Covid: Get Tougher Or Give In?

I realize it’s easy for me to say shut down the tourism, the hotels, the bars and restaurants, the gyms and all but very essential businesses.

I don’t own or operate a business. I was laid off at MidWeek but federal and state unemployment compensation more than covers me. I don’t pay rent, don’t have a mortgage, or a child to put through college. I’m financially okay.

Virus control may ruin many people and I do not take that lightly. The prosperity of our whole nation is at stake if Covid-19 persists. That’s why we should have killed it right when it showed up.

Giving in too much to economic concerns at the outset gave sickness and even a death sentence to many of our people. If there’s no quickie vaccine, Covid will go on and on. 20 cases here, 40 cases there. What will next week bring?

We needed to stop it in its tracks!

We’ve done some things we should not have. Failed to do other things. State government and our health people were trying to compromise. The idea was not to stop the virus. Just to make sure we had the hospital facilities to handle the casualties.

We should never have reopened bars. Bars are filled with people who tend to be very irresponsible once they’ve drunk enough. What was the sense –beyond re-starting business flowing — of opening indoor restaurants where the virus can float for at least 20 minutes after its expression in a breath or a cough?

Recent clusters have been associated with social gatherings and gyms, state health officials say.

And allowing in tourists who promised (ha ha) to honor a voluntary quarantine? We should have taken over an airport hotel, then done as Australia has done. Bus each planeload of tourists directly to the hotel. Put a guard on each floor to make sure they stay in their rooms, only ordering out for food. We’d quickly have had no tourists. But we’d also quickly had no infections from them.

We have recently had more than 700 tourists arriving in a single day. Each says “sure, I’ll to quarantine. Where? Oh, with some friends.”

We went soft and then went softer — planning to allow tourists in with a pre-test for Covid. But they could have caught it in the departure airport or on the airplane.

And we know from experience that people we let in earlier were not all following the quarantine rules. Big boo-boo.

At a minimum, we should be requiring and enforcing mask wearing EVERYWHERE in public, not just in buildings. I see clumps of young people on streets enroute to a beach or park gathering, all shouting and laughing, none wearing masks.

Incidentally, that gang of journalists clumped around the KGMB conference room table last Thursday for mayor-candidate interviews –no marks.

The clumps of people — surely not all family members –we’re seeing at our parks and beaches, all unmasked, is another route for infection transfer.

We should be issuing police citations to any person on public property without a mask except when eating or drinking.

We’re either going to kill this thing or it’s going to kill us.

The Ige administration — the governor, the lieutenant governor and the health director — should be held fully accountable for failing the impose enforced quarantine on all arrivals and a mask-wearing requirement for everyone in public.

Their failures have damaged us.

 

 

What Joe Biden Should Say

The Economist says its election prediction model gives Donald Trump only a 10% chance of winning in November. That doesn’t mean a free pass for Joe Biden. Weird things rise up and bite candidates in the final days of an election year.

Biden has that son who seems to put making money ahead making careful friendships. And he’s got a Washington legislative record full of mistakes going back to when Elvis Presley was filming Blue Hawaii on Kauai.

He’s quite old for the job, has a record as a centrist in a time of restless young voters. He stumbles on words and facts. But compared to Trump he’s politically normal, and that’s a big plus this year.

He’ll need to move a bit left to win while not alarming all those folks on the marginal right wing and on the fence.

But I think mainly he needs to address voters who are not pleased with all that willy-nilly statue defacing, defunding of police, establishment of “autonomous zones” in cities by street protestors, and what sometimes seems like China’s Cultural Revolution, which outed anyone not “with it” or “woke,” as they now say.

He needs to be very clear that while he’s okay with national health insurance, he also wants a provision that anyone who wants his own insurance can have it — but will have to pay into the government insurance fund as well as to the private provider. Anything less than that leaves all the issues we have with Obamacare.

He needs to get us back on top- notch alliance terms with Britain, France and Germany. They are friends. He needs to make it clear to Russia that Eastern Europe is not up for grabs. And we don’t want Europe looking to China for best friends. Politico reports that “As Germany reappraises its longstanding reliance on the United States amid growing tensions with Washington over security and trade, there is less doubt among the country’s leaders about the necessity to reenergize its partnership with China, Germany’s largest trading partner.”

