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Hawaii needs to avoid massive unemployment tax increase

Empty wallet in the hands of an elderly man. Poverty in retirement concept

By Keli’i Akina

For Hawaii employers, it’s deja vu all over again.

Just like they were a year ago at this time, the businesses that provide jobs to the state’s civilian workforce are in danger of having their annual unemployment taxes skyrocket, which, in turn, could cripple Hawaii’s economy just when it is starting to get back on its feet.

Last year, the tax was supposed to more than triple, until the Legislature finally stepped in to ease the pain. This year it could increase by more than double, from an average of $825 per employee to $1,768.

The tax is legally required to increase because of all the demands on the unemployment system caused by the coronavirus lockdowns, which at one point saw more than 200,000 Hawaii employees out of work.

Many of those employees are still out of work, still drawing unemployment wages and still depleting the state’s unemployment fund reserve, as the state’s emergency restrictions on businesses approach possibly their third year.

When the reserve drops, Hawaii employers are expected to make up the difference.

Last year, the Legislature passed a law that froze the unemployment tax rate for employers at the Schedule D rate — a slight increase from the pre-lockdowns rate, but far less than the catastrophic Schedule H hike that would have otherwise automatically gone into effect.

Unfortunately, the bill was little more than a stop-gap, addressing only 2021 and 2022. Now, as 2023 approaches, Hawaii businesses are once again in a pickle.

Since the lockdowns began, the state has paid out $6.5 billion in jobless claims, leaving the unemployment fund with only $123 million.

In order to keep the fund up last year, the state funneled $800 million from the federal government into it, then cleared that debt with an equivalent amount of federal relief funds. Still, the fund is still far from the $1.3 billion reserve that is deemed adequate for a year’s unemployment claims.

Thus, if the Legislature doesn’t intervene again, the state unemployment tax will soar up to Schedule H — the highest rate — for 2023. That’s an increase of 114%, more than enough to affect hiring decisions or prevent struggling businesses from surviving the lockdowns.

Hawaii was one of the states hit hardest by the coronavirus lockdowns, especially given their effect on tourism. Yet, we’ve seen some positive trends, with the economy growing faster than some predicted, leading to higher state revenues. In fact, the state budget currently has a $3 billion surplus, at least a portion of which could be used to shore up the unemployment fund.

In a recovering economy, the last thing you want to do is introduce a massive tax hike. Instead, you want to embrace policies that grow the economy. That’s because the state can gain far more in revenues from an economic bump than from trying to wring more tax dollars out of already-strapped Hawaii businesses.

The Aloha State’s private sector has had to overcome so much in the past two years. Many businesses have had to close their doors forever. Others are barely holding on, hoping that the worst is behind us.

There are many ways that the Legislature can address this problem. One could be to introduce another rate freeze, to give officials time to reexamine the law and its automatic tax increases.

What we should not do is levy yet another heavy burden on Hawaii’s businesses and disrupt our state’s economic recovery.

Keli’i Akina is president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

Grief as deep as you Love


Grief is a complex human emotion. It can produce love, anger, confusion, depression, anxiety, regret—well you get what I am saying.

Humans seem never prepared and not in the least taught how to cope and resolve grief. Like anger, another confusing human emotion, there are few common sense coping strategies or tactics to deal with the cascade of emotion.

Grief is as ignored as peace-making—we devalue and sabotage peace-making in our lives.

Grief, Anger, Jealousy act on humans like a water/mudslide. It seems we can only guess at the onset, where it will go, or how to cope with the sheer force of these emotions. Mostly, we lash out and hurt others in our expression of a fundamental human emotion.

If I take the meta-view, to look at my life as an observer would, at the thousands of cascading emotional episodes, contemplating the trauma creating the triggers, in the light of the deaths of so many friends, it is clear, what we take for real is not permanent.

From the perspective of our own death, and the wisdom of our meta-view, our existence is unreal, just as our solid material world is not real, at least in the light of timelessness and eternity.

Rainbow bridge over Hawaii

A wonderful poet, Hafiz once spake so, “To take for real that which is ephemeral, is like the ravings of a madman.”

Yet as I watch those I’ve walked beside, friends, colleagues, citizens, frenemies, who have been around me, pass across the rainbow bridge, I see it as a promise and a warning to be in alignment with your highest purpose, or be in fear and regret.

Choices are our greatest power

The warning: Those who seek to “rule” their worlds are distracting you from creating your world through your choices, narrowing your sense-of-power to better manipulate you by their words and decisions.

The promise: When what you think, say and do are in alignment, there you will find happiness. Happiness and a collaborative co-creative world that benefits the many not the few is a choice. Choose carefully, think focused, visualize the thought forms of what you prefer, and then act to choose it in the material world.

Align>Ask>Accept>Act>Receive is the promise

It’s not the journey that crowns you but the end.

As day turns to night, like flowers, we are here, then gone, so are also our lives in the broad span of time. We are soon forgotten, even if we are famous.

So, make the most of your one wild and crazy life.

Robert Kinslow is a coach, consultant, change agent and sustainability expert. Connect with him here or LinkedIn

SureFire Powerpak


Mobile video light review

When it comes to a video light, I used to lug heavy camera gear around to capture the funny, meaningful or downright awesome moments that can spontaneously arise during the days of our lives. Since the cellphone revolution, my camera has become my choice mostly for it’s light weight, flexibility of use and features, and reasonably fast time of operation.

Let’s say an important moment is emerging, I reach for my cell and in a second or two am ready for the moment to present. Or, perhaps a moment is in full swing, in a few seconds, I’m recording without having lost much of the meaningful moments.

A serious impediment to night-time photography, recording those “dark moments,” is the cellphone camera itself. Cell cameras are notorious for their poor low-light performance, making low light spontaneity unable to be visually recorded. Also, cell flashlights have limited range and focus. External video lights can be cumbersome and lack flexibility. So, if I’m holding a light and trying to focus/exposure, AND point-n-shoot, frame the image, I’m not going to get optimum results.

SureFire video light and mobile case
The video light mounted on a iph6

FirePak video light

Along comes the FirePak video light, charger and flashlight. SureFire’s design strategy is simple enough, integrate a phone case with rechargeable storage and 2 high-performance mobile LED lights with enough lumens designed for video for 16:9 video frames in a form factor compatible with multiple sizes of phone cameras. USB and micro-USB ports allow charging your cell phone from the charger, or an included cable can be used to recharge the FirePak video light. SureFire says it has an effective range of up to 50 feet and while the light does travel that far, usable lumens land in the mid-range.

When I picked up the FirePak for the first time, I was struck by the wedge shape that fit comfortably in my hand. At first, the squished wedge shape looks cumbersome. Pick it up and it feels completely different. If you can imagine a drip coffee cone with the tip cut off and both sides squished flatter into an oval shape, you can imagine the shape of this flashlight. The FirePak slides smoothly under the molded rails of the phone case snapping securely onto a stop that positions the LED lights in two positions with respect to the iPhone camera.

SureFire video light and mounting case
Features of the video light and mobile case

The durable case is built for rugged use (not moisture or water) with a 4-level light switch and distinct illumination levels. Design-wise the features are functional while dramatically expanding your performance—as a video light or a back-up battery.

LED lights create enough lumens for 16:9 video frames

When I switched it on, the double LED “eyes”  emitted two blinding rays of light, even at the lowest setting. I wondered when I might use that much light? However, once you turn it on at night, you discover the benefit of blinding light.

At the highest setting the bulbs create significant heat, so don’t be surprised when you touch it. As an illumination device, there is enough light to do fine work, like reading or repairing, too. A distinct setting for faces for interviews would be a good user feature, just in case you are listening, SureFire?

It’s kinda tough to steady the cell when the light is installed on the case because of the extra weight and thickness requires your normal hand position to block the LEDs. Your hand size and strength will discover what position is best for you. I had to adjust as shown in the pictures below. It’s quite difficult to switch on/off the light without shaking the image. Shooting vertically is difficult for the same reasons, so you’ll have to learn how to control the frame with two hands.

