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Hirono hosts town hall meeting

PUHI — U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono didn’t pull any punches when asked about the current administration during her town hall meeting Saturday afternoon at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School.

“I think he (President Trump) needs to have some people around him who bring that kind of experience and what I call adult maturity to the table,” she told an audience of about 100.

Hirono also talked about several state and local issues, even touching on the controversy surrounding the Lihue Post Office on Rice Street.

“I know how much you all want the Lihue Post Office to stay there. Post offices are very important community places … I don’t think the U.S. Postal Service gave enough attention to hear the voices of the community,” she said.

Education was another topic of discussion. One woman asked about protecting Title III educational funds for minorities from the federal level at the University of Hawaii and Kauai Community College under Trump.

Hirono acknowledged the risk of losing this type of funding because of new government officials, singling out Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

“A lot of these funding programs are going to come under attack under the Trump administration,” Hirono said. “We have an education secretary in Betsy DeVos that does not believe in public education and public schools. And she’s probably going to come up with a proposal that botcherizes our public school system. And that is not the way to go.”

Jed Somit came to the meeting to hear what plans Democrats have in place to combat what’s happening in government, explaining how tired he is of seeing the Democrats just bash Trump without improving their own policies.

“I’d like to know if the Democrats are going to decide to, instead of attacking Trump, go back to talking about their platform and pushing that as an alternative view of what government should be,” Somit said. “Think about it: What do you want your government to be like? Rather than point out that we’re just in a bad spot. In the long run, you really have to put the choice to the people.”

One concerned citizen stepped up to the microphone to ask Hirono about the current status of national security and threats posed not only to Hawaii, but to the Mainland and countries in Asia.

“There is a clear and present danger,” Hirono said. “National security issues loom large. With the unrest in the Middle East, with what is happening in North Korea and their unrelenting desire to become a nuclear power … these are times where we are very much challenged in terms of our national security.”

“This is why other countries, especially in the Asia-Pacific area, have come forward,” she continued. “It’s not as though we are forcing bases in these places, we are generally asked to come and we hope that we are entering a generally beneficial agreement.”

The man who asked the question didn’t necessarily agree with Hirono’s response.

But Hirono replied that while serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee, she hopes to make decisions “not based on war-mongering or desire to go to war anywhere, because military action is the last thing we want to do.”

Hirono also said that Trump uses the military to get his point across, and she doesn’t agree with that.

“Every day, we are given information about the threats that are faced, not just in our country but by our allies … but I do my very best based on my desire to support diplomatic resolution of conflicts, not sending troops on the ground.”

When asked if she was worried about Trump’s mental state, Hirono answered quite simply, “How can you not worry?”

Hirono went on to say that it’s time to get rid of the electoral college for elections, and that she supports a minimum wage increase to $15. A bill to do that is already on the table and she intends to sign it.

“We need to have people with a living wage,” she said. “Hawaii’s minimum wage just went up this year, and I think Hawaii is moving in the right direction.”

Ernest and Lois Hamada are a retired couple living on Kauai. They wanted to hear from Hirono about the current status of health care.

“I know she’s going to talk about health care, and I’m very interested in that,” Lois Hamada said before the meeting. “We’re retired and are on fixed income. And with pre-existing conditions, I’m very interested in what she has to say about that.”

Hirono took a few questions about health care from the audience, which she saw as a good sign.

“That means people don’t support what the Republicans are doing and that is basically going backward on our health care where there is no single- payer system at all,” Hirono said. “This bill was bad to begin (with). … All around, this is very bad news.”

Ernest Hamada wanted to hear about immigration and Trump’s statements on women.

But he’s also worried that there is a lack of interest in local politics.

“I think it’s important for us to come out and see what’s happening,” he said. “I think the people are less active in the process of politics. And I don’t know why. There was a time when a lot of people used to come out to meetings and stuff. But not anymore.”

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