“If you have lived as long as I have and you have had the privileges that I have had, there comes a time that you take a look at what we leave behind for our grandchildren.” 

Clayton Hee’s message resonated with me and I’ll tell you why that matters to all of us.

It was all heart. It was pure, raw, unscripted, unrehearsed, and genuine. Through the pleading, yet wide-opened and determined eyes of a person who has seen the drastic changes of Hawaii and worries for its future, you could see his truth radiate. This was him to the very core. And he was thinking of us, our families, and our future. 

Clayton Hee sat there with the kind of resolve that few ever discover within themselves. In a tiny room. With a small audience and no media coverage. He had discarded the illustrious mantle of the state senator that he had earned and testified as the man he had become.

Sen. Clayton Hee speaks during a hearing in June 2014 at the Capitol. He’s now running for governor.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

This wasn’t a campaign speech. Every brown shirt in the room knew he had put his political career on the line, as he testified for the long overdue need for housing — truly affordable housing — but, not at the expense of Hawaii’s sustainability, food security, safety and future.

Clayton Hee was real. He was accessible. He was among the people, fighting for something that he strongly believed in — not behind a decorated desk on the second floor of the Hawaii State Capitol — but, in a tiny room, in front of a drab desk with a single microphone, the same as all the rest of us. 

We’ve Been Strung Along   

This matters to us all. We’ve been lied to. We’ve been strung along on a seemingly endless series of promises that leave us with nothing. Nothing. Maybe “nothing” is a stretch when we have the highest cost of living, highest cost of electricity, deepest in debt, worst state to make a living, worst state for driving, worst state for middle class, nearly the worst state to start a business, nearly 60 percent of Honolulu renters have un-affordable housing and nearly 31 percent of our families don’t make enough to cover basic needs, where almost half of us are most-likely to live paycheck to paycheck

We’re trapped in the mire caused by political stagnation. If you’ve lived in these islands long enough, you’d know how our politicians become the gatekeepers of innovation and change or the jailers of opportunity and advancement. It’s the cause of the brain drain that sees our younger generations and would-be future leaders leaving these islands to impart their skills elsewhere. It’s the cause for this increasing cost of living that disadvantages us locals, when we’re forced to compete against the rest of the world in holding on to a piece — any piece — of our Hawaii.      

We need affordable housing. Truly affordable housing.  Right now, an individual with a $102,000 annual salary can qualify for affordable housing priced within the 140 percent area median income range. How many of us are making that? How many opportunities are being created in Hawaii for residents, from Baby Boomers to Millennials, to make that kind of money? We’re priced out. This matters to us all.

I can now vote for a person that I have confidence in to make the changes Hawaii needs.

Our elected officials tell us that our housing demand is at 66,000 units. That’s how many of us need homes and we need it desperately. So, they campaign on that promise to deliver. They make moves to cut the red tape and fast-track real estate developments. It’s certainly good for business and those political campaigns.

But, the homeownership rate of the state is at roughly 57.2 percent, meaning only about half of the housing units occupied in the state are actually lived-in by the person who owns it — and that number is inflated by the multiple generations living in a single household. Our local generated housing demand is used to build homes that are sold to non-locals or locals owning a second home. We’re lied to.

Clayton Hee called out poor policy making by public officials, as he sat there before a panel of peers. He emphasized that the legislature had been failing the people. And he was saying this, without a doubt knowing, that he was among those legislators that needed to be better for the people. His words mattered, because they were a promise to the people that “enough was enough” and that he would fight for our interests as if we were a part of his own family.

So, when I saw on Facebook that Clayton Hee was going to run for governor, I was thrilled. I knew that in this upcoming election, I wouldn’t have to decide between two candidates that have been given a chance to make a difference, but failed to deliver. I can now vote for a person that I have confidence in to make the changes Hawaii needs.

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Every campaign season we get tons of emails and commentary from people supporting or opposing particular candidates. Campaign Corner is a forum for healthy — and civil — discussion of candidates and their issues. Endorsements and criticisms are part of a voter’s decision-making process. Here are the ground rules: The column must be written by an identifiable person and accompanied by a headshot and brief bio. The commentary must be original and not published elsewhere. No campaign email blasts. No letter-writing campaigns. Send columns and questions to news@civilbeat.org.

Every campaign season we get tons of emails and commentary from people supporting or opposing particular candidates. Campaign Corner is a forum for healthy — and civil — discussion of candidates and their issues. Endorsements and criticisms are part of a voter’s decision-making process. Here are the ground rules: The column must be written by an identifiable person and accompanied by a head shot and brief bio. The commentary must be original and not published elsewhere. No campaign email blasts. No letter-writing campaigns. Send columns and questions to news@civilbeat.org.

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