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HOOSER: Looking for the change makers

Got an email recently from a community member who had been reading my political ramblings posted at

He was asking about someone who was serving in public office, told me he had some reservations but was wondering if I thought this particular person was a “good guy” or not.

My response: “He’s a heck of a nice guy, usually says the right things, but never really leads or stands up to be counted when the crunch comes.”

The unfortunate reality is that we have some legislators and council members who are bad, some who are really bad, others who are OK, and a handful who are really good.

Frankly, I’m tired of supporting those that are just OK … unless of course the alternative is bad or really bad. Such is the political and voting dilemma.

For the upcoming 2024 local elections, my hope is that voters in our community put their energy, their money and their votes — first and foremost behind the really good ones — the change makers.

Change makers are those who once elected resist the urge to “go along to get along,” and instead are willing to raise their hands, ask the hard questions out loud, debate the issues fairly and openly, vote their conscious, and lead.

When I was first elected to the Hawai‘i state Senate in 2002, I was told unless my vote on a particular issue aligned with Senate leadership, protocol required me to ask permission of them first if I intended to “vote my conscious.”

Yes. It was another one of those, “can’t make this stuff up” moments.

I’m thinking everyone should always vote their conscious? Yes?

Certainly the change makers we need to elect will be those who follow their na’au, rather than bow to the establishment holding the power and money at any particular point in time.

How do you define a “bad or really bad” legislator or council member?

First and foremost, it starts with character. More than ideology, it’s character that matters most. Will the person put people and the planet above their own self interest and that of their friends?

The “bad or really bad” serve first and foremost the institutions and individuals that helped them get into power. They may (or may not) also do what they can to help everyone else, but their loyalty is to those higher up the food chain. They pass or kill bills for personal or political reasons, or because someone higher up tells them to do so.

Far too many decisions made by those in public office are fear-based. They’re afraid they won’t get reelected. They’re afraid the “money committee” or “leadership” or “the unions” will punish them if they speak out or vote the wrong way. etc.

They justify it all by citing a strategy of “playing the long game.”

To be clear, the majority of legislators and council members are not bad people, but rather fall into the “OK” category. But frankly, at this particular moment in time we need more than just hard work, honesty, and an acceptance of an “OK” mediocrity.

We need change makers, not placeholders.

We need to find, support, and elect political leaders who are integrity-based decision-makers, who will always vote their conscious, and are driven by the courage of their convictions.

We need political leaders who feel the same urgency of the moment we do, who’re willing and able to build coalitions with the “OK” legislators, and will work with community to propose forward-thinking initiatives that address housing, environmental protection, food sustainability and many other issues.

August 10 is the date of Hawai‘i’s all important primary election. Soon, the signs and banners will be popping up, candidates will be standing along the highway, knocking on our doors, seeking our votes.

Please join me in looking for and supporting the change makers.


Gary Hooser served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council. He presently writes on Hawai‘i Policy and Politics at
Source: The Garden Island

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