Hawaii GMO industry footprint shrinks by 50%, plus DOE bans herbicides in all Hawaii public schools –

What if I told you that the application of restricted use pesticides in Hawaii by the largest chemical companies in the world – has been cut by half over the past 7 years?

What if I told you that the Department of Education recently sent out a notice to all public schools in Hawaii telling them herbicides may NOT be used on school grounds?

Well it’s true.

  1. The Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) just announced a ban of herbicide use at all Hawaii public schools.
  2. The USDA just reported that GMO seed corn production has dropped statewide by over 50% – Accompanying this reduction will be a parallel reduction in both general use and restricted use pesticides (yes, I extrapolate…but justifiably so and a reasonable presumption)
  • Combine the above with the passage of SB3095 in 2018, banning chlorpyrifos, requiring mandatory disclosure, and putting in place modest buffer zones around schools for ALL users of restricted use pesticides.

EQUALS –  A huge success in our communities ongoing effort to regulate dangerous chemicals on ALL islands.

Our community is healthier today than it was yesterday because of our combined work and commitment.

None of this would have happened without the active, informed and sustained community engagement supported by a broad coalition of individuals and organizations.

The Heroes of SB3095 – This is what democracy looks like.

DOE announces herbicide ban for all Hawaii public schools.

“Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, after hearing that Roundup was being used on some campuses, sent a memo Tuesday to all principals stressing that herb­icides are banned at Hawaii public schools.

She also called for the immediate removal of any herbicides stored at schools.

The action came after a community meeting Monday evening at Leilehua High School called by Board of Education Chairwoman Catherine Payne to hear concerns about the use of herbicides and pesticides at schools. Nearly 60 people attended, including parents, teachers and activists.”  From Honolulu StarAdvertiser 

Hawaii GMO corn production drops by over 50% in past 7 years.

You can be sure there is a direct correlation with related pesticide use…which also has most likely dropped significantly as well. This equates to literally tons of restricted use pesticides that are no longer being used near communities on all islands.

The official numbers speak for themselves.

USDA latest reports on the size of the seed corn industry.

2011/2012 Value of Hawaii seed corn just under $250,000,000
2018/2019 Value of Hawaii seed corn just under $106,000,000

2011/2012 Total acreage of Hawaii seed corn 6,910 acres
2018/2019 Total acreage of Hawaii seed corn 2,530 acres

Summary of gmo seed corn grown in Hawaii

A friend posted on FB in response to the report: “I would like to think that all the noise we made a few years ago had some part in the decline (of gmo corn industry).”

My reply: “I have no doubt…but also no proof that is in fact a huge part of the reason this industry is shrinking and ultimately leaving Hawaii.  With the increased public spotlight on their operations…the increased legal actions in court…and the increased regulation at the State level…all combined…have to have an impact on their business decisions as to where to base and grow their operations.  And by now these companies know…that there is more public action to come…more negative media attention…more legislation and more actions via more lawsuits…#neverquit

FUNDRAISING – or if you prefer…skip to bottom notes below 😉

Yes: Both the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and the Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI) can use your help via a financial contribution.

HAPA is a 501c3 nonprofit which means contributions ARE tax deductible. Online donations to HAPA may be made HERE:

PHI is a 501c4 nonprofit which means contributions ARE NOT tax deductible. Online donations to PHI may be made HERE.

The primary difference between the two organizations is that PHI is more political in nature and more heavily focused on lobbying in support and against various legislative issues.  HAPA is educational in nature and nonpartisan and is limited in the amount of lobbying it may conduct.  The main upcoming program for HAPA is the Kuleana Academy.

I am the volunteer Board President of HAPA and currently the volunteer Executive Director for PHI. Both have totally separate Boards and separate budgets etc. It is a bit complicated, but both organizations are needed and both play a valuable role in moving a positive agenda forward in support of environmental, economic and social justice.

For those that are able, financial support/help is needed TODAY for both organizations.  

Whether the contribution is $20, $200 or $2,000 – any contribution, especially those received prior to July 15 are much needed and greatly appreciated. At this midpoint in the year both organizations are engaged in re-evaluating, strategizing and planning the balance of 2019’s efforts AND getting ready for 2020!

Bottom Notes –
Please take a few more minutes to read through until the end!

Because it has been a while since I last emailed you, and or perhaps this is the first time that you have received my email:  Read more about Gary Hooser here – goals and dreams….a complete bio and some accomplishments.

Items from the Hooser Blog you might enjoy reading:

Marriage Equality – Pride Parades – Legacy Votes

My Graduation Message to Seniors Everywhere

The Sentimental Romantic Favorite – For those interested in hearing how Claudette and I first met “On the occasion of my 39th wedding anniversary”

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

Additional useful info from USDA and summary of all Hawaii Agriculture

A straightforward description of what Act 45, formerly SB3095 actually does in terms of pesticide regulation.

*NOTE: The word “pesticides” is inclusive of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides etc

Mahalo to all!  This is a time to celebrate our wins and to redouble our efforts.  Imua!  gary

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Marriage Equality – Pride Parades and Legacy Votes

The Stonewall riots (also referred to as the Stonewall uprising or the Stonewall rebellion) were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the LGBTQ community against a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. They are widely considered to constitute the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States. Today, LGBTQ Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark the Stonewall riots. Wikipedia

This past Saturday, Kauai hosted its first Pride Parade. It was a beautiful event and a fabulous success.  Kudo’s to the organizers and all who came out in support.

Kauai and the world has come a long way since those dark days of 1969 and before.  And yes, we still have a long way still to go and the fight for equality and the end of bigotry and discrimination at all levels is never-ending.

In the world of policy and politics there are only a few times in ones career when a vote has truly historical consequences. The vast majority of votes are about money and not about people. Yes, the money for schools, highways, airports and harbors – impact people. But the votes that truly impact the entire population, the kind of votes that change peoples lives – are truly rare.

I served in the Hawaii State Senate from 2002 through 2010. In 2009 as the then Senate Majority Leader I fought hard in support of HB444 which would have legalized Civil Unions as an alternative to marriage. At the time conservative voices in the community viewed the effort as a surreptitious way to legalize same gender marriage, and the battle for its passage turned into one of the biggest public policy fights of my political career. I remember some residents on Kauai purchasing newspaper advertisements saying “Tell Hooser to vote no!”  The capitol rotunda and the hearing rooms were constantly packed with red shirts and white shirts pressing all legislators hard in support or against.

The nearly two year process that it took to ultimately pass HB444 was intense, emotionally draining but also immensely gratifying. To this day I look back upon my work on this effort with great personal satisfaction and an experience that has shaped my life. Fighting the good fight, working so very hard on an issue that truly means something, and then voting my conscience in support of the equality of love – I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

On July 6, 2010 in a room packed with advocates, the measure was veto’ed by then Governor Linda Lingle. It was a heartbreaking moment for many, many people. But while we lost the battle for HB444, in the end 3 years later we won the war.

On 11/14/2013 with then Governor Neil Abercrombie leading the way, a special session of the legislature was convened and the Marriage Equality Act was shepherded into law.

After attending the Pride Parade on Kauai this past Saturday, I decided to review the legislative history of what started out as a draft bill labeled SD1, and ended up as SD1_HD1 and then Act 001 – which is now the law of the land in Hawaii.

While not unanimous, the measure easily sailed through the Senate unamended. In the House a majority of the Republican minority joined with conservative Democrats and formed a coalition of 19 members intent on killing the measure. This group made 29 separate attempts to amend and kill the measure, before it finally passed in the House.

