“I’m totally disgusted with government” is a message I get frequently from a whole lot of people.
My response is usually, “So, what are you gonna do about it?” To which the answer is invariably, “It doesn’t matter, they will do what they want regardless. They don’t care about what I think, so why bother?“
Why bother? Because your voice is desperately needed and absolutely can make a difference. Because if you don’t speak up they only hear from the money and the lobbyists.
Trust me on this. Most legislators do care about what you think. Complete the exercise included at the bottom if you don’t believe me.
Your voice, should you choose to use it, can make a difference. I’ve been there. I’ve seen and witnessed it up close and personal.
Sometimes one voice at a particular point in time can push a vote teetering on the edge — especially if that voice is from someone who lives in the district.
Without question, a handful of voices delivered via email, telephone, formal testimony, or a single letter to the editor can make a huge difference. Twenty or 30 or 100 or more from the district can definitely change the vote of a state legislator.
Politicians abhor the prospect of letters to the editor written by unhappy constituents who live in their district. A letter or op-ed in the local newspaper calling them out for being unresponsive, or for voting the wrong way, or a letter of thanks and appreciation — will quickly get their attention.
I’m telling you straight. Everyone who serves in public office wants to keep serving in public office. To get reelected they must keep voters in their district happy. It’s not a bad thing. It’s natural, really, and it’s a mechanism to hold them accountable if we use it.
Remember also, when they do good stuff, publicly thank them. It’s not just about pounding on them when they mess up. You gotta show them the love when they do good. Positive feedback and public appreciation is a powerful motivator.
To discover if your own district legislator cares about what you think or not, please join me in the below Policy & Politics exercise.
First: Identify the state senator and representative elected from your district via “Find Your Legislator” at https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/fyl/.
Next: Send each a short email, introduce yourself, tell them what’s important to you, ask about their positions on those issues, and request a reply.
Something like this, perhaps, but choose your issues:
“Aloha Representative/Senator, My name is XXXX, I live in your district and wanted to thank you for your service, let you know the issues most important to me, and find out if we are aligned on those issues. My four top priorities include term limits, publicly funded elections, XXX and XXX. Are these issues you support? I understand you’re very busy (as we all are), however the courtesy of a reply would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, name/town”
When they respond: Send a brief thank you and contact them again in the future as issues come up. If they don’t reply within seven days, call or write a follow-up “did you get my earlier email” note.
If they still don’t respond, write a letter to the editor and call them out for being unresponsive to a constituent who lives in the district.
Please take the time to send this email. I promise you, it will be fun and you will learn a little, perhaps a whole lot, about the true nature and core values of the representative and senator who are supposed to be representing you.
If you feel comfortable sharing in confidence the results of your effort, lmk at email@example.com.
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.
Source: The Garden Island