AARP Debates:  “Abercrombie Wrong”

Aloha,

The headline in the Star-Advertiser said it all: “Abercrombie wrong to cancel on AARP, seniors.”

The newspaper called out the governor for canceling three AARP debates and blaming the cancelations on “scheduling conflicts,” despite his campaign agreeing to the dates at a meeting on July 3:

“Hawaii leaders never dispute the importance of aging issues; anyone who tried would have the weight of statistics against them. According to figures from the state’s Executive Office on Aging, the 2010 census showed that 1 in 5 Hawaii residents were age 60 or older. By 2020, that population will represent 1 in 4 of the total.

“And in a little more than five years, the number of people age 85 and older - the frail elders, who need the most help with daily routines - will rise by one-third, to a total of about 40,000 people. It’s a multigenerational concern, since what happens to seniors also happens to the families who bear the caregiving responsibilities.

“This is why the public has the right to feel disappointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s decision to cancel three political matches from a shrinking list of remaining opportunities to assess the two main Democratic gubernatorial candidates. It’s a decision he really should rescind in the coming days.”

Our kupuna deserve better. Will you donate $10 to David’s campaign so Hawaii’s seniors get the respect from the state’s top official that they deserve? https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/davidige2014

Keith Hiraoka
Campaign Manager

 

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OUR VIEW: AARP DEBATES

HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER


Abercrombie wrong to cancel on AARP, seniors

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jul 15, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 01:52 a.m. HST, Jul 15, 2014

Hawaii leaders never dispute the importance of aging issues; anyone who tried would have the weight of statistics against them. According to figures from the state’s Executive Office on Aging, the 2010 census showed that 1 in 5 Hawaii residents were age 60 or older. By 2020, that population will represent 1 in 4 of the total.

And in a little more than five years, the number of people age 85 and older — the frail elders, who need the most help with daily routines — will rise by one-third, to a total of about 40,000 people. It’s a multigenerational concern, since what happens to seniors also happens to the families who bear the caregiving responsibilities.

This is why the public has the right to feel disappointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s decision to cancel three political matches from a shrinking list of remaining opportunities to assess the two main Democratic gubernatorial candidates. It’s a decision he really should rescind in the coming days.

AARP Hawaii had scheduled four community discussions on Social Security and senior policy issues and then, once the candidates had committed, paired each of these with a forum spotlighting the gubernatorial candidates. Although the public policy discussions will go on as planned, no debates will happen at three of them: Abercrombie backed out of the Hilo, Kahului and Honolulu pairings with his Democratic primary challenger, state Sen. David Ige.

Bruce Bottorff, AARP spokesman, said it would have been hard to cancel the fourth, slated for Kona, because the governor will be on Hawaii island anyway, for a forum sponsored by the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce.

The eventswould have provided voters with crucial time with the candidates to hear their take on a slate of age-related topics. But these forums also inevitably provide a platform for airing the gamut of state concerns.

The cancellations were due to “scheduling difficulties,” Abercrombie campaign manager William Kaneko said in a prepared statement Saturday, when the decision was announced. But Bottorff said Kaneko and Shane Peters, Abercrombie’s campaign communications director, were the representatives at a July 3 meeting, when the dates were selected, along with two members of Ige’s team. If there were to be scheduling problems with the three dates, these two highly placed representatives knew or should have known about them.

Soon after his 2010 election, Abercrombie got off to a rocky start with senior citizens — an extremely motivated voting bloc, disproportionately represented at the polls — largely because of his proposal to assess a state tax on pension income for higher-income seniors. The proposal was defensible at the time because of the gaping budgetary hole left by the recession.

The governor later abandoned the idea, but that episode left seniors unsettled about the incumbent’s position on age-related issues. Giving voters a chance to hear a fuller explanation would be beneficial.

Additionally, both candidates should outline their program for addressing other problems the state is likely to face in the not-too-distant future. For example: Long-term care persists as a worry for families, and the current budgetary crisis afflicting the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. suggests that the care provided at state-funded hospitals soon will diminish, further weakening Hawaii’s health safety net.

Even with the recent funding support for Kupuna Care, the state’s supplemental program for seniors, nobody has determined whether available funding will underwrite the mounting demand, Bottorff said.

“I’ve listened to virtually all the debates so far,” he said, “and very, very little has been said about the aging challenges that Hawaii faces in the decades to come.”

Now Abercrombie is scratching off three prime chances for the public to examine candidate ideas in a critical area, and that’s a disservice. There’s no excuse for leaving seniors, and their families, with unanswered questions.