The final votes count as reflected in the official status report and legislative record:

11/8/2013 H Passed Third Reading with roll call vote; 19 voting no Aquino, Awana, Cachola, Carroll, Cullen, Fale, Fukumoto, Har, Ito, Johanson, Jordan, Matsumoto, McDermott, Oshiro, Tokioka, Tsuji, Ward, Woodson, Yamane and 2 excused Cabanilla, Choy. Transmitted to Senate.
11/12/2013 S Passed Final Reading. 19 Aye(s); Aye(s) with reservations: none . 4 No(es): Senator(s) Gabbard, Kim, Kouchi, Slom. 2 Excused: Senator(s) Dela Cruz, Taniguchi.

The four Kauai state legislators were split:

Senator Ronald Kouchi and Representative James Tokioka voted No and against marriage equality.

Representative Dee Morikawa and Representative Derek Kawakami (now Kauai Mayor) voted Yes and in support of marriage equality.

Why does anyone vote a certain way?  

In my experience votes on these types of issues are cast either out of conviction, or fear.  Either the legislator feels morally obligated to vote a certain way, and or they are fearful of the political consequences that accompany the vote.

We can speculate as to why someone votes a certain way or not, but to a large degree that is a wasted exercise. What matters most is the vote itself. Each legislator must justify their own votes to their own constituency and their own family. Their vote is their legacy and they have to own it.

Mahalo to Representative Morikawa and now Mayor Kawakami for your vote in support of marriage equality. I deeply appreciate and thank you for supporting this issue and that critically important vote of November 8, 2013.

“Love is the crowning grace of humanity, the holiest right of the soul, the golden link which binds us.” Petrarch

First published on 6/26/19 in The Garden Island Newspaper – Policy and Politics, Gary Hooser

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Elements of a campaign: Votes – Money -Team

The 2020 primary election is on August 8, 2020.

Next week Thursday the first presidential debates will be held.

In June of 2020 the first “absentee ballots” will be mailed out.  

For the first time in our history, every single registered voter in the state of Hawaii will receive a ballot in the mail and given time to respond by the August 8th deadline.

Given there are only 12 months available to mount and run a credible campaign, anyone thinking about running for public office should already be organizing that effort. While the door knocking and sign waving locally are perhaps (but not necessarily) still a few months away, serious candidates will be doing the research, organizing their team and putting the word out to the community of their intent to run.

Hawaii is essentially a one party state, which means the primary election is EVERYTHING.  Even non-partisan elections for the County Council are more often than not decided in the primary election with only minor changes occurring in the general election.  

The primary election is where the rubber meets the road and it’s 12 months away.

New candidates by now have reviewed the 2016 and 2018 primary election results available on the Office of Elections website.  By reviewing the “win numbers” in these election cycles, they can tell with some certainty “how many votes they need to win”.  Further they can see exactly “where those votes are” precinct by precinct.  

Technologically akamai candidates can access voter files that will tell them exactly who voted, in what precinct, and in which election – we are talking name, address and sometimes telephone number. The voter files will not reveal who the person voted for, but will indicate whether or not that particular person voted, and whether it was in the Primary and/or the General.

A candidate thus should know exactly how many votes they need to win, and where exactly those votes can be found. When knocking on doors the candidate can if he/she chooses, only knock on the doors of residents who voted in the most recent primary election. By maximizing the use of voter file technology, instead of knocking on every door once (as in the old days), they can choose to knock only on the doors of residents who actually vote and more than double their efficiency. 

Why knock on the doors of people who don’t vote? Why spend money on mailing campaign literature to people who don’t vote? Unfortunately, this strategy while extremely efficient, contributes to the disaffection of those very same groups. A compromise to this political and moral dilemma perhaps is to make some effort to reach out to nonvoters, but focus the lions share of the energy toward people that you absolutely know are going to vote.  There is not enough time nor resources to do it all.

By examining the Office of Elections data from the past Primary elections, candidates can also evaluate the strength and weakness of the incumbent they may be running against. What precincts did they do well in? If the incumbent was challenged in the past, where did the challengers votes come from? If the incumbent ran unopposed, what was the number of “blank votes” and from which precincts?

