From October – December 2018 Mālama i ka Honua (page 7):
by David Kimo Frankel, Vote Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi Chair
The possibility of a state constitutional convention can be seen as an opportunity or a threat. You will have to vote in November as to whether you want one or not – a question voters need to answer once a decade. Our state constitution includes unique provisions that protect our natural resources. These provisions are not found in the U.S. constitution and are absent from most state constitutions. Our constitution gives natural resources (including our streams and natural beauty) legal protection. It also effectively prevents anyone from proposing the construction of a nuclear power plant in Hawai‘i. It prohibits special legislation regarding public land that benefits a special interest. It gives you the right to sue to enforce the state’s environmental laws. The state constitution has prevented large landowners from diverting unlimited amounts of water from our streams. It required the state to ensure that the military is cleaning up after its training exercises. It protected limu beds on Moloka‘i, a spring on Kaua‘i, kalo lo‘i on Maui, and anchialine ponds in Kona. A constitutional convention could jeopardize any and all the provisions that protect our natural resources. On the other hand, a constitutional convention is an opportunity to add new safeguards to the state’s governing document. It could enhance protection of public lands. It could limit the rights of corporations, which should only be guaranteed to human beings. It could restrict the ability of the state to provide funds to corporate interests. It could limit developer influence on boards and commissions. It could prevent developers from threatening lawsuits when their unreasonable expectations as to state spending are not met. The glass is either half full, or half empty.
ExCom votes no on Con-con
Moments before this edition of the newsletter was printed, the Chapter Executive Committee met and weighed the very points raised in the article above. They came to the consensus that opposing a constitutional convention is the more prudent course of action. In addition to the risks outline by Mr. Frankel above, they also noted the risk of outside corporate funding negatively influencing the convention process and the ultimate public vote. They noted that the recent court victories by the Sierra Club and others that serve to improve the public’s access to the courts and solidify the obligations of agencies to act on the public’s behalf (not the corporations) would be prime targets that well-funded corporate interests would want to override in a constitutional convention.
Trust that if a constitutional convention is approved by the voters on November 6th, the Sierra Club will fully engage in defending the rights of the public and our natural resources.