Killing Comments

Public Square Gone Wrong (Feb. 27, 2018)

I’m sorry to hear about the comments section closing in Civil Beat, but I understand the decision. For the first year or so the comment space seemed to work as a virtual public square, but then something changed and it seemed to get meaner and intensely ideological.

The biting shallow tone of many of the comments reflects where the public life is going in this country. When I started as a community organizer in 1991 there was still a sense of lager purpose and some common values that you could rely on to bring people together. This kind of public spirited American pragmatism, which used to be the vital center of American politics has been under relentless attack mostly from the right, but increasingly from the left as well.

Early Voting electronic voting machines Honolulu Hale. 1 aug 2016
Early voting at Honolulu Hale, August 2016. Politics are more polarized these days, it seems. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

I’ll never forget helping to convince Jesse Helms to support full funding for a HUD program that supported keeping buildings like Kukui Gardens affordable. I got introduced to Helms staff by one of John Kerry’s staff.

In the last 10 years or so the political polarization in public life has gone from dominating campaign season and Congress to reach into the church basements and kitchen tables that were always the basic building blocks of local community organizing. I am sorrowful about this shift, it has made for meaner and less thoughtful politics and that thoughtless mean spirit was dominating the comment space.

If we’re going to have a public square that lives up to the implicit social contract of Aloha then we have to stand up to this poison. Good for Civil Beat for doing something about it!

—Drew Astolfi, Salem, Oregon

Heckling Enemies (Feb. 27, 2018)

Thanks for the announcement that Civil Beat is doing away with the Comments feature. That makes sense. Comments focused mainly on greeting friends and heckling enemies don’t make very interesting reading for the public unless you’re the president or something. Maybe not even then.

—John Swindle, Honolulu

Financial Disclosure Bill

Misleading Story (Feb. 27, 2018)

This morning’s article on proposed amendments to the financial disclosure requirements for unpaid members of certain state boards and commissions has several inaccuracies:

1)  The headline – “Bills Would Water Down Financial Disclosures For Unpaid State Officials” — is at best misleading.  The bill does not water down the disclosures. Everything now disclosed would continue to be disclosed.  What the bill does is return to the pre-2014 state, where the disclosure statement is filed with the State Ethics Commission but is not made public.

2)  The opening sentence — “Prior to July 2014, some public servants who oversaw the multi-million-dollar budgets of high-profile state entities didn’t have to disclose their financial interests” — is at best misleading. These public servants have for many years been required to disclose their financial interests to the State Ethics Commission. What changed in 2014 was a law requiring these financial disclosures to be public. They are now available on the internet.

3)  It was four, not two, University of Hawaii regents who resigned over the public disclosure requirements.

—Randolph Moore, UH Regents Board Member, Makiki

Millennial Voters

Registering To Vote Is Easy (Feb. 26, 2018)

In his Feb. 26 Civil Beat Community Voice article, Jae Yun Ha writes that “many millennials are still unable to go to the polls. The problem lies with the fact that young voters lack the time and get lost in the procedure when it comes time to register.” He continues, “With stressful jobs and busy class schedules, it is difficult to prioritize voting in person” and suggests that “by reducing barriers to voting and by increasing convenience and accessibility, voting would become inclusive and thus more representative of Hawaii.”

Concerned, I looked online to find out what’s presently required. On the Office of Elections early voting page I learned that citizens of Hawaii already have a way to register and vote that is surely simple and quick enough for our busy young potential voters: You download the Voter Registration and Permanent Absentee Application from the Hawaii Office of Elections. You fill in the one-page form and mail or deliver it with the required IDs to your Clerk’s Office. That’s it. After that, for every election you will automatically receive the ballot by mail, which you fill in and mail back in the envelope provided.

I hope this information will prove helpful to our Millennials.

—Wendy Arbeit, Makiki

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