Fewer Tourists = Fewer Jobs. It’s A Fact Of Life

I know people desperately need their jobs back, and that for the time being the bulk of those pending jobs are related to tourism — hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and retail sales.

But I’m one of the many fed up with the excessive tourism that was bringing 10 million visitors to these islands before the pandemic hit.

Can these two sides find compromise? That proposal to lure high-spending visitors rather than the hoy polloi won’t fly because the bulk of jobs is in moderately-to-low-priced hotels. The rich tend to pick one of the up scale resorts or private residences. We’d be pleasing the low-tourism crowd but leaving the low-skilled maids and bartenders without income.

Yes, people can be trained into new skills and eventually will have to be. But right now we don’t have any alternative job providers. Many businesses that could be here pass on us because of our distance for employees from their mainland relatives and the poor (not really deserved) reputation of our public schools.

An immigrant from Micronesia or the Philippines isn’t going to find other work for which he or she is suited. More bars and restaurants would close. The unemployment rate would not recover from the pandemic.

We’re stuck with tourism. But will they come if the attitude they encounter here is either “haole go home” or “get the hell off our beach”?

I was listening to The Conversation on Hawaii Public Radio and not surprisingly guests in the tourism business plugged for us to “welcome with aloha.” Not just for the jobs, but also for the tax revenue that pays for county and state services. No revenue and we’ll be laying off government employees next.

McKinsey & Co. is a consultancy firm on tourism and says “Companies such as Airbnb often bear the brunt of the blame for how tourism has ballooned beyond control, but that ignores the bigger picture of policies and loopholes that allow them to flourish. Budget airlines can sell flights cheaply as a result of massive tax breaks for the aviation industry, which has driven up not only tourist numbers but carbon emissions.”

Now I turn to poor Kauai and Lanai. Both had been bypassing the pandemic’s wrath. Then came the tourists and inter-island travelers. And with them, it seems, came the virus which became a community source.  Now Kauai had 113 cases as of yesterday and tiny Lanai 106 cases. That’s alarming for two islands with populations, respectively, of 72,000 and 3,100.

I’ve been a big fan of Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami of Kauai. He’s been clamping down on travelers,  causing his county to miss out on some jobs and revenue, but trying to beat back that virus. Most mayors have struck me as too permissive because they are too “political” and always gauging public reaction vis-a-vis their future office ambitions. Kawakami puts virus control first.

I’m hoping incoming Oahu mayor Rick Blangiardi was misquoted in the newspaper yesterday, saying “My attitude, to be candid with you, is to open up the bars.” Open the bars? Right now that would be an invitation to daily new infections in triple digits!

Testing? It’s only good for that moment in time when given. A person can become infected the very next day. And pass it on within a few days. Tourists are exposed to people in airports and on airplanes. Some of the untested sneak out of quarantine.

And who wants to come here if the first two weeks have to be spent in a hotel room or B&B if there was no test administered 72 hours before travel?

I see only one acceptable compromise solution:

Stop issuing permits for new hotels, or expansion of current hotel properties. Cut back severely on allowed short-term vacation rental permits and jack up the fines for violations.

They will come, but only as many as can find a place to stay. Don’t make it too easy.


Striking A Blow Against The Blowers

Suggestion of the week: Would the City Council ever consider establishing a Leaf Blower Day, one day of each week when those ever-loud blowers would be allowed? Or maybe even two days? But making the others taboo under the council’s noise abatement powers?

It’s really gotten to be more than a minor nuisance, all that neighborhood leaf blowing — sometimes three or four times a week as all the properties are serviced.

The noise of those gasoline-fueled blowers can drive a sensitive-hearing person nuts. And now, online companies are promoting mobile blowers, larger and more powerful — and more loud! Here are two photos of what’s on the market:

Cities, towns and villages in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere in the country have created bans or sought voluntary cuts in the use of leaf blowers in suburban neighborhoods. Town leaders noted that with everyone sheltering in home, the constant din was an added nuisance.

The New York Times says “Everyone hates hearing them, but no one complains about the work they accomplish. And so a silent majority has carried on, under the whine of the motor.” Oh, additionally, there are now the motors that propel the blowers!

Leaf blowers are harmful – denuding and compacting the soil, resulting in unhealthy soil susceptible to erosion. In some communities, gas-powered leaf blowers are banned for part of the growing season – often from June through September – usually as a noise deterrent.  But, so much damage can be caused to soil and plants by leaf blowers at other times of year.

But it’s simply the noise that irritates me.

We use pros from J.L. Yard Services to blow and collect all the fallen leaves from our giant banyan tree. We close the doors. My wife puts on her noise-cancelling headphones. I go into whatever room is farthest from the blower action.

