Democrats should show bona fides

Democrats should show bona fides

Originally published in the Star-Advertiser, December 26, 2018

Josh Frost and Zahava Zaidoff
Co-chairs of the Democratic Party of Hawaii Legislation Committee

A recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser editorial rightly called on Gov. David Ige and Lt. Gov. Josh Green to “walk the talk” and come up with specific initiatives to deliver affordable housing, reduce homelessness, improve public education and use innovative technologies to improve life for all in Hawaii.

The Raise Up Hawaii Coalition of progressive businesses and advocates for working families believes that this call should be directed to the Legislature with equal urgency. Outgoing Republican administrations in states like Wisconsin and Michigan are doing all they can to undermine the power of incoming Democrats scheduled to take over the reins of government. The solidly blue Hawaii Legislature faces no such threat — so has no excuse. The only threat to passage of progressive legislation lies in the lack of political will on the part of our elected officials and the degree to which they allow themselves to be constrained by their corporate donors and entrenched interests.

Working families are wondering exactly what our elected officials are going to do about the bruising and brutalizing experience of trying to make ends meet in this high cost state.

There is no time to waste. If the Democratic platform is to mean anything, our legislators must demonstrate to voters that they truly understand the urgency of passing laws that lead to a living wage, with built-in adjustments to keep up with rising costs so that we do not have to return each year, begging bowl in hand, to ask for an adjustment.

Where is the aloha in inflicting this needless indignity on rank-and-file workers whose labors keep the economy humming? What keeps us from doing right by our working families: the ones who help build the glitzy new condos that they cannot afford to buy or rent; the ones who sustain the tourism industry so that visitors can enjoy “paradise” while too many locals live in hellish squalor.

It’s not as if we do not know what needs to be done. According to the state’s own data, 40 percent of jobs here pay below a living wage, and nearly half of all families do not earn enough to pay for their basic needs. Voters should have confidence that our overwhelmingly Democratic legislators embrace, and will act in accordance with, the top priorities laid out in the platform of the Hawaii Democratic Party. Let’s be sure that we all understand what those priorities are. First, the Democratic Party has a stated commitment to rebuilding the middle class and stamping out economic, social and cultural injustice.

Second, the party has a stated commitment to making protecting the environment and our cultural assets a high priority.

Will the progressive Democratic platform translate into concrete policies that improve the lives of struggling families in Hawaii? That is the question members of the Raise Up Hawaii coalition are asking. As January 2019 approaches, it is our hope that legislators will answer that question with an unequivocal YES.

Will those who voted them into office see them indeed walk the talk? We can do more than hope. We can make our wishes clear by contacting our elected representatives and telling them we are watching and waiting to see worker-friendly laws passed and enacted in 2019.

As the paper rightly pointed out, “talking points are cheap, but real action is priceless.” Legislators need to demonstrate by their actions that they understand the real value of Hawaii.

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