Words On Leadership

Hooser long shot on floor

Was invited to offer words of “reflection and contemplation” to the Hawaii State Senate this past Friday February 2, 2018. Mahalo to Senator Ihara for granting me this honor, and to Senate President Ron Kouchi and all of my former colleagues, friends and Senate associates for your gracious reception.

Paraphrase of my remarks:

“We are all leader’s and leadership comes in many forms. I encourage all in attendance today to think about the path of servant leadership. Leadership is about serving others. It is not about power, or money or position, but about helping and serving others.”

I then read aloud –  “A Leader’s Prayer” (no known attribution)

Leadership is hard to define.
Let us be the ones to define it in justice.
Leadership is like a handful of water.
Let us be the people to share it with those that thirst.
Leadership is not about watching and correcting.
Let us remember it is about listening, connecting and acting.
Leadership is not about telling people what to do.
Leadership is about finding out what people want and then helping them and empowering them to achieve that.
Leadership is less about the love of power and more about the power of love.

As we continue to move down the path of leadership, let us learn from and follow in the foot steps of those servant-leaders that have gone before us.

Let our greatest passion be compassion.
Our greatest strength love.
Our greatest victory the reward of peace.

In leading let us never fail to follow.
In loving, let us never fail.

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A birthday ask that does not cost any money.

Aloha Friends,

I just completed my 64th trip around the sun and a big mahalo to all who sent birthday greetings!

I am making one more birthday ask today and it is not for money.  

Please contact your State Senator or State House Representative and let them know of your support of expanded pesticide regulation today, and if at all possible no later than the end of the day Wednesday January 31!

Your active participation is more important than a donation at this point.  Can you do this, please?

If you are unsure of who your Senator or Representative is or need their email address, click here and see in the upper right hand corner “Find your legislator”.  https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/members/legislators.aspx?chamber=all

A short note to TO YOUR DISTRICT SENATOR and REPRESENTATIVE requesting their support for increased pesticide regulation would be a huge help.

Our over-all goal with regards to pesticide regulation is to pass into law mandatory disclosure of Restricted Use Pesticides (RUP’s), school pesticide free buffer zones, increased soil/water/air testing and a ban on the use of chlorpyrifos (a neurotoxin).   Please reference these items if possible, plus any other special concerns you might have.

Please do not underestimate the power you have to influence the Senator and Representative that lives and represents you, in your District.  Your call or email can make a difference.

I am also working on a variety of economic justice issues including; Increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, establishing paid family leave programs and blocking the tax loophole for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS) and using the funds for affordable housing.  More on these later!

Oh…and that faux missile attack?  Please read here my thoughts on what Hawaii’s response should and must be…and the 6,000 lb. gorilla in the room that we must, as a community, begin discussing, soon.

Thank you!

Gary Hooser
Mahalo to all who have given those $64 donations!  I am trying to get out individual thank you letters, but the darn State legislature keeps getting in the way!

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4 things Hawaii must do in response to recent ballistic missile scare

Providing leadership and support for a strong and conscientious movement toward global peace and the dismantling of all nuclear weaponry, must be Hawaii’s response to the events of this past Saturday morning.

To be clear, I believe in having a strong national defense. I know there are bad people in the world who want to hurt us, and we need to protect ourselves from those threats.

But hosting a vast nuclear arsenal is not the answer. And neither is it necessary for the United States to be the largest exporter of guns, tanks, bombs and military weapons in the world, supplying our enemies as well as our friends.

My father was a career Navy man and I grew up on military bases.  Members of my family currently serve in the military, and I am proud and thankful for their service.  But our national conversation needs to shift from investing in guns, bullets and missiles toward investing in diplomacy, human rights and the alleviation of poverty.

The ballistic missile attack that did not happen, should be our call to action.  Knowing we are personally vulnerable to the narcissistic and delusional games played by our obviously unstable so-called world leaders, is more than sufficient justification to at least try to take away their ballistic nuclear missiles.

Hawaii can lead the world conversation by starting here at home with an honest and open discussion about the large military presence in our islands and its impact on the environment, on our economy, and on our core value systems.

As the military presence in Hawaii grows, so does our attraction as a target.  When the testing and tracking of missiles transitions into the establishment of a launching site for missiles, our risk factor jumps exponentially.