I’m unsure why everyone uses the noisy gasoline models rather than charged electric or battery. But they do.

Leaf blowing companies probably would object to my one-day-of-the-week suggestion because they tend to bundle customers for whatever day they work in that neighborhood.

But it’s worth exploring.

Maybe something like Leaf Blow Wedesday?

I wish blowers were digitally operated. Then maybe I could hack in and disable them in my neighborhood. Just not at my house!

Have you got any suggestions?



Goodbye To More Single-Family Housing On Oahu?

“The problem with our housing, particularly right now, is that the housing that we have is built on a model that was created, frankly, with a lot of classist and racist exclusivity and privacy in mind, without foresight, of course, to sort of the problems of a car culture and the potential for things like climate change.” Diana Lind, author of Brave New Home.

What Lind, a reporter and Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce arts & business council member, tells us in her new book is particularly applicable to Hawaii — except for the “racist exclusivity” part — as we run out of room for single-family houses and eat up agricultural and conservation land.

By contrast, about 80% of Singapore’s people live in public-housing apartment buildings that are clusters with their own supermarket, school, medical clinics and mass transit stations.

Singapore had to do it because of its size —  only 276 square miles, 17 miles from north to south and 31 miles from east to west. We should be doing it not just because of size — 597 square miles, 44 miles long and 30 miles wide — but because we have so little flat land for both housing, agriculture and bird-habitat forests.

Singapore’s clustered, high-rise public housing includes grocers, schools and mass transit stations.

But I suspect a majority of us is not ready to chuck that “white picket fence” vision and move into one of those Salt Lake or Waikiki condominiums.

Kirkus Reviews looked over Lind’s communal living preference and wrote that “Not every reader will be enthusiastic about the concept of communal-style co-living arrangements (a tiny house may be more amenable), but the author delivers consistently solid arguments in favor of extended-family housing and other options outside the single-family paradigm. Humans, after all, are social beings and seek the comfort of a dependable community.”

Lind says “we’re a country where 20% of people live alone, 20 % of people live with family members in multi-generational families, and yet we’re still trying to cram them all into the same kind of housing.” Single-family houses.

I like the cluster concept and as readers know I’ve been a strong proponent of the Singapore model. When I came here, I hated the new condos just starting to sprout alongside our few co-ops. But then came those far-flung, out-of-town subdivisions in Central Oahu and Ewa on valuable agricultural lands. I sensed a need to change our thinking.

Lind shows why a place full of single-family houses is bad for us and our planet, and takes her readers into the homes and communities that are seeking alternatives to the American norm, from multi-generational living, in-law suites, and co-living to micro apartments, tiny houses, and new rural communities with high-rise living rather than those row houses with a garage, front lawn, sidewalk and on-street parking.

I’d hope our City and State lawmakers and planners will give it a read.


Ron: Don’t Mask Me In!

I’m a mask-up-during-the-pandemic supporter. Masks might not be the ultimate answer, but until we get better data on infection transference, keeping our exhalations at least minimally trapped makes sense.

That said, we  have to remember the song line from Evita: “Politics is the art of the possible.”

City councilman Ron Menor is promoting the impossible to sell to the public. He’d require us to wear a face covering any time we are outdoors. Not just in clusters or small groups. All the time. Running, walking, airing out the dog, sitting in the sunshine, presumably while driving you car because that’s being sort of outside. I’m sitting at the Hilton Lagoon reading in the sunshine and wearing a mask?

Ron, we’re already battling the no-mask nuts. We also don’t know much about what masks really trap our exhalations and keep virus particles exhaled by others from entering the unsealed edges of our varied masks.

So we’ve been reasonable. Wear a mask when in a store, farmers’ market, church or other congregation. In a group other than your family members. Even that’s not been an easy sell. The hard-core deniers just pull up a T-shirt over the mouth and maybe the nose when it’s “Face Covering Required.”

Transference outside in the sunshine and breeze and when not in close contact with others would appear to be near zero.

Are you saying all these people should have masks?

Your argument, Ron, is that this makes it easier for police to enforce. How far apart is far apart? How many together is too many?

That’s true, but common sense comes into play, and police should be seeking to educate, not give out citations. They can mention the current mandate. But not drag off or shoot a person refusing to comply.

The exceptions do cause some problems for the beat cop: individuals with medical conditions, minors and those engaged in ocean activities. But I think they can live with that unless police are being graded on the number of citations issued.

Does every county have to have the same mask-wearing regulations? Not at all. Every arriving passenger should be handed a paper that along with quarantine rules explains mask-wearing rules.

Ron, I hope when you bring up your resolution on December 9, plenty of testifiers will show up to have a say on this before it goes to a vote.

Would you please enter this column into the record as well? Thanks.


%d bloggers like this: