Categorized | Opinions

Solomon: Hawaii Island, Neighbor Islands iced out

Sen. Malama Solomon submitted the following column on reapportionment:

On U.S. and Hawaii State constitutional grounds guaranteeing “one man/one vote” equity in representation, I encourage all Hawaii Island residents – and all neighbor islanders – to speak out now against the 2011 Hawaii State Reapportionment Commission decision that robs Hawaii County voters of fair and equitable representation by denying the addition of a 4th Senatorial Seat for the Island.

Call, write or email the Reapportionment Commission today:
Toll Free/Neighbor islands: 877-854-6749
Email: reapportionment@hawaii.gov
Mail: State Capitol, Reapportionment Project Office, 415 S. Beretania St. Room 445, Honolulu, HI 96813.

When you call or write, be sure to address your comments to both the Hawaii Reapportionment Advisory Council and the Statewide Reapportionment Commission. Make some noise! It’s your right – and responsibility — as an American to be fairly represented.

How serious is this? Given population growth over the past decade, if Hawaii Island continues to have only three senators, each senator will represent 60,000 residents, where most other senators in the state will have only about 40,000 residents to represent.

This clearly marginalizes Hawaii County residents’ “voice” in all major decisions impacting their lives! How fair is that?

The specific decision in question by the 2011 Reapportionment Commission is to include “nonresident military and dependents, nonresident students and incarcerated felons” in the population data used to determine districts.

First, let me make this clear: I am the sister of a dearly loved fallen soldier who gave his life in Vietnam for the freedoms we enjoy, and am therefore, deeply committed to protecting the rights and interests of our dedicated men and women in uniform.

However, to suggest that Hawaii is dishonoring the contribution of our military forces by excluding these “nonresidents” in our population base is a very effective distraction from the real truth, which is that these Americans are just that — “nonresidents.” They consider their “homes” to be elsewhere in the USA where they are emotionally rooted and where they have permanent residences and where – historically — they vote.

Second, as the current District 1 State Senator, appointed to the position by the Governor, I have nothing to gain or lose with the addition of a 4th Senate seat for Hawaii Island.

However, my constituents have a great deal to lose – as do all Neighbor Islanders — because a 4th Senate Seat for Hawaii Island, which also represents an additional vote for the neighbor islands as a group – can make a huge difference for neighbor islanders who are consistently left out by the Honolulu-centric manner that our state functions, both within and outside of government.

Please understand that the question about including “nonresidents” should be moot: The people of Hawaii weighed in on the issue of fair and equitable representation in the reapportionment process with passage of a Hawaii Constitutional Amendment in 1992. That amendment changed the population base to be used for reapportionment from “registered voters” to “permanent residents.”

How can the 2011 Reapportionment Commission simply ignore the Hawaii State Constitution?

I thank members of the Hawaii, Maui and Kauai County Reapportionment Advisory Councils – and also Tony Takitani (the only member of the statewide commission from a neighbor island and the only one who voted “no” on this issue).

The neighbor island advisory councils also did the right thing by voting early on to recommend Hawaii continue to exclude nonresident military and dependents, nonresident students and incarcerated felons. But this has been totally ignored by the statewide commission, which, by the way is made up of eight Honolulu residents, and only one neighbor islander. How equitable is that to begin with?

I also thank the Hawaii County Committee of the Democratic Party of Hawaii for formally requesting that the Statewide Reapportionment Commission reconsider its earlier decision on this matter.

How urgent is it to speak out? The next meeting of the Reapportionment Commission is at 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 19, 2011 and there’s a place on the agenda to discuss “community input received.”

For Hawaii Island – there’s a meeting at 4 p.m. Friday, July 15 at Waimea Community Center of the County Advisory Council. So, your input is urgently needed — please call or go online today.

Speak up, Hawaii Island! Speak up, Maui and Kauai, too! We have the Constitutional law of the land backing us up.

I look forward to the Statewide Reapportionment Commission’s favorable reconsideration.

Sen. Malama Solomon
District 1

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