Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022 |
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While the 2022 election is over, the work to protect and improve our democracy is not.
Regardless of who was elected last night, the real work and real leadership necessary to make the needed systemic change happen will come from the electorate and not the elected.
Whether we are celebrating or bemoaning the election results, true change will only come through active civic engagement of the broader community. This is true at all levels — federal, state and county.
The phrase “el pueblo unido jamás será vencido” comes from one of the most important protest songs in the world.
A people united will never be defeated, “el pueblo unido jamás será vencido” — I’m wishing at this moment for an ‘olelo Hawai‘i translation or perhaps some similar phrase.
Because this is really what it’s all about. Our government leaders are elected by us to represent us, but it’s up to us — to be loud and clear as to our wants, needs and expectations.
No single charismatic leader is going to rise up and lead us to the promised land. This, my friends, is not going to happen, at least not to the promised land that I envision. Such individuals do not exist, and if one should rise up and attempt to be such a leader, you can be sure the forces of money and power would take that person out.
A collaborative model of elected representative leadership, directed and supported by an informed and engaged community who take ownership of and responsibility for their government. This is what democracy looks like, and is the only model that will get us through to a better tomorrow. Translation: We can’t just go vote then go back to Netflix, and expect the world to change for the better. And no, watching “Face the Nation,” listening to National Public Radio, and posting on social media, is not enough either.
We need active engagement in a true “Civic Square” both in a metaphorical sense and in a real tangible civic infrastructure sense. We need to get to a place where civic matters are regularly discussed at our dinner table, and where not voting, not submitting testimony, and not showing up at a public meeting is the exception and not the rule.
How do we get there? For starters, we need those elected yesterday to instigate and support the civic infrastructure needed. The public needs and deserves legislative bodies that value civic engagement, rather than treat it with thinly veiled disdain while waiting impatiently for the two or three minute testimony clock to beep.
We need legislators at both the county and state level who embrace the Sunshine Law rather than seeking ways to avoid it.
Fortunately, many of the items needed to rebuild the Civic Square will be contained in recommendations forthcoming by the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct (CISC). Their final recommendations are due out on Dec. 2. Meeting minutes, and proposed bill drafts and rule change recommendations can be found on their website: https://bit.ly/3TeP2oX
Please take the time to visit the CISC website, review the proposals, and email them your thoughts now to StandardsofConduct@capitol.hawaii.gov — prior to when the final report is due. This will allow them to possibly include your ideas and suggestions into the final draft.
This is important. I believe the CISC members are genuine in their intent and effort to produce the best, most meaningful report possible. So let’s help them.
Job #1 for those of us who believe in the value of civic engagement, it to learn about, help improve, and embrace the initiatives being proposed by the CISC commission.
Job #2 will be to demand that our elected legislators actually implement these recommendations. This will be where the rubber meets the road.
And if we meet resistance, duplicity or arrogance from those elected to serve us, we should not fail to remind them that, el pueblo unido jamás será vencido.
Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.
Mahalo for sharing your thoughts. I couldn’t agree more. I appreciate the link to the CISC website.
The false narrative that “Democracy is at risk” was the biggest lie that was promoted during the campaigning that took place. Those who are currently distorting democracy are betting that people will remain ignorant and easy to program with lies. No party should be doing this. These lies promote evil actions. STOP!
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