Monday, January 09, 2017

 

Should we identify ALEC members in Hawaii on a map?


by Larry Geller

A controversy has erupted over the publication by Republican state representative Gene Ward in his newsletter of a map pinpointing the locations of homeless people residing in his district.

On the map are descriptions of characteristics or alleged characteristics of these, his constituents, that you would not expect from the state legislator who is supposed to represent their interests. For example, from a Star-Advertiser report:

The map describes a man at China Walls as a meth addict “Whose Mother Has Restraining Order Against Him” and, at Hawaii Kai Towne Center, a “Mentally Ill Homeless Man (who) Frequently Screams at People.”

The posting on his website and inclusion of the map in his newsletter has raised controversy over whether his action, as a state legislator, is constitutional, and whether he is stigmatizing those living with mental health or addition issues. See Civil Beat articles here and here. I would like to add that he has not mapped those in his district who might be meth addicts living under a roof and who may possibly drive while impaired, which would seem to be a far greater danger to the public.

Certainly, publication of the map does not contribute to resolving the problem of homelessness nor the related issue of unaffordable rentals in Honolulu. Instead it may expose those he has identified to vigilante actions or other danger.

But there is a greater danger lurking in Hawaii Kai which suggests drawing another map, if making maps is a useful endeavor. I am thinking that it would be useful for the public, and specifically members of the Hawaii Kai community, to know exactly where threats to their democracy lurk. Yes, there are reasons to be concerned.

Fortunately, the information I sought was easily obtained. All that remains is to make the map and reveal the location of this potential threat.

I am referring to members of ALEC (the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council). Or rather, the member, the only member in Hawaii, who happens to also live in Rep. Ward’s district.

Through the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, global corporations and state politicians vote behind closed doors to try to rewrite state laws that govern your rights. These so-called "model bills" reach into almost every area of American life and often directly benefit huge corporations.

[ALEC Exposed wiki]

When state legislators across the nation introduce similar or identical bills designed to boost corporate power and profits, reduce workers rights, limit corporate accountability for pollution, or restrict voting, odds are good that the legislation was not written by a state lawmaker but by corporate lobbyists working through the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a one-stop shop for corporations looking to identify friendly state legislators and work with them to get special-interest legislation introduced. It’s a win-win for corporations, their lobbyists, and right-wing legislators. But the big losers are citizens whose rights and interests are sold off to the highest bidder.

[Right Wing Watch, ALEC: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in State Legislatures]

ALEC members are strong supporters of the Second Amendment and were held responsible for the spread of  "Stand-your-ground" gun laws in many states after the shooting of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. Who knows whether individual ALEC members, in Hawaii or elsewhere, may own or carry firearms.

Would not publishing a map of their location inform the public of potential danger?

I suggest that we need to be vigilant when there is good cause, and so the publication of a map showing where ALEC members are lurking in Hawaii would seem to be far more useful to the public than diagramming where people who have fallen on hard times are spending their time.



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