SureFire video light
Normal hand position for mobile recording

SureFire video light
You may have to modify your hand position for this video light

If I were a DP on a film using cell-phone video, and this light, I would make sure there were several on charge at all times. No one wants to wait for your only battery to charge. A question a newbie DP might ask is: How long will one last? So, test your equipment before shoot day, OK?

Charging the unit

Charging the unit was problematic, as my first attempts failed, due I believe to a mismatched charger plug. Initially, I began charging the Firepak using a USB port built into a small power strip. After two days, the blinking red light indicated it was not fully charged, though I thought it might be close to fully charged, so I began to charge my cellphone at 5%. I recorded the time and charging rate at 10% intervals but at 57% the FirePak fully discharged and stopped charging the cell battery. I reached out to Rob Kay of Guns and Tech, he suggested using a direct charging plug and trying again. Once I plugged it into a 2A charger direct to the plug, it charged up overnight.

All in all, this unit is a good buy for those who want to expand their video capabilities to low-night-time conditions. It is small and powerful enough to have in your toolbox, just in case. It is durable and useful for most cellphone recording situations. And, it serves well as a flashlight illuminator during emergencies and when you might need a torch to light your path.

Whether you already have a youtube channel, are a budding professional videographer, or just want the firepower to be able to record life’s dark moments, FirePak is an excellent choice for all. You can see the FirePak in action at the manufacturer’s website:

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GoalZero & Sunjack reviews


Portable Powerpack Solar panel reviews

As everyone who lives here knows, Hawaii is no stranger to power outrages. The last big storm that came through knocked power out on the North Shore for half a day, yet that of course would be child’s play, if we got hit by something the magnitude of Iniki or Irma. As we all know, it’s just a matter of time.

So, how to charge our devices, in this event? Not everyone can afford a gas-powered generator (at least $1000) much less deal with the hassle of storing fuel. There are a few fixes that will at least keep small devices like your phone, pad, flashlight or radio powered up.

The first option, and the least expensive, is to stock up on batteries. The industry standard for modern flashlights, radios, lanterns, etc is the 18650 Li-Ion battery. Get yourself a battery charger to keep them topped off.

If you want to charge devices such as tablets, cell phones, etc., you’ll need to get some type of powerbank, essentially a battery with ports that allow you to charge any USB-based device. I’d suggest, opting for a portable solar panel which can assist in charging small devices, and keeping powerbanks topped off. There are a number of them available for backpackers or home users.

Input: Solar panels with charging cable arrangement. Output: Panel—>Powerpak—>Phone is the correct order

Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Kit

With a little research, I soon came upon the weatherproof GoalZero Zero Venture 30 portable power-bank phone, tablet & solar panel combo. It is a compact kit that includes storage and recharger. The kit is designed for the backpacker or traveler but anyone with charging needs in an emergency can benefit from this system.

Designed to charge point-of-view cameras, tablets, phones and other USB compatible devices, it’s 28 Wh (3.6V 7800 mAh) rechargeable battery can be coupled with a Nomad 7, 13 or 20-watt solar panel. Together they weigh a little more than 1-½ pounds. Built for travel or backpacking, for home use, it’s a bit under-powered.

Output kit showing cable types and solar panel chaining feature

The battery unit has been designed to be weatherproof (light rain not submersion) and shock-proof (moderate impact resistance) and can remember charging profiles of the devices you connect. The battery can be placed into a protective shipping mode designed to avoid self-discharge during periods of storage. For natural disasters, fully charging the battery and then placing it in storage mode for future use, is recommended prior to the event. Such a practice extends battery life significantly. The manufacturer claims “hundreds of life charging cycles” for the battery. The battery has two USB ports each capable of dishing out 2.4A each just like a plug version would. Apple, Android and Windows devices compatible with the output cables above.

This system included a 7-watt panel. While a standard 2A USB plug-in source can charge the battery in as little as 5 hours, charging times will vary from 16-hours with the 7-watt panel to 6-hours with the 20 watt panel. Priced accordingly, an innovative aspect of this kit is up to 4 solar panels can be chained together via the chaining input port.  Remember, battery and device charging times will depend on both the panels capacity, the angle of the sun to the panels, and the amount of sunlight available in your geographic location.

Test setup: Input (solar panels) and Output (cable types): Panel—>Powerpak—>Phone is the correct order

During periods of use, charge the battery fully first, then connect to the battery and charge your devices is the recommended use cycle. And, don’t forget to place the recharger in storage mode before you put it away for future use. Prior to an emergency, I suggest a dry run with the devices you plan to use before the emergency occurs so you understand the limits and capabilities of your Venture 30 Solar panel recharger kit.

SunJack 14W solar charger with 1o000mAh battery pack retails for $169 and is a good bet for camping or home use.

Sunjack 14W Portable Solar Charger + Powerbank

Another solar panel/powerbank combo we tested was the Sunjack 14W Portable Solar Charger + Powerbank.

The solar charger has four panels and when folded is about the size of an Apple iPad. It folds into a rugged nylon case, which can be quickly unfolded and hung up to face the sun. A mesh pouch on the rear holds the charging port and cables, the devices to be charged, and the battery pack. It has a series of grommets along the edges of the panel so that you can easily attach it to your backpack.

The panels provide up to 14W of 5 volt USB power under a bright sun ideally producing 2,000mAh every hour. That means you can recharge the powerbank that comes with it in about 4 hours (under a bright Hawaii sun).

Sunjack’s powerbank includes Qualcomm’s “Quick Charge 3.0” technology, which speeds up charging appreciably if the device on the other end (in this case my phone) also has “Quick Charge” capabilities.

The panels provide up to 14W of 5 volt USB power under a bright sun ideally producing 2,000mAh every hour. That means you can recharge the powerbank that comes with it in about 4 hours (under a bright Hawaii sun).

According to the experts I spoke to at 1.5-2Ah is the minimum acceptable usable panel output.

Otherwise, charging your powerbank, or anything else, will take a full day. The Sunjack 14 W system, which retails for $149 (with the power bank) is a good place to start. You could also consider their 20W kit with 2 lithium battery packs, for $169.

The Sunjack’s 10,000mAh Advanced Powerbank, which comes with the solar kit (or sells separately for $29) has three ports, the standard USB, the micro USB and the new USB-C. What I really like is that it comes with Qualcomm’s “Quick Charge 3.0” technology. This means if you have a phone or other device that is “quick charge” compatible (such as my Samsung 7) this little unit will charge your device (according to the manufacturer) up to 80% faster.

A mesh pouch on the rear holds the charging port and cables, the devices to be charged, and the battery pack. (Courtesy Tim Yan photo)

Whether it’s 80% or 59% faster is anyone’s guess but it’s fast. My cell phone was charged in about 20 minutes. In an emergency situation this could be crucial.

I’d certainly recommend this nifty little combo from SunJack.

The takeaway on this piece is the larger solar charging unit you can afford, the better. What’s more, if you can get a combo that comes with a fast-charging powerbank, assuming your devices also have this capability, get one.

Editor’s Note: Rob Kay contributed to this article

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Earth Day 2017


Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 11.10.37 AMHow many of you remember the first time you saw our Earth? This view of ourselves embedded in a living planet, wrapped in oneness, exploded into our collective consciousness.

Did you know soon after this view of our whole planet was available to us, the modern global environmental movement was birthed?

“Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from the outside, is available, a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.” – Sir Fred Hoyle, 1948

For many Americans, perhaps the entire human population, this picture has sparked a collective shift about our planet. For the first time in history, we saw that we are all on a canoe—one race of islanders afloat in a sea of space.

This photo was taken from Apollo 8 on Christmas eve 1968 while scouting for a moon landing site. The crew lost radio contact with NASA going around the back of the moon and took this photo when they re-emerged from the dark side of the moon.

Imagine… as they rounded the moon’s edge, they saw our Earth some 240,000 miles away—glowing in deep blue framed by white clouds—embedded in seemingly empty space. The surface features in the foreground are on the eastern limb of the moon as viewed from our planet.

Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders had become the first humans to leave Earth orbit, entering lunar orbit on Christmas Eve 1968. In a historic live broadcast that night, the crew took turns reading from the Book of Genesis, closing with a holiday wish from Commander Borman: “We close Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 11.07.03 AMwith good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you—all of you on the good Earth.”

“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.” — Apollo 14 astronaut, Edgar Mitchell

As a species we had ventured beyond our Earth’s atmosphere into the sea of emptiness around our planet home. It was the first mission to leave Earth orbit and these were the first astronauts to see the Earth as a whole. Now we have the meta-view, a view of ourselves as one system, held together in space with no one to save us and no one more responsible than us for our shared destiny.

Within 2 years of publication of this perspective, 1970, the modern environmental movement was birthed, the first Earth Day was held, and the Federal Clean Air and Clean Water Acts were passed by a Republican, Richard Nixon, who clearly recognized the values of conservation, of clean air and water to all our people.

In 1970, with nine staff members and a $125,000 budget, a Washington, D.C.-based group organized the Environmental Teach-in, which would become became the first Earth Day.

 With then senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin as their champion, the staffers brought together volunteers in dozens of cities and college campuses around the country.

Judy Moody and Denis Hayes on April 22, 1970 with the first Earthday teach-in banner in the background

Hayes, who had dropped out of Harvard Law School the year before to join Senator Nelson’s project, also chaired the Earth Day anniversary celebrations in 1990 and 2000. 
”[Hayes was] the one who did the unglamorous, wearisome job of starting it up,” Ralph Nader told the New York Times in 1990. “[Hayes] is an orchestrator of environmental events which were national … and now are global.”

Like Earth, Hawaiian islands are remote and surrounded by a sea that restricts passage, yet, unlike Hawaii, humans do not have ships bringing food or water to Earth. There is no Planet B. We have no other home nor do we have alternative sources of food and water.

BruceJustinAlGore1999LtrEarth day 1970 celebrations in Hawaii were led by Bruce Justin Miller and his team at University of Hawaii. The events of the first Earth Day, were called the First National Environmental Teach-In. While I do not have any pictures from that day, I ran across this letter written from Al Gore to Bruce and his team in 1999.
[Click on the pictures to expand them into larger sizes for reading or to download.]

And, these micro-fiche snippets from Star-Bulletin and Honolulu Advertiser, are illustrative of the energy and interest of folks then. Thanks to Dave Atcheson.

HonoluluAdvertiser_EarthDay1970In the Honolulu-Advertiser article was an a column advocating green practices. Notice it mentions the UH Earth Day event, and proposes ways for islanders to reduce waste by using reusable bags, making laundry soap, reducing car miles, and eliminating toxic cleaning products, and pesticides, such as DDT, etc.

Yet, here we are almost 50-years later debating those same ideas, because fossil fuel businesses have such a stranglehold on politics and people, we still cannot believe we can change our behaviors, it seems.StarBulletin04221970

 In the second article from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, dated April 22, 1970, a prophetic quote from scientist, Dr. J. Murray Mitchell Jr. who said, “…The release of increasing quantities of carbon dioxide and thermal pollution into the atmosphere threatens to change global weather and melt the polar ice, flooding wide areas. Man may begin to notice the change by the end of this century.”

For many GenX’ers, perhaps even Boomers—ahead of our time—that our society is still _talking_ about changing our behavior, almost 50-years later, reducing our waste and footprint on our only planet—still talking and not doing—induces major depression and climate angst. Yet, it is also the driving force for social improvement of our continued advocacy. As the 50th anniversary approaches of that moment when a picture of our Earth shimmering in space changed us forever, why not get involved with the Earth Day Network?

Riseup folks, we are much better than we have been programmed to believe! Stand up for the Earth on which you stand.

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Preparing for the Future of Work


Future of Work is Here

Each generation’s ability to advance their own destinies and contribute positively to subsequent generations is dependent on their awareness of how important it is to be future focused. The hourglass of time does not stop running, and it will take all of us, starting now, to imagine and work our way beyond the past we and our ancestors have created, yet where many surprisingly find ourselves stuck.

Look… the future is coming for you. Can you imagine a future-focused—worst and best-case scenario—a scenario largely dependent upon what we do now?

Starting with a pragmatic understanding of reality, as it is today—this moment—is crucial to effectively create our dreams in the future. It has been said, if you are anxious, you are focused too much on the future. If you are, regretful or depressed, too much on the past. If you are content, then you are present focused. Too much of one and you are stuck!

Near Future Scenario
Anyone Born after 2000 and Today’s High School Students

man-76196_1920Scenario…The year is 2025. Hawaii, like most of the U.S., has accelerated their shift to a model relying upon extended family groups. College debt has continued to rise and further compromised meager savings; increased long-term debt has become an unsustainable challenge for many parents and students, alike. Little attention has been focused on what courses and degrees will result in work (or jobs) for these youngsters who have grown up in an age of uncertainty. The poor have grown poorer, educational systems have not kept up with emerging market-driven needs and the middle-class, especially has continued to erode. The U.S. world educational ranking grade remains at a “C” – i.e., the bottom of the middle of the pack.

A different scenario…The year is still 2025.

Ostock-exchange-911608_1920ur educational institutions have responded to the revolutionary needs of students and provided them with expert guidance as to the set of courses that will ensure their best options in the future. Likewise, college costs have been eased by the inclusion of more virtual courses taught by world-renowned educators who inspire as well as instruct. Targeted technical knowledge, specific skills, flexibility and lifetime learning are now embraced by highly diverse mainstream workers. U.S. world educational rankings have risen to a “B” and we are on our way to an “A” ranking.

Now, today, ask yourself:

The Playbook for Teens is co-authored by Hawaii Wingman, Carleen MacKay, who is the originator of a series of work-focused playbooks for several generations.
  • Are your children’s schools teaching robotics and new technologies at every age and level – from kindergarten on? Do you know?
  • Are you involved with your children’s teachers – challenging them to advocate for continuous improvement in teaching methodologies?
  • Have you read Playbook for Teens on Amazon? Might you inspire high-schoolers with the real-life stories of people, just a few years older than they are; people who can demonstrate winning game plans that will matter to their own futures.
  • Are you building blocks for future-focused viable careers by helping your children to find opportunities to learn well beyond the classroom walls?

The future will be determined by what we teach our children today

Pivot to the Pacific, into YOUR future.

workforcewingmentaglogoWe are your Wingmen

Reach out to your favorite wingman—we are multi-generational coaches. You will benefit from our proven 8-Step process. Let us guide you to what you need to know and do in order to advance your career in a time of hyper-shift. We can help you implement a plan that will work for you the day after the day after tomorrow.

Look us up on LinkedIn:  Carleen MacKay :: Rob Kinslow
Authors, Speakers, Emergent Workforce Experts

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What’s your calling?

What motivates you to get out into the urban world to stand and speak for positive vision of the future?

My inspiring brother, Blue eyes Tim Kinslow

In 2007, as he lay in the hospital, his body succumbing to the ravages of chemo and cancer, my younger brother called me out. I was there with about 30 of his family and friends. Tim had been sitting quietly in his bed, propped up, yet with his head lowered, listening to the muffled banter from everyone. I was over at the door, opening and closing it softly so that the sudden sounds would not jar him, as he loved quiet stillness.

Suddenly, he raised his head, looked me in the eyes from across the room, and asked, “What are you doing over there, Robbie?”

Continue reading the rest of the story…

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Future of Work Trends


Think about five short years from now, UNLESS something radical changes…

By 2021…

  1. The old will be older and broker and millions, in this fastest aging of U.S. States, will increase dependence upon younger generations amid overburdened social and healthcare systems that are ready to plunge our economy into a state-of-disaster.
  1. Gen “Z” will be out in full force – half won’t be ready and many more will be denied access to specific skills and competencies the future demands. Increased negative economic and societal challenges will increase major differences. In Hawaii, for example, college costs will continue to rise much faster than subsequent wage growth.


