Commentary: Kama’aina Blues

by Alan McNarie

Kama’aina: someone who’s been here long enough to look at a place in the present, see it as it once was, see it as it will be, and care deeply about all three.  I just spent two days on the Kona side for the first time in years–met my lady friend Kersten’s brother and his wife for the first time and enjoyed the visit, but that enjoyment was tempered by Kama’aina pain. They’d rented a time-share in Waikoloa. I took them to see Kalako-Honokahau National Historic Park, one of my favorite spots on the island: one of the few places left in the islands where, in the past, I’ve seen not just endangered species such as ae’o (black-necked stilts) and ‘alae ke’oke’o (Hawaiian coots), but whole flocks of them. Yesterday, though, all I saw were a single ‘alae ke’oke’o and a few sandpipers. On previous visits I’ve seen dozens of green sea turtles, either hauled out to sun or grazing on algae in the tide pools; yesterday I only saw three or four. I’m hoping that the birds and turtles were just displaced temporarily by the storm, and will return…. Yesterday evening, while Kersten nursed a migraine at our darkened room, I went snorkeling with Kersten’s brother at Anaeho’omalu. We saw only two yellow tangs; almost all 0f the few fish we did observe were small, drab species–probably thanks to the damned aquarium trade.

But one thing was getting more abundant on the Kona Coast:  shopping centers. New developments seemed to be sprouting like fungi all along Highway 19 from Waikoloa to Kailua-Kona. The whole North Kona Coast, which was the home mainly to feral donkeys, a few beach parks and the ruins of ancient Hawaiian villages when I first got here, appears to be on its way to becoming a strip city….

I’m sure many or most of the tourists who sunbathe and play golf at the Waikoloa resorts don’t share this kind of temporal migraine, this painful triple vision; they just see the luxurious cocoon of the resorts, without seeing how much the land is changing. The only glimpses they get of the past may be the petroglyphs along the golf course trails, the romanticized biographies of Hawaiian royalty on the plaques in the King’s Market, and the bowdlerized and inaccurate  “Hawaiian luaus” where they feast on roast pig and pineapple while “hula dancers” shake their hips furiously to the wild rhythms of Tahiti. I think Kersten’s brother and his wife are probably more sensitive than many to these conflicts of place and time; they edit a newsletter for their own community in Arizona, where some of the same conflicts must be happening.  But how could they know that the very place where they came for a happy getaway was arousing such deep conflicts in their resident relatives?  How can they guess that, when our smiles fade too quickly, the smile at seeing them is genuine, but the sadness comes from seeing the land? How can they possibly discern the difference between what we feel about this place and what we feel about them?

How many other visitors notice the tired scowls and forced smiles of the wait help, who likely caught the Hele-On from Puna or Ka’u in the wee hours of the morning in order to reach their minimum-wage jobs? How many of them realize that once, all along this coast, every bay and cove held a Hawaiian village instead of a luxury hotel or subdivision?  How many of them glimpse the pain of what was lost, and will be lost, to give them their few days in an artificial “Paradise”?

And yet it’s not their fault.  They’re trying to get away from their own troubles in their own homes in far-off places, and paying dearly for the privilege.  So we hide our pain and we smile, and some of us get a few dollars from the resorts’ corporate owners to help maintain the illusion.

Today marks the 27th anniversary of the day that I first stepped off the plane in Hilo. Since that day, I’ve worked first as a teacher, then as a paralegal helping the victims of family violence, then as a journalist, giving people information that they needed to know and might not have learned otherwise. I’ve celebrated local artists and local culture, have tracked off-island money in local elections, and have helped to provoke at least four full-fledged grassroots rebellions with the stories I’ve reported. I like to think that I’ve given enough back overall to earn my place on this island that I love so much, though sometimes I wonder.  For the past 15 years or so, I’ve been joking that I was “almost a kama’aina”–and would be until the day I die.

I’m going to stop saying that now.  I’m at least a novice kama’aina.  It hurts too much, now, for me to think I’m anything else. But I know that what I feel is only a scratch compared to the pain of those with older roots. How magnified would my sadness be, if my ancestors had lived in one of those vanished coastal villages–if they’d toiled for generations, piling the rocks of those mighty fishpond dikes at Kaloko-Honokahau? What would I feel if my great-great-grandmother had left my great-grandfather’s piko in one of those holes pecked in the pahoehoe beside what is now the seventh green, but I’m only welcome to come to visit that spot, now, if I’m a corporate employee or the guest of one of the guests? How would I feel if my ancestral village  lay under the foundation of a time-share condo?

