A Message from Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Neil Abercrombie to the People of Hawaii via the Hawaii Democratic Convention this past weekend

All around Hawaii, families are gathering around the dinner table to make some difficult decisions in these tough economic times. Somebody has been furloughed or laid off or prices have gone up too much.

Some things are going to have to be cut. They aren’t going to eat out on weekends anymore; not going on the vacation they had planned for a year; not going to get the car repaired. Nothing is going into the retirement plan this year, and someone may have to find a side job to pay the bills.

Maybe the family needs to move into a smaller place or move in with parents.

Maybe mom and dad have to move in with them because of rising healthcare costs.

Maybe they can’t send the kids to the summer program that they love.

All around Hawaii, business owners are making similar decisions as they stare at their financials, wondering if they can make it through another couple of tough quarters. They’ve already delayed their own paychecks and are wondering if they will have to lay anybody else off.

The credit cards are maxed out and customers just aren’t coming in.

Now, to the people of Hawaii, I say it is time for all of us to finally gather around and have this same conversation together. It’s long overdue.

We’ve tried arguing; it accomplishes nothing.

We’ve tried forcing solutions on others, but it leaves us bitter and angry.

We’ve tried pushing our problems down the road, but our time is up.

We’ve tried blaming each other; but we are all on these islands together.

For everyone in Hawaii who wants things to get better and is ready to take control of our own destiny, it is time for us to gather around and make some difficult decisions on how to use the limited resources we have now so we can prosper far into the future.

We can’t do everything, so we need to do the right things.

And if we make the right decisions, we can rebuild our economy and recover in a way that makes us stronger than before. We can do it with what we have now, working with the budget and opportunities in our hands.

Families and businesses do it every day. We must make decisions based on our priorities. And we must base our priorities on our values. I suggest we return to four key values that have made Hawaii great:

1. Investing in the Future  – Children Come First

Children are absolutely dependent on adults to lay a foundation so they will have more opportunities and a better quality of life than the generation that came before them. It is the tradition of the Democratic Party going back to Governor John Burns. It is the tradition of the Hawaiian people who planned for generations ahead. It is our sacred obligation as island people. Believe me, furlough Fridays would have never happened if I had been governor.

The budget’s first attitude that brought them about will come to an end. We will reinstate Healthy Start and other cost-effective prevention and intervention programs that serve very young children. But I am not satisfied with just getting us back to the status quo. In an Abercrombie Administration, we will come together to transform the public school system, decentralize decision making to the schools, empower principals to lead and teachers to teach, and integrate our reform efforts with those of President Obama. The people will never have to wonder who is ultimately responsible for education.

I will take personal responsibility to bring the parties together, work through our differences, and lead a campaign for educational excellence. What’s more, we will become the nationÕs leader in early childhood policy by reorganizing our early childhood programs and services, breaking down administrative barriers, and putting very young children and their families at the center of our policy so that every single child in Hawaii, no matter what the circumstances of birth, has the opportunity to pursue her or his dreams.

Finally, we are going to make a firm commitment, once and for all, to develop the technology and innovation sectors of our economy and create the economy that will sustain our children and grandchildren. Technology and innovation will generate more good paying jobs, make our entire economy work more efficiently, enhance the role of our public university, and end the brain drain that is tearing apart too many families in Hawaii. We must make that investment now.

2. Being Resourceful and Working Hard

We are going to uncover every single additional dollar that preserves or creates jobs so we can all get to work, circulate dollars in our economy, take care of our families, and speed up our recovery. From the beginning, the current Republican administration decided that they would not work with President Obama because of ideological differences.

We were worst in the country for accessing federal funds for transportation projects and DBEDT has spent only 2% of its $37 million in stimulus dollars. We have almost $6 million in federal funds for health information systems that is held up because the state won’t provide $150,000 in matching funds. The Department of Agriculture forfeited federal stimulus grants of over $100,000 for aquaculture, and a $3 million federal planning grant for Laupahoehoe School is in limbo because of delays at the state level. The paralysis of leadership is the primary reason I decided to run for Governor. In an Abercrombie Administration, we are going to utilize all the experiences and relationships I’ve built with the White House and in Congress and, we are going to get every single available dollar to finally get the economic stimulus that Hawaii

deserves. We’re going to have projects in transportation, renewable energy, agriculture, healthcare and education. But we can’t live off of federal funds. What we need to do is take full advantage of these opportunities and build off of them to strengthen our economy here at home. State and local government is going to work hand-in-hand with business, forming the public¥private partnerships so we can build housing that people can afford as we did for military families – we need to do that for our residents on all our islands. Government is going to stop being a burden and start being a partner to small businesses so they can access the funds they need, deal with necessary regulations in a timely fashion, build markets for their products, and create good paying local jobs.

3. Providing for Ourselves – Becoming More Self-Sufficient

We must stop sending billions of dollars out of our state to buy energy, food, goods and services that we can provide for ourselves right here in the islands. Becoming more self-sufficient will create jobs, build our economy, and restore our confidence that the people of Hawaii are among the most creative and resourceful in the world. In an Abercrombie Administration, we are going to come together and make energy independence and food security our collective mission.

