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 today’s 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/councilmember.

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 www.capitol.hawaii.gov.

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 senators are elected to four-year terms, without term limits. In 2020, Sen. 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 three state senators. The Big Island has four and the island of Oahu has 17.

Kauai has three state representatives for three 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 six state representatives. The Big Island has seven 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 seven 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 seven 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 three counties each have nine 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.

You can find all the names and contact information for each and every county council member listed online on the county council website. A simple Internet search will take you there in a split second.

So please, reach out and call or email your elected policymaker 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!

•••

Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

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