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LETTERS for the July 1 issue

By Staff | Jul 2, 2021

Women, power and politics in Hawaii

What percentage of Hawaii lawmakers at the state and county level are women? The below information details the gender equity or inequity that currently exists among lawmakers currently serving in public office at the state and county level. The gender identification is drawn from references contained within the official county and state websites.

50% U.S. Senate: One woman, one man; 0% U.S. House: Two men; 0% Governor and Lt. Governor: Two men; 36% State Senate: Nine women, 16 men, 25 total; 31% State House of Representatives: 16 women, 35 men, 51 total; 66% Maui Council: Six women, three men, nine total; 55% Hawaii Council: Five women, four men, nine total; 55% Honolulu Council: Five women, four men, nine total; 14% Kauai Council: One woman, six men, seven total.

While Honolulu, Maui and Hawaii County are setting a good example, governmental and political power in Hawaii remains firmly ensconced under the control of men.

Historically and globally, this has been the case, and look where that has gotten us. Our natural environment led by man-made climate change is on the verge of collapse. The chasm between the ultra-rich and those living in bushes and under bridges grows wider each day. Genocide, racism, mass incarceration and endless war, is so commonplace it barely makes the news anymore.

Decision-making occurs through the lens of the decision-maker. White cisgender men view the world through an entirely different lens than that of women of color. People whose life experience is grounded in the privilege of wealth likewise see things differently than those who were born into poverty. Whether the lens is of one of class, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or other unique life circumstances, each individual makes decisions grounded in their own life experience.

Yes, many of us do our best to understand the perspective of others, to empathize and attempt to make good and thoughtful decisions accordingly. But an uncomfortable truth is that unless we have walked in their shoes, we cannot truly understand, nor can we truly view the same world as those who come from a wholly different place in life.

To ensure the most equitable and the highest quality decision-making possible, every governing body, whether elected or appointed, needs to reflect the community it’s responsible to represent. The best decision-making for the whole will come about only when a communities diversity is represented in its governing institutions.

We need to elect more women to public office at all levels statewide. As stated so eloquently by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”

At the present time, there seem to be no women interested in serving as governor or lieutenant governor. Personally, I would love to see a woman at the top of the ticket — a woman who understands and honors the history and culture of this place, who understands the true meaning of “the law of the splintered paddle” and who puts the protection of the public trust first.

There is no shortage of highly qualified women already in leadership positions within the public, nonprofit and private sectors — and in the community at large.

The 2022 elections are right around the corner. Ballots will be placed into the mail for early Primary Election voting approximately one year from now.

Making that first step into the political arena can be a daunting bridge to cross. Support from friends and family is hugely important. Money must be raised and countless doors knocked on. Remember: “As the prevailing voices in the public spotlight are predominantly men, stepping into the spotlight with the truth of who you are as a woman is political change.” ― Tabby Biddle, Find Your Voice: A Woman’s Call to Action

I write this today thinking of all of the strong, caring, smart and tenacious women I have been blessed to know and work with over the years. I think about their immense talent both present and future. I think about their strong internal compass and their incredible commitment to making positive change happen. And I think about how much better off the world would be if they were in charge.

GARY HOOSER, Kapaa, Hawaii

Work to mitigate HB499

The Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations and Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands Waitlist Association have received so many inquiries on the voting record on HB499 – Public Lease Land Extensions. Mahalo to the grass roots leaders on all islands serving on the Homestead Policy Committee for being responsive with the attached simple document indicating how each legislator voted on the measure.

As you may know, Governor Ige has indicated that he intends to allow HB499 to become law. While we are disappointed in this, good people can indeed disagree on solutions to challenges. SCHHA and AHHL have turned toward other strategies to mitigate HB499 in issuing 100-year leases on thousands of acres of our trust lands, removing them from the HHCA core mission of housing, farms, ranches and commercial mercantile by and for Native Hawaiians.

Let’s stay engaged on every Moku, let’s not give up on our government or our elected officials, and prioritize a repeal or corrective policy initiative of this legislative misstep during a COVID legislative session. It would be extraordinary for the House leadership to communicate a veto to Governor Ige or to champion a repeal in the 2022 Legislature. SCHHA and AHHL would absolutely help these policy-makers to get to the solutions they are seeking without perpetuating another 100 years of Native Hawaiians dying on a waitlist. Can.

Absent that, we cannot despair, nor demonize our policy-makers, nor say “poho.” They are good people; we must summon the energy to work to understand them, to help them understand us, their constituents, and together, find alternatives to achieve mutual goals — for the many. I know you are tired. Let’s take a breath, regroup and redirect the incredible hurt of HB499 to corrective and meaningful policy efforts. Mahalo Ke Akua.