Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022 |
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What do we want those we just elected or reelected to actually do during the coming year?
Personally, I’m looking for change makers, not just placeholders.
Yes, balancing the budget is important, but there’s an algorithm for that. We need more than just balancing the budget; much more.
Pie in the sky, you say? Our politicians will do what they’ve always done. A few will propose the changes needed to move us forward. Others will argue that there are too many unanswered questions and the risk of unintended consequences is too great.
Most will simply wait to see which way the wind is blowing. They will talk about it, strike a pose for the camera, speak with force and passion, and then they will do nothing. They will simply hold the space, vote to balance the budget, and show up at the next community event or ribbon cutting.
It doesn’t have to be this way. But to change things, we must get more involved, and we must reach out to our elected leaders, via email, telephone and in person — and let them know of our expectations and priorities.
Truly affordable housing must be everyone’s priority. There are many tangible things that can be done on the county and state level to make this happen. Increased investment in sewer and water infrastructure, tax incentives, density bonuses, and a focus on redevelopment of existing urban areas make sense.
What doesn’t make sense is expanding development into virgin agricultural lands, building more highways, and sacrificing the environment to generate increased profits for developers and landowners.
Another huge priority, and the one reform that makes all other reforms possible, is publicly funded elections.
Several states offer this option for state and county elections, and it’s well past time for Hawai‘i to join them. Big money’s influence on local elections must be dramatically reduced, and publicly funded elections will help make this happen.
“There is no money for affordable housing and no money for publicly funded elections” will be the placeholders’ retort.
The change makers know, of course, “When they tell you there’s no money, what they’re really saying is it’s not a priority.”
There is, of course, money available for all kinds of things — stadium redevelopment and endless cost overruns for the rail system are just two that come to mind. Oh, and don’t forget the $7 million drug treatment center in Lihu‘e that’s just sitting there empty.
There are many who profit from our islands, but who are not paying their fair share. Real Estate Investment Trusts export their untaxed profits to the continent.
Mainland real estate investors pay lower property taxes here than back home, wherever they may be from. No hotels are closing up and going away because our taxes are too high. Tell me again why are we giving these guys a break?
If the electorate (you and me) let the elected body know what our expectations are now, before the next session or the next council meeting — perhaps 2023 can be different. And if 2023 is not different, in 2024 we can encourage and support others to run and replace the do-nothing placeholders with do-something change makers.
What we absolutely don’t need is more politicians flooding the airwaves and our mailboxes bragging about how much money they brought home to the district — much of this is automatic and would happen regardless of who is sitting in that chair.
We need to see, instead, election brochures from incumbents bragging about the increased availability of affordable housing, the establishment of publicly funded elections, real steps made toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, expanded mental health services and increased local food production.
The key. of course. is active community engagement, and that must start today — before the swearing in. And it must continue relentlessly until the elected do what we the electorate are asking them to do.
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.
Gary how many years did you have to make a difference? The housing iddue falls directly on those in power during the 2000-2010 decade and prior.
During this time land barons increased their foot pront. Until Kauai realizes that 90% of the open land is owned by 10 families Kauai will continue to struggle with middle class housing.
At this point all efforts need to be made to increase land holdings for future generations.
Focus needs to shift from those that dont wat to work to those that do work and still cant affort to buy there foirst home.
The only way this will hapeen is if the screws are turned on the land barons.
When will the country get some guts to take on Grove Farm Steve Case, Mark Super bucks and the others.
Kauai needs to take its land back from those that have all the land!
whats next for the county… NOTHING It was just another “popularity contest” like always and the worst part the council decided to give themselves a raise for the nothing they do, and continue to make decisions for their own interest and pet projects. It’s the VOTERS fault
that old style locals ” no like change”. Gary has 8 years on the council. I would be embarrassed spending 8 years of doing nothing but collecting $65,000+ a year and then trying to shove down peoples throats how things should be down. We need to elect well educated, honest, business management people who can work together to produce immediate change for the solutions to our problems, and it will never change unless we stop voting the “popularity contest” scenario.
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