The 2019 protests across the state show that the people of Hawaii are divided, tired, angry, and frustrated about many issues. This crisis of division cannot be sustained within the fabric of our island community.

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But we need to do more than shout, lay down, or hash-tag in order to let our voices be heard. We must act. We must participate. We must show up, listen, speak, and become civically engaged with our government.

In 2020, there are opportunities to participate with our government so we can build trust to address community problems together.

The next Hawaii state legislative session begins with Opening Day on Jan. 15. The people should show up and listen, not shout, to the speeches throughout the day.

What one will realize is that government and its elected leaders are accessible. The Hawaii State Capitol, unlike other state capitals across the country, is designed with no walls leading into the main foyer and with an open roof to the open sky for a reason.

It is because there should be no walls between the people of Hawaii and our elected leaders. Show up and listen to the decision-makers that the people of Hawaii hired for the upcoming legislative cycle.

House Supreme Court Justices opening day 2019.
Opening day of the Hawaii State Legislature is a great opportunity to participate in and support our local government. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Then, in April, the United States will launch Census 2020, a once every 10-year survey of the people of the United States. Participation across the state is critical to ensuring Hawaii’s representation 5,000 miles away in Washington, D.C.

The census serves as a baseline for how much, or little, federal dollars are allocated to the state of Hawaii. Every federal dollar counts for our island community.

The census also serves as a baseline for federal and state emergency planning. The year 2018 was a year of volcanoes, close-call hurricanes, and torrential flooding. Over the next 10 years it’s likely Hawaii will experience other natural disasters that will require assistance by the federal government. The census will inform that assistance.

Voting, like jury service, is a duty.

Finally, in August and November the people of Hawaii will hire, re-hire, or fire their elected government leaders in the primary and general elections by voting.

However, not many people have participated in recent elections. In 2016, Hawaii had the worst voter turnout in the nation. In the last two primary August elections, less than 40% of Hawaii’s registered voters participated. Our majority did not vote.

Voting, like jury service, is a duty. Show up for duty.

I hope to see you at the State Capitol on Opening Day and at Census 2020 events. I hope to see you in August and November, when we choose our elected leaders for the next two years.

And hopefully, 2020 will be a year of participation rather than a year of protests.

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