Tonight I was babyless and headed into Luquin’s Mexican Restaurant when Auntie Em started hollering at me from across the road about my blog.
Our interaction started out tense, with her suggesting I’m in violation of an apparent law about former County employees deriving a profit from tellimg about the experience.
If I am in violation, I will take responsibilty for whatever public commentary that referred to Auntie Emily in the last year. I will pay whatever fine.
The initially-tense conversation with Auntie Emily was long overdue in my mind. When I have seen Emily she has always given me a look that suuggests I’ve done her wrong by writing about her, but she has stopped short of saying anything about it. I’ve heard from others that she has been hurt, and I’ve blogged about it saying I have nothing personally against her.
Tonight she voiced what I suspected she thought, that I am what Hunter Bishop used to be: the ring leader of public dissent, the head honcho of the snarks.
Emily emphasized how much God was on her side, how much good she has done for the community, and how much she did for me by letting me be the one in the County of Hawaii who got to telecommute. I couldn’t argue with any of that.
Throughout the public scolding, I stood there looking at aunty in the eyes, or atleast trying to look her in the eyes when she had them closed. I have nothing to be ashamed of; I’ve done nothing wrong.
There is no doubt in my mind what a good woman Auntie Em is, I want people to take that away from this reading. The fact that this blog has facilitated or instigated conversations about Auntie Em and her performance as a council member shouldn’t be taken as a personal affront to her.
The fact is, Auntie Em, as vice chairperson of the Hawaii County Council, is a public official. She is receiving public funds to do the public’s business.
There are no ands, ifs or buts about the public’s right to be able to engage in public discourse — even public criticism — about public officials. That’s one of the beauties about America, free speech.
The fact that Auntie Em has her heart on her sleeve, well, it is endearing to me at the same time it is a pity. Politics are ruthless and relentless. They are difficult on the emotions.
The public in its discourse has a compelling desire to be critical and cast blame. The blame is going to go to the public official, and considerably so if great expectations are created in the campaigning. This a big bitch with politics. I’ve seen it over and over, how eventually the public turns on an elected official.
In any case, it is important to note that, while I may have expressed criticism for Auntie Em’s actions on the County Council, I don’t feel like I have attacked her character. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Well, I guess I did say, “From Ms. Aloha To Madame Ego,” but that was me writing about my disapproval of that stupid-ass reorganization that polarized the Hawaii County Council. I stand by what I wrote; the reorganization still makes me mad.
I have expressed that I think Emily would make a better leader of a church than the County of Hawaii. I truly believe that. The constant references to the Lord, for me and others, are like fingernails on a chalkboard. And it’s not like I don’t love the Lord. It’s just that I understand the true meaning of freedom of religion as much as I do free speech.
But just Constantine don’t like Emily’s constant references to religion doesn’t mean I have contempt for her.
To me, as a journalist, it is more intriguing than anything that Auntie Em genuinely believes God is sending messsages to her about what actions she should take or not. I call the voice my intuition, she calls it God.
I quested tonight to explain to Emily why I think blogging and it’s relative, journalism, are not out to get her personally and are important for the community.
Dissent is brutal on someone as sensitive as Emily. But it is necessary for the community’s health and well-being. As much as he picked on Auntie, Hunter Bishop’s blog played a very important role in facilitating public conversation. He went to work inside the county, along with two other journalists. Someone needed to take over as the facilitator of the public conversation in the blogosphere.
Emily was on my lanai the day I read Hunter Bishop’s blog was coming to an end, due to his jjob taken as public information officer for the mayor. I said then, “I’m getting my blog going!” I had Big Island Chronicle up and running the next day, on Dec. 1, 2008.
So, in Emily voicing her perception that blogging is bad and that I’m in some kind of club of her critics, there were a number of curious statements she made that I’m giving some afterthought.
She mentioned that she saw me head into a Puna business the other day just after a confrontation she and her husband had with the owner. The confrontation had been about her husband playing keyboard outside Subway. This was the same day I made a comment on my blog that I saw her husband playing keyboard outside Subway. She thought I mentioned it on my blog having spoken with the business owner. It was purely coincidental. I had no idea that she, her husband and the business owner had had a conflict. I didn’t talk with the business owner about Emily. I talked with him about this being a new year, a new decade, and I asked him to think about advertising on my blog.
Emily also said, “some legislative assistants are into control because they want to be the councilperson.” Initially, I thought she was referring to me, and I took offense. She asked why I refer on my blog to “when I worked for Councilwoman Emily.” I said it’s anecdotal, a matter of fact, an experience to which I make reference. I’m not saying it to brag, really.
I was about to be offended by the suggestion, then I noted the plural reference and I flashed on two other former legislative assistants: Dr. James Weatherford and Barbara Lively. Both used to work for former Councilman Bob Jacobson. They have announced they are going to challenge Emily for the Council District 5 seat in the next election.
Then I had an aha! moment: I’m being grouped as one of those former legislative assistants aspiring to be councilperson. Truth be told, people have asked me if I’m running for public office. The mayor is one of them. One of my good friends told me at a keili birthday party recently that a county official we both know has predicted I’ll run for County Council. I find it laughable when people make the suggestion.
Who knows, people might actually believe I’m that low class, that I would actually to unseat my former boss. News flash: Not only am I not interested in being Judas Iscariot, I’m not interested in the job itself at this juncture of my life.
