The countdown is on. As we send this issue of the Herald to press, we are just over three weeks away from primary election day. We will soon be inundated with political spots on radio and television — and enough campaign printed matter that if we close our eyes, we will actually see the tree that was sacrificed for those flyers. It’s enough to make you want to crawl under your blanket and stay there until Aug. 10.
But don’t do that! Instead, study the issues. Read. Listen. Ask questions. Think. Analyze. And, most of all, ask yourself whether the candidates you plan to vote for have walked their past talk. Have they done what they promised they would do — or would not do — the last time you voted for them? If they haven’t, why not? And, if you have the chance to talk with them in person, hold them accountable and ask them.
If they are first-time candidates, do you know where they stand on the issues? I’ve received numerous four-color, glossy flyers from a candidate running for the Honolulu City Council in my district. They’re nice, but if you asked me what that candidate stands for, I’d have to tell you that I have no clue — not on legislation affecting the homeless, or city-owned housing, or on fees for trash pick-up, or anything. I’m going to have to do some Googling on that candidate when we finish this issue.
We are already hearing the “V” word — “values.” “Hawai‘i’s values.” “Local values.” Ask yourself the tough question: How do the candidates demonstrate their commitment to “Hawai‘i’s values of aloha?”
The easiest thing someone running for political office can do is shake your hand, smile and talk story about touchy-feely subjects. To use a term that has emerged recently in the news, that is how you snag “low information voters.” But we have to expect — no, we have to demand — more from our public officials. We have to hold the people we elect accountable for what they promise us, or we will always be disappointed. We will continue to lose faith in our government.
You know, I am a diehard fan of the television series, “The West Wing.” I have the entire seven seasons on DVD and I’ve watched it many, many times. I know it’s television; I know that President Josiah Bartlett and his trusted chief of staff Leo McGarry are not real people. But I still learn something new about government every time I watch the series — about governing, about “spin,” about accountability. And it always prompts me to stay engaged and continue reading and learning about the issues.
Elections also remind me of the Issei — our first-generation Japanese who left their homes in Japan for a new life in Hawai‘i and the continental U.S. So many of them who became naturalized citizens told their families that their proudest act as an American was having the right to vote for the candidate of their choice — and exercising that right. I think we take that cherished right for granted these days. Not only the right to vote, but the responsibility of voting for candidates who will serve the people — all the people — and preserve all that is precious here in our Hawai‘i.
OK, so now I’ll step down from my soap box and put on my party hat, because . . . drum roll . . . The Hawai‘i Herald now has a “real” website. We are flipping the switch with this issue. Our web address is the same: www.thehawaiiherald.com, but now we look classy enough to enter a parade, thanks to our partners at Hawaii Information Service — general manager Colleen Yasuhara, director of communications Ryan Ozawa (also host of HPR’s Bytemarks Café), and webmaster and project manager Michael Torres. For the last several months, Ryan and Mike and their tech team have been designing our site and doing all the technical things we could never do ourselves.
Mahalo also to Hawai‘i Herald publisher Keiichi Tagata for investing in the Herald’s future with our new site.
A bit of quick history about our site up until July 18 . . . it was the work of our former staff writer Joe Udell, who designed it as a blogsite because that was all we could afford. Joe updated it almost daily with fresh material he wrote during his tenure here at the Herald. When he left to become a high school teacher, managing editor Gwen Battad Ishikawa took over the job and has updated it when time permits, which isn’t often, given our deadlines.
Our plan eventually is to offer online subscriptions to the Herald and to accept online advertising. Sometime in the future we’ll also begin sharing the Herald with our cyber-friends via social media. We’re working on our Facebook page and you can start following us on Twitter — @thehawaiiherald.
So, take some time to check us out at www.thehawaiiherald.com and let us know what you think!
And, remember to vote, or don’t complain!