By Tiffany Edwards Hunt
I love how people think I can just sit with my nose to the grindstone, investigative reporting all the time. I am working at my family’s shop, that’s what I am doing right now. I am sitting here paying bills and ordering merchandise.
The way that people act toward me they think that newspapering is the same as being a politician, that I belong to the public and that I absolutely must jump when they say jump.
The latest is an irate email calling me out for not investigating the Puna Community Development Plan Action Committee and perceived misrepresentations of the Hawaiian Acres and Fern Forest communities in the plan. I do not truly understand the resident’s frustration. From what I gather she does not believe that these private subdivision roads should be used as the community’s connector roads. And, so, because I do not choose to spend time delving into this “exposé,” I suck.
This inspires a rant, really. I cannot help but feel like people think that because I am a writer with a community journalism focus, I am at the public’s beckon call. It’s as if I have no life other than saving the world, or the island, or Puna, with my writing.
I am not a politician; I am not funded by taxpayers’ money. And I actually scrape by with the advertising money I do receive through Big Island Chronicle. It is a labor of love, therefore I labor when the bill-paying jobs are done.
Meanwhile, we do have State and County politicians who do receive the public’s dime and who I have to wonder are being called or emailed about community concerns.
It seems to me like the resident irate about the PCDP and the private subdivisions’ road use should be calling her council member, Zendo Kern, seeking legislation to address her concerns. It could be that he doesn’t return her calls or emails. Then that would be a story to tell.
This morning, before coming to work at our retail store, I attended a Pahoa Booster Club meeting. The club recently formed to support athletics for all Pahoa regional schools, charter and regular DOE.
We had two politicians attend, Greggor Ilagan, one of our Puna councilmen, and Joy SanBuenaventura, who is seeking the State House District 4 seat. Joy focused on introducing herself to our group and kept her comments to two minutes. I was appreciative of that, because I really couldn’t help but wonder, what does Joy’s candidacy have to do with the booster club?
Greggor spoke at length about how we had just missed the County grant-in-aid application process (when he had three invitations to attend our last three monthly meetings and advise us!) He suggested we do a steak fry to fundraise, but then said he wouldn’t be able to help, and that he wasn’t sure we would get enough community support for attendance at sports events!
He just sent me over the edge. I couldn’t help but thinking, why did the community elect someone like this to the County Council?
I ended up going off on Greggor and telling our Booster Club president not to put any more of these politicians on the agenda this campaign season unless they can lend a hand to the booster club specifically. It’s a waste of our time meant for trying to promote athletics in the Pahoa schools, listening to politicking. (Greggor ended up giving $20 to the booster club.)
Prior to Greggor running for Council, did you ever see him involved in the community? The same could be said for Zendo. He was a planning commissioner, but I am talking grass-roots community stuff. One time during his campaign he helped us with a rummage sale for the Puna Community Medical Center. And a couple times at my request he judged our keiki Halloween contest. But we haven’t seen the guy since he was elected, not even walking in the parade, politicking.
I don’t know about Joy – she says she has been a lawyer in our community for 30 years and she practices sustainable living in Hawaiian Paradise Park.
My question is, how many people that we elect to serve in public office here actually are involved in the community and do any community good?
I think the answer to both questions is, very little. Why do you think that is the case?
Is that okay? Is that what the community wants, people who don’t bother to roll up their sleeves to affect change?
Believe me, I had my issues with Fred Blas and Emily Naeole. But Fred had a crew of people weed eating through town and made it his mission to see the road in lower Puna’s only village paved. Emily, before she was elected, personally stood in front of Pahoa Cash and Carry trying to get people to get off drugs and turn their lives around. When she got into office, she made it her mission to feed the hungry, with the Poi Bowl.
People, rather than lamenting on those who give what they can, not for the paycheck but for the betterment of the community, should really do some refocusing this campaign season. And get involved. Come to some of these meetings and see who is showing up and who is not. If the PCDP Action Committee is failing you, sign up and be a member! If these politicians you helped elect aren’t serving you, pull your nomination papers and give them a dun for them for their money. I get so tempted to everyday, believe me. For now, I am sticking with the booster club and working as a part-time investigative journalist who freely rants.