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Danny De Gracia: Hawaii Politicians Should Try Something New — Improving Life For All Of Us

Forget the scenery, forget the weather and ask yourself this: What was the last thing your government did for you that made you feel good about living here?

We need to talk: Our government is facing a crisis of legitimacy. The warning signs have been there for a while, but they’re becoming harder to ignore and more pronounced as each year goes by.

Voter turnout . In 1959, 93.6% of the eligible population voted in the general election. In 2022, a mere 48.7% of voters participated. And can you really blame those that stayed home? Many voters profess they don’t like the choices before them, and others, especially among the Native Hawaiian population, feel like they’ll be left behind no matter what.

is off the chart. According to Payscale, Honolulu’s cost of housing is 214% above the national average. Groceries are 50% higher than the national average, utilities are 42% higher, and transportation is 26% higher. And that’s saying something, because the national average isn’t exactly getting any cheaper, either.

Pause reading this article right now so we can make room to bring out the pro-Establishment, dismissive toxic positivity brigade. “But lucky you live Hawaii! You should be grateful to be here. I feel extremely sorry for you that you think money is necessary to be happy. Do you really need tasty food? Do you really need nice clothes? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and stop complaining!”

Sure. That’s exactly the kind of thing that people who have money, power and their established place secure in Hawaii would say. I dare you to say that to the faces of a family living in a packed multigenerational house , unable to get promoted, no matter how hard they work at their job or how many interviews they do.

And when Hawaii’s struggling people turn on their televisions or scroll through the social media newsfeed on their digital devices, what exactly do they see? They see politicians who are great at apologizing for not doing their job. They see public-private corporations saying the public will have to start paying more because of a mistake someone else made. They see things they like –  – at the top of the list to be taken away from them and turned into landfills.

And what exactly do Mr. and Mrs. Hawaii Resident have as the perks of being “lucky to live Hawaii”? The only “good news” coming out of Honolulu is that someone who is privileged will be given more privilege with a new political appointment, and their family who is privileged will also be given privilege. Mind you, it’s your job, Mr. and Mrs. Hawaii Resident, to applaud that and to support that, and not be a hater.

Government seems more intent on helping people already well-off than taking steps that benefit all of us. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

Even better is the “great news” given to residents: Something new has just been banned! Something new has just been made illegal! Some group will now be unable to do what they did before without a license. Some activity that we never heard of before will have to pay fees, all of which will go to some fund whose purpose isn’t entirely clear.

And you should be thankful for all this, Mr. and Mrs. Hawaii Resident, because that’s your government working for you! Let us now take a picture in a construction helmet with our arms folded decisively for the camera, and we will tell everyone in the upcoming election, “The such-and-such people want me as their leader … you should too!”

What a sad situation we have here on Oahu, and in Hawaii. With conditions like this you can’t blame people for not voting, for always being upset and stressed out, for deciding to flee to the mainland and for being hopeless about reform.

This may surprise you, but government, at least in the American tradition, is supposed to make you happy as part of the social contract. Ever read the preamble of the U.S. Constitution?

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Government as a guarantor of unity, justice, tranquility, security, stability and blessings? Wow, what a radical concept. The Declaration of Independence goes even further to say that America’s mandate is all about the pursuit of happiness. So let me ask you, Mr. and Mrs. Hawaii Resident, when was the last time you were actually happy here in Hawaii?

The people need and deserve a win.

Hawaii government, and especially our City and County of Honolulu, need to realize it’s time to give residents a win. By this I mean to say instead of taking away value, we need to add value and create incentive to want to live and stay in Hawaii.

Right now, almost everything the ordinary person wants on Oahu is met with “You don’t need that; sorry, we can’t do that; or yes, but we can’t afford that.” What kind of government has legitimacy that doesn’t do what the people want?

If you want people to take pride in Hawaii, we have to take pride in serving the people of Hawaii. We have to be both innovative and proactive in pursuing things that give people reason to say that Hawaii is a great place to live and Oahu is an amazing city to call home.

If it’s just the beaches and the mountains and the trees that add value or legitimacy, we don’t need narcissistic government for that, God put those things there before any of us had a government. I’m concerned about the service our civilization provides to residents, the justice and fairness of the system we live under, and the opportunities and prosperity available to all of us, not just a few.

There’s a reason why GenZs are even more radical in their worldview than their Millennial and GenX parents. They’re smart enough to know that this system doesn’t work when it only benefits the government or friends of the government. They’re discerning enough to see patterns of failure, inaction and lack of sincerity. They also don’t believe that people should rule if they haven’t proven themselves or done something worthy of respect.

So yes, my message to policymakers and elected officials is to consider carefully how you proceed in these days and months to come leading up to the election. The people need and deserve a win. The greatest boast that a citizen can have is to say that they’re happy about their government and their leaders. Isn’t it time we were happy again?