This is our 6,000 lb gorilla in the room, and this is a conversation that must occur

As Ikaika Hussey tweeted on the day the missiles were not launched, “The world should remember that we’re not a target because of our unique history or cultures, but because of the way that the US has turned our islands into the command center for the Pacific fleet. Militarism is reducing, not enhancing, our security.”

Hawaii must seize this moment.

The launching of the ballistic missile that never happened, can, bizarrely enough, be the catalyst needed to propel our state forward as a leader in the effort to bring sanity and peace to the world.

Both local and global conversations must occur, and Hawaii can play a unique and important role in hosting and convening those discussions.  If we are serious about pulling our planet back from the edge we only recently had a taste of, we must embrace an active and leadership role toward peace.

Hawaii’s leaders at all levels must immediately and loudly proclaim their resolute support for a diplomatic resolution to the situation in North Korea. Our voices in Hawaii must unite with a message to all who hold the levers of global power to “stand down,” cease their military bluster and posturing, and come to the table of diplomacy and reason.

Hawaii as a “Geneva of the Pacific” is not a new idea and it is time now to breathe fresh life into it.

The University of Hawaii, Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution http://www.peaceinstitute.hawaii.edu was established in 1986.  This body has the potential to convene and host both local and global conversations to promote peace and the ultimate dismantling of nuclear weapons through-out the world.

This really is the only answer to the madness that engulfed us this past Saturday morning.

We can demand the firing, transfer, or forced retirement of all responsible for the debacle that occurred that day, and we should, for the mismanagement is inexcusable.

We can redesign the early warning systems and policies, and we should, as they were clearly inadequate.

We can blast President Trump for his irresponsible actions and comments that have exacerbated and unnecessarily inflamed the tension between North Korea and the United States, and yes we absolutely should as his conduct is also inexcusable.

But at the end of the day, we must work toward ending the constant escalation of conflict in the world, and certainly we must strive to rid the planet of nuclear weapons.

While it might sound pollyanna-ish to some, think about it for a moment.  What else are we going to do?  There are not enough storm drains in Hawaii to hold all of us.

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A Practical Guide To Problem Solving At The County Level

Problem solving and decision making by elected bodies can be complex, convoluted, and to some, a veritable conundrum.

Needless to say, in a political environment, the dynamics and pressures inhibiting the introduction of new out-of-the-box solutions are significant.

The most limiting factors involve money and risk. If a proposal costs money, it is always vigorously challenged. If it is a new idea and thus unproven, by definition it involves some risk, and will often be dead on arrival.

There is good news and bad news here. The bad news is that bold proposals and out of the box thinking are hard to come by in a political setting. The good news is that policy makers are forced to come up with solutions and ideas that minimize both expense and risk.

I believe Bill 2627, which is now before the Council Planning Committee, is such a measure. Full Disclosure: While on the Council in 2016, I was an original co-introducer, along with councilmember Mason Chock.

Bill 2627 deals with expanding affordable housing and represents a “pure policy” strategy that costs the County almost nothing. It is a strategy in place in other municipalities in Hawaii and the continental U.S. It therefore, seems to overcome the most significant roadblocks to lawmaking: cost and risk.

Alleviating the current severe lack of affordable housing is the goal. Housing availability, especially at the very low income levels is minimal to non-existent and affordable rentals near job centers are in huge demand.

While there are many strategies to address this issue, Bill 2627 deals with increasing the affordable housing inventory by allowing current homeowners in Lihue to build an Additional Rental Unit (ARU). If passed into law, it would allow existing homeowners in Lihue to build an additional unit, limited in size and intended as a rental to local residents. This additional unit could not be sold as a separate parcel or CPR.

Included in Bill 2627 are requirements and conditions intended to minimize negative or unintended consequences. Anyone desiring to build an ARU must be connected to a sewer system (no cesspool or septic systems allowed) and the homeowner must add at least one additional “off street” parking stall to their property.

