LIHU‘E — A crowd of about 50 people, and one roving pigeon, gathered at the Wilcox Elementary School Cafeteria on Saturday morning for new U.S. Representative Jill Tokuda’s first Kaua‘i town hall.
Tokuda was sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 7, 2023, after convincing victories in the primary and general elections last year.
She now sits on the Agriculture Committee and the Armed Services Committees, along with the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability and the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Since her election, the representative has made it a priority to return home frequently, making the 15-hour flight from Washington to Hawai‘i several times a month. Though born and raised in Kaneohe, she has roots in Kaua‘i, with her family immigrating from Japan to Puhi Camp generations back.
“This is my first Kaua‘i town hall, but it is by no means my last,” she told the assembled crowd, adding that she hoped these conversations could lead to meaningful legislation.
On Earth Day, the climate was top of mind for many in attendance, including resident Jimmy Trujillo, who asked about tapping into federal funds to address climate change on Kaua‘i.
“We are on the front lines of climate change,” said Tokuda in an interview with The Garden Island after the town hall. “From one end of my district to the next, I see climate chaos. I see drought, I see landslides, I see the devastation from invasive species.”
She said those situations put Hawai‘i in a position to become “a model” for how the rest of the nation can deal with the climate crisis.
Tokuda expressed support for a “Green New Deal” — a proposed massive investment in climate infrastructure — and called for the nation to declare a climate emergency, like the one called in Hawai‘i in 2021.
With a divided Congress, these types of progressive measures will prove difficult to enact. After serving in a supermajority in the Hawai‘i state Legislature for 12 years, Tokuda now finds herself part of a Democratic minority in the U.S. House.
“It’s always better to be in the majority,” Tokuda acknowledged. “But being in a minority forces you to think differently, to prioritize and focus on wins you can achieve for your community collectively. It’s testing different muscles I’ve never had to use before, but I think it’s going to make me stronger.”
A member of the Armed Services Committee, Tokuda also attended a veterans event earlier in the morning, where she listened to former service members discuss difficulties accessing benefits.
“It was very telling to hear from veterans at both events, how they sacrificed for us but we have not lived up to our commitment to them. I had a hearing last week with various branches of service, where they said recruiting was a big problem,” said Tokuda.“How can we even talk about recruiting with confidence or fidelity, if we are not taking care of our veterans who already served?”
She also commented on the recent incident in which a 21-year-old US Air National Guardsman leaked classified documents on the video game streaming service Discord, saying the country “should never have never gotten to the point” where the 21-year-old could access that sort of information.
Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-0329 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: The Garden Island
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