  2. Hawaii’s workers will not be in the full-time, “job” workforce. In the private sector, needed skills, competencies and talent will be used when needed, if needed and as often as needed. The race to a safe haven in the public sector will be overtaken by underfunded pensions. Our ability to pay for the last of the “lifetime” jobs, already standing on shaky ground, will be vulnerable to changes you might not want to experience.

Yet, IF we straighten up and fly right… support our people,

By 2021…

  1. Old age will be re-defined and Kupuna will be encouraged to continue to contribute to the world of work – well into their 70’s, perhaps 80’s. Likewise, a shift to emerging active aging programs, such as health-focused Blue Zones project, will prove beneficial to all.generation-z_infographic
  1. Gen “Z” will have many more opportunities to learn at modest costs. Much of this learning will be online and will be augmented with the dedicated help of pensioned, older folks who will have the time and interest to actively mentor the most challenged of Gen Z’ers. And, by the way, the youngest among us will also mentor up to help Gen Y, X generations learn what they have to teach.
  1. We will all learn to manage our work lives as our businesses – not as simply jobs! We will embrace lifetime learning, a term that, once-upon-a-time, was simply granted lip service. We will grow our careers, re-align our lives in line with our own changing interests and changing technologies, re-boot old interests and help others to succeed.

We are your Wingmen

Look us up on LinkedIn:  Carleen MacKay ::  Rob Kinslow

The Science of Consciousness & Healing


I want to share a little-known secret for improving your quality of life, achieving deep healing and radiant health… even living longer… and better.

stream-1106336_1920(1)It’s not a new super-food.

It’s not a new yoga practice.

And, it’s certainly not a new pill…

It’s your own consciousness.   

Consciousness is the “x-factor” behind deep healing, radiant health and living a long, productive life — even as you advance into your 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond!

Yes, health and longevity originate in human consciousness and finds expression in body, mind, heart and soul.

If you’re curious about WHY this is so and, more importantly, want to discover tools you can use to shape your health and happiness, connect with Dr. Marilyn Schlitz. Marilyn has been at the forefront of fascinating and game-changing work in consciousness research, integrative medicine, longevity and healing. She brings more than 30 years experience and study with leading-edge scientists, healers and shamans.ConsciousnessHealing_intro_skyscraper

On Saturday, July 23, she will present a fascinating FREE online event: Using the Power of Your Consciousness for Healing: Discover the X-Factor in Creating Radiant Health.

During this exciting event, you’ll…

  • Receive a more complete picture of how healing really happens through consciousness
  • Discover the power of expectancy in creating pain and discomfort (and what you can do to shift it)
  • Recognize the importance of loving relationships in any healing process
  • Receive insights into the remarkable new findings that show you can consciously influence your genetics, as well as your endocrine and immune system

I invite you to join me for a mind-expanding hour on how to use the power of your consciousness for health and healing. 

True holistic health is so much more than managing your weight and cholesterol and hoping for the best… Marilyn will show you how you can work with your consciousness to achieve a quality life. Register here

be-1358282_1920Using the Power of Your Consciousness for Healing you’ll receive the latest scientific insights that demonstrate the power of your thoughts, emotions and relationships in shaping your health and happiness.

You’ll also be given simple practices to apply in your daily life.

If you can’t listen live, you’ll receive a downloadable replay of the event.

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Let’s talk about the Future of Work


Enough about the past; let’s talk about the future of work.

How, when and where will we work? 21stCenturywork

We are already working full-time, part-time, on-demand, temporarily, once-in-awhile… from home, from our car, a train, plane or automobile and from across town or across the world. We work for free, for a fee, for ourselves, for the good of others, for learning and/or for the fun of it! We gain-share, bargain or are paid an hourly rate.

The speed of change is accelerating. Within a year or two, few people will ask the question we are asking.

The more you have to offer the changed market, the more choices you’ll have to work in any – or all – ways we have just highlighted.

The more you prepare to meet the demands of change, the more adaptable you’ll be. The more you will be able to accommodate swiftly moving life circumstances and interests.

What are a few of the most recent changes that have affected how, who and where some of us will work in Hawaii in the near future?

hand-1112469_1920First, take a look at the on-demand world and you’ll soon have help with everything from Spring Cleaning to furniture packing. Haven’t heard about the hundreds of on-demand companies in Hawaii? Take a look at how many home food delivery options are a short 808 call away. Want a glass of wine with your dinner? Google “home wine delivery – Honolulu.” Prepare to see well over 150 home delivery options. Your favorite food and wine will be on your table within 24 to 48 hours.

These, and many other firms are delivering services and goods in new ways that will affect you—including, how you work, where you might work, or… how you shop!

The tip of an iceberg of change is floating your way. Keep looking. A new option will emerge tomorrow or the very next day. We’ll keep you posted to many of the changes.

Speaking of changes… here’s one to watch: reasonably long-term jobs with a good company began to change in the 1970’s and ‘80’s. Such jobs are now only one way of working and if trends are to be believed, also diminishing in numbers.

The On-Demand, Hyper-Shift, Work from Anywhere Economy is here. Everyone is now a business – including you!

It’s time to learn how to run You, Inc.
But, it’s a bad idea to solo,
at least until you are ready to fly without a wing-man.

Ask us how we can help you to prepare for a future that matters. Let’s #makeworkbetter, ok?

Look us up on LinkedIn:  Carleen MacKay :: Rob Kinslow :: Fabian Lewis

Story of a Freelancer


Story of a Freelancer
by Carleen MacKay
:: Rob Kinslow

In our April 5th post, we introduced you to the new world of work, to “Freelancers,” or people who work on behalf of organizations when and wherever needed.

pexels-photoBy 2020, according to a raft of experts, 40%+ of American workers will be “freelancers” in all sectors of the economy. Other experts predict the number may be as high as 50% by 2020.

Situation: This is the story of a real-life person. Our freelancer is someone who migrated from a dozen years of full-time work where he had been designated the “Employee of the Year” to being laid-off and forced to taste the painful and “Unexpected Freedom” of freelancing.outsource-1345109_1280

Goal: Although he submitted resumes for numerous full-time editorial and corporate communications positions, the response rate was low to non-existent. He was further encouraged to pursue freelancing by the lack of interest among prospective new employers, who tended to view his extensive experience and knowledge, not as an asset but as a negative option. Especially, when considered against hiring recent college graduates for a fraction of the salary, our story-teller felt he wanted or his experience deserved. He discovered the world of hiring in the new decade is not about experience and capabilities, but about casting ones portfolio within the needs of prospective clients. He learned to explore and market for this new business of freelancing.

Actions: He undertook face-to-face networking activities, while simultaneously expanding his LinkedIn profile and building a network of 500+ contacts. He accepted freelance opportunities that did not pay well, simply in order to gain experience. He began building a portfolio of work samples.

As time went by, he became adept at turning in quality work on tight deadlines, which drew the attention of new clients. Soon he landed two or three “anchor clients,” giving him a solid foundation of steady work at a respectable wage which, in turn, led to several large-scale web content projects.

By the end of his first year as a freelancer, entrepreneur-696966_1920he began to reap the benefit of client recommendations and word-of-mouth referrals.

Consequences: Our freelancer is now established in a successful freelance business. Not only does he have the comfort of working from home, his daily schedule allows time to play tennis and swim laps at his neighborhood club. He is no longer dependent upon a single company for his earnings, but instead works regularly for a wide range of clients – most of whom he has never met in person and with whom he stays in contact via various online modes of communications.

Lesson: Our freelancer learned the value of persistence by making strong use of online platforms and staying in touch with prospective clients. She has become adept at establishing his brand, at creating sales documents, at maximizing his profile on LinkedIn as well as at leveraging various social connections online as well as in person. He learned to set boundaries to client requests for uncompensated hours in order to prove his worth. Eagerness to work should not be over-used to extract uncompensated commitments or outcomes.

Credible experts predict that the workplace may be dominated by Freelancers in the next decade. Here’s a snippet, summarizing these predictions, from Thomas Frey (

“Virtually any company that cannot find ways to do things more efficiently and reduce costs will not survive. Business colonies are an organic process of matching labor to projects for the exact duration of the contract.  No more, no less.”                                                                                                                        

Do you want to learn how to Freelance? Ask us for help!

