Despite some misgivings, I’m finding I’m unable to simply fade into the woodwork after eight years in County politics. I doubt anyone who’s even remotely interested in what’s happening locally would be able to ‘turn off the faucet’ and evaporate in an instant. Therefore, a few opinions are offered as I labor to meet my wife’s goal of finding ‘gainful employment’.
It’s been a month since the elections and mercifully we have survived another bout of ‘sign pollution’. However, no spectator of this last election, irrespective of what level (federal, state, local) is reviewed, can fail to be concerned regarding the impact of the so-called ‘super-PACs’ on the voting results. Personally, I wonder whether the Supreme Court in its decision really anticipated the effect of the resources brought to bear on candidates from the PACs in a wide variety of races? Here in Hawaii, one or two Honolulu-based organizations spent several hundreds of thousands of dollars influencing the outcome of local campaigns. Is this the political future upon which our democracy rests!! This is truly scary!!!
Although the PAC contributions did not result in victories in every race (Margaret Wille did manage to win her race for County Council), the specter of their potential impact will dramatically change the campaigning landscape in 2014 and beyond if no steps are taken to place some restraints on the size of these contributions. While national contests may be immune to some of this impact, local races remain extremely vulnerable in this environment. This should not happen. I believe that the concept of public financing for elections is in jeopardy under these circumstances. Not many new candidates, let alone toughened incumbents, will be able to match PAC donations.
As to the Mayoral campaign, much can be stated about the results and much more can be inferred. If I understand it correctly, Mayor Kenoi won re-election after outspending Harry Kim by a factor of 30 times. (Some have calculated that disparity even higher). Whatever number you wish to use, the impact of political contributions from sources outside the BigIsland likely played a considerable role in the vote count. And when you consider that Mayor Kenoi won by a relatively small margin despite the tidal wave of spending on his behalf, any observer must conclude this was not exactly a resounding endorsement of an incumbent candidate who seeks higher office. A reassessment of policy and a more effective public outreach would be my first considerations if I were in the Mayor’s shoes. A reappraisal of my leadership style and initiatives would also rank high on my list of things to review. The Mayor is a smart individual with supposedly good people skills. I’m hopeful in his second term he makes the adjustments that our island requires, that he will be able to partner with those who don’t always agree with him politically, and that he will be able to generate the voter support an effective leader requires in his quest for higher office.
As to the results of the election itself, a very different County Council is in place. Some letters to the editor have already condemned the ‘overwhelming tilt’ of the Council to the eastside, and that may be the case. But at least give the novice Council members the benefit of the doubt before determining that they are ‘lost’ to compromise. Let the ‘newbies’ cast a few votes before criticism is levied.
I do agree that the estrangement of Brenda Ford from any real position of leadership on the new Council does not bode well and sends an ominous signal. One can only imagine the convoluted rationale of the Council that denied Ms. Ford some major responsibility in the current organization. No one denies that she is tenacious in defending her positions. No one denies that she can be aggressive and controversial. (I didn’t agree with her on many issues). However, no one denies she has been the hardest worker on the Council for the past two terms, has probably done more extensive homework and research than other members, and has a wealth of experience and information that a vastly renovated Council lacks, at least for the moment. The Council needs individuals who can lead, and no matter whether you agree or not with the policies of Ms. Ford, she is a leader. A Council with six new members can ill afford to play politics and remain effective.
At the bottom of County Council correspondence is a brief statement that says: “serving the interests of the people of our island.” I trust the new Council recognizes that to be effective it must adhere to that statement and avoid even the hint of political gamesmanship that, unfortunately, has characterized many previous Council discussions. The people of our island need real leadership not simply political agendas.
Pete Hoffman, December 2012