We need to gradually back out of the Middle East. Yes, it will be messy and leave room for Iran and Russia to create a personal playground, but it’s already a mess for us like Vietnam was. You can’t win every one you decide to fight. Even Joe Louis lost — to Max Schmeling in 1936.

We need to get back to eliminating all those tax loopholes that let corporations pay zero. The whole tax system needs a rewrite, preferably with a graduated, flat tax that eliminates deductions but will also lower tax rates.

He also needs to reaffirm that our ancient Monroe Doctrine is out of date. We cannot set the agenda or pick the alliances for nations in our hemisphere to coincide with our national interests. He should re-engage Cuba by going back to the Obama policy there. We can’t tell people of Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua what government they can have or face sanctions that mainly hurt poor people.

If we did keep the Monroe Doctrine, then we’d have no credibility for telling China they can’t mess with the countries in its hemisphere with the aim of enforcing national interest. It would be logical for China to take over the South China Sea and keep our aircraft carriers, subs and airplanes out.

Mainly, Biden needs to pledge to settle us down while promoting diversity and equality. He could start that process by naming former U.N. ambassador and Obama adviser Susan Rice as his vice president candidate. She’s smart, knows the ropes, and is black. No other woman under consideration has her chops.

Doing Things Right On Kauai

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami continues to have the magic touch that might indicate a clear path to running for governor in 2022 if that’s his ambition.

He must have Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Lt. Gov. Josh Green, the two leading names-in-the-news right now, looking over their shoulders.

First it was Kawakami’s deft handling of his island’s Covid-19 defenses that won the public praise of Gov. David Ige. Look at these figures for the infection numbers: Oahu 808, Maui 128, Hawaii 96, and Kauai just 42 and no deaths yet on that island or on the Big Island.

(Yes, I’m aware of the population difference: Oahu 959,000, Hawaii 187,000, Maui 128,000, and Kauai just 67,000. But even at a 3 or 4 to one population ratio, the Garden Isle’s infection rate is low.)

Now there’s this, which seems to elude others:

Kauai County officials have approved an agreement with Expedia Group, owner of VRBO, and Airbnb, on an enforcement plan to help the county tackle short-term rentals violating island ordinances.

The memorandum with Expedia Group was the first voluntary agreement between a Hawaii county and a short-term rental platform. The agreement with Airbnb was okayed on June 29.

Mayor Kawakami, left, signs the first agreement with the Expedia Group/VRBO

It means that every time VRBO or AirBnB gets a posting from Kauai for a vacation rental, they will forward to that county the tax map key of the property so it can be checked to see if it’s in a short-term-rental exemption zone — or not.

If the answer is not, then the property owner is ipso facto in violation of Kauai’s zoning law.

Kauai’s tax map keys

“It’s a relatively new thing,” she VRBO’s owner Expedia Group. “Our goal is to increase cooperation with communities all over the country to develop sound policy solutions to foster healthy tourism. We hope this agreement will be a model for the state of Hawaii going forward.”

The would-be renters have 60 days to add a valid TMK to their listing, and properties without one or using a fake one will be removed from the platforms upon notice from the County of Kauai.

Expedia says “The county had been asking to post the address for the listing on the site, but our hosts feel that is a security threat. You are letting people know there is a house at this address that is empty a lot of the time. So we settled on the tax map key, which already exists, is linked to every home in the state, and allows the government to identify those properties operating outside legal zones.”

 Kawakami says “Most importantly, this partnership will help the county more effectively enforce our vacation rental laws.”

“Short-term rentals are a vital source of supplemental income for local residents, and for many the only source of income,” Matt Middlebrook, Airbnb’s head of public policy in Hawaii, said. “We hope this agreement serves as a fair, common-sense model for other counties looking to promote compliance and leverage the benefits of home sharing.”

Airbnb also agreed to educate hosts about Kauai’s short-term rental laws. Airbnb will share a link of the County’s licensing and information web page on its responsible-hosting page and share information about the County’s requirements with hosts ahead of the launch of the mandatory TMK field on its listings.

This is a big step forward for Hawaii, where illegal short-term rentals got totally out of control. There seemed to be no way for local governments to catch violators in the act. The renters and the rentees often colluded to pretend there was a long-term contract that had to be cut short due to some emergency.

With this new agreement on Kauai, an ad for a “vacation rental” in a tax map key area not zoned for that will be a dead giveaway.

 

Not A Normal Year

In a normal year I’d say there isn’t a chance in hell of any candidate in our August 8 mayoral primary getting the votes needed to be mayor-elect without having to go into the general election in November.

In a normal year I’d give the edge to Colleen Hanabusa because of her high name recognition as former State Senate president and congresswoman, second place to Keith Amemiya because of his community athletics work and very productive fund raising. Third to Kym Pine because she’s a hell-raiser in the City Council but not seen as a bring-us-together candidate.

But Hanabusa has been getting busted over her and her husband’s connections to people who deal in political influence. Amemiya’s major contributors (Ian Lind, www.ilind.net July 7) look like a friendship with those wanting more development and more tourism. Might those turn off voters this not-normal year?

Before Civil Beat exposed Rick Blangiardi’s involvement in a fraudulent real estate loan caper (he was a so-called “straw buyer” for a fee), I might have given near-equal odds for a 1st or 2nd place finish as new blood and a successful businessman. But the caper, while not making him a criminal, made him seem terribly dumb. I was offered money to be a “straw man” partner for a Honolulu condo project in the late 70s but my sniffer told me this smelled bad and I declined. Blangiardi obviously had put his sniffer on inactive mode.

This is a year when people are really p.o’d about the cost and 2026 completion date of the transit train, those windmills in Kahuku, the Sherwood Forest project in Waimanalo, the unending homeless camps in Honolulu, and the financial disturbance of the coronavirus.

It’s the kind of election year when voters could go against normal and give a shot at the job to someone like Laie community activist Choon James just for the hell of it. They are unlikely to be moved by Mufi Hannemann’s attempted revival because he’s the father of the train project that will put us billions in the hole without even considering future operating costs. So I tend to write him off.

(There’s also that complication that Hanabusa and Hannemann have lost recent races for office and that’s normally a gong of doom.)

Maybe people want a hell-raiser and will stampede to Pine after all. It’s not a normal year.

Then there’s the all-mail-in voting and whether sitting around with others at home and mulling over who to bless will make for a different result than when people dashed into a precinct and marked a ballot in private.

There are so many candidates this year. Would the popular minister Bud Stonebraker perhaps draw a chunk of votes from the Kahala-to-Hawaii Kai people? Might the gadfly John Carroll score some followers this time because he’s a known Republican while Hanabusa and Hannemann are known party-faithful Democrats?

If I had political ambitions like those running I’d not want to be mayor this year. All those budgetary problems caused by the virus would be falling into my lap. Who needs that in addition to the normal year issues of garbage collection and road repair? You can’t create money out of thin air like the Hindu magical ash vibhooti.

My guess this year is that maybe 35-40 percent of the primary votes will favor the top candidate. Maybe 20 for #2, 15% for #3 and 4, and a single digit scattering for others.

But that would be normal and this is not a normal year.

Hawaii New Now (KGMB)  will grill the candidates at 9  p.m.

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Speaking of not normal, CBS has fired one of its biggest money makers, Hawaii Five-O, MacGyver, and Magnum executive producer Peter Lenkov for creating a “toxic workplace” on his popular shows for employees.

I’ve felt the man’s intemperate temper. I once wrote that Alex O’Loughlin  should have considered expanding his acting on something more difficult than the Hawaii police show. Lenkov went bonkers. Called me to complain. Threatened to have me fired by MidWeek, said MidWeek would get no more access to the show filming, and that he’d sue over me using a CBS Studio photo with my column — which was totally permissible. On he went with a long rant like you used to see in old Hollywood studio films in which the producer makes life miserable for others.

I guess this qualifies for the oft-misused word “ironic” — the guy who dispensed toxicity gets a taste of it himself.

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