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HOOSER: Making democracy work. We need you in 2022.

As 2021 draws to a close, I think not so much about the coming holidays but more about the work being done in Congress, by our County Council, and in the coming legislative session that opens on Jan. 19, followed oh-so-quickly by the primary election Aug. 13.

But I think most of that man under the bridge, and that long list of things yet to be done.

Such is the life of those of us immersed in policy and politics.

I’m hoping an increased interest in civic engagement makes it to your New Years’ resolution list as well.

It’s important. The wrongs of the world will not be made right via the curse of apathy.

Ignoring the man under the bridge does not make him go away. He will only grow more ill, more miserable and more complicated and costly to deal with later.

The scourges of drug addiction, crime driven by poverty, mental illness and homelessness will not be resolved by looking the other way.

And complaining, criticizing and ranting about a dysfunctional and corrupt government serves no useful purpose either.

Please. Put increased civic engagement on the top of your list for the coming year. Be part of the solution, an active ally, not a passive-aggressive opponent.

Join a community organization or club that contributes to making our home a better place. Read about and follow local issues. Submit testimony to the council and state Legislature. Write letters to the editor or opinion pieces in support of or opposition to issues that matter.

Bring a hot meal, perhaps dental care, an affordable home, or a job that pays a living wage to that man under the bridge.

You, together with an engaged community, can do this, you know. Yes, you have that power.

Civic engagement: It’s what democracy is based on. It’s about all of us taking responsibility for OUR government and OUR community.

Yes, it’s about voting, but it’s about so much more than that. It’s about supporting candidates. It’s about making that decision to be a candidate. It’s about holding elected officials accountable. It’s about talking to friends and neighbors, sharing informed and diverse viewpoints and being respectful. Sometimes, it’s about agreeing to disagree and moving on.

It’s about each of us taking ownership and personal responsibility for our community.

This is what democracy looks like.

Yes, of course, we each contribute differently, and we each have a different capacity to do so. Some of our neighbors possess great personal wealth, while others live under that bridge, or in the bushes down by the river.

Each of us can and must do our part, and more. Whether it’s that small-but-regular act of kindness and generosity that help the few, or the huge and monumental contributions that impact generations, all are needed.

Involvement in a community organization, club, place of worship or nonprofit is a good place to start. But that is not enough.

Please consider including government, policy, politics and active civic engagement as one of your top 2022 New Year resolutions.

Please don’t tell me you’re too busy. We are all too busy. But we make time because we must.

Next steps:

• Visit, explore, register and bookmark capitol.hawaii.gov/. At top right corner click “Find your legislator,” then enter your address and, voila, name and contact information for your district representative and senator will appear;

• Email cokcouncil@kauai.gov and request automatic weekly County Council and committee agenda alerts;

• For my semi-weekly statewide “policy and politics” email, opt-in at policy-and-politics.mailchimpsites.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

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