May 1991 Home   Newsletters

June-July 1991

August 1991

President's Message (Arlene Ellis)
Charter Commission
Campaign Reform (Daniel K. Akaka)
Motor Voter Registration Up-Date
Permit Modification for Storage on Johnston Atoll
League Testifies on Fixed Rail Route
Viewpoint for KHPR
Letters - Mahalo from Local 5 (Berna Iosua)
Letters - Environmental Awareness (Warren Poslusny)
Charter Review Meeting
Letters - Donald Wolbrink Chapter Achievement Award (Tom Fee)
Letters - The Public Reporter (Patsy T. Mink)

President's Message

The Kettering Foundation Report "Citizens and Politics - A View from Main Street America" published in June, 1991, is a qualitative research of how citizens view politics and their relationship to it. The research technique was a series of focus groups comprised of people representing a cross section of ages, race, income and education. These group discussions were conducted across the nation from April 16 to August 9, 1990 with an update after the Persian Gulf war of four additional focus groups held on March 11 to May 15, 1991.

The focus groups discussed the following questions:

  1. How do citizens view politics today?

  2. What do citizens want out of politics?

  3. How, if at all, are citizens involved in politics -- and why or why not?

  4. How and why do citizens participate in the community?

  5. What might be done to improve politics in America today?

Unlike the conventional notion that citizens are apathetic and unwilling to participate in public life, the key finding of this research was that citizens are confronted by a sense of political impotence with little or no access to the political process, however much they may desire to act in the public arena. They feel that they cannot make a difference in politics because they are squeezed out by a system made up of lobbyists, PACs, special interest organizations and the media.

The research suggests that a way must be found to reconcile people's sense of political impotence with their desire to act. People want a say on the course our leaders pursue, to discussing issues with fellow citizens, to working with others to address problems themselves. They want a sense of possibility.

Lobbyists have replaced representatives; campaign contributions determine political outcomes; and money and privilege replace votes. Peculiar standards now in force for determining what is newsworthy has replaced the essential role of media providing news.

Citizens need to know that their voice matters in politics on a more regular basis than voting every year or two. That their representatives, the media and others hear what they have to say on policy issues. That if they make an effort there is a possibility that they will be able to help create change.

The challenge is to find ways to refocus that political debate on policy issues; find ways for citizens to form a public voice on policy issues; find ways to encourage the media to focus more in the public dimension of policy issues; find ways for citizens and public officials to interact more constructively in the political process, and more, and will take years and maybe a generation or more.

(This report is available in our lending library in the office.)

Arlene Ellis

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