Lihue is the targeted area for this proposal primarily because its development plan calls for increased density, and the town’s transportation infrastructure is being consciously developed in a “multi-modal” manner, with accommodations for walking and bike-riding.  Lihue is a “job center”, with the airport, harbor, hotels, government, and major shopping areas all located within relatively close proximity. In addition, Lihue has a “flow through” traffic design, offering drivers multiple options through town, thus lessening the gridlock that now occurs in many other areas.

Since this area has historically been a home for local residents and not a haven for tourists, vacation renters, or offshore investors, the majority of renters who eventually move into the ARU’s that are built will likely be local residents.

The results of this type of proposal in other municipalities have been mixed. Some additional housing has been added as intended, but there has not been a flood of units constructed. The risks of excessive density, additional cars and parking problems, have not been realized due to the slow implementation by the homeowners who qualify to build the new units. Some municipalities are considering offering further “incentives” to homeowners designed to encourage more rapid construction of the new rental units.

Even if only a modest amount of new rentals are added to Kauai’s housing inventory, that effort and policy change could be beneficial. For those worried that passing Bill 2627 could be too successful and result in the building of too many new rentals, I would argue further that this would be a good problem to have. However, in order to prevent that risk, the Council could put a “cap” on new units and/or a “sunset” on the legislation.

For further perspective consider that the raw cost of developing a single affordable unit by a private developer will range from $200,000 to $300,000 per unit thus the costs to the County, or any private developer, to create 100 new affordable units would be about $20 to $30 million. Bill 2627 has the potential to create that same 100 affordable rental units at almost zero cost to the county and the taxpayer.

The results if successful would be that 100 families have new affordable rental housing, 100 homeowners have new rental income, and 100 building crews have jobs and income while they build those homes. Again, this is all at no to minimal cost to the taxpayer. And if Bill 2627 is not successful? The only price is the cost of the Councilmembers’ time.

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Debbie Downer and Her Impact on Policy Making

Recently, I received an email from a friend sharing their angst as to our County Government having “No leadership, no great vision for the future, little competency, and a stubborn unwillingness to change.”

While my friend acknowledged that there were some “bright spots” and a few good people trying to do good things, her lament focused primarily on the bar being set so low.  It seems our County leaders do not believe bold action or meaningful changes are possible.  Consequently, none occur, and few are even attempted.  The voices of the naysayers and Debbie Downers always seem to drown out those who seek out-of-the-box solutions.

I have to say that I agree.  My experience serving on the County Council is that most who hold leadership positions are consumed with just doing the day-to-day management and putting out the myriad of little fires that break out daily within any organization. Most departments are under-resourced, with insufficient staff needed to expand their work load.  The elected leaders, for the most part, prefer to operate in the “safe zone” of simply doing what has always been done.  They will fight over balancing the budget and advocate “efficiency and budget cuts,” yet, it inevitably passes without meaningful cuts.  The costs of personnel will always be the major budget expense, and cutting “live bodies” (as they say in government budget jargon) is politically impossible in a small community where everyone is your friend and a voter.

The alternative to cutting the budget is to find more revenue, which translates to increasing taxes. This is also politically problematic, as people who cannot serve without first getting elected are loath to cut peoples jobs and raise taxes.

 Therein lies the conundrum.  Any new idea or program will likely cost money, and there are only two ways to find the money – cutting costs (jobs) or raising taxes- both an anathema to electeds.

The answer is creativity.  To have any real chance of even attempting new programs or ideas, they must not involve any new expenses, and/or the money needed to implement them must be raised from sources that do not impact voters.

While working within these limitations certainly increases the challenge, solutions forthcoming within these parameters are not impossible.

Options include:

  1. Affordable Rental Housing:  Freezing/Deferring future property tax increases that normally would be incurred from the added value created by the construction of a new rental unit on existing residential lots.  This is not current tax income and will not become tax income, unless the landowner builds.  The County could say to individual homeowners: “If you build a new rental unit on your property, and certify in writing that it will only be rented at set ‘affordable rates’ for a period of ten years, then the County will waive the property taxes that would otherwise be normally due for that same period (that are associated with the new construction).”  If these savings were combined with the waiving of water meter hook-up fees and other County fees associated with building permits, the savings could tally up to be a significant factor and thus motivate the construction of new affordable rental units.  This proposal would have a “revenue neutral” impact on the County budget and potentially create new affordable housing, and lead to economic development.

