situations teaching our keiki in person. Then we ask them to learn a whole new way of teaching electronically. Because of their dedication and commitment, they do it all and more, and now this is how we show our appreciation?

Our children need more teachers in the classroom, not less. Our economy depends on government civil service workers to process professional and construction permits and applications. Health and environmental protection require people to do the testing and reviews needed to ensure safety.

The convenient sound-bite of “Everyone must be willing to sacrifice a little,” ignores the fact that when public workers are furloughed that “sacrifice” is magnified and reverberates through all sectors of society as necessary services are reduced or eliminated.

Cutting the days on the job by approximately 10% means a reduction in services by an equal amount. As we exit the pandemic, we need our government services infrastructure more than ever to be up to full speed or better.

There are MANY ways to raise the revenue needed, but all require legislative action and cannot be accomplished by the governor alone.

For starters, here are 8 different funding options from the Hawaii Budget and Policy Center that could easily close the gap in funding being used to justify public employee furloughs. (https://www.hibudget.org/blog/eight-progressive-ways-to-raise-revenue-hawaii-covid-19) These new funding sources total over $600 million and none of these funding options significantly impact middle or low-income local residents.

In addition to these 8, there are many more possible funding sources that could be added to the list, not the least of which are cannabis and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

The legalization of cannabis for responsible adult use generates $300 million annually in tax revenue for Colorado. For Hawaii’s legislative leadership to continue delaying what most believe is inevitable is beyond comprehension.

The $100 million budget of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) must also be put on the chopping block. State Funds derived from the transient accommodations tax (TAT) should be used to support public services and public workers. The Hawaii Tourism Authority provides many valuable services, however, tourism marketing money should come directly from the industry that benefits. #defundHTA

The Governor cannot make any of these 10 ideas a reality on his own. He doesn’t have the power to actually introduce and pass legislation. Only the legislature can do this.

While awaiting the implementation of these various revenue measures, the Federal Reserve is an available source for super low-interest borrowing of up to $2.13 billion.

The 2021 legislative session will soon be upon us. Unfortunately, legislative leaders are already telegraphing a fear-driven “austerity mindset” indicating that “tightening the belt” is in order. While the rich on Wall Street get richer and local real estate booms with prices at an all-time high – our legislative leadership tells the rest of us to suck it up and tighten our belts.

There are many paths to increased abundance for all of us and our State Legislature needs to begin thinking with that goal in mind. The time of the pandemic will soon pass and the pent-up demand will cause our economy to come roaring back.

We need our legislative leaders to rise to the occasion and start putting working people, public and private, first on the agenda.

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Essentials On Winning A Local Election In 2022

Seems so obvious but to my friends who are thinking about running for election in 2022, please remember that elections are decided by the people who show up at the polls.

According to the Office of Elections, there were 832,466 Hawaii residents registered to vote in 2020. 579,165 or 69.6% of those people actually voted.

What do those 579,165 voters actually look like?

According to national statistics, the most reliable voter is over 65 years old with 64% of them voting on a regular basis. Those 45 to 64 years vote 55% of the time.

In the middle of the voting pack, are predictably those also in the middle of the age groups: Those 35 to 44 years old have a voting rate of 44%.

The least reliable voter is 18 to 24 years old, with only 30% of them taking the time to show up on election day. The millennials in the 25 to 34-year-old group are at 37%.

*source U.S. News and World Report (link)
https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/aging/articles/why-older-citizens-are-more-likely-to-vote

Ok. We know now that a majority of people who vote are not young people. But what else do we know about the people that vote?

The U.S. Census Bureau says that “eligible voters” in Hawaii are:

* 40.0% Asian, 27.5% White, 19.1% two or more races, 9.2% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 8.8% Hispanic or Latino, 2.1% Black or African American,, 0.0% Native American or Alaska Native

Source: Slacker (link) https://nptelegraph.com/news/voter-demographics-of-every-state/collection_f38c7a0a-6009-59a8-99b3-d8781fbb9a67.html#1

The conclusion, which of course every person who holds elective office already knows, is that older voters of Asian descent are a critically important voting group in almost every district in the State of Hawaii.