There is too much pain, too much sadness deep in the bones of this beautiful island. Kama’aina are the ones who are gifted to feel it.

 

Hawaii Named “Worst State to Make a Living” but “Best Place to Retire”

 

A financial Web site called money-rates.com has named Hawaii the worst state in the Union to make a living.

To establish those ratings, the site looked at five factors: average wages, state tax rates, the cost of living, the unemployment rate, and the incidence of workplace accidents and work-related health problems.  The three “best places to make a living,” according to the survey, were Texas, Washington and Wyoming, all of which have no state income tax at all.

In determining Hawaii’s low status, the site said, “Cost of living is the main issue. Hawaii has the highest cost of living of any state. One of the biggest reasons why cost of living is so great in the state is higher than average housing expenses. According to Zillow, the median home value of a house in Hawaii is $537,300, which could price some buyers out of the market. Additionally,  salaries in the state do not compensate for its high cost of living – the average wage in Hawaii is about typical for the rest of the nation. Hawaii has one of the highest income tax rates of any state. Adjusted for taxes and the cost of living, workers in Hawaii get the equivalent value of just 55 cents for every dollar they make.”

The bad news about Hawaii was picked up by nationwide sites such as such as USA Today as well as some local news sources in Hawaii. But those sites missed the other side of the coin:  money-rates.com, in another analysis, has rated Hawaii as the nation’s  best place to retire.  In that survey, it took into account not just state income tax rates, but other tax forms such as property tax.

“As you might expect, Hawaii scored well for its climate, but that was not its greatest strength,” noted the site. “The category in which Hawaii ranked No. 1 out of all 50 states was life expectancy for people at age 65 today. There is just something about the place that agrees with people. One caution is that Hawaii has the highest cost of living of all 50 states, but it does somewhat offset that by having the lowest property taxes as a percentage of property value.”

Factors included in  “Best Place to Retire” analysis included the number of seniors in the state’s population (“just for how many of their peers seniors can expect to find in different states, but also how well each state is attracting older residents”), the state’s economic climate (“taxes, cost of living and unemployment”), the state’s rates of violent and property crimes, the weather, and senior life expectancy rates.

Money-rates.com is a financial Web site aimed primarily at investors; its aim, according to its masthead, is to “find you the best bank rates.”

 

HPD: Beware “Advance Fee” Scams

The Hawai?i Island police Deartment has issued a  warning to the public about scams known as “advance fee schemes,” in which the victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value—such as a loan, contract, investment, or gift—and then receives little or nothing in return.

“In one recent case, a 62-year-old Kona woman received a check for more than $6,000 that appeared to be from a known legitimate bank. Along with the check was a letter claiming she had won money in a lottery and advising her to deposit the check into her bank account and then wire a fee to the sender. The woman was suspicious and took the check to her bank, where she learned that it was counterfeit,” noted the HPD bulletin.  It noted that such schemes “can include claims of winnings, gifts, investments, loans or other proposed opportunities. The common factor is that the victim pays money to someone with an expectation of receiving something of greater value but doesn’t receive it. ”

According to FBI, “The variety of advance fee schemes is limited only by the imagination of the con artists who offer them. They may involve the sale of products or services, the offering of investments, lottery winnings, “found money,” or many other “opportunities.” Clever con artists will offer to find financing arrangements for their clients who pay a “finder’s fee” in advance. They require their clients to sign contracts in which they agree to pay the fee when they are introduced to the financing source. Victims often learn that they are ineligible for financing only after they have paid the “finder” according to the contract. Such agreements may be legal unless it can be shown that the “finder” never had the intention or the ability to provide financing for the victims.

Those who receive a suspicious check should take it to their financial institution to verify its authenticity. Recipients of questionable checks should not send any fee money until the check clears the bank. In general, if receive a check from someone or some company you never heard of, or for a lottery or contest you never entered, you should consider it suspicious.

“The public should be particularly leery of companies that have only a Post Office Box number rather than a street address and don’t have a direct telephone line that is answered when called. The public is advised that if they are unfamiliar with a business they should check with the State Department of Consumer Affairs or the Better Business Bureau to see if it is legitimate and reputable,” advises HPD.  Unfortunately, this may put businesses in many smaller Big Island communities at a disadvantage, since the post office doesn’t supply to-the-address mail delivery.