Look us up on LinkedIn:  Carleen MacKay :: Rob Kinslow

Would you like to learn about another way to work in the 21st century?

Look for our next post…

Questions? Answers? More posts by the author.
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Future of Work


Did you know? The Future of Work is HERE and NOW…

Jobs are disappearing from the future of work

The world is saying no to many traditional jobs these days.  Take a look at the truth of Work. Ensure you have a Future of Work

  • No political party can promise you a job. At best, they attempt to create platforms that will encourage business success, thus (presumably) encouraging hiring.

  • No private sector organization will hire you full-time, if you’re not needed full-time.

  • No public sector organization or institution can afford to ignore their enormous pension debts by continuing to hire as they have in the past.

Layoffs are the future of work

  • No large company is any safer, than any smaller company in terms of providing job security. The Fortune’s 100 companies (the largest employers) have had more than double the number of layoffs than non-Fortune’s 100 companies.

  • No, invention is not a birthright. New technologies have created thousands of new jobs, while causing the loss of thousands.

Future of Work is YOU

  • No end is in sight for the economic unrest that the world is facing. Economic unrest works for and against “jobs” in this country as elsewhere.

  • If pension-less workers do not continue to work, in some capacity, later in life, our economic system will be challenged to cope.

  • No, we cannot afford to overlook the aging of America. There are millions of Americans age 65 and older. Put this in perspective, in the United States there are more people 65 and older than in each of the entire Canadian and Australian populations. This demographic will double by 2030. More than 30% of the US workforce is 50+ years young.

  • No, the U.S. workforce is no longer competitive in the high-demand areas of mathematics and the sciences. Our children are fragmented into the haves and have-nots; our boomers are under-prepared for new massively disruptive challenges, retirement requirements and longer work lifetimes.

What are you willing to do to win your battle for the Future of Work? Will you find new ways to work? Can you see opportunities embedded within the many threats? Will you dare to do something different than experience dictates?

Join us now, fasten your space-suits, summon your reserve of courage for there are many, and often better, ways to work beyond the old world of the familiar. Let us tell you the stories of the pioneers of the future who have turned tomorrow’s threats into today’s opportunities!

Visit us at NewWorkForceHawaii and explore stories of inspiration written just for YOU.

Or, contact us via our LinkedIn Profiles:

Carleen MacKay ::  Angelica Lewis :: Fabian Lewis :: Rob Kinslow

Leadership Learning from the Wheel

Movement Model of Behavior

Learning from the Wheel of Life
Figure 1: Movement Model of Behavior

Leadership Learning:

According to my Native heritage, teachings and wisdom, recognition of Our ancestors, who’ve prepared the path of life for us, must be acknowledged. My teachers and mentors inspired me to leadership. Our relationships can include those with those who have gone before and those yet to come. Honoring and acknowledging those on whose shoulders we stand, connecting and communicating with our past and future, are fundamental practices of sustainable development. Me, you, we are all a bridge between the ancestors and those yet to come. Leadership from Learning is key.

Figure 1 shows how you may exemplify leadership learning. Read more here, or connect with me on LinkedIn

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Governor urged to review new research before deciding on minimum-wage hike


A popular 2010 study claiming minimum-wage hikes do not cause ‘economic shocks’ has just been reanalyzed and overturned 

HONOLULU, May 17, 2022 >> The consensus in Hawaii seems to be that Gov. David Ige will sign HB2510, raising the state’s hourly minimum wage from $10.10 to $18 over the next six years. But maybe new research by one of the nation’s leading minimum-wage researchers will help change his mind.

Economist David Neumark, along with colleagues Priyaranjan Jha and Antonio Rodriguez-Lopez, all of the University of California, Irvine, recently examined a popular 2010 paper often cited in defense of minimum-wage increases and found its methodology to be inadequate and its conclusion erroneous.

As Neumark, Jha and Rodriguez-Lopez explain in their study — “What’s across the Border? Re-Evaluating the Cross-Border Evidence on Minimum Wage Effects,” published just this month[1] — it can be useful to estimate the “economic shocks” of minimum-wage increases by comparing changes in “local economic areas” that span state borders, since this allows researchers to separate the actual effects of minimum wages from other changes in local economic conditions.

However, they say, the 2010 paper examining employment in restaurants and other low-wage sectors used “local economic areas” made up of pairs of counties on opposite sides of state borders, without regard to whether their economies were related. As a result, the 2010 paper concluded that minimum wage increases on one side of the border did not reduce employment there in the targeted sectors.[2]

Neumark’s new study, on the other hand, used a more natural definition for local economic areas — commuting zones that span state borders.

In an email to the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, Neumark said commuting zones are a much more compelling way to control for economic shocks because they are defined as “common economic areas.” Some of the county pairs in the 2010 study, by comparison, “may be economically unrelated and hence not serve as good controls. Indeed, as the [new] paper notes, some of the authors of the 2010 study have made this very argument.”

Neumark’s new study explains that commuting zones are groups of counties with strong commuting ties based on U.S. Census journey-to-work data. Specifically, they are intended for use as spatial measures of local labor markets, which is “not necessarily the case for county pairs: Even if they are contiguous, two isolated U.S. counties may share little or no commuting and economic activity.”

Thus, Neumark’s new study overturns the results of the 2010 study, finding that the evidence points rather sharply toward restaurant employment declines in response to higher minimum wage.

“In the short run,” Neumark said by email, “the evidence indicates that a 10% increase in the minimum wage reduces employment by 2.4%, and in the longer run by 6.9%.”

Keli‘i Akina, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii president and CEO, said he hopes Ige will take a little more time to study this latest minimum-wage research before deciding on whether to sign HB2510 into law.

“Gov. Ige has qualified economic advisers with whom he can discuss this,” Akina said. “I urge them all to read professor Neumark’s latest research so they can see for themselves that we simply must not enact the drastic wage increase that HB2510 calls for.”

He continued: “There are many ways to help lower-income people increase their purchasing power and improve their standard of living, but increasing the state’s minimum wage isn’t one of them. If the governor wants more information about those other ways, the institute would be happy to offer suggestions, many of which are included in our 2020 report ‘Road map to prosperity: How Hawaii can recover and even excel after the coronavirus lockdowns.’”

Akina hosted Neumark — one of the top 5% of published economists in the U.S. based on the number of his distinct works, citations and other criteria — on his “Hawaii Together” program in March on ThinkTech Hawaii to talk about the minimum wage, which you can view here. Akina also wrote two “President’s Corner” columns on the issue, hereand here.

You can read the institute’s testimony on HB2510 here. And institute policy researcher Jensen Ahokovi produced an outstanding commentary on the issue, “Five myths about the minimum wage.” 

[1] David Neumark, Priyaranjan Jha and Antonio Rodriguez-Lopez, “What’s across the Border? Re-Evaluating the Cross-Border Evidence on Minimum Wage Effects,” IZA Institute of Labor Economics, May 2022.
[2] Arindrajit Dube, T. William Lester and Michael Reich, “Minimum Wage Effects Across State Borders: Estimates Using Contiguous Counties,” The Review of Economics and Statistics, November 2010. See also

Questions persist about viability of Honolulu rail


By Keli’i Akina

At this point, the one thing we can rely on concerning the Honolulu rail project is the long list of unanswered questions. Among them:

>> How much will it really cost? 

>> How will we pay for its future operations and maintenance? 

>> Will it ever be completed, and if so, when? 

Those were questions we were asking a decade ago, and those are questions that we are still asking now.

In fact, I asked them again this past Monday on my “Hawaii Together” program on ThinkTech Hawaii, while hosting one of the most influential people in Hawaii who might know some of the answers: Natalie Iwasa.

Iwasa spoke in her private capacity as a community activist, certified public accountant and licensed fraud investigator. But she also is a member of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, the city agency in charge of building the rail system. Throughout her 17-month tenure with HART, she has become well-known for asking the hard questions about the system that taxpayers want answered. 