A greater more important conclusion is that in general, no candidate can win election with only a narrow “base,” whether it be by “issue” or age, ethnic or other demographic – as no base is large enough (by definition 50% plus one voter). The exception to the rule is when there is a “crowded primary” with no clear front-runner, but that anomaly is for a future discussion.

Many candidates are often focused on a “single-issue” or perhaps a handful of issues. They are passionate about and perhaps even an expert on “their issues”, but often “their issues” and those issues most important to the district in which they hope to be elected, are different. The candidate may lay awake at night thinking about environmental protection, while the voters in their district may only think about the horrendous traffic they have to face the next morning.

For candidates, the challenge is always about expanding their base, and the first step is understanding the demographics of the district. The second is stepping out of one’s comfort zone and engaging with people who are not your “natural constituent” or from the same demographic group.

The only real way for a candidate to expand their reach into the variety of voting blocks necessary to win most elections in Hawaii is to reach out and engage in face-to-face conversations. While in the time of COVID this has been a challenge, during a normal election this translates to ole fashion door-to-door campaigning.

When a candidate knocks on a door, introduces themselves and actually LISTENS to a voter, the impact is huge. When a candidate comes back a second time and actually remembers the voter’s name and the issue that is important to them, he or she will most certainly gain the support and vote of that person.

A thoughtful, long-term and persistent door-to-door campaign can overcome all obstacles. If a candidate is authentic in their passion to serve, demonstrates basic competence on the issues, and is willing to actually get out in the community and connect with people outside their own bubble – they can win.

Final election tip of the day: Do not fall into the trap of thinking aggressive use of social media is going to get you elected, or that it reaches “everybody” because it won’t, and it doesn’t.

According to Pew Research 2019 data:
Only 70% of Americans use social media to connect with one another, engage with news content, share information and entertain themselves.
Only 40% of those over 65 years old use social media regularly

Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/social-media/

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2022 Starts Now – No More DINO’s, published 12/03/20 in Honolulu Star-Advertiser, by Gary Hooser

COVID-19 will be gone in 2022, and hopefully the same will be true of the DINO’s (Democrats In Name Only).

We cannot continue electing faux Democrats to the Hawaii Legislature.

At present, a majority of those in positions of legislative leadership are basically regressive corporatists, masquerading as centrists, who were elected as Democrats because a “D” next to their name is necessary to win in Hawaii.

There is no other explanation for why a Legislature supposedly dominated by Democrats cannot or will not increase the minimum wage, ban candy-flavored tobacco products, or legalize cannabis — or even regulate the predatory practices of “pay-day lenders.”

And when the help is needed now more than ever before, why no 2020 special session to deal with the mask mandate, the unemployment debacle, and increased support for local business?

We need to elect Democrats in 2022 who actually believe in the stuff Democrats are supposed to believe in. There are solid, value-based legislators in both the House and the Senate now, but they lack the majority support necessary to move forward an agenda of substance.

Think about what is possible:

1. A $17 minimum wage via consistent, incremental increases.
2. Robust tax credits, grants, and low-interest loans for small locally owned businesses – paid for by increased taxes/fees on big business.
3. Eliminating the state income tax on unemployment benefits. Increasing the state income tax on the highest earners.
4. Eliminating the General Excise Tax (GET) on locally grown food and affordable residential and commercial leases.
5. Permanent affordable housing financed via anti-speculation tax on real estate sales.
6. Ban candy-flavored tobacco products that appeal to children.
7. Support/subsidize regenerative agriculture and local food production.
8. Ban all gifts to all elected officials by lobbyists.
9. Expand support of publicly-funded elections.
10. Legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis for responsible adult use. Retain “the right to grow” small amounts for personal use.
11. Eliminate the “cash bail” system. Ban for-profit prisons.
12. Implement a “Medicare/Medicaid for all” program at the state level.
13. Fund “Housing First” and increased mental health services for the Houseless.
14. Cap hotel development, TVR’sr and rental cars – tax appropriately.
15. Remove corporate control of water/stream diversions.
16. Increase pay for public school teachers reflecting the high cost of living in Hawaii and recognizes the vital importance we place on teachers and education.
17. Require paid sick and family leave policies.
18. Finally…regulate pay-day lenders.

