The Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) has much to celebrate in 2018. From working with a broad grassroots coalition to finally putting in place regulations to protect the public and the environment from restricted use pesticides, to the training and education of over 50 emerging community and political leaders, several of whom won election in 2018 public office at the state and county level, the young nonprofit made great strides in building greater civic engagement.  It is with much joy and pride therefore that we announce that H.A.P.A.'s founder, former Kauaʻi State Senator and Councilmember Gary Hooser was honored recently at a gathering hosted by the statewide environmental advocacy group, Hawaiʻi’s Thousand Friends.  

The 2018 annual “Unsung Heroes” event was held at the Hale Koa Hotel in Waikiki on November 11, and attended by several hundred including environmental advocates, legislators and friends from across the state.  Lea Hong, executive director of the Trust for Public Land was also honored, and the keynote speaker was Hawaiʻi Supreme Court Justice Michael Wilson speaking on climate change. 

Chuck Prentiss, President of the Board of Hawaiʻi Thousand Friends said the organization was recognizing the former State Senator, Majority Leader and Kauai Councilmember, “for a life dedicated to reversing the environmental, social, economic and political degradation happening in Hawaiʻi.”

Also offering accolades from Washington D.C. was Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard whose certificate of recognition stated, “Throughout his career, Gary Hooser has been fearless in standing up against environmental threats to our community in the face of powerful interests.  He has sacrificed personal and financial gain to serve the public interest and has succeeded in mobilizing many people in Hawaiʻi to become involved in public policy decisions that affect all of our lives.”

Certificates of recognition and remarks acknowledging Hooser’s role in founding the non-profit educational and advocacy organizations, the Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI) were also offered by members of the Hawaii State Senate and the office of Senator Mazie Hirono.

In brief remarks, Hooser said that he was “both motivated and extremely humbled by the recognition and thanked the many people on every island who are increasingly stepping up, getting involved and taking ownership of their local government. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and that sometimes get me into trouble," he said, laughing.

"But I hope everyone understands that my heart is always with doing what is right, first and foremost for the people who need someone to advocate for them. When money so dominates our politics, the only antidote is people-power. And I have been thrilled to be in the midst of the growing people-power movement on these islands. This award gives me hope that perhaps people do understand what drives me. I want to keep helping to grow people-power through H.A.P.A., through PHI, and through my work with other organizations dedicated to the same goals of making life in Hawaiʻi better for everyone."

Hawaiʻi’s Thousand Friends is dedicated to ensuring that growth is reasonable and responsible; that appropriate planning, management, and water and land use decisions are made that protect the environment, human health and cultural and natural resources; and that decisions are made and proposals are implemented in conformity with the law.  In addition, Hawaiʻi’s Thousand Friends has been at the forefront of environmental litigation since its inception in 1980, successfully fighting legal cases focusing on land use planning, the Public Trust Doctrine, and native land and water rights.

Hooser joins an illustrious list of prior Unsung Hero awardees over the years that include staunch environmental advocates such as attorney David Kimo Frankel “1998”, Earthjustice Hawaiʻi Director Paul Achitoff “2007” as well as Kauaʻi residents Barbara Robeson “2000” and water rights attorney and advocate Kapua Sproat “2007”.

H.A.P.A. is a 501c3 whose mission is to catalyze community empowerment and systemic change towards valuing ʻāina and people ahead of corporate profit