It’s going to take all of us, working together, being loyal to our local businesses, and making smarter choices. Government will lead by example and it will work as a partner to get buy-in from communities and consumers, establish new renewable energy projects, make land available for entrepreneurial farmers, resolve bitter disputes over land and water, build the infrastructure for a sustainable economy, and all the while be a good steward of our precious island resources.

We will renew our public infrastructure including our harbors, roads, airports, and parks. We will clean up our environment, and reinvest in culture and arts. This will not only bring visitors back to Hawaii, but it will benefit our residents and rebuild pride in what we can accomplish when we work together. And we are going to do this statewide across all islands. We cannot have Honolulu-centric decision making that fails to recognize the uniqueness of each island community, treat all with fairness, and work so that each contributes to the whole.

4. Caring for Kupuna and All People in Need

We are rightly judged by how we care for the most vulnerable people in our society, and right now, I am sad to say, it is becoming disgraceful. Our system of care for seniors is being dismantled when it should be strengthened to deal with our ever-aging population. We’ve left the most vulnerable families in need of social services to fend for themselves on the brink, particularly on the neighbor islands. Our mental health policy is essentially a pipeline to despair, homelessness, prison, or worse. And we have shuffled people who are homeless and their families from place to place in an endless and shameful argument over whether the state or city/county is responsible.

In an Abercrombie Administration, you will never have to wonder who is responsible. I’ll be responsible. And together, we’ll be responsible to live up to our highest values and take care of our people when they need help. First, we will invest in preventative healthcare and services that avoid higher monetary and human costs down the road.

Together we can meet the challenges of an aging population once and for all, addressing the potential for more independent living and providing the opportunities for people to continue contributing to society after retirement and to lead dignified lives. We will care for our veterans, including members of our National Guard who have gone far beyond the call of duty.

We will rebuild the safety net for our most vulnerable people and also create a social service system designed to offer people a hand-up and out of poverty and despair toward family self-sufficiency. We will take care of our people. Rebuilding confidence in government None of this will be easy. Time and money will have to be shifted toward these priorities. We will have to eliminate outdated and redundant practices, reorganize areas of government, and change the way we work. We will have to change in order to reassure taxpayers that their money is being spent wisely and with purpose.

The frustration out there is real. I know. For over a year, I have been listening to people’s stories of utter frustration and disillusionment with government. That’s not Hawaii. That’s not the foundation on which Democrats rebuilt Hawaii’s government when we became a state 50 years ago.

People are crying out for leadership: Leadership that will listen to them with an open mind; that will put the people first; Leadership that is transparent and fair; that will take responsibility for decisions rather than blaming others when things go bad; Leadership that will restore the public’s trust in government and the sense of public service that drives the vast majority of our public employees; Leadership that will take the problems between us-the problems that are causing division and argument and gridlock-and place them as challenges in front of us -all parties working together; Leadership that is totally committed to the job; that is not looking at the next political opportunity and using public office as a stepping stone.

This campaign is not about me. It is about us, moving away from the typical politics and typical campaigns that have left people cynical and disillusioned. This campaign is about becoming the Hawaii we know we should be and living up to the values that make Hawaii special. The fundamental value of aloha Let me emphasize one more value. The value of aloha. Make no mistake, in this election, politicians will use the issue of civil unions to try to drive a wedge through the people of Hawaii for their own political gain.

Let me be clear. Civil unions are not about same-sex marriage, they are about civil rights that must be afforded to everyone in a democracy. I am reminded of my first days in Hawaii when I met my roommate, Henry Yoshihara, a Korean War veteran attending UH on the GI bill. He was drafted into the Korean War, yet he spent his childhood imprisoned in an American concentration camp just because of his Japanese ancestry. Because he was different, he was classified as the “other.”

In World War II, many people thought it was a good idea to deny people their rights because they were different, yet by the time of the Korean War, it was okay to put Henry Yoshihara into harms way to fight for this same country. And he did it, because Henry was a person of character. Henry and so many others in Hawaii taught me a lesson that I will never forget. Everyone counts, everyone is worthy. What matters is who you are as a human being, which entitles you to your dignity. Anyone can contribute something positive to society. And even when we have different views on issues-even when we disagree-we cannot let that tear us apart from our common goals.

We will treat each other with respect and decency and always look for ways we can unite. Our diversity does indeed define us, rather than divide us. We are going to need everyone to meet the challenges of today. It doesn’t matter how they label youÑno matter your race or ethnicity, native or immigrant, religion or culture, sexual preference, disability, age or gender; no matter how much money you have, no matter what kind of job you have, no matter how tall or short. Everyone in Hawaii counts. Coming together as one Hawaii is our first step and it begins in this election. Let’s gather around Hawaii; it’s a dawn of new leadership, a change in direction, a renewed sense of hope. Imua Hawaii.


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