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Today I was lucky enough to shadow a State Legislator for the day. It was part of Shadow the Legislature hosted by Sen. Jill Tokuda. There was a mix of college students within the University of Hawaii system. We were all paired with either a Senate or House member. The day was intended for us to get a glimpse into an average day of lawmakers as well as to get an understanding of how the Legislature operates.
Hawaii State Legislature
I had the honor to be paired with Senate President Shan Tsutsui
. Sen. Tsutsui represents Maui’s 4th District and was named Senate President for this session. He takes over the role from now United States Congresswoman, Colleen Hanabusa. The day started with an 8am entrance into Sen. Tsutsui office. The spacious office featured two conference rooms and a few large couches. I was introduced to the staff and was told the Senator was actually en route to Oahu on a flight from Maui. I then saw my Ewa District Senator, Will Espero
. We chatted for a moment before he was asked by Sen. Tsutsui’s office if he would be willing to introduce me during the Senate’s session. He agreed and we spent a few more minutes enjoying the continental breakfast which had been prepared for us.
Desperate America Report Founder, Ryan Adverderada
Sen. Espero and I have spoken often in the past as I have been a sign waver for him as well as interviewed his son Jason when he ran for office in December. Sen. Espero is a nice man and a sharp dresser! After the breakfast, Sen. Espero left for a few meetings while I went to an informational meeting. The meeting provided an introduction to the Public Access Room which allows people to research bills as well as to get any info on legislators or legislation. By 10am a few of us decided to take a tour of the Capitol. Our tour guide, Carolyn, was funny and very informative. We viewed both chambers from the gallery as the workers prepped for the upcoming session. We then visited the Governor’s and Lt. Governor’s offices. The Hawaii State Capitol is quite a sight.
I returned to Sen. Tsutsui’s office and was formally introduced to the Senate President. We chatted a bit as we made our way to the Senate floor. Since Sen. Tsutsui convenes the session, I sat next to Sen. Espero. Introductions were called and Sen. Espero stepped forward to introduce me. He noted my work on his campaign as well as other campaigns in the area. He even dropped a mention of my Desperate America Report website! The Senate Chamber itself is an awe-inspiring area. From the Senate floor, the ceiling lights resemble a spaceship preparing to land. Sen. Espero and I joked about Sen. Sam Slom being the only Republican in the Senate and his need to run to various committees to serve as the minority member.
Sen. Tsutsui then took me to lunch. We enjoyed a feast at a local chinese restaurant called Little Village with his aide, Ross. There we chatted about sports and some of the issues of my area. The day ended with a Senate Education Committee hearing. The hearing went as usual with Sen. Slom racing into the room for a vote before speeding away to another committee hearing.
The day was amazing at every turn. I hope to one day return to the Senate floor, this time as an elected Hawaii State Senator!
Mahalo to Sen. Tokuda for hosting the event, Sen. Espero for the kind introduction, and finally, Sen. Tsutsui for he and his staff’s hospitality and kindness. The experience gained was priceless and I am a better person for it!
Posted in community, education, Monday's Best, politics
Tagged Hawaii, hawaii legislature, house, sen. jill tokuda, sen. sam slom, sen. shan tsutsui, sen. will espero, senate
Last week we took some time to discuss the homeless problem currently facing Hawaii. The first part of this look focused on some of the reasons the problem currently exists. There has been many conversations around the media and public as to what are possible solutions to the problem. There has been a wide array of ideas thrown out by various parties as to what can be done to alleviate the growing homeless population. Today, Desperate America Report will take a look at a few of these ideas and maybe find a keeper.
In a 2006 op-ed, Sen. Will Espero(D. 20th) listed a few possible answers to the problem of Hawaii’s homeless. Today we’ll look at a few of them as well as an idea that has been floated on numerous occasions but has now seemed to pick up traction within the legislature. First we will look at a couple different types of transitional housing. Transitional housing serves as a stepping stone for the homeless on the road back to a normal life. Theses houses typically allow individuals a time of up to two years to get settled on their feet and find work and potential living areas. One type of transitional housing is a sober house. Any and all individuals wishing to use the shelter facilities must be clean and sober throughout their time there. Another usual requirement is that any necessary medications must be taken regularly. This type of housing forces individuals to take drastic steps in their lives and take responsibility for their choices. The problem with this approach is that many of the homeless population are really unable to take make drastic changes. These individuals have gone through some sort of problem and have been unable to get back on track. It is common to see eager homeless individuals enter these types of shelters, only to leave or be expelled due to the restrictions. This results in the cycle continuing.
Tent Cities have popped up at various areas around Oahu, this one is located in Waianae.
Another type of transitional housing is a shelter first approach. This take on housing features less restrictions on the homeless and serves more as an opportunity for individuals to come in and take the time to get accustomed to having a safe place to live. The proponents of this type of housing often point to the notion that homeless individuals require nothing more than a safe place to stay in order to begin the process of reclaiming a normal life. Supporters feel that a person will be more likely to seek help in these shelters than a sober house because of the minimal restrictions. This can allow the individual the time to get comfortable with the surroundings and themselves. A common problem with this type of shelter is that with the minimal restrictions, some homeless take advantage of the situation and try to peddle the very substances that have landed so many in their current situations.
Recently, an idea has begun to gain momentum in the Hawaii legislature. Citing the increasing flow of out-of-state homeless coming to Hawaii, some members of the legislature have floated the idea of paying for a one-way ticket home. The idea is not something new. It has long been a topic of conversation within the politicians and general public. Economically, the idea makes perfect sense. Typically, a one-way ticket ranges in cost between $200-$400. According to Rep. John Mizuno(D. 30th), it costs the state $314/month to provide food stamps, $350/month for general assistance, and possibly thousands of dollars for medical costs. This is all being taken advantage of by many out-of-state homeless. A one-time expenditure of a few hundred dollars would save Hawaii a few thousand dollars a year for ever person that is sent back home. Of course, all of this would hinge on the person accepting the offer to return home. The state can not force someone to leave if the person has entered Hawaii legally. Along with Rep. Mizuno, Rep. Rida Cabanilla (D. 42nd) has started the push towards legislation that would allow the state to spend resources on this plan. It will be interesting to see if the momentum will continue into the 2011 legislative session.
Hawaii residents continue to provide soup kitchens for the homeless despite the poor economy.
There are many possible solutions to curbing the homeless problem in Hawaii. Hopefully in time most of these ideas will have their time in front of lawmakers. Until then, we must continue to help our brothers and sisters in need any way we can. Desperate America Report will continue to monitor the issue and will have updates if and when legislation is introduced specifically addressing the problem.
*Click here for more information on the homeless problem and shelters*
Posted in community, economy, news, politics
Tagged Hawaii, homeless shelter, homelessness, rep. john mizuno, rep. rida cabanilla, sen. will espero, shelter first, sober house