Natalie Iwasa

Like many of us, Iwasa is concerned about costs. First, there is the final price tag on construction, which we’ve seen jump from its original price tag of $3.5 billion to its current estimate of nearly $13 billion. As big as that number is, it’s still smaller than the estimate for finishing the project in full.

As Iwasa explained, the new plan involves ending the line at the Civic Center and making other cuts and changes, like eliminating the Pearl Highlands Parking Garage.

“Really, the cost for that garage is outrageous,” she explained. “It was $330 million. I think it was like $200,000 per stall. To put that into perspective, this is actually in the plan. They had asked a contractor who recently built a garage on-island — I don’t know exactly where — but that cost was like $35,000 to $45,000 per stall. You can see HART’s estimate for the Pearl Highlands Garage is like four times as much. It is just outrageous.”

The good news, Iwasa says, is that the wheel and track issues have been resolved and construction is more than half done. While some have said the rail is 75% complete, Iwasa prefers to think of it as closer to 64%, due to some stations that still need to be finished. 

However, with several major hurdles still ahead, including complex construction requirements in the Dillingham area, Iwasa isn’t confident about the cost projections:

“I personally don’t feel comfortable with the numbers because of the history,” she said. “The major contract we have is from Middle Street to now the Civic Center. We’ve seen time and time again how those estimates have been blown out of the water. So if that contract comes in higher than what is anticipated, or there’s something along Dillingham Boulevard with the utility relocation that comes up, it’s just going to really mess things up as far as the finances go.”

Not only does she worry that the additional $1.4 billion being sought for completion of the project won’t be sufficient, she is concerned about ongoing operations costs. Ultimately, those will fall on the taxpayers, as the HART plan depends on taxes for continued funding. 

As a CPA, Iwasa sees a “big flag” in the generous assumptions made about the state’s general excise and transient accommodations tax collections over the next 10 years, which don’t account for policies that could depress tourism, such as laws that resulted in an atypical bump in tax revenues and Honolulu County’s recently enacted Bill 41, which will largely wipe out Hawaii’s economically significant short-term rental market.

Iwasa said she thinks things have improved under HART’s new leadership in terms of transparency, but HART’s lack of forthrightness still is hurting the project. For example, she said, HART last year produced a list of 25 alternatives to the current rail plans, yet it has never been part of a public discussion. 

She also pointed to the agency’s new recovery plan, which would end the rail at the Civic Center and have its riders switch from there to “bus rapid transit.” 

“The plan is to create a lot of feeder buses and take away some of the express buses. Why aren’t we putting that out there, so those people who are planning on riding the rail understand that they’re going to have to get on a bus, off the bus, on the rail, off the rail, on a bus, off the bus? I think those types of things are still not being discussed, and I’m sure there are other examples that people can come up with.”

Of course, there are other questions as well. For example, if the Federal Transit Administration accepts the new plan, when and how will the rail be completed? And at what cost? 

The fact that there is so much uncertainty surrounding the project makes it all the more important that the public stay involved and active. For Iwasa, public participation remains the most vital part of the process.

“I just would really like to stress that people should testify,” she said. “I get it: People are tired of feeling like they’re not being heard. But it is so important, it is critical that you keep telling your decision-makers, your elected leaders, what you think. And, I tell you, it’s going to stay on the record and it’s so important. So that would be, I think, the most important comment that I can make.”

To which I would add: Hear hear. I couldn’t agree more.

Keli’i Akina is president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

More Bills in the Home Stretch


In last week’s column we started a list of bills that the Hawaii Legislature has passed up to the Governor for action.  Here’s a list of some of the eyebrow-raising bills that have gone to the fifth floor.

Senate Bill 3040 is a bill sponsored by the Department of Accounting and General Services, which handles a lot of the purchasing for the State.  It wants to build an automated procurement system that is electronic, accounting-oriented, multi-module, and data-based that integrates procurement activities from solicitation to contract management.  So far, so good; such a system sounds way better than the manually intensive processes we have now.  But part of the bill requires the procurement office to collect a transaction fee for the use of the procurement automation systems to cover the costs.  Which seems to mean that if I am selling something to the State and I want to get paid, I need to pay the State for the privilege of getting paid.  Even better, if I want to put in a bid so that the State might buy my products or services, I need to shell out a few bucks for the privilege of offering my wares, whether or not they get purchased.  Excuse me, but we already tax the businesses who are selling things to the State.  This bill, it seems, will raise the costs of things that the State purchases even more.

House Bill 2179, sponsored by the Department of Taxation, allows the Department to convert tax liens to civil judgments if 365 days pass from the date of recording with no response or action by the taxpayer.  Why do they want to do this?  Recall that back in 2009, lawmakers adopted a 15-year statute of limitations for the collection of taxes, meaning that if you owe back taxes and the Department hasn’t managed to beat the money out of you in 15 years, the Department can stop searching for your money and leave you alone.  (The comparable period for federal taxes is ten years.)  But if this bill becomes law, a tax lien can be converted to a civil judgment just before the 15th year expires.  Civil judgments have their own life of ten years and can be extended for another ten years.  Meaning that the Department can do an end run around the 15-year statute of limitations and keep going after a hapless taxpayer for up to 35 years!  Unless, of course, the taxpayer takes “action” or makes a “response,” with neither term defined in the law.

House Bill 137, another 2021 bill that got dusted off this session, deals with the county liquor commission and its powers to investigate liquor licensees.  There’s a State tax on liquor sales, and current law says that if a liquor commission investigator finds out that liquor tax hasn’t been paid the investigator can rat out the licensee to the Department of Taxation.  Under the bill, that will no longer be legal and the Department of Taxation will need to use its own investigative resources to root out liquor tax scofflaws.  I wonder if that means the Department of Taxation will need to be sending investigators to the local bars and buying drinks, at taxpayer expense, “to figure out whether they’re paying their taxes.”  In any event, it seems a waste to send law enforcement investigators in and prevent them from reporting any observed violations to another law enforcement agency.

And, last but not least, Senate Bill 2379 allows the Department of Taxation’s Special Enforcement Section to examine any sector of the state’s economy, initiate civil investigations, and use enforcement and education to deter taxpayer noncompliance.  These are tasks entrusted to the Department generally, so why call them out specifically for this one piece of the Department?  The answer is money, of course.  The Special Enforcement Section can spend money in the Tax Administration Special (slush) Fund, which we have written about before.  That fund, which is fed by certain tax collections and fines, became a cash cow for the Department, so much so that the Legislature raided $15 million from the fund last session.  The Department, like many of the other state departments, apparently feels that it is entitled to grab some of the tax collections and use them for itself before the Legislature and the other departments get their grubby mitts on that moola.  This is a trend in government behavior that we should be reversing, not fostering.

Again, June 27 is the next magic date – that’s when the Governor has to announce his “intent to veto” list.

Lockdowns without limits can happen again if changes not made


By Melissa Newsham

It has been more than two years since Hawaii’s coronavirus restrictions were put into place, and as they have slowly been lifted, life in the islands is finally starting  to resemble the pre-pandemic “normal.”

We must remember, however, that these restrictions can easily be reinstated with the stroke of a pen because our state’s emergency-management law has not changed. 

This could all happen again unless necessary checks are put in place. 


Understandably, many seem to want to just forget about the crippling economic hardship, social isolation, ideological polarization and general uncertainty of the last two years. 

Legislation has been proposed that would establish limits on the governor’s powers durng an emergency. However, it will all be for naught if it doesn’t ensure that so-called “emergencies’’ cannot be endlessly or arbitrarily renewed. 

Throughout the lockdowns, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has been calling on our legislative leaders to put the brakes in place that would prevent the governor from perpetually renewing emergency orders without legislative approval.

Hawaii’s COVID-19 restrictions are waning, but our emergency-management statute remains fundamentally the same. 

So we should not feel like party poopers when the state still has the same tools in hand to shut down everyday activities — including schools and people’s livelihoods — for extended periods with virtually no limits. 

We should celebrate the lifting of mandates and be encouraged by the economic recovery that is underway. 

But let us continue to advocate for a better balance between the executive’s emergency powers, our freedoms and government accountability.

