Just last week, the Star-Advertiser reported on one of the latest examples of old-time politics based on backroom dealings. With no public notice, under pressure to adjourn — and without having passed many important measures beneficial to the common good, such as living wage, automatic voter registration, more voter service centers — state Rep. Chris Lee, House Judiciary Committee chairman, took the time to quietly insert language into Senate Bill 2139 to allow a candidate to pull out of a race after the normal deadline to withdraw, and then run to fill an unexpected midterm vacancy.
Common Cause Hawaii voiced strenuous opposition to this last-minute, non-transparent attempt to move this changed bill. Fortunately, the Senate, with 16 “no” votes, rejected the secretly amended bill.
The issue so pointedly addressed by Common Cause goes to the process: the amendment to the bill may, or may not have merit, but the process smelled very much like dead fish!
John Gardner was succeeded by David Cohen, perhaps the nation’s most well-known and respected lobbyist for the public interest in his generation. In recent years, on two occasions, he visited Chaminade University to celebrate and address the annual graduation and induction of its Hogan Entrepreneurs. He told these aspiring young entrepreneurs of Gardner’s willingness to take the biggest gamble of his career: to start a national advocacy group.
Gardner had worried that there was no one pushing for the concerns of the “average” citizen. In just 23 weeks, more than 100,000 people signed on. Today that number exceeds a million. His advocacy earned Republican Gardner a place on President Richard Nixon’s infamous “enemies list.”
Cohen, for his part, challenged the Hogan Entrepreneurs to create the government they deserve and of which Gardner would be proud. He challenged them to direct their entrepreneurial instincts and competencies toward addressing the needs of the democracy they expect.
Sandy Ma and leaders like her throughout our 50 states are working diligently to help all of us do just that. Our lawmakers would be well-advised to heed Common Cause Hawaii’s protests about the lack of transparency, the need for better voting access, and the importance of encouraging, not thwarting, citizen engagement in the business of government. Now, more than ever, such vigilance is needed in defense of our democracy.
NOTE: Ballots will be arriving in your mailboxes soon for the August 8 Primary. Be sure to return your ballot in time and properly signed on the envelope to be counted. If you are not registered yet, Hawaii allows same-day registration at any of the voter service centers on your island. There are just eight throughout the state–so be sure to vote early.