The FBI suggested the following tips for avoiding advance fee schemes:

  • Know who you are dealing with. If you have not heard of a person or company that you intend to do business with, learn more about them. Depending on the amount of money that you plan on spending, you may want to visit the business location, check with the Better Business Bureau, or consult with your bank, an attorney, or the police.
  • Make sure you fully understand any business agreement that you enter into. If the terms are complex, have them reviewed by a competent attorney.
  • Be wary of businesses that operate out of post office boxes or mail drops and do not have a street address. Also be suspicious when dealing with persons who do not have a direct telephone line and who are never in when you call, but always return your call later.
  • Be wary of business deals that require you to sign nondisclosure or non-circumvention agreements that are designed to prevent you from independently verifying the bona fides of the people with whom you intend to do business. Con artists often use non-circumvention agreements to threaten their victims with civil suit if they report their losses to law enforcement.

 

Forbes: Honolulu is Nation’s “Most Overpriced City.”

Forbes Magazine has confirmed what most of us already suspected:  Honolulu is the most “overpriced” city in the U.S.

Forbes rated the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas–i.e., the cities and their suburbs–with populations of over 600,000, on four criteria: median family income,  the Housing Opportunity Index for the fourth quarter of 2014–in other words, how much a home might cost, on average during that period; the percentage of available housing that was affordable to a family with median income, and the cost above the national average of groceries, utilities, transportation, health care and  “miscellaneous” goods and services. Honolulu’s stats:

Median Family Income:$82,600

Q4 2014 median sales price:$509,000

Housing affordable at median family income: 35.3%

Cost Above National Average:

Groceries:55.3%; Utilities:77.8%; Transportation: 26.7%; Health:15.7%; Misc.: 22.5%

The top four overpriced urban areas, after Honolulu, were mostly in the Northeastern U.S.:  the Bridgeford/Stanford/Norwalk metropolitan complex in Southern Connecticut;  Boston, MA; New York, NY and Cambridge, MA.  San Francisco and Oakland took the No. 6 and No. 7 spots.

New Study: Nationwide, the Recovery was Only for the Rich. But in Hawaii, Less So….

Hawaii has a reputation as a  posh place where movie stars and Internet moguls  have their multimillion-dollar hideaways.  But according to a new study by the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute, the gap between the rich and the poor here is one of the narrowest in the country.

The study, released under the title of  ‘The Increasingly Unequal States of America,  the study does a state-by-state analysis of the generally increasing gap between the United States’ least prosperous and most prosperous citizens. It noted, for instance, that the largest  Not surprisingly, it found that over the last three decades, income for the very wealthy has risen much faster over-all for the very wealthy than for the country as a whole. “Between 1979 and 2007, the top 1 percent took home well over half (53.9 percent) of the total increase in U.S. income. Over this period, the average income of the bottom 99 percent of U.S. taxpayers grew by 18.9 percent. Simultaneously, the average income of the top 1 percent grew over 10 times as much—by 200.5 percent,” it notes.

But the state-by-state breakdown yields some surprises, especially where Hawaii is concerned. Nationwide, for instance, it takes $385,000 in annual earnings to be among the nation’s top one percent in income.  But to be a member of the top one percent in Hawaii, you only need to earn  $279,000  Only seven other states–mostly in the South– have lower bars for joining the One Percent Club.   But the news gets even better when you compare the average annual  per capita income with the per capita  income of the state’s One Percenters.  Expressed as a “ratio of income inequality,” Hawaii’s is the narrowest gap in the country, at 14.6 to one–in other words, a One Percenter here earns about 14.6 times as much as the average guy on the street.  That may sound bad, until you compare it to Connecticut, to which many executives and brokers drive home after a long day on Wall Street: the average One Percenter there  makes 51 times as much money as the average Joe–the biggest gap in the country. New York is only slightly less unequal, at 48.4.

Of course, it could be that many of  Hawaii’s billionaires are “snow birds” with their official residences in states with lower tax rates.

On the downside, the average wage-earner in Hawaii is seeing his or her income growing at a glacial rate. Since 2009, when the economic recovery officially began after the Great Recession, personal income in Hawaii has grown by only 3.5 percent. But that growth has been shared pretty much across the board, though it’s growing slightly faster for the elite: the poorest one percent of Hawaii wage-earners saw their income grow by an average of 3.4 percent, while One Percenters’ income grew by 4.2 percent.

