Why should you care? Why should you take the time to send off some meaningless little email to some politician who’s not going to read it, and will do what they want regardless? Trust me, I feel this way more often than I’d like to admit.
The short answer is because we must, because it’s not meaningless, and because we cannot avoid seeing the injustice that surrounds us. Even when our eyes are closed, we see that family living under the bridge, the obscene plastics found in the gut of a gentle giant lying dead on our beach, our friends working two jobs and still cannot afford a decent place to live.
We care because we must, and we do things large and small, because we must. Otherwise, how do we sleep at night?
It’s called “kuleana.” It is our responsibility to care and do what we can to make our planet, our community and our homes a better place.
So send that email testimony, make that call to your legislator, and write that letter to the editor. It is your kuleana, and it does make a difference. At the minimum, you will sleep better at night knowing that you are trying.
If enough of us join in the effort, those we elect will in fact hear us, and if we are unrelentingly persistent in our commitment, they will respond and support our demands for change. If not, we are then compelled to collectively hold them accountable in 2024. This, of course, is how democracy and elections are supposed to work.
What will the 2023 legislative report card look like?
• Did they pass publicly funded elections, or kick the can down the road?
• Did they make significant progress on affordable housing without sacrificing community and environmental protections? Or did they hand developers a blank check in return for a “trust me,” a wink and a nod? Did they try to con the public by focusing on so-called “workforce” housing at 140 percent of median income or higher, or did they ensure hard working families earning below the median income were a priority?
• What about the Commission To Improve Standards of Conduct (CISC) reform proposals? Did they just give us the ole, “it’s a work in progress” line? Did they do anything significant to get money out of politics and campaigns? Was there even a hearing held on the issue of term limits? What about House Bill 725 and Senate Bill 1423 — the Citizens Bill of Rights?
• What about initiatives to help working families, to lower the cost of living, and the long overdue paid family leave legislation?
• Was dealing with climate change taken seriously? Did “the Green Amendment” pass? Were Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) initiatives — making product manufacturers and distributors responsible for their products and packaging, approved?
• Did legislators recognize the health risks now occurring in central O‘ahu connected to the intense use of pesticides? Did they do something to reduce this risk and expand reporting requirements?
• Was the responsible adult use of cannabis legalized?
Yes, can’t wait to see the report card.
We should be cautiously optimistic, but we should not be naive, and we certainly should take nothing for granted.
Straight A’s are possible, and frankly I’d settle for a B+ — but this will only happen if we collectively push harder than ever before.
We show we care, we send those emails, make those calls, write those letters, and we show up at those hearings via Zoom and in-person.
To make the report card a good and positive one, the base (which is us) must show up and demand that it be so. It’s our kuleana. So please keep caring, keep emailing in that testimony, and keep writing those letters to the editor. Then, after the report card comes out on May 5, join with me and many others from across all the islands to regroup and to celebrate.
A good report card is what we want and need. A bad report card … well, a bad report card just gives us more fuel for the fire needed to win in 2024.
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.
Source: The Garden Island
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