2)  Large Affordable Housing Projects: The same concept described in #1 above can be used for the construction of infrastructure associated with large residential projects either for rent or for sale.  Again, this mechanism has no negative financial impact on the County budget.  The larger project funding mechanism is known as Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_increment_financing

 3)  Taxing Rental Cars:  The State reserves the legal authority to tax car rentals, BUT the County can effectively do the same thing via its property tax system.  The County does not have legal authority to raise the daily rental car tax rate, but could instead create an additional “use classification” for properties used for Car Rentals, then modestly increase the property taxes, which the companies would pass on to the user (the tourist renting the car) at a rate which might translate to a $5 per day increase for each car rented. This equals revenue to the County as if it has raised the daily rental car tax rate.  Is it simple?  No.  Can it be done? Absolutely.  Actually, utilizing the County property tax on “use” mechanism could be applied to all kinds of activities that are unhealthy or otherwise should be discouraged (think alcohol, guns, chemically intensive farming methods etc), and upon which the County technically has no legal authority to tax.

Just a few ideas and a little out-of-the-box thinking, combined with the political will to explore new options, could open up a whole new world of options for our County.

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2018 Resolutions & detailed 3 part strategy to win

Aloha Friends,

As you are aware, 2018 is a year that we can and must win.

Our winning strategy requires waging the battle on three critical fronts: Electoral, Legislative, and Legal.

A solid win in any one of these areas would have far reaching and positive impacts.  A grand-slam, success in all three, would, without exaggeration, revolutionize the future of policy and politics in Hawaii.

My goal, and I hope yours as well, is to shoot for the revolution.


Across the state, support the election of new progressive, community-based candidates who believe in putting people and the environment ahead of corporate profits. My personal goal is to see at least 5 new members to the Hawaii State House of Representatives and 3 new State Senators elected statewide.  I am also hopeful that new more progressive and environmentally friendly Councilmembers will be elected in every County.


Support the passage of legislation that:

  • Raises the minimum wage to $15
  • Bans chlorpyrifos, a known neurotoxin and Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP) used statewide
  • Establishes increased and dedicated funding for public education
  • Caps Pay Day Lending interest rates
  • Mandates RUP disclosure and school buffer zones.
  • Closes the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) tax loophole and funds affordable housing
  • Ends prison privatization and reforms the current Bail system
  • Establishes paid family leave


*Organize and launch a class action lawsuit against the state of Hawaii for gross negligence in its failure to follow its own laws in protecting health and environment from the impacts of industrial agriculture and chronic exposure to pesticide drift.

*Support the HRS §343 appeal against the state of Hawaii and Syngenta for failing to comply with environmental laws governing State conservation lands.

*Expand community-based legal efforts to restore and protect stream flows from illegal corporate diversions.

Working together in alignment with individuals and organizations throughout our community, these goals are achievable.

The formula to win requires people power, and funding.

We need 1,000 people now, who will commit to 3 key actions:

  1. Submitting testimony during the upcoming legislative session
  2. Actively helping at least one candidate in their 2018 campaign

3)   Contributing now, prior to January 1, any amount from $20 to $2,000

Funds contributed to the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) are tax deductible and contributions made prior to January 1 (unless otherwise requested) will be used to support the LEGAL actions, communications and general administration.


Funds contributed to the Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI) are NOT tax deductible and will be used to support the LEGISLATIVE and ELECTORAL actions.  https://ponohawaiiinitiative.org/donate/

All contributors will be notified via email of specific needs and opportunities to submit testimony and/or help candidates. Or, sign up directly here:  https://ponohawaiiinitiative.org/join/

We need to start 2018 off with a bang, and then continue building that momentum through success at the legislature, then on to the elections, all the while remaining vigilant in the courts.

Please help today if you can, prior to January 1st if at all possible.

Remember the formula: Legislative, Electoral and Legal

We will wage our battle with a strategy to win on all three fronts.

If you have not already done so, please join us today and be one of the 1,000 who make the pledge to participate, to invest some time and some money if you can – to be part of the solution making positive change happen, in 2018.


Gary Hooser


Note 1: If you have already given, or signed up to help – THANK YOU!  Please circulate this email to your networks as more help is needed NOW.