The slow personal income growth of Hawaii’s 99 percent is is still better than that of the  nation’s as a whole. Nationwide, the study concluded,”income growth has been lopsided since the recovery began, with the top 1 percent capturing an alarming share of economic growth. Over this period, the average income of the bottom 99 percent in the United States actually fell (by 0.4 percent). In contrast, the average income of the top 1 percent climbed 36.8 percent. In sum, only the top 1 percent gained as the economy recovered.”

–Alan McNarie

Beware Bogus $50 Bills

Hawaii  Police Department reported this afternoon that a  counterfeiter has been ripping off farmers’ market vendors and other merchants with bogus $50 bills

“A man reported Wednesday (January 14) that several vendors at farmers markets in Hilo and Puna had received the counterfeit bills. Police also received reports from other businesses in both districts,” read an HPD public notice.  Anyone else who has received a suspicious bill or who has any information about the person(s) distributing them should call the police non-emergency line, 935-3311
Those who would rather remain anonymous can call the Crime Stoppers number at 961-8300 and may qualify for a reward of up to $1,000.

Hawaii News: Task Force to Hold Hearings on Land Use Planning

 

The Hawaii State Land Use Review Task Force is preparing to hold a series of meetings throughout the state to gather public input on the state’s land use regulations and process. The Hawaii County meetings will be held, Tuesday, December 2 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the county’s Aupuni Center Conference Room in Hilo and Wednesday, December 3, from 6 to 8 p.m at the Kona Natural Energy Lab Conference Room.“These meetings may be of particular interest to land owners, developers, farmers, conservation groups, planners and others who have had or will have experience with State land use, district boundary amendments, and special permit matters,” notes the Hawaii Office of Planning’s Web site.But some conservationists worry that the hearings may be the beginning of another attempt to abolish or defang the state’s Land Use Commission. Public testimony and contested case hearings before the Commission have played key roles in stopping development projects at O‘oma, Pohue Bay, Keopuka and other areas on this island.
“I hear this ‘review’ of land use laws is supposed to happen every 5 years but hasn’t happened in decades – some people think this is yet another attempt to do away with the Land Use Commission/LUC – which would be a bad deal if you have a bad council and county administration,” noted Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation attorney David Kimo Frankel, in a widely-circulated e-mail.
Conservation groups are heavily outvoted on the Commission, and Native Hawaiians are represented only by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs member; farmers are represented only by Farm Bureau. Consumer groups, homeowners, community associations and organic farmers have no representatives on the task force, which consists of representatives from twelve state and county agencies, the State Senate and House of Representatives, the Waikiki Improvement Association, Farm Bureau, the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, the Hawaii Chapters of the American Planning Association and the American Institution of Architects, the Building Industry Association of Hawaii, The Hawaii Sierra Club, the Outdoor Circle, OHA, and the Land Use Research Foundation, or LURF, which represents 21 large landowning and development corporations.
Among the things that Frankel says the Task Force is “pushing” are the conversion of the LUC from “quasi-judicial” to “quasi-legislative”–which could eliminate contested case hearings; the conversion of “non-productive” ag lands to easier-to-develop “rural” or “urban” categories, and the idea that the LUC may not be needed at all.

 

Bank of Hawaii Offers Hurricane Relief Programs

Bank  of Hawaii has set up three in-house programs to aid those impacted by Hurricane Iselle with quick-approved, low-interest loans and relief from immediate payments on existing loans.

According to their press release:

“Essentially, the three programs provide access to cash via special loan programs or getting relief on existing Bank of Hawaii loans through loan extensions or forbearances. Special program features include:

  • Low interest rates on loans
  • Loans with no payments for first three months
  • Fast approval and quick funding
  • Reduced payments with loan terms up to 60 months
  • Loan amounts up to $25,000

“Depending on the particular loan program, funds may be used to 1) provide cash relief for emergency supplies and living essentials; 2) repair homes and/or vehicles, replacement of living essentials, or to bridge working capital needs; 3) receive forbearance and/or extension on loans for existing BOH clients.”

Bankoh branches are also accepting cash and check donations for Iselle relief through the Hawaii Island United Way.  Checks should be made out to “Kokua Puna.”

 

Chic Eco — Silk Farming in Hawaii?

by Delia Montgomery

First fascinated by the naturally-dyed hemp and silk yarns from Cheryl Kolander of Aurora Silk  in Oregon during the late 90’s, the door opened to many learning aspects of sustainable fashion and design. What impressed me most about Cheryl was her eagerness to teach and consult.

