It’s our kuleana to ensure campaign promises are kept

Most of the results are in from the election, and there are rumors of change in the air.

Hawaii’s newly elected or reelected lawmakers have not yet taken the reins of government, but we still remember their campaign promises and are optimistic about seeing them addressed.

Some people like to say that politicians never keep their campaign promises, but that’s an oversimplification. Many elected officials try to make good on their promises, but run into apathy, bureaucracy, political opposition from special interests and other obstacles.

This is especially true in Hawaii, where effective one-party rule nearly guarantees that change comes slowly, if at all.

So we should not be so quick to point fingers, especially since some of that blame belongs to us as well. Politicians may make promises, but it’s up to us, the people, to hold them accountable.

If we don’t demand action, followup on our demands and show the consequences at the ballot box, then we have failed in our civic duty.

For example, Gov.-elect Josh Green made some exciting promises about taxation and housing, and has indicated an interest in exempting medical services from the general excise tax — something that the Grassroot Institute has long advocated and is the subject of our latest petition.

We certainly can dispute some of the elements of his “emergency plan for Hawaii’s housing crisis,” but his promises to eliminate red tape, streamline approvals and address zoning and other housing barriers are practical and achievable ways to encourage more homebuilding in the islands.

Will our future governor keep his promises?

I expect that he will try, but his degree of success depends partly on us. We need to keep him and all elected officials accountable by encouraging them to follow up on the promises they made on the campaign trail.

And we have to show our support when they do, regardless of party affiliation.

This is not to say we should support everything that they propose, only that we give credit where credit is due when good proposals manage to cross the finish line.

Most of the men and women about to take their seats in the Legislature have spoken about their desire to lower the cost of living in our state. But if they propose new taxes, higher budgets, new regulations or expensive government programs, will they hear opposition from the public?

Every election holds the promise of change, but without accountability, those promises become empty campaign rhetoric. We have done our part by going to the polls, but our job as engaged citizens doesn’t end at the ballot box.

Keeping our elected officials accountable to their campaign promises is a job that continues all year long. It can take many forms, from testifying at the Legislature to writing letters to the editor or using social media to encourage others to make their voices heard.

Of course, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii will always be here to offer help and guidance along the way. And you can look forward to more messages from us about how to contact your representatives on important issues.

This commentary was Keli’i Akina’s weekly “President’s Corner” column for Nov. 12, 2022. If you would like to have his columns emailed to you on a regular basis, please call 808-864-1776 or email info@grassrootinstitute.org.

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