HOW TO PAY for all of this? The short answer is to increase taxes and fees on those who are not paying their fair share. As the time of COVID passes and the economy improves, the taxes and fees applied to big business, foreign corporations, and the very wealthy must with due deliberation and thoughtfulness be increased.

Hawaii has great wealth intrinsically embedded within our geographical location, our indigenous culture, and our incredible natural environment. The problem is not the lack of wealth but rather the foreign corporations that do not pay their fair share and just continuously extract and export that wealth back to wherever their shareholders happen to live.

To those concerned about raising taxes on the Hyatts, Hiltons, and Marriotts of the world – rest assured they will not flee our islands. Likewise, the Walmarts, Targets, and other big-box stores will not roll up their sidewalks and call it a day because we increase their taxes.

Think about it. When was the last time a hotel, a fast-food chain, a big box store or a billionaire with a beach home on Kauai – left Hawaii because our taxes are too high?

For too long, too many of us have chosen to simply look the other way and “make nice” as the corporatists controlling our legislature called all the shots.

It’s time that changes.

Gary Hooser – Former Vice-Chair Democratic Party of Hawaii, Hawaii State Senator 2002 – 2010, Senate Majority Leader 2006 – 2010

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Ripples Started On Kauai, Impact In Switzerland

Got this email today from a dear friend, colleague and comrade-in-arms against the multinationals. Collectively- we should all be very proud of the work we are doing here in Hawaii and know that it has international impacts.

Dear Fern, dear Malia, dear Gary,

I want to thank you for your part in our historical success this weekend. This weekend the Swiss voted on the human rights responsibilities of Swiss multinational companies abroad. A popular initiative put forward by more than 100 NGOs and supported by trade unions and churches asked Multinational companies headquartered in Switzerland to cling to human rights and environmental standards also abroad. Victims of human rights violations by companies owned or controlled by Nestlé, Syngenta etc should have the right to ask for damage before Swiss courts. With 50,7 % against 49,3% the Swiss voted in favour of this initiative. In Basel we got 62% of the votes, in Vevey – the headquarters of Nestlé, 73%, and in Geneva 75%! This is the biggest success ever in our fight against the power of the multinational companies.

Unfortunately, the proposition didn’t get the majority of the often very small Swiss states. It won’t get into law, therefore. But the 50,7 YES-votes have changed the game for Swiss multinationals. Your Swiss journey and the famous appearance before the Syngenta shareholder five years ago was an important step to this success! Beside Glencore and Nestlé, Syngenta was the most criticised multinational. I am so proud to tell you that the Swiss voters clearly are not behind Syngentas doings!

You are so great, and I love you all!

Ueli Gähler, Multiwatch Basel

Click on the YouTube Link to watch the 4 minute video of remarks I delivered at the annual Syngenta Shareholders meeting in Basel, Switzerland – referred to above by Ueli.

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TITLE: On Leadership, COVID, and Thanksgiving

On Leadership, COVID, and Thanksgiving

Mahalo Councilmembers Mason Chock and Luke Evslin for introducing Resolution 2020-57. Mahalo also Mayor Derek Kawakami for standing up and speaking out on behalf of the health of our community.  

Resolution 2020-57, urges Governor David Y. Ige and Lieutenant Governor Josh Green to abandon the 1-test plan and utilize instead Mayor Derek Kawakami’s proposed 2-test plan requiring an enforced quarantine until that vital second test indicates a negative result.

The Resolution further states that should Governor Ige deny Mayor Kawakami’s request for a 2-test plan, the County of Kaua’i should completely opt-out of the State’s single pre-test requirement and return to the 14-day quarantine for all arrivals.

