Make keiki a priority at Legislature

Traffic.

Public transportation.

Affordable housing.

Health care.

Cost of living.

Collective bargaining.

Those are issues the Legislature will take up during this year’ session, which begins today. Kauai is fortunate to have three sharp representatives, Jimmy Tokioka, Dee Morikawa and Nadine Nakamura, looking after its best interests. Tokioka and Morikawa have political experience, established connections and know how to get things done. That is invaluable. Nakamura may be new to the Legislature this year, but rest assured, she is as bright and as smart as anyone in the room. All three have Kauai at their heart and will do their very best for this island and its people.

And Kauai is blessed to have a leader like Sen. Ron Kouchi as Senate president. His knowledge, his experience, his passion, are priceless when it comes to his influence on the Legislature. Kouchi came to be Senate president because he has the respect and support of his colleagues. He is a tremendous asset for Kauai to have in this year’s session and we know he will be a strong leader. If there are legislative avenues that will benefit Kauai, Kouchi will know all about them, and will do his best to drive them home.

So, what are the key issues facing Kauai that citizens want to see take priority with their elected leaders? There are many.

The ones listed above certainly come into play. Who wouldn’t like to see improved roads and traffic flow? What can be done to provide affordable housing for locals? The cost of health care will be a prominent issue and the cost of living in paradise is not going to fall anytime soon.

These are all critical and no doubt will be the center of discussion and hopefully, action by our elected leaders.

We would argue, though, that nothing matters more than our keiki. Whatever can be done to give our young generation the tools, the direction, the opportunities, to learn and excel and believe in themselves and their future should be a goal for our legislators. That could be by providing air conditioning in every classroom, renovating baseball fields, reducing class sizes, providing meals at school or attracting the best teachers to Hawaii through improved pay and benefits.

We note that the Hawaii Children’s Action Network released its annual “Children’s Policy Agenda” Tuesday. HCAN was created to help nonprofits, businesses, government and citizens advocate for policies aimed at improving kids’ lives.

“A diverse group of policy experts, non-profits advocates and coalitions have come together to prioritize the next steps we can take to make Hawaii the best place for children,” said the group’s executive director Deborah Zysman. “Together, we share a common goal to improve the health, economic security, and education of our children.”

Over 50 organizations participated in creating this year’s agenda. Issues are categorized by economic security and equality, strengthening families, child safety, health and wellness, and education. All contain policy ideas that will be led by various groups.

Sen. Karl Rhoads (D-13) and Rep. Matt Lopresti (D-41), new co-chairmen of the Keiki Caucus, supported HCAN for the launch.

“We realize that of course kids are indeed our future,” said Rhoads. “It’s an honor to chair this caucus and to help carry the torch of doing what we need to do to make Hawaii a great place for children to grow up.”

Well said.

Our legislators have a challenge ahead. The state is not flush with money. Funding requests will be scrutinized. Yet, we can be confident that Kauai has the right people in place to take care of the island and most important, its keiki.

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