Money of course is a key component of the formula as well.  How many votes do you need and how much money do you need to get them?

We all know the stories of elections being won with very little to no money at all. Yes, that is possible…but you are kidding yourself majorly if you go down this path and truly expect to win.

So just how much does it cost to run a credible campaign in Hawaii? My “back of the envelope” response is at least $25,000 to $35,000.  This amount is sufficient to purchase yard signs, banners, bumper stickers, some advertisements here and there, and a few direct mail pieces to voters in the district.  In my experience, this is a minimum starting point for most State House races.  

If you are a credible candidate, you need to be able to raise these funds – otherwise by definition you are not credible.  A typical breakdown might be $10,000 from 100 people giving $100, $10,000 from 200 people giving $50, and the rest from family or others who believe in you and are willing to put up the funds needed to support your effort.

Do the homework. Visit the Campaign Spending Commission website and search the reports of any and all candidates. Here you can see how much money each candidate raised, who gave it to them and what they spent the money on.  

Of course hard fought races against entrenched incumbents can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to wage. Yes, exceptional candidates can win with very little money, but they must certainly make up for the lack of funds via sweat equity – starting earlier and out-working the competition.  But a certain amount of yard signs, banners and mailers/walking pieces are essential and a campaign will not look credible without them.

Yes, you also need a team. First and foremost you need a treasurer. You do not want to mess up on your bank account book-keeping or campaign finance reports. You need someone who is organized and can keep track of the money and receipts. And you need a campaign manager, or at least a trusted friend who will spend the time needed to help brainstorm and plan and strategize and recruit other volunteers. The reality is just a handful of people will do most of the work. On occasion it’s nice to have a hundred people on the highway holding signs, reality is that if you can maintain a dozen “go to” regular volunteers to help knock on doors, count yourself lucky.

At the end of the day, the bottom line advice is to “go for it”.  If you are not pleased with the status quo, if you think you have what it takes, if you have roots in the community you hope to represent and if you have some record of community involvement and leadership (PTA, canoe club chair, Rotary, Sierra Club or whatever) – then yes go for it.  

Competition is good for democracy.

First published in The Garden Island newspaper, June 19, 2019

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Know your policy maker – eyeball to eyeball

We agreed last week that the most important thing to every politician is to get elected and stay elected.  We also agreed that this is not necessarily a bad thing, and in fact is human nature.

And, we agreed there would be a test in todays column. So here goes…

Who represents you in the State House of Representatives, the State Senate and on the County Council?

My experience when asking people this question around the state is that most people don’t know who represents them in government. They might know the governors name or other random political names, but not the fundamentally most important name – which is that of their own districts representative/senator/council-member.

If every elected official loves serving and wants to be re-elected, then obviously that makes you and the rest of the voters who live in the district, the most important people they must satisfy.

And you don’t even know their name. How do you possibly then exercise the influence that you inherently have? The answer of course is you don’t and you can’t…unless an until you know their name and reach out to them so ultimately they know your name as well. This is the core nature of political influence – relationships. If you don’t know their name, there is no relationship and consequently no influence. None. Nada. Zero.

We live in a community where it is possible to actually know your elected officials personally (at the state and county level anyway). If you lived in California or New York or most other places on the continent, the odds of actually meeting and speaking directly with your elected policy makers would be slim to none. In our community, they are only a phone call away.  But you gotta know who to call.  

Please, get to know their names and call them now – today. The entire list of state representatives and senators can be found at https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov (editor note…please leave ask is and spelled out)

On Kauai it’s very simple.  

Kauai which is Senate District 8, has a single state senator and his name is Ronald Kouchi. He also happens to be the senate president. And yes, this is the senate seat I occupied from 2002 until 2010 (and that is another story). 

Hawaii State Senator’s are elected to 4 year terms, without term limits. In 2020, Senator Kouchi is up for re-election. 

Remember last week we also agreed that “counting” was the most important skill to learn. There are 25 state senators and Kauai has one.  