One particularly “Whereas” lays out the stark reality facing our community as a result of the existing situation:

“WHEREAS, the single pre-test plan has resulted in a more rapid rise in cases on Kaua’i in just the past 30 days than we have had since the pandemic began;”

On the Council agenda for Wednesday, November 25, Kauai residents are encouraged to email counciltestimony@kauai.gov and let the full Council know your thoughts on Resolution 2020-57. The entire Resolution can be read at https://kauai.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=&event_id=887&meta_id=145246

I am hopeful and optimistic that, the full Kaua’i Council will be unanimous in its strong support of this bold statement. I am also hopeful that Kauai’s full legislative delegation including Kauai Senator and Senate President Ronald Kouchi will publicly support this effort as well.

Another unsung hero providing important leadership on this issue is Kauai State District Health Officer, Dr. Janet M. Berreman.

In a recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser column Dr. Berreman M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P. strongly advocates for a basic 14-day traveler quarantine requirement through until the end of the year or until “disease rates are stable or falling here and on the mainland.”

She states unequivocally: “No single test program, no matter the timing, can control COVID’s spread…Encouraging travel to and from the mainland ensures a steady stream of newly introduced virus. Infected travelers spread disease to their households, coworkers, traveling companions, and hospitality and health-care workers…”

Though the pandemic’s impacts leave none of us untouched, I’m thinking we should pause for a moment and offer a special thanks to Mayor Kawakami, Councilmember’s Mason Chock and Luke Evslin and Dr. Berreman. There are many others on their respective teams, working groups of citizens and experts who also have made important contributions in support, but these individuals at this particular point in time have chosen to do the heavy lifting that is required of leadership.

To be sure, there are others in our community whose economic pain has led them to a different conclusion, and who are desperate for the island to reopen to travelers. Too many are out of work, unable to pay their rent, and standing in line for food. These folks, who look at the situation through a lens of economic desperation, may not agree and in fact, may be distressed or even outraged at the conclusions reached and content of Resolution 2020-57.

Adding a requirement for a second test is a good middle ground. While it will not provide 100% certainty, it will greatly increase protection while still allowing travelers an open door to our island.

Such is the nature of leadership. You can be sure the concerns of all residents, from the business owner on the edge of bankruptcy to the kupuna and medically fragile, ALL weigh heavily on the minds and hearts of those Councilmember’s who will ultimately vote Yay or Nay on Resolution 2020-57.

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2020 Election Wrap-Up Pono Hawaii Initiative Candidates Win Big!

2020 Election Wrap-Up
Pono Hawaii Initiative Candidates Win Big!
See the complete list here – https://ponohawaiiinitiative.org/endorsements-2020

Maui – Clean Sweep
100% of endorsed candidates win!
Against the odds and over $300,000 in dark SuperPac money, 6 out of 6 Maui candidates that were endorsed by PHI were elected. This includes 5 members of the Maui County Council which constitutes a majority and thus ultimately drives the Maui County agenda priorities! State House of Representative Tina Wildberger had a resounding victory and will be returning to champion progressive issues, protect the environment, and support small businesses. A special mahalo to all who stepped up and made online contributions in support of Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez – your help made a difference. For a very comprehensive look at the Maui races including the Charter Amendment results and more please visit https://politicsonmaui.com/crunching-the-numbers-presidential-council-charter-amendment-results-from-maui-countys-2020-general-election/

Hawaii Island – Clean Sweep
100% of endorsed candidates win!
PHI endorsed only two candidates based in Hawaii County and both had solid wins. The extended ramifications mean that the Hawaii County Council will also have a progressive majority! In addition, a rising star in Hawaii politics, Jeanne Kapela, was elected to the House of Representatives District 5 – (Naalehu, Ocean View, Captain Cook, Kealakekua, and Kailua-Kona)

Kauai – 4 for 5
PHI endorsed 5 candidates for the Kauai County Council and while Michael Dandurand was not able to make it over the line, 4 others did. And yes, Dandurand is well-positioned now for 2022. Sideline: Niihau votes for Trump and Council Chair is up for grabs https://www.thegardenisland.com/2020/11/18/opinion/trump-takes-niihau-kaneshiro-chock-battle-for-council-chair/

Oahu – 4 for 7
PHI endorsed 5 candidates for the House of Representatives, 3 of which were successful. Adrian Tam pulled off a huge win against an incumbent in the Primary and then went on to beat a member of the Proud Boys in the General. Matt LoPresti who has always been a strong progressive voice will be returning, and staunch environmental advocate newcomer Lisa Marten also had an impressive win. These three will join with other strong progressive Oahu Representatives such as newly elected Representative Sonny Ganaden and super-star community advocate Amy Perruso. We also endorsed two candidates for the Honolulu City Council. Esther Kiaʻāina made it across the finish line but unfortunately, former State Senator, friend, and colleague Will Espero fell short. Kudo’s to both of you for being willing to serve!

