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Gathering Places

Dennis K. Biby

Sunday, June 30, 2002


You can change how
the government runs


How is our government performing? Are we getting value for our tax dollar? Do any of the following make you angry?

>> Building a Kapolei library with no books;

>> Taking money from the sewer fund while millions of gallons of raw sewage spill into Kaneohe Bay and Keehi Lagoon;

>> Overcrowded prisons and shipping prisoners to mainland

>> Unlimited development;

>> Inaction on wilderness protection, invasive species and fisheries management;

>> Playground and park maintenance;

>> Allowing homeless to sleep in the parks instead of offering alternative living space, support or treatment;

>> Lack of an energy policy to lessen dependence on expensive, imported, dirty fossil fuels when alternatives are available;

>> Dependence on tourism;

>> Endless scandals;

>> Broken education system.

What can I do? I have three choices in this election season. I can gripe and grumble and then refuse to vote because all politicians are crooked and one person can't change anything. I can cast my vote for the candidate chosen by my boss, union leader, spouse, party affiliation or based on best sound bite, most attractive or best sign-waver. Or I can cast my vote for the candidate who addresses the issues, help that candidate get elected and hold her/him accountable when elected.

The first two choices are easy. If I choose the third option, I need to select the issues that are most important to me. I must determine who is responsible -- governor, Legislature, county, or me. (It's hard to blame someone else for the pesticides that drain off my lawn or the gas mileage of my car.)

If my hot issues involve the state, then I can review the proposed, passed and vetoed legislation of the last legislative session at www.capitol. hawaii.gov. I can view budget details as passed by Legislature (HB1800) at the same site. The governor's proposed budget is at www.state.hi.us/budget. The main Hawaii Web site at www.Hawaii.gov contains a wealth of information. If I can't find something, I can call the appropriate department and ask for help -- an advantage of living in a small state.

After I define my issues, I can research the candidates. If a campaign is based upon sign-waving and a Huli Huli chicken on every grill, it will be difficult to find the candidate's position. Looking at several local candidates' Web sites, I see lots of flag-waving, pretty pictures, media clippings and solicitations for contributions, but I must gumshoe around to find their specific positions on issues.

Can one person change anything, or is government like an old, unmaintained locomotive to which we attach more cars and build no new track? In the 2000 election, fewer than 60 percent of the 637,000 registered voters chose to vote. With these numbers, each House seat represents about 7,500 voting voters; assuming there were two candidates, fewer than 400 voters select the representative!

Term limits and redistricting present an opportunity for significant change. There are 129 statewide elected seats up for grabs this year from the governor to the City Council to the Board of Education.

My choices are to stay home, follow the sheep or demand value for my tax dollar. After all, do I accept government-quality service from Haleiwa Joe's, Macy's or Wal-Mart?


Dennis K. Biby is a former engineer and computer programmer who now works as a freelance writer in Honolulu.



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