One of Cheryl’s favorite natural fibers is silk. She knows how to raise silkworms and she shares her cocoon processing knowledge online. One quickly learns that an essential requirement is access to mulberry leaves. To encourage mulberry owners to raise silkworms, Cheryl supplies eggs. She also offers her book titled A Silk Workers Notebook.

Read more

Guest Column — Regarding War, Oil, Climate Change And Geothermal

By Rob Tucker
At the first large geothermal meeting in Pahoa, organized by Steve Hirakami of HAAS (and others), there was an exercise where everyone’s concerns were posted on the wall and the public was invited to put three colored stickers next to their priority of concern.  It was taking a public measure of everyone’s concerns.  I would like to thank Steve Hirakami for the format. It was useful.   I had my three little colored dots and hesitated for a while and eventually went and put all three of mine on a concern written: “it’s not oil”.  Not thought out deeply but that was my instinct.  All three dots. Read more

Kona News — Greenwell Farms Unveils New Jeni K 100% Kona Coffee Varietal

(Media release) —  Greenwell Farms announced the release of Jeni K 100% Kona Coffee, the first release of its new Greenwell Farms Signature Series. Known for delivering award winning Kona Coffee for 162 years, Greenwell Farms created Jeni K 100% Kona Coffee in honor of the Greenwell family heritage. This premiere Greenwell Farms Signature Series roast was carefully hand selected from the highest quality trees and grown in perfect climate conditions.  

Fourth generation Kona coffee farmer and Greenwell Farms president Tom Greenwell is guiding the iconic family farm in a new direction by planting this new Jeni K Kona Coffee varietal.

Read more

Y o g a — Register For July 28-31 Purna Yoga Intensive

Devoted to Sri Aurobindo’s Purna Yoga, Aadil Palkhivala is founder and director of Yoga Centers in Bellevue, Washington and The College of Purna Yoga, an advanced teacher training program licensed by the State of Washington and Yoga Alliance Certified. He is the author of "Fire of Love", a certified Ayurvedic health practitioner, a certified Shiatsu and Swedish therapist, and a clinical hypnotherapist. He holds degrees in law, physics and mathematics. Source: Aadil.com. Click here to visit website.

Aadil Palkhivala

Purna Yoga Intensive

July 28-31, 2012

Big Island Yoga Center

Register NOW to take advantage of early bird rates. Early bird rate applies through June 28. Read more

Kona News — Save The Dates For The 42nd Kona Coffee Cultural Festival

(Media release) — Hawaii’s oldest food festival will once again host more than 40 events throughout the 2012 Kona Coffee Cultural Festival slated for November 2-11. For easy planning the Festival has separated its events into three signature blocks of Festival fun, Opening Weekend, Festival Weekday Events and Festival Finale Weekend, brewing a full menu of events for attendees during this iconic coffee festival. Read more

Kona News — Grand Opening For New Spa At Kona Beach Hotel Is June 15

(Media release) —  It’s where you can be transformed with a pulsating vichy shower, a sea salt scrub and a deep, relaxing massage. Or, pamper yourself with an indulgent, full day-island specialty package to rejuvenate and revive from head to toe.

The Spa at Kona Beach Hotel celebrates its grand opening Friday, June 15 with a 5-8 p.m. tour of its European-designed facilities at Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. Located across from the hotel’s infinity pool, the new 1,650-square-foot spa will also provide soothing massages in a private cabana just 10 feet from the ocean.

“We are Kailua Village’s only full-service, oceanfront spa,” says owner and Kona resident Mitesh Banthia, BNYS. Read more

Food — Where You’ll Find Ceviche Heaven

On your next trip to Costco, go hungry and head to Ceviche Dave’s first.  This little hut in the North Kona industrial park (located in Hale Kui Plaza above Home Depot at 73-4976 Kamanu St., Suite 100) is dishing out some excellent food.  We had the Cioppino, a tomato-based fish chowder, along with the Makalawena tostada, a “double-cheesy chrispy tortilla” topped with ceviche and feta cheese. We also had the “Wanna Be Me Salad,” which is comprised of shrimp on greens with feta and One-Ton chips (from Maebo’s in Hilo).

All the dishes were delicious, more than satisfying to the palate, being the seafood lovers that we are. We dare say that this place is ceviche heaven. Read more