Statewide – it’s complicated
The three PHI endorsed OHA candidates unfortunately were not able to make it over the top. For Keoni Souza, it was a real nail-biter as he garnered 195,960 votes or 33.8%, versus Keli’i Akina who received 197,618 votes at 34.1%. Souza it would seem is well-positioned to run for something in 2022.

State Senator Kai Kahele was successful and will be the new Congressman for District 2, and of course, the Biden/Harris ticket will bring in a new day for America as they show the Trump/Pence team to the door on Inauguration Day, January 20th.

In closing – the 2022 election cycle begins now. If you are interested in being involved either as a candidate running for office or as a campaign team member, please let me know at GaryLHooser@gmail.com It is not too early, and if you believe as I do that our elected officials must always put people and the planet first – I would love to connect with you.

A hui hou,

Gary Hooser

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Trump/Niʻihau/Kaneshiro/Chock – Kauaʻi Politics

Voters on Niʻihau were unanimous in their support for electing President Donald Trump to a second term. All 43 votes cast in Kauaʻi District 16 – Precinct 06 went to the Trump/Pence ticket with zero votes cast for Biden/Harris.

Interestingly, Niʻihau voters also selected former Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr as their top choice for the Kauaʻi County Council.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris won every other precinct on Kauaʻi, with the final county-wide outcome 62.3% or 21,217 votes for Biden/Harris versus, 34.0% or 11,579 votes for Trump/Pence.

The #1 choice among all Kauaʻi voters for County Council, was Mason Chock.

The final ranking for the Kauaʻi County Council:

Mason K. Chock 18,592
Luke A. Evslin 17,368
Arryl Kaneshiro 16,550
Bernard Carvalho Jr. 16,345
Billy DeCosta 14,516
Felicia Cowden 14,388
KipuKai Kualii 13,960

Out of the running at #8 was Addison Bulosan with 11,735 votes, which while definitely a respectable showing, was over 2,000 votes shy of the coveted #7 slot. As is quite often the case, those candidates who finished in the top 7 during the primary election, also went on to win in the general.

It looks like the selection of the Council Chair may already be a done deal. While the selection of the next Council Chair officially occurs during the first formal meeting of the new Council on December 1, a recent news report indicates the decision has at least tentatively, already been made.

Interesting but not unusual that it appears the votes have all been lined by before the Council meeting, and before the public has had an opportunity to weigh in on the matter.

According to the report, the present Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro and Councilmember Mason Chock are both seeking the Chairmanship, and apparently, Kaneshiro has secured commitments for the four votes needed, his own vote plus three additional votes.

The Council has scheduled a meeting to discuss the election of the Chair and other matters for TODAY at 9am Wednesday, November 18th. Testimony may be submitted to counciltestimony@kauai.gov A complete agenda is here: https://www.kauai.gov/Portals/0/Council/Agenda/council/2020-11-18_Council-ElectAgenda.pdf?ver=2020-11-12-160849-967

Councilmember Chock has for many years been without question “the people’s choice” consistently gaining more votes island-wide than any other Councilmember. He is a trained facilitator, a small business owner, and a certified leadership trainer.

The present Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro is an executive with Grove Farm Land Company, who is arguably the most influential land-owner in Kauai County. Kaneshiro has pledged to refrain from voting on any matter before the Council that directly impacts his employer.

One example of their different perspectives would be Bill 2775. Councilmember Chock was a sponsor of Bill 2775 banning the use and sale of polystyrene food and drink containers. Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro opposed the measure and along with Councilmember Kagawa voted “no.” The measure ultimately passed into law with a 4 to 2 vote, making Kauaʻi the very last County in the state to pass such a ban.

