Over the Memorial Day weekend, Kanu Hawaii board and staff members went door-to-door and stood outside supermarkets in Kailua, asking people "What are the important issues to you this election year?" We talked story with folks, tested some questions for a candidate questionnaire, and tried to practice an island-style leadership that starts with listening.
In addition to "What's your most important issue?" we asked people to rate 12 questions suggested to us by community organizations (people voted to either "include on a candidate questionnaire" or "leave it off"). In about an hour of canvassing, we knocked on 80 doors and talked with dozens of folks shopping at area supermarkets. In the end, 54 people shared their views and most gave us their contact info so we could follow up.
Here are the issues that came up most often, along with some quotes we wrote down...
* Education: "the quality of our schools needs to be addressed" "children shouldn't have to go to private school to get a proper education"
* Homelessness: many mentioned this as a concern; one guy cared about it so much that he reaches out to folks living on the beach in Waimanalo, on his own time
* Unions: "the unions have too much power" "politicians are bought with union money and people" "government employees are too protected...it's too one-sided"
* Commercialization of Kailua beach: "too many tourists and kayaks" "commercialization should be limited" "locals are being pushed off the beach"
* Rail: "where's the money going to come from?" "the price tag keeps changing" "we don't need to be like Chicago"
* Infrastructure: roads, poor condition of schools, sewer systems; "the weeds are high at the school...I would cut, if they would let me"
* Taxes and government waste: "lower taxes on working people...tax the rich" "taxes are killing me" "government is wasting our tax dollars"
* Agricultural land: "keep country, country...period" "preserve ag land" "protect prime agricultural land on every island for food security"
Some people didn't want to talk because they felt government was a lost cause, "those guys all corrupt anyway" "it's out of our hands" "Try ask them: what the hell are you doing?!"
We asked some community organizations that focus on education, environment, health, poverty, and other issues to suggest questions for a candidate questionnaire. We took 12 of their suggestions, and asked people in Kailua whether they would include on a candidate questionnaire. Here are the community-ratings on those questions...
Some people found these questions thought provoking "Hmmm...I hadn't thought of that" "Wow, great idea!" A few people (3 out of 54) thought our questions were too "left" leaning, and sounded partisan. Before we do this again, we'll reach out to some friends who can suggest questions on topics of concern to people who lean "right." By mid-June, we'll finalize our candidate questionnaire and send it out to candidates.
Kanu's motto is "change starts with ourselves," so it was important that the board and staff try "canvassing" before we ask anyone else to. Now, we can train a larger Kanu volunteer force, and reach out into a few pilot districts, registering people to vote, getting them candidate info pre-election, and reporting back on what their elected leaders are doing once in office.
The people we talked to were surprised and grateful, "thank you for asking" "this is awesome" "wow, thanks for doing this!" Mahalo back to all the residents of Kailua and beyond who took time to share their thoughts on Saturday. You helped us take the first step in an effort to rebuild democracy in a way that starts with listening and ends with politicians accountable to the public.
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