Melissa Newsham is a research associate with the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

Emergency powers reform would be crowning achievement for Gov. Ige


By Keli’i Akina

The 2022 Legislative session is officially over, and now we turn to the governor.

Which bills will he sign right away? Which will he veto? Which will he allow to become law without his signature?

For a full analysis and discussion of the 2022 session, I urge you to attend the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii’s upcoming legislative wrap-up seminars, May 16, 17 and 18 in Honolulu, Kahului and Kailua-Kona, respectively, featuring three of my institute colleagues: Malia Blom Hill, Ted Kefalas and Joe Kent.

However, for the benefit of Gov. David Ige, who has some big decisions ahead of him, I have some advice. Specifically, here are three bills he should sign immediately and two that he should veto:

SignSB3089the emergency powers bill.

Since the earliest days of the coronavirus lockdowns, the Grassroot Institute has urged that Hawaii’s emergency management law be reformed. As we have all witnessed during the past two years, the law is vague in its discussion of emergency extensions and gives too much unchecked power to the executive. 

SB3089 would correct those problems by insisting that the powers exercised must be consistent with the state Constitution, that any suspension of laws must be justified and that there should be some protection against the suspension of the state’s open-records law. Most critically, it would enable the Legislature to terminate an emergency period by a two-thirds vote. 

I hope that the governor will recognize the importance of restoring the constitutional balance of powers and sign SB3089. Though the COVID-19 emergency is ending, we must be prepared to handle future emergencies. Reforming the emergency powers law is essential to our future.

VetoHB2510the minimum-wage bill.

Despite the pleas of business owners warning that such a steep wage hike could force them to close their doors, the Legislature went ahead and approved one anyway, in the form of HB2510. 

The final compromise on the bill seeks to nearly double the existing minimum wage within six years, taking it to $18/hour by January 2028. Though it also would increase the tip credit over the same period and make the earned income tax credit permanent, that would not be enough to offset the damage this bill will likely cause.

As the Grassroot Institute explained in its testimony on this bill, such a wage hike will hurt local businesses while doing little to help working families. If the point is to make Hawaii more affordable, then HB2510 is likely to have the opposite effect, operating as an anchor on our economic recovery. 

The political pressure to enact this bill is significant, but the governor should look at the research on the minimum wage, veto this bill and choose a more effective way to help improve purchasing power in our state.

SignSB514the taxpayer refund.    

It looks like Hawaii taxpayers are going to receive rebates of $100 to $300, but I am disappointed that the proposed refund isn’t greater. Given Hawaii’s current $4 billion surplus, a refund closer to $1,000 each would easily have been possible. 

However, $300 for single filers with an adjusted gross income under $100,000 and joint filers under $200,000, and $100 for those with an income above each threshold is definitely better than the earlier suggestion of $100 for all. 

The governor deserves praise for suggesting the taxpayer refund in the first place, and I can’t imagine that he won’t sign this bill. After the challenges of the last two years, Hawaii’s taxpayers deserve a break.

VetoHB1147the HTA funding bill.

There is a lot to criticize in the last-second rush to fund the Hawaii Tourism Authority. 

Not only did the Legislature throw together two “gut and replace” bills with different approaches to oversight and funding of the HTA, it then discarded both in conference committee, leaving the tourism agency with no funding at all. At the last possible moment, a capital improvements bill from 2021 that never even mentioned the HTA was revived, “gutted” and “replaced” with a $60 million appropriation for the agency.

Not only was the process to pass HB1147 flawed, it continues the questionable policy of using taxpayer funds to support the visitor industry. Tourism can pay for its own promotion without state funds. Gov. Ige should make a major policy statement by vetoing HB1147.

SignHB1837the “Yes in My Backyard” bill.

An earlier version of HB1837, dubbed the “Yes In My Backyard” bill, would have required that the counties identify and remove their barriers to affordable housing. Its final version seeks only to create a working group that would report on efforts to reduce county barriers to affordable housing and propose legislation. 

Admittedly, this would be just a small step towards dismantling the laws and regulations that make housing more expensive in our state, but it would be a step in the right direction.

There are other important bills that Gov. Ige will be considering, but I hope he pays special attention to the ones listed above. 

If you want to encourage him to do so — or if you want to voice your opinion on any pending legislation — you can write to him using the Grassroot Institute’s action page. It’s an easy way to make your voice heard. 

After such a busy legislative season, I am thankful to all of you who participated in the process, whether you sent a letter, made a call or just supported those who did. 

Let’s keep working together to make a better, more prosperous Hawaii.

Keli’i Akina is president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

Bills in the Home Stretch


The Hawaii Legislature is done for the year.  Its last day for this session was May 5th.  It has done all its work on new laws for this season.  Some of the bills it finally passed have already been signed into law.  Others are awaiting the Governor’s action.  Now the important deadlines are June 27, 2022, when the Governor needs to give notice of intent to veto a bill, and July 12, 2022, which is the deadline for the Governor to sign or veto any bills.

Some of the more consequential bills that now await the Governor’s action:

Senate Bill 514 proposes to give every resident a tax refund.  The refund amount is $300 per exemption (which includes self, spouse, and dependents) or, for those households making $100,000 or more, $100 per exemption.  To get the refund, a resident needs to file a 2021 income tax return on or before December 31, 2022.  Many residents have already filed this return.  If you are on extension, don’t delay too long!  Also, the bill drops $300 million into the State‘s pension program and $500 million into the rainy day fund.  We’ve previously covered this bill in a Frivolous Fable.

Senate Bill 3201 fundamentally changes the way tax-exempt organizations are treated under the GET Law.  For a nonprofit to be taxable under federal standards, it has to be conducting a business unrelated to its tax-exempt mission.  For a nonprofit to be taxable under the GET, it only needed to be raising money.  This bill will adopt the federal standards for the GET, making it easier for nonprofits to keep track of the rules.  We wrote that this bill would be a game-changer for nonprofits.

House Bill 2511 authorizes a $600 million cash infusion into our Department of Hawaiian Home Lands,  To many of the Native Hawaiians who had been patiently waiting for Hawaiian homestead lands for years or decades – more than 28,700 are on the list now – this historic funding seems to be a welcome relief.  We pointed out that DHHL experienced some inability to spend down the money it was given; specifically federal funds.  As we wrote earlier, we hope that DHHL can put that questionable past behind and do some good for the Native Hawaiians who benefit from the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920.

Senate Bill 3289 establishes the Hawaii Retirement Savings Program, a concept heavily pushed by AARP this year.  The idea is for the State to establish a program that private sector companies and employees can opt into.  For small employers that have to pay oodles of money to keep their own employee retirement plan going, it would be a chance for them to ditch their current plan and adopt the State plan, or for small employers who had given up on retirement plans for their workers because of the associated costs, it would be a chance for them to offer retirement plan benefits once again.

Senate Bill 2475 gives an exemption from the GET for stevedoring services, as well as wharfage and demurrage fees that are paid to the Department of Transportation.  These fees are unique to the industry of transporting goods by sea.  Some time ago, we noted that the federal government came out with an executive order against detention and demurrage charges, and argued that we really shouldn’t be taxing transportation of goods when we depend on that transportation for our very existence.  This bill, by knocking the GET off these fees, should be a step toward lowering our stratospheric cost of living.  It also promotes more equality between water and air transportation of goods because federal law prevents us from applying our GET to air transportation.

We’ll be covering more of these bills in articles to come.

To GET or Not to GET – SVOG and RRF Are the Questions


The COVID-19 pandemic made history both here and abroad, but for different reasons.  Here, it was remembered not only for the 1,400 lives it claimed, but also for the businesses it hurt or ruined.  Our experience was similar to other States across the country, and our federal government stepped in to give us some economic assistance that, we hoped, would blunt the impact of stay-at-home orders and forced business closures.

That economic assistance came in the form of some very different federal programs.

Everyone got a couple of rounds of stimulus checks.  The Feds and we said it’s not income and we won’t tax it.  No income tax, no GET.

The unemployed got some extra unemployment compensation.  The Feds didn’t tax it, up to $10,000 in 2020.  We did.  We made people pay income tax, but not GET.