The bottom line as to who ultimately becomes the Council Chair is whoever can get four votes. Word on the street has it that the initial vote count was equally divided with Kaneshiro and Chock both having 3 votes (including their own). Incoming Councilmember Billy DeCosta is now apparently positioned as the “swing vote” that effectively decides which of the two will be the next Chair of the Council.

If the news report is accurate, DeCosta has apparently decided to throw his support to Kaneshiro and block Chock’s quest to lead the Council.

The ink on the 2020 campaign brochure is barely dry, and yet upon this crucial first vote of the Council, the 2022 campaign begins. Welcome to politics, elections, and long memories.

Years ago, at the conclusion of one of my own long and hard-fought campaigns, I said to my young daughter who was about 12 years old at the time, “Kelli-Rose, aren’t you glad that the campaign is over?” Without missing a beat she responded, “Are you kidding Dad? It’s never over.”

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On Democrats Being Democrats

In response to last weeks column “Confessions of a Centrist and a call for Civility” I received this reply:

“I also support these core values, however I left the Democratic Party and became an Independent because I could not see Democrats fervently supporting the items on your list. If Democrats ever get back to being Democrats, I’ll consider rejoining their party.”

My response is that I also am extremely disappointed that at both the state and federal levels, too many candidates will run under the Democratic Party brand, then when elected will do little to nothing to move forward policy in support of those core values listed on the Party platform.

I can only think that a majority are either liars or wimps. Either they do not really believe and support the values, or they are too timid to take action. Yes, there are strong and bold legislators who truly believe and support these values, but unfortunately, they are not in the majority.

The term “majority” is used intentionally here because that is who drives all policy-making at all levels. At the state level, the majority of legislators have chosen Kauai Senator Ronald Kouchi as Senate President and Representative Scott Saiki as Speaker of the House.

If these two men and the respective majority of legislators who back them believed that workers in Hawaii deserved to earn a living wage or at least $15 per hour, it would happen. Ditto to a long list of policy initiatives that include food self-sufficiency, and much more. By virtue of running under the Democratic Party banner, both have pledged their support of these issues, AND they control a majority of the votes.

The American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF) conducts an annual, in-depth analysis to rate all 8,000 lawmakers in America, revealing their positions on a wide variety of issues:

Oahu Representative Sam Kong and Kauai Representative James Tokioka both Democrats are rated at the top of the ACUF scale matching that of the House Minority Leader Republican Gene Ward.

* In the State Senate, North Shore Senator and Democrat Gil Riviere actually has a more conservative voting record than the lone Senate Republican Kurt Fevella. Tied for second place with Fevella is Democrat Senator Mike Gabbard.

We have a State Legislature dominated by members of the Democratic Party who refuse to assertively move forward a policy agenda in support of their own Party values.

So what can and should we do? How do we motivate Democrats to be Democrats?

While nearly every political organization requires a questionnaire and an interview as part of their endorsement process – the Democratic Party of Hawaii requires only membership in the Party. Anyone can join the Party, regardless of ideology or values, or a lack thereof. And it’s free.

When proposing to tighten up membership criteria or hold policy-makers accountable, the argument pushing back is always based on the concept of having a “big tent” and wanting to be a Party that everyone can be part of.

It’s all a bit surreal. The big tent concept is appealing but at the same time both counter-intuitive and self-sabotaging. If the goal is to have a values-driven organization supported by values-driven candidates and office-holders, then it would seem that membership would also be values-driven.

Otherwise, what is the point? Why even have a Party when no candidate or officeholder is required to support its core values? The current State Senate President voted “No” on marriage equality. The current State House Speaker has consistently failed to support increasing the minimum wage. Both of these issues represent core Party values.

While some will argue to leave the Democratic Party and join a third party effort…I am not there yet…I think about it sometimes…but am not there yet.

My hope and goal would be to see the Hawaii Democratic Party recognize and confront the challenges presented by incumbent officeholders who are essentially conservatives and corporatists masquerading as Democrats.

