Categorized | Elections, News

Case kicks off statewide campaign

From Ed Case, who has announced he is running for the Senate seat to be vacated by Sen. Daniel Akaka:

Audrey and I just completed a six-day Neighbor Island swing continuing our statewide Senate campaign kickoff. We had five great events with supporters old and new on Hawaii Island, Maui and Kauai, walked the small businesses of Honokaa, Waimea, Pahoa, Wailuku and Kapaa and the booths of the Kauai farm fair, and just talked story with folks along our way whether at Tex’s Drive Inn or Tip Top Cafe or on the plane.

For us the Neighbor Islands are home. My family’s roots are four generations deep, with my great-grandparents on Maui, my grandparents and father on Kauai, and my own in Hilo and Waimea. Audrey’s are three deep, with her grandparents on Maui, her mother in Kona and her own upbringing in Waimea.

We share with so many others the values of and a deep pride in our Neighbor Island heritage wherever we live today; once a Neighbor Islander, always.

Much was the same from our upbringing and the years I represented the Neighbor Islands in the U. S. House, but much also continues to change.

Our state’s population growth over the last decade has occurred mostly on the Neighbor Islands: 12 percent statewide but 16 percent in Kauai County, 21 percent in Maui County, and 24 percent in Hawaii County. About 30 percent of us live now on the Neighbor Islands and that percentage continues to increase, creating much greater pressure on job growth, social services, infrastructure and generally on county government.

The economies of the Neighbor Islands, far less diversified than Honolulu, are also in worse shape. While unemployment on Oahu is a little over 6 percent (as compared to over 9 percent nationally), it’s closer to or over 10 percent on the Neighbor Islands. Of the areas in our state with a poverty rate over 10 percent, two-thirds are on the Neighbor Islands.

Stagnant tourism, real estate and construction declines hit them especially hard, as do continued uncertainties in health care especially Medicare.

Yet there are also bright spots on which to continue to build a better and broader job base. Education, especially higher education and related science and technology, is growing not only for local residents but as a stand-alone export industry. Agriculture continues to diversify especially as an energy source, and the promise of Hawaii as a true world center for alternate energy research and development is closer to realization.

Of course the Neighbor Islands will always have unique challenges across-the-board given their geography and lower populations. And, as home to so much of what has made Hawaii special environmentally and culturally, there is also a special obligation of preservation. In all of this our federal government has a major hand, which must often be applied differently than on Oahu and with an understanding of local conditions.

But despite these challenges what I also heard and felt was a resilience and quiet optimism for a better future. Perhaps that comes from feeling lucky you live not just Hawaii but Neighbor Islands.

Warm aloha,
Ed Case
U. S. Congressman (2002-2007)

— Find out more:
www.edcase.com

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