Pono Hawaii Initiative centered on economy, environment, social justice

LIHUE — Another hui has been formed to ensure thriving environmental, social and economic conditions in Hawaii; and it’s focus is the political arena.

Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI) was formed by executive director Gary Hooser, of Wailua, with the vision of empowering “people-driven leadership to achieve economic, social and environmental justice.”

“It is critically important that we act now to move the politics and policy needle forward here in Hawaii,” Hooser said. “To keep the momentum going requires action, leadership and focus.”

For the next 18 months members of PHI, including Kauai’s Fern Rosenstiel, will find candidates to promote for public office.

PHI will also be finding new ballot initiatives at the county level with targets on subjects like affordable housing, solid waste, and industrial agriculture.

“If our county and state legislators refuse to pass meaningful legislation, the people at the county level have the power to do it directly,” Hooser said.

PHI’s board of directors includes president Josh Frost; treasurer Patrick Kamakanianu Shea; secretary Kau’i Pratt-Aquino; and Kristin Mie Hamada — all based on Oahu.

The organization is a 501c4 nonprofit, which means contributions are not tax deductible “primarily because we will entirely be focused on supporting policy change and endorsing candidates”, according to Hooser.

PHI is the political support sister organization to Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action, of which Hooser is board president.

H.A.P.A is a 501c3 nonprofit organization and is banned under federal law from supporting political candidates.

“Thus the need for a new and separate organization such as PHI,” Hooser said. “H.A.P.A. continues to play an invaluable role in support of educating the public on policy.”

Each organization has a separate board of directors, administrative structure, budget and list of fundraising programs.

“New political leaders dedicated to putting people and the planet first are stepping forward and making the commitment to run for public office,” Hooser said. “A diverse network of advocacy organizations is coming together. We can do this.”

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