My further hope at the moment is that those in leadership positions in the Hawaii Legislature, even if they are not true believers, would see the pragmatic value of reaching out to frontline advocates working on social, economic, and environmental justice issues. Engaging in a meaningful conversation and establishing a meaningful 2021 policy agenda is the first step.

The results of the 2021 legislative session will set the stage for the 2022 elections. Every seat in the State House and Senate will be up for election in 2022. New candidates and their campaign teams will no doubt begin mobilizing in May of next year, as every candidate prepares for the following 15-month sprint to the August 2022 all-important primary election.

Unfortunately, Hawaii is a one-party state. While I am a Democrat and believe wholeheartedly in the core values upon which the Party is based, I believe the lack of a viable second or third Party in Hawaii is inherently unhealthy – from a basic civics perspective.

So until the Republican Party or the Green Party or the Aloha Aina Party is able to grow their own base of credibility we must count on the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party to provide the necessary competition at the ballot box.

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Confessions Of A Centrist And Call For Civility

Since the conclusion of the 2020 General Election is upon us, I thought it a good time to confess the truth.

The first truth which should be a shock to no one at all, is that I belong to and strongly support the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. This phrase first voiced by the iconic progressive U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone pretty much sums up where I sit on the left to right values spectrum.

While some may prefer other labels such as progressive, lefty liberal, or democratic socialist (gasp), my core values and issue positions are not that radical at all. The second truth is that essentially, I am a centrist (second gasp).

As proof of my centrist nature, below is a list of values and issue positions that I support. These are not radical nor revolutionary notions. They represent the basic principles of fairness, justice, and equality. Coincidentally (or not), these values are also embedded in the Democratic Party national platform.

* Health care should not just be a privilege for some but is a right for every single American.
* Black lives matter. Structural and systemic racism must be rooted out.
* The mass incarceration model upon which our criminal justice system is based must be reformed from top to bottom.
* Protest is among the highest forms of patriotism.
* The U.S. must lead the world in taking on the climate crisis, rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and build a thriving, equitable, and globally competitive clean energy economy that puts workers and communities first.
* The federal minimum wage must be increased to at least $15 an hour by 2026. Worker benefits must include paid sick days and paid family/medical leave.
* Overseas tax havens and tax loopholes exploited by the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations must be eliminated. The wealthy, those earning over $400,000 per year must pay their fair share in taxes.
* Environmental justice, economic justice, and climate justice must be embedded and at the heart of our policy and governing agenda.
* Every American has the right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live without fear of exposure to toxic waste.
* All children across the United States deserve access to high-quality early childhood education programs.
* The pay and benefits for all educators must be increased in order to help recruit, retain, and reward high-quality teachers.
* Public colleges and universities must be tuition-free for students whose families earn less than $125,000. * Undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt for this same group must also be forgiven.
* International security should not be predicated by how much we spend on defense, but upon diplomacy and how we spend those defense dollars.
* Every woman deserves equal pay for equal work.
* Freedom of religion and the right to believe—or not to believe—is a fundamental human right. Church and State must remain separate.
* The LGBTQ+ community and all persons deserve to be treated equally and to be able to live with dignity, security, and respect, regardless of who they are or who they love.
* We must protect sexual and reproductive health and rights. Comprehensive health services, including access to reproductive care and abortion services, are vital to the empowerment of women and girls.
* Diversity is our greatest strength. Our fates and fortunes are bound to rise and fall together.

As you can see from this list, the values of the Democratic Party are not radical at all. Seriously, are we really that far apart in our beliefs and goals? Everyone wants a better tomorrow. Can we not work together towards that?

To those who disagree with anything on the above list, I ask that you do so with civility and reason.

While the passion and emotions of the moment are higher than perhaps ever before, I am hopeful that ultimately there will be a transition and transfer of power, and that it will be peaceful and orderly.

I believe that good people, people of high character and intelligence, can look at the same exact facts and circumstances and come to different conclusions.

Civility and reason are what is needed now at this particular moment in time. We can and we must agree to disagree, and regardless of our disappointment or our zeal when the final outcome is determined, we must maintain our civility.