Now that I have seen the Council position from both the perspective of a reporter and of a legislative assistant, I can honestly tell you that it ISA thankless job.
I’m sure there are some who relish in the attention, the schmoozing, the pomp and circumstance. But the ending is a real letdown, if you get all caught up in all that. It can be really hard being a has-been.
While you are in the position, you haveto be “on” all the time, at the bank, grocery store, at the pool, or the beach. The fact is, you have to be in the mood to talk to anyone and everyone, even the press, at all times, even when you are sick and tired. If you’re not, you are accused of being unfair or discourteous. Having been on the other end of nasty phone calls and letters, I can attest to how difficult it is not to be able to tell someone to take an effing hike.
I never want to put myself in a position like that. It would be tortuous not to be able to honestly speak my mind, for fear of being taken to the Ethics Board.
Yeah, sure, there is the idea of sacrificing for public good. I see that. But I see myself doing as much, if not more public good, by speaking publicly with honestly about my thoughts and perceptions. I see the facilitation of a public conversation about government and society as the ultimate public good. That, to me, is the virtue of journalism; it facilitates a public conversation about issues relevant to the community. To me, blogging is a 3-D newspaper. If only you could have a conversation with that person who writes the letter to the editor, draws the editorial cartoon, or writes the newspaper headline. With a blog you can have all those conversations and more. To me, facilitating community dialogue is far better than any ordinance or resolution I could draft.
Honestly, I think there are too many laws and too much government. I don’t want to be in a position trying to figure out what more to regulate.
And, so, back to my conversation with Emily, I hope I clarified “I’m not in the Rob Tucker club.” Sorry, Rob, yours was the first name that came to mind. Just because Rob Tucker is an occasional guest columnist doesn’t mean I ascribe to all his philosophies. Rob Tucker has been one of Emily’s more vocal critics.
The same is true for Brian Jordan. Just because Brian Jordan advertises on this blog doesn’t mean I endorse everything he says and does.
This is the nature of newspapering. The press is perceived as quite liberal because, unless there is some conservative driving the editorial opinion, a diverse amount of views are shared. That builds community, in my opinion.
Emily and I hugged when we departed, and it was a great, big, juicy hug that I haven’t had from her in a long time. She is truly a lovable woman. It seemed like she understood my point of view; I hope she gets it.
I pointed out to her that she now knows Hunter Bishop from the perspective of a public information officer and she probably likes him.
She said natives really don’t understand the whole journalism thing. Sure they do. Newspapers have existed in Hawaii since, well, King Kalakaua was a newspaper editor.
The fact is, all politicans need to see the usefulness of dissent and somehow try to work with their critics. It takes a certain kind of person able to do that, and that’s what makes an effective poltician. Unfortunately, those people are a rarity, because it is naturally very difficult to to take criticism in stride. Like I said, I know how difficult it is not to be able to tell someone to eff off.
It’s really interesting, quite pathetic, actually, how much people rely on government to solve problems.
In cases like police and fire, government can’t be avoided. But through time, we as a community have come to rely on government to build our house, run our business, drive our car, even go to the doctor, or to eat.
At the same time this has happened, the public has generally become increasingly critical of government.
Just to step away from Hawaii County and to offer a national perspective: look at Barack Obama. His term in office started out with the public so reverent, like he was some superhero. I don’t know. Seems to me like if the pendulum swung that far it will swing just as far the other way. We won’t see the full magnitude of it being that Barack is the native son of Hawaii, but I think we will see the public turn on him.
It is so inevitable, particularly when there are high expectations.
I’ll probably make people mad saying that. Locally, I know going to make some people mad when I predict that Emily will win a third term in office. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from running, I’m just expressing what I perceive as the truth.
The truth is, Emily is quintessential Puna. Those who want to argue with me about that don’t know where they have pitched their tent. As clownlike and outlandish as she may seem, she is truly extraordinary. She has the determination and drive to personally greet a crowd of 500 people. I’ve seen her do it. It’s incredible to watch.
It will be difficult for anyone to compete with that. Those who want to try and outwave her won’t be able to, I’m sure of it. Yes, it is true that there are going to be candidates who can out-debate her. But are they going to be able to camp out in front of Pahoa Cash & Carry and chase the derelicts away by threatening lickens? Not a chance. Yes, of course, the job description isn’t to command that kind of authority, but you’ve got to realize that this is Puna, after all.
It ain’t Pleasantown, that’s for sure.
Personally, I don’t mind Auntie selling knick-knacks in front of Cash & Carry, since I know she is taking up a space otherwise taken up by loiterers. But I would prefer that Auntie spend Council time bending the ear of Police Chief Harry Kubojiri about the need for more cops in Puna than herself acting as enforcer.
I told her that tonight, that the priority should be on increasing the police protection in Puna. Hopefully, she can help persuade the police department to reassign positions so that more are stationed in Puna.
Yes, I know people are hungry and they should be fed, but leave the churches to feed them. That is not the role of the council member, or at least it shouldn’t be.
All that said, I hope I’ve made my point: any criticism I have had or will have for Emily, or any other public official for that matter, should not be taken personally. Criticism and dissent are occupationsl hazards of a politician. I’m not running for County Council. I’d rather get a hole in my head.