Note 2: HAPA is a nonprofit 501c(3) organization of which I am the volunteer Board President.  PHI is a nonprofit 501c(4) of which I am the Executive Director and receive a monthly stipend of $1,000.  To fully comply with both the letter and spirit of the law, the two organizations have totally separate Boards of Director’s, separate (and minimal) staff, and separate budgets.  Contributions to HAPA are tax deductible and contributions to PHI are NOT tax deductible.

Note 3: This email is being sent as a private and individual message to my personal email list.

Note 4:  Happy New Year!

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Hawaii Policy & Politics, 2017 national debacle = 2018 local responsibility

While perhaps a bit trite and formulaic, am thinking a year-end review and a preview of the year ahead is in order.

There is, of course, good news and bad news.

The bad news is that 2017 in a political sense at the federal and global level was, without a doubt, an unmitigated disaster.

The policies, actions and words (err tweets) of Donald Trump in only 12 brief months have effectively destabilized geopolitical conditions in every corner of the planet, expanded the already vast chasm of economic inequality, and accelerated environmental degradation while pillaging public lands and natural resources.

But the truly bad, bad news is that the Republicans who hold power in Congress, while in private they acknowledge he is an unstable narcissist and pathological liar, in public they embrace the role of sycophant.

The good news is that if you work for Bank of Hawai‘i, First Hawaiian Bank, Central Pacific Bank or American Savings Bank you have a $1,000 bonus coming and possibly a pay raise to $15 per hour coming your way very soon.

It’s clear the banks are in a celebratory mood following passage of the so-called Trump tax reform Bill.

And if your income status places you in the top half of the population, it is likely you will pay less taxes next year and also are sharing in the holiday cheer.

Those in the top 5% must be positively euphoric and laughing all the way to those same banks.

And the rest of us, well we will eat cake, at least those few crumbs that are left.

The next shoe to drop, sooner rather than later no doubt will come in form of spending cuts, needed to pay for the trillion dollar deficit created by those same windfall corporate tax breaks.

President Trump has already indicated he will be boosting, not cutting, military spending, so all that’s left to cut is education, environmental protection, social services and medical care.

As a result of this dark circus that now defines our national situation, the need for increased vision and leadership at the local level is crucial.

Our state and county government must step up, and into the leadership and policy void created by the Trump administration.

Hawaii could increase local corporate tax rates to counter-balance those excessively generous federal tax cuts, and use those funds to support the Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program (CHIP) which the Trump administration has already chosen to stop funding.

Hawaii could increase measures to protect the environment, countering the pro-corporate policy direction of the current EPA Director.

Hawaii could increase our State minimum wage to $15 per hour, so all workers in all sectors of the economy benefit.

The tax loophole for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT’s) could be closed and those funds used for affordable housing.

Hawaii could shine, and set an example for other states and municipalities. But our elected leadership at both the State and the County level must be willing to recognize and embrace their responsibility to lead.

2018 has the potential to be a game changer for policy and politics.

The peoples’ frustration with government at all levels is palpable.

In addition to the Trump administration’s actions and inactions setting the stage, we also have an emerging movement to elect new voices at the State and County level. This movement is building on all islands, as well as across the nation, acting as a catalyst for meaningful, dynamic change.

The people are angry and fed up with the status quo. They clearly have no faith or confidence in Congress taking any meaningful action to counter the current direction.

And the perception of local government is not much better.

People are mad at what they perceive is an ineffectual and do-nothing State legislature and county councils who seem equally impotent in their ability to do the people’s work. The people are mad because they are working all the time and still cannot afford a decent place to live. They are mad at the lack of responsiveness by their local political leaders who seem to offer only excuses, and rarely solutions.

Justified or not, people of all shapes and sizes, across essentially all demographics are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore.

I am hopeful this anger will translate into increased involvement by regular citizens who will be moved to voice their opinions and desires to their elected representatives, both in testimony for and against legislation. I am hopeful that more and more regular citizens will voice their opinion via letters to the editor in newspapers on every island.

But most of all, I am hopeful and optimistic that a new crop of emerging leaders will run for office and be elected to state and county seats in 2018. This is my wish for the new year. Please join me in helping to make it happen. Imua!

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