Our high unemployment due to coronavirus is the direct result of Hawaii’s poor political leadership, which relies on tourism.
Former Gov. Linda Lingle made the case more than 10 years ago on why we need to diversify away from tourism. She was right.
However, it would not be surprising if our politicians would like to bring in even more tourists once this crisis abates to make up for lost revenue. The problem with this one-sided approach is that our local ohana does not look so favorably on tourism anymore.
Before this crisis began, everyone was tired of the traffic, gridlock and overrun beaches that local residents themselves could not enjoy anymore due to the number of tourists. Also, the new norm will be social distancing, which means fewer people at beaches. Hawaii’s fragile environment needs to be protected for Hawaii residents and our future generations.
We always talk about taking care of our local ohana. Let’s use this time to actually start doing it and look at options to diversify. And let’s pray that this crisis is over soon.
Crack down on illegal vacation rentals now
Now is a great time for the City and County of Honolulu to really crack down on illegal vacation rentals. We need money, so levy and collect the fines. The money could be used for our own stimulus checks for those in need. And when the tourist economy finally does reopen, hotel rooms can fill with legal vacationers paying the associated taxes and employing workers who earn a living wage and benefits.
Let coronavirus crisis be a catalyst for change
The COVID-19 cloud could have a silver lining. Epidemics are like wars in human history; they are catalysts for change. Sometimes when we say “can’t,” it is because we never tried. Here are few of the items on my wish list:
>> We have a No Driving Day each and every month worldwide to reduce pollution.
>> All professional associations in health care create a fund to stockpile needed protective equipment, funded by a weekly voluntary contribution of $5, paid for by going without coffee or alcohol one day a week. Or we add $1 per month to the premium of every health insurance policyholder.
>> We use our new understanding of which workers are essential to make sure they get paid a good minimum wage. We stop looking past them when we walk by.
And so forth.
Apologies for how we treat Mother Earth
Dearest Mother: A not-so-happy Earth Day. For a few centuries we have violated you, abused you and extracted our fuels from you. We have created political and economic systems that have caused massive extinctions of our fellow species. We have not been kind to you, Mother. We apologize.
For next year’s Earth Day you will feel much better! You will lose far fewer fossils, suffer fewer storms and thrive on many more trees. We will take care of you and appreciate you. We promise.
The world takes a break from human activities
The empty streets, clean water and clear skies: It is as if the whole world was observing a much-needed Sabbath rest. No gatherings. No celebrations. Just a prolonged exhale at the end of what has been a long, long period of work.
Let’s light the candles.
Unemployment office should relax some rules
The unemployment office is attempting to process an unprecedented number of new unemployment claims. Once a claim is approved, the requirement of reporting the weekly claim status is overwhelming.
My wife was told she is eligible, and to be paid she must report by computer her status. Accessing the computer to put in the weekly update is all but impossible. Either you’re told there is high volume or your password doesn’t match. If you try to call, the odds of getting a live body are slim. We’ve tried more than 1,000 times over two weeks with no luck.
I suggest that all applicants who were told they are eligible should have their weekly reporting requirement for April waived. The odds of cheating under the penalty of law is minuscule. People will be paid sooner, and there will be less frustration for the claimant and for the call center receiving these calls.
If it is a government regulation to report weekly, ask for a temporary waiver.
State needs to reduce public worker salaries
Gov. David Ige should proceed with the plan of reducing salaries by 10% for all fire, police and first responders, and by 20% for the balance of state workers.
The state already has the highest unemployment rate nationally, and it faces an anticipated revenue shortfall of $1.5 billion.
Since personnel costs are the lion’s share of the shortfall, it is imperative that decisive action be taken now to preserve as much as we can so as to avoid an even more onerous future tax burden on our citizens.
We should all be sharing equally in the sacrifice during this pandemic. It is just not fair that people are going through angst and uncertainty with no foreseeable source of income while many state workers are home doing nothing, while still retaining their full salary and generous benefits (medical, pension, vacation, sick leave).
It is obvious to many of us that it is way past time that we stop the union tail from wagging the government dog. Gov. Ige, the ball is in your court.
Eddie K.H. Ching
Pay cuts are better than unemployment line
Do the state employees’ union leaders understand that 200,000 people are unemployed while state workers collect paychecks, accumulate vacation and sick leave? A pay cut should be welcomed, considering that others don’t have jobs.
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