So that there can be no misunderstanding whatsoever, agreeing to disagree does not mean turning the other cheek when the personal safety or fundamental rights of my children or grandchildren or friends of color or LGBTQ+ are threatened.

Maintaining civility does not mean that we stay quiet in the face of illegality, injustice, or corruption. It is in fact our duty and obligation as citizens to speak out and to resist such threats to our democracy, should they occur.

And yes, we must march, protest, and rise up against hate and bigotry, but we must do so always with nonviolence emulating the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and here in Hawaii with Kapu Aloha.

We all want a better tomorrow. Let’s focus on that for a moment. Let’s try to make that extra effort to truly listen to each other and understand perhaps that our goals and values are really not that far apart.

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Nov. 3 – Anger, Angst and Apprehension

This time next week it will all be over. At least I hope and pray that is the case, and that the Biden/Harris ticket win’s by a landslide. Anything less than a decisive victory in both the popular vote and the electoral college will result in a contentious and potentially very dangerous, hot mess.

Anger, angst, and apprehension are the words that come to mind, describing the emotions that surround this moment in time. For me, the dominant feeling deep inside my na’au is apprehension, not knowing what is coming next and feeling powerless to change whatever that might be. Many, on both sides of the aisle, are consumed by angst, and deeply anxious about the future of the nation and the world.

The angst and apprehension I understand. But the anger coming out of the mouths and off the keyboards of far too many people is scary and dangerous.

I encourage all to take it down a notch or two. Writing a weekly column on politics, maintaining a political blog, and in general, being active in policy and politics statewide – puts me into contact with individuals representing all political persuasions. The vast majority of people who respond to my missives are positive, thoughtful, and caring residents seeking to share their thoughts and ideas.

In the past few weeks however, the incoming hate, anger, and vitriol have reached levels that are beyond disturbing.

A column I penned recently, An open letter to Kamala Harris – pre-debate notes from the heart, triggered many on the right to unload their anger. The mordant, corrosive, and virulent language displayed a bitterness that words cannot do justice.

There is a consistent theme to the messages, as the profanity usually precedes words such as Democrat, Socialist, or Communist. The writer would speak of “people like you who are ruining our country.” Some would accuse Vice President Biden of intending to “take our country way too far to the left” while at the same time saying he was “a puppet of the big corporations.” Go figure.

In the short time since that column was published, I have attempted to reflect a bit on what might be the root cause of such deep-seated hate and anger. More importantly: What can be done to heal such a deep and jagged tear in the fabric of our national community?

Those writing appear to be regular people, working folks just like you and me. But clearly, they are unhappy, angry with their lot in life, and feel a need to lash out.

I will not blame President Donald Trump for this, as he is but a symptom of the disease. Yes, he fans the flames and yes he seeks to glorify and legitimize the divisiveness for his own ends, but he didn’t start this fire. It has been smoldering for generations.

Income inequality, the scapegoating that accompanies it, and a dearth of hope and opportunity are at the root of it, of this I have no doubt. A majority of people in the world wake up early every morning scrambling simply to survive, while a handful at the top accumulate greater and greater riches literally by the hour.

According to Oxfam, the world has 2,000 billionaires who collectively have more wealth than the 4 billion people, roughly 60 percent of the planet’s population. Forbes and Business Insider report that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is currently the wealthiest person on the planet with a net worth of $113 billion and on track to become a trillionaire by 2026.

Meanwhile almost half of workers in the United States earn less than $15 an hour. Here at home, most of our residents are working two or three jobs, and still can’t afford proper housing or healthcare. Too many people get up too early, and work far too long and hard every day, only to feel like they are getting nowhere.

It’s no wonder people are angry.

And while I fervently hope that former Vice President Joe Biden is elected on November 3, we can’t count on him alone to put the fire out. To truly douse the coals of angst, apprehension, and anger means addressing the root cause of income and wealth disparity in our country. To do this successfully requires working men and women in blue states and in red states to realize that we are not each other’s enemy.

Instead of fighting each other, we must remember that we are all in this together. Only when we unite against the common enemy of economic injustice, will we make the progress needed and put the smiles and laughter back where it belongs.

El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido, A people united, will never be defeated.

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