Maui County has 3 state senators. The Big Island has 4 and the island of Oahu has 17.

Kauai has 3 state representatives, for 3 House Districts: 

District 14 (Hanalei, Princeville, Kilauea, Anahola, Kapaa, Wailua) Nadine Nakamura, District 15 (Wailua Homesteads, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Old Koloa Town, Omao) James Kunane Tokioka and District 16 (Niihau, Lehua, Koloa, Waimea) Dee Morikawa.

The State House of Representatives is a two year term with no term limits.  Thus every seat is open to a challenge in the 2020 elections.

Maui County has 6 state representatives. The Big Island has 7 and the island of Oahu has 35.  And of course, majority rules!

When it comes to the County Council, things are a bit more complicated.

Kauai County has an “at large” system. This means that all 7 members of the Kauai County Council are elected by all residents, which in theory means we each have 7 individual councilmembers that we can call upon. They are: Arryl Kaneshiro (Chair), Arthur Brun, Mason Chock, Felicia Cowden, Luke Evslin, Ross Kagawa and KipuKai Kuali’i.

All 7 Kauai council seats are open in 2020. While it is likely that most of the members of the council will be running for re-election, Ross Kagawa is “termed out” and cannot run.

The other 3 counties each have 9 member councils and each use some form of “district voting and/or district representation”.  Maui County uses an “at large” voting system, but requires candidates to live in and represent specific districts (even though all residents vote for all districts). Hawaii County and the City and County of Honolulu have a more traditional district system where candidates are voted upon only by residents who live in that particular district.

We live in a place where you can call up your state and county elected officials and actually meet with them in person to discuss issues that are important to you.  This is the next test and challenge for those of you who are serious about making an impact on the actions or inactions of local government.

So please, reach out and call or email your elected policy maker who represents you, in your district.

Gather together a group of friends and neighbors, or classmates at school and schedule a meeting with your councilmember, your state representative or your state senator.  I will guarantee you that they will agree to meet and discuss any topic over which they have some influence or jurisdiction. Then, when you do meet with them, share your concerns and hopes about your neighborhood and your community – face to face, eyeball to eyeball.

If for some reason they do not return your telephone call or email, or otherwise refuse to meet with you – please let me know.  That fact alone would be worth its own special Wednesday column in The Garden Island and blog post!

*First published in The Garden Island newspaper on June 12, 2019

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Tell me again, why I should care about politics?

The short answer is driven by pure unadulterated self interest, which not-so-coincidently is also what drives most political decisions: 

“If you don’t do politics, politics will do you.”

Politics, policy and government action can add value to your life, and it can take value away – both literally and figuratively. The legislative bodies that drive policy and budget decisions on the federal, state and local county level, operate with similar dynamics but obviously on different scales (national, state and local).

My hope is to shed a little light on the process, encourage your increased participation and provide an insiders perspective combined with a heavy dose of reality and pragmatism.

Learning to count is where it all starts. Whether it is congress, the state legislature or the county/city council, all conduct their business under the principle of “majority rules”. 

There are 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 100 U.S. Senators, 51 members of the State House of Representatives and 25 State Senators. At the County level, Kauai has a 7 member council, Hawaii County, Maui and the City and County of Honolulu each has a 9 member council.

The most important number in the U.S. House is 218, in the U.S. Senate it’s 51, the State House is 26, the State Senate 13, on the Kauai County Council it’s 4 and for the other Counties the magic number is 5.  

Remember majority always rules.  If you are a Hawaii State Senator and you have 12 solid friends, you can run the show.  Ditto to all the other legislative bodies.

The single most important thing that each of these 645 individual legislators have in common, is they love what they do and want to keep doing it.  They each want to get reelected and/or they want to run for “higher office”. This in my opinion, is not a bad thing and is a natural instinct shared by anyone and everyone who loves their work, regardless of occupation.

