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HOOSER: Challenges and opportunities in 2024

Bring it on. As the door to 2024 begins to open, I see sparkles of opportunity beckoning in the distance. The challenges facing our community while formidable, are certainly not insurmountable.

We should set our goals high and then work hard and smart, to achieve them.

As frustrating as it may be, we must speak out and engage issues impacting the entire planet, but our actions on a local level must remain front and center.

Thinking globally and act locally will keep us sane, make a tangible here-and-now difference in the lives of our children and grandchildren — and set the example for other communities to follow.

How cool would that be? Think about it. Our little island steps up and makes the choices necessary to create and preserve affordable housing for local residents, sets limits on tourism, aggressively supports food sustainability, and takes local action on issues of global importance.

Our local community and our county government could set the bar for others to follow. But coulda, woulda, shoulda, is only pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking unless each of us as individuals take responsibility for making it happen.

Our government leaders are not bad folk. They want to “do the right thing,” but often are not sure what that is, are essentially “risk adverse,” and in general do not want to make waves or risk rocking the apple cart.

Change will happen when every day citizens embrace their civic responsibility, actively engage the process, and support those government leaders who do step up to lead and are brave enough to challenge the status quo. We need to demand more from our elected leaders and from each other.

The cynics will say there’s no money. But it’s really about political will.

There’s money enough to meet the basic budget needs and to address key issues that have been languishing for years.

And there’s no shortage of good ideas to increase tax revenue without impacting the average local resident.

“I’m leaving Hawai‘i because taxes are too high,” said no hotel or luxury second homeowner ever.

Yet, far too many friends and family members are saying, “I’m leaving because there are no homes available for sale or rent that I can afford.”

I learned while serving for 16 years in both the Hawai‘i State Senate and the Kauai County Council, “When they tell you there’s no money, what they’re really saying is it’s not a priority.”

It’s not about the money, it’s about political will and priorities.

Next year is an election year and political will has a way of suddenly appearing when there’s sufficient public pressure and when new candidates challenge do-nothing incumbents who are simply holding space.

Change will happen when a critical mass of individual citizens begin raising the profile of key policy initiatives, writing letters to the editor, amplifying the message on social media, and ensuring that public support of these issues is strong, coherent, and sustained — (loud, clear and never-ending).

Elected officials love their jobs and want to keep them.

This means voters must remain happy. If voters start beating the drum, making the calls, and sending in those emails — most who hold public office will be inclined to start paying attention and maybe even accommodate them.

Joining a group that aligns with your “subject matter interest” is key.

The Sierra Club of Hawaii is the “go to” org for issues pertaining to environmental protection https://sierraclubhawaii.org. For economic justice it’s Hawai‘i Appleseed https://hiappleseed.org. There are numerous other’s and most have a “legislative affairs” component. Sign up to Policy & Politics at https://policy-and-politics.mailchimpsites.com and I’ll do my best to keep you posted as well.

Let’s make 2024 the year of good trouble and good public policy!
Source: The Garden Island

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