Photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Left to right, Tadao Beppu, convention secretary, at the podium, Hebden Porteus, president of the 1968 Con Con signing the document, and Seichi "Shadow" Hirai.
The question on whether Hawaii needs to hold a Constitutional Convention has been popping up more frequently these days. On the 2008 ballot, Hawaii voters will be asked, "Should there be a convention to propose a revision of or amendments to the Constitution?" Yes or No. If yes, the Con Con would be held in 2010. The legislature must consider finding the significant funds to pay for a Con Con, which Speaker Say estimated in an interview a few weeks ago as being in the $24-32 million range.
Many consider the 1978 Hawaii State Constitional Convention to be the political event that shaped modern day Hawaii and produced future political stars, including Governors Waihee and Cayetano, and Mayor Jeremy Harris. At last week's Think Tech Hawaii public radio show, the question came before three state representatives, Kirk Caldwell, Marcus Oshiro and Tommy Waters, not during the broadcast but during the taping of the podcast, what they call the "Aftershow". Click here for the link. About 16:20 in, host Jay Fidell asks: "So what do you think about ConCon?" Here's what they said:
Waters: I'm open.
Caldwell: When you think about it...let people decide how to change the Constitution, sounds pretty democratic, pretty all American. On the other hand you could argue that the United States Constitution has stayed pretty much the same, there are a number of amendments, but not that many over 230 years. I like the stability that a constitution brings on broad policy levels. A ConCon, it's supposed to be every 10 years, and we haven't had one in 30 years, but I surely would hate to see our constitution turn into what the Texas constitution looks like, which is kind of like Hawaii Revised Statutes, it's 30 volumes of constitutional amendments, and that's why we have an HRS. So, I'm a little bit more troubled. I do think we want citizen participation. I think we need to work on getting people out to vote more, and we have to revisit why people aren't voting as much as they were in the past. But, to amend our constitution, holus-bolus, with all kinds of things that are specific driven gets me worried.
Marcus Oshiro: I have grave concerns, esp. in light of the Superferry debacle. We came into a special session not more than 65 days after the Supreme Court issued a 5-0 opinion, and we made a substantial policy decision in such a short period of time. And the media swayed a lot of hearts and minds and created this illusion of a crisis that we needed to "save" this business that is being run by multi-millionaires and someone like John Lehman who was the Asst. Secretary of the Navy, and that they needed to be saved. So, I have concerns about how any special interest group with money and with a good pr firm can manipulate public opinion, and sway even wise, smart policy makers. So, I have concerns about going back to our organic document like the Constitution and have it influenced by special interests.