Understanding the fundamental self preservation dynamic that drives all decision making, and knowing the importance of counting – are the two most important factors involved with influencing elected policy makers.

The core responsibilities shared by all 645 legislators boils down to money and policy.  What do legislators do?  They create and pass law.  Arguably, the budget being the most important law they deal with.

To be clear legislative bodies legislate. They do not administrate.

Public Administration 101 – The president, the governor and the mayor are the administrators of government services and programs. Governors and mayors spend the money placed into the budget and approved by the legislative body.  Legislators (which includes council members) do not spend money, they only budget money. The administrator cannot spend whatever amount of money they want for any purpose they want, but must follow the direction of the legislative body. Yes, of course there are exceptions…lots of exceptions and wiggle room for administrators…but in general the legislative body sets spending guidelines.

Legislators do not have authority to manage or supervise or instruct employees of the administration. That is the president, the governor and the mayors job. Legislators manage their own staff, and that’s pretty much it. In fact it is against the county charter for councilmembers to order county employees (other than council employees) to do anything at all. County employees work for the mayor, they do not work for councilmembers.  

Ditto for state government employees, and the governor. Legislators may of course request information from the administration and its employees, and legislators may suggest to the administration different ways of managing, and they may express dissatisfaction with the administration and its employees – but they do not hire and fire, nor supervise anyone except their own legislative staff.  

Legislators can cut the budget and eliminate employees via the budget making process, but ultimately it is the administrators choice as to how to implement such a budget cutting tactic.

In addition to approval of the budget, legislators are responsible for lawmaking. Only the legislative body can pass laws, not the administration. The administration is responsible for enforcing and implementing the policy enacted by the legislative body.  However, the administration sets priorities on law enforcement and so whether it’s building code violations, drug laws or hate crimes – enforcement can be ignored or selectively enforced depending on the resources available and the political perspective of the administration.

Whew!  Got through the basics without losing too many readers I hope!

Now back to the crux of this.  Why does it matter?

If you have children in public school, you want the best education possible for them yes?

Large multinational corporations pollute our air, water and soil.  Our oceans and our near shore reefs are literally dying. Homelessness, poverty, drug addiction, and suicide rates are all increasing.

You care about this stuff yes?

Most if not all legislators, care about this stuff too.  But for many reasons, they too often fail to take the bold action needed and too ofter err on the side of big business and on maintaining the status quo.

This is why it is up to you, the regular citizen on the street, the rank and file tax payer, renter, homeowner and worker bee just trying to get by and make a living.

Regular people must engage the system and push, pull, cajole, threaten and demand that our legislators pass the budgets and change public policies to deal with the pressing issues, threatening regular people – and the planet.

It starts with knowing who exactly your legislator is. You have a County Councilmember, a State Representative, a State Senator, a U.S. Representative and and two U.S. Senator’s – who represents YOU. The very first step is to know their name. Please, learn their name. Just for starters…learn who represents you at the Federal, State and County level. It is difficult to ask them for help, if you don’t know who they are.

If you are serious about taking your civic responsibility to heart, and you truly want to make a difference, I can help walk you through the process. 

It does not have to be like a second job or a new marriage, but you will need to put some time and effort in. Trust me on this. If you have read this far, you will enjoy the next steps. More importantly you will be participating in making our world and community a better place, and you will quickly realize that you can in fact, make a difference!

Next week, there will be a test.  Once you know their names, we can move on to the next step.  

First published in The Garden Island Newspaper, June 5th, 2019

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5 paths for changemakers: choose one, choose them all.

“El pueblo unido jamás será vencido” – a people united will never be defeated, says it all. While the singular act of individuals can move mountains, the combined actions of a group create movements which can change history.

For those committed to making the world a better place and believe that government structures and civic action play a key role – here are 5 ways to make change happen.

It starts with each of us as individuals making conscious decisions in our daily lives.  Voting, buying local, supporting those businesses that care about people and the planet while boycotting the corporate thugs, polluters and purveyors of indentured servitude (disguised as low wage employers) are just a few examples.  Random acts of kindness and paying it forward are other key actions of power and intention.

Showing up, and being involved in the legislative process of changing public policy is essential.  Both as individuals and as part of a united collaborative group – it is vital that our collective voices be heard. The moneyed interests can afford to buy the ever-present lobbyist, paid to walk the halls of Congress, the State Legislature and the County. But the power of individual calls, emails and letters can win against the money if done thoughtfully and with the force of large numbers. 

The government structure we have, well…is pretty much the government structure we have.  My theory of why it too often seems either dysfunctional or a tool of the 1%, is that it was basically designed to be that way. The framers of the US constitution wanted government to move slowly. And in the beginning, it was white male property owners who controlled the vote and thus controlled the government.  

Cynics will of course say not much has changed. Government continues to move at a glacial pace, and those who own property continue to drive the political forces that control government. I suppose we can take some small element of perverse pride, that the property owners in Hawaii who control power and politics, are at least somewhat ethnically diverse.

So what to do?  

We have the government we have, changing public policy is an integral path to making things better, individual actions matter and el pueblo unido jamás será vencido.  

The short, here and now answer is to find, support and elect new people to public office. And not any old new people, but people who share our values, our commitment to putting people and the planet first, and who share the burning urgency that change must happen sooner rather than later.

And if all else fails (and/or in addition to the above) – We take the polluters and the corporate thugs to court and we sue.  We sue to protect our water and air, we sue to force our government to do its job and we sue the bad guys to force them to pay as high a price as possible for the damage they cause on so many levels.

2020 will be upon us very soon. Our focus, in my humble opinion (and for those that forget…this is an opinion column) should be on “throwing the bums out” and electing new bums that share our values 😉  

I use the word “bums” with love in my heart and with the intent to bring a smile to your face.

While many are prone to accuse incumbent legislators as “corrupt” or “in the pocket” of this or that special interest, I prefer to believe that most “bad” politicians simply view the world through a different lens. For some the lens is one of ideology, for others it’s a lens of convenience and political expediency. 

Of course, there are many good people serving in public office who when given the choice will do the right thing. We just need more of them.  A single strong legislator can make a difference, a handful of them can of course make a bigger difference, but what we really need is a majority. 

Thus it is essential for us to find, support and elect those individuals who share our world view.

The push and pull of politics and policy, is in fact a push and pull of values. Trust me on this one, if you are not pushing or pulling – you and your values will lose.

So let’s not lose.  Instead of rolling over and accepting the status quo, as individuals let’s work with our friends and neighbors and engage the system.  And not engage in a tip toe timid, afraid of breaking eggs kind of way, but in a full throated, charging up the hill, rip and shred (without malice of course) and I know I’m going to break some eggs and it’s really unavoidable kind of way, way.

Let’s show up at Council meetings and legislative hearings. Let’s email in more testimony, make more calls, and write even more letters to the editor. And yes, let’s keep the bad guys in court until they learn to behave as true good neighbors, or until they go out of business or leave our shores entirely.

But most of all, let’s focus on the elections of 2020, at all levels. The all important primary election is in August of 2020. Absentee ballots will be mailed just 13 months from now.  Serious candidates must start acting like serious candidates very soon.  For those of us seeking to support a political revolution of sorts, it is critical now that we reach out, identify solid candidates who share our values, and offer them our enthusiastic help and support, and yes money too. 

We do not have to accept the status quo.  History tells us, great and significant change comes when people get involved. 

The 5 pathways for action are clear.  Each separately has the power to make our world a better place. Working with all of them in unison, the potential is limitless:

  1. Individual: The power of one vote, consumer choice and the power of the pocketbook.  
  2. Community: Organizing, collaboration – “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido”
  3. Legislative: Testifying, lobbying, writing letters, emails, telephone calls
  4. Electoral: Running for office, supporting and/or opposing candidates.
  5. Judicial: Fight them in the courts.

Let’s do this. All 5. At once. Seriously.  Let’s do it.

First published in The Garden Island Newspaper, May 29th, 2019

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On the occasion of your 2019 graduation

One of my first thoughts is to apologize to graduates everywhere, but sorry really doesn’t cut it.

Though my generation has screwed things up pretty badly, there are also many of us who have learned from our mistakes and are committed to making things better.

The truth is, we really, really, really need your help.

Yes, there have been some huge accomplishments and in some areas we have made great progress toward making the world a better place. Basic living standards and simple longevity for many are higher than they have ever been.

But we have also made tragic errors of judgment, starting and pursuing unnecessary and unending wars.

We marvel at the technological innovations developed in the past 50 years. However during this same time period we have failed to stop the widespread pollution of our environment, the drastic loss of species diversity and the imminent threat of sea level rise and climate change.

While the world of advertising inundates us with the symbols of wealth and prosperity, the reality is much different. In an April 24th interview with billionaire Ray Dalio, The Guardian reported that:

  • We have a global economy where the wealth of the top 1% of the population is more than that of the bottom 90% of the population combined
  • Forty per cent of all Americans would struggle to raise $400 in the event of an emergency.
  • The childhood poverty rate in the US is now 17.5% and has not meaningfully improved for decades.
  • The US scores lower than virtually all developed countries other than Italy and Greece on educational attainment.
  • The US incarceration rate is nearly five times the average of other developed countries and three times that of emerging countries.
  • For those in the bottom 60%, premature deaths are up by about 20% since 2000.

So yes graduates, we kinda need you.  We need you badly actually.

We need your leadership, your energy and your commitment to our shared future.

We need you to be willing to stand up, speak out and resist those forces in the world who pillage the planet and profit off the backs of the 99%. These same entities driven by greed and the desire of ever-increasing profits – fight every attempt to increase environmental protections or to improve the pay and working conditions for those that struggle daily just to make ends meet.

This is not hyperbole.  It is the real world. If you need evidence, just look around. Think about the chemical companies or “big banks” or “big pharma” or “big oil”…the list is long and the story is a sad one.

The struggle is real, both global and local.

Think about how the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce opposes every single attempt to increase the minimum wage for regular working people. Think about how a handful of our major landowners monopolize the land and the water, all the while seeking also to control the political processes that too often are used only to increase their profits.

Be honest with yourselves and look closely at the world we live in. Then choose a career that is grounded on principles of justice. If you go into business, then commit to a business that values economic, environment and social justice.  If you go into law, then do the same and fight hard for these values.  Whatever your path, place the pursuit and support of justice high on your priority list.

My hope is that some of you will consider careers in the world of public policy and government.  And yes, my hope is that those of you who feel truly driven to make our world better, will seek to serve in public office.

There is much to be done and Hawaii can serve as a model for the rest of the world.  I truly believe this.

Via changes in public policy, literally “with the stroke of a pen” – much can be accomplished.

  • * We could require all rental cars meet a minimum energy standard, or be electric.
  • * We could prohibit new public buildings from being built in areas prone to sea level rise.
  • * We could require all airlines landing in Hawaii to be “carbon neutral” via a carbon tax and/or a TAT surcharge, used to manage and restore our watersheds.
  • * We could gradually raise Hawaii’s minimum wage so it eventually reaches a living wage.
  • * We could publicly fund all elections and drastically improve campaign spending laws.
  • We could require all paid lobbyists to state that fact every time they submit testimony.
  • * We could pay our teachers more, decrease class size and increase technology in our schools.
  • * We could fund “Housing First” programs instead of $350,000,000 for a new stadium.
  • We could make a true commitment to ending homelessness and invest not just in new shelters and housing but also in the training and hiring of a new generation of social workers and mental health professionals.

There is so much more we can do…but, we need you.

We really, really need you.

First published on May 22, 2019 in The Garden Island Newspaper

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