Then came the forgivable loans:  PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) and EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) is what they were called.  They initially were loans to affected businesses, but the businesses obtained forgiveness of all or a part of the loans, meaning that the businesses could keep the money.  For tax purposes, loans you get aren’t income because you need to pay the money back.  But when the debt is forgiven, the amount of forgiven debt is income.  The Congress said that PPP forgiveness doesn’t count as income but EIDL forgiveness does.  So, we said that for income tax purposes we would do the same thing.

And then, for GET we said (in Tax Information Release 2020-06):  “The general rule is that amounts received by a business that replace income are subject to GET.  Thus, grants or other payments that replace or supplement income are normally subject to GET.  However, in light of the severity of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, GET will not be imposed on payments received under PUA, loan amounts forgiven under PPP, and EIDL Grants. These amounts will be treated as exclusions from gross receipts and should not be reported on GET returns.”

Usually, “severity of the economic impact” is not a legitimate reason why laws that apply to other people or in other situations independently of economic consequence don’t apply here.  If our lawmakers pass laws that modify the rules, that’s fine.  Or if they pass laws that say that the agency can consider economic impact, perhaps among other things, and grant relief from this or that legal requirement, that’s fine too.  Or the Governor could come in and suspend the laws because of the emergency, which he had been doing on a regular basis with emergency proclamations.  But no laws were passed modifying the rules or granting the Department of Taxation the authority to bend the laws, and the Governor’s proclamations didn’t suspend the tax code (except to shut off the flow of TAT money to the counties).

Now, we have restaurants and bars getting grants from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF).  And we have entertainment venues getting grants under the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program.  The Department of Taxation has yet to officially tell us whether the GET will take a bite out of these grants, although Department staff have informally said that they would be taxable because of the “general rule” quoted above.

But what about severity of the economic impact?  Does that count anymore?  Restaurants and bars getting RRF money, or entertainment venues getting SVOG dollars, need to show pandemic-related revenue loss before the Feds will give them money.  Does that matter at all?

What say you, Department of Taxation?  To GET or not to GET, that is the question today.

Are we on the verge of a historic change in state tourism policy?


Photo by Charley Myers

By Keli’i Akina

It looks like we could be on the verge of a new tourism policy for Hawaii.

Legislators have been dickering this past week over how much money the state tourism agency should receive and under what conditions. Ultimately, however, the state Hawaii Tourism Authority might receive no funding at all.

Which would be ideal.

As Allison Schaefers reported yesterday in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Hawaii legislators strongly disagreed over two bills that would fund the HTA.

One group disliked the micromanaging that HB1785 would impose on the HTA, while other lawmakers opposed the creation of a new special fund and commission that were central to SB775.

Both bills passed each chamber, but neither actually made it to a conference committee hearing. As of today, HB1785 is dead, while SB775 can still be revived if the Senate agrees to the House’s amendments by May 5.

With no appropriation, the fate of the HTA is uncertain. The House and Senate have effectively defunded the HTA by leaving it out of the final version of this year’s budget bill.

If this turns out to be the final statement on the HTA’s future, no tax dollars will be spent on destination management or advertising, and the industry will be on its own. Instead of propping up an agency that either micromanages tourism or uses tax dollars to promote it, the state government will be out of the tourism business altogether.

To be clear, defunding the HTA should not be misconstrued as opposition to tourism. Rather, it is a philosophical statement about the state’s practice of supporting and promoting — and increasingly “managing” — one specific commercial enterprise over others.

No matter how important tourism might be to our economy, it is not the state’s job to be favoring specific companies or business sectors. Moreover, the tourism industry, especially, is quite capable of paying its own bills, and has been for a very long time.

Just last month, U.S. visitor arrivals to Hawaii came roaring back after two years of coronavirus lockdowns, and the tourist numbers are sure to go higher once visitors from Japan are back in the mix.

Of course, given the statements made to the Star-Advertiser by tourism officials about the importance of the HTA, the Legislature might not be finished with state-funded tourism. However, if funding is restored, that would present us with the irony of the state promoting visitor arrivals even as the counties attempt to limit or “manage” them.

Whatever the Legislature decides, Hawaii’s contradictory approach to tourism is not viable in the long-term.

As my colleague Joe Kent, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii executive vice president, said yesterday in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the Legislature has been asking the wrong questions about the HTA’s future.

“The real question,” he said, “is whether the HTA should be funded at all, since it would save tax dollars and foster economic sustainability to let the tourism industry pay for its own advertising and management.”

Keli’i Akina is president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

Jones Act is ‘pro-American’ only if failure is the policy metric


A Washington Times article claims the 1920 law is “pro-American,” but with friends like the Jones Act, who needs enemies?

By Jonathan Helton

It is a popular misconception that the federal maritime law known as the Jones Act supports American industry and jobs.

A recent commentary in the Washington Times, for example, was headlined “Stop the transfer of U.S. critical industry and jobs overseas: Support the pro-American Jones Act.”

Jonathan Helton

Written by Richard Balzano, CEO of the Dredging Contractors of America, the article sought to defend the 1920 federal maritime law against the increasing number of voices calling for its reform

However, without its subtitle, “Support the pro-American Jones Act,” the headline could have just as easily been suggesting the need for Jones Act reform.

That’s because the Jones Act actually undermines U.S. industry and jobs. Its alleged purpose was to bolster America’s domestic maritime fleet and ensure national security. But with only 94 large oceangoing Jones Act-qualified ships left — down from 257 in 1980 — it is pretty clear the law has failed.

To put that in perspective, there are more than 54,000 large oceangoing merchant vessels worldwide, leaving the U.S. with less than 1% of the international market share.

U.S. shipyards capable of building oceangoing commercial ships, meanwhile, had declined to a mere four as of 2021, during which they did not deliver a single Jones Act ship.

Commercial shipyard jobs have been steadily declining as well, from 180,000 in 1980 to 94,000 in 2018 — and few of those 94,000 jobs are at those four yards.

Not only that, three of the remaining four large commercial shipyards are largely foreign-owned. Plus, much of the design and technology used in the construction of Jones Act vessels comes from foreign sources.

Further, U.S. shipyards are so expensive that most Jones Act carrier companies send their vessels to foreign shipyards, such as in China, for repair and maintenance. Even a 50% U.S. tariff on using foreign shipyards isn’t enough to discourage the practice.

Pasha Hawaii, for example, is currently retrofitting its 42-year-old Horizon Reliance containership at a Chinese shipyard to run on LNG. Similarly, Matson announced this month that it will be sending its Daniel K. Inouye — the largest containership ever built in the U.S. when it was completed in 2018 — to a Chinese shipyard next year, also to have it converted to LNG propulsion.

Nevertheless, in Balzano’s view, the Jones Act is vital to America’s economic, national and energy security.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine is teaching us about energy independence,” Balzano wrote. “We must as a nation be able to supply our own energy and transport it around the nations when and where it is needed.”

Balzano is correct that the Russia-Ukraine conflict has highlighted America’s energy situation. But he misses the boat when he declares that the Jones Act “protects our critical maritime infrastructure and workforce to ensure the movement of energy, agriculture and other critical commodities.”

For example, even though the United States is the world’s top natural gas producer, there are zero Jones Act tankers capable of carrying the fuel between U.S. ports. That’s because these ships cost an estimated two to three times more to build in U.S. shipyards than overseas. As a result, Puerto Rico cannot access cheap liquefied natural gas from Texas and Louisiana. Instead, it imports all of its LNG from abroad — sometimes from Russia.

At the opposite end of the country, Hawaii has become almost wholly dependent on foreign fuel imports, in large degree because of the Jones Act. In normal years, for example, the Aloha State buys a quarter to a third of its crude oil from Russia. Most of the rest comes from Libya, Angola and other countries that also don’t necessarily align with U.S. interests.

The high price of building and operating a Jones Act tanker means it’s more attractive for Hawaii’s only refinery, Par Hawaii, to source oil from abroad. Thus, U.S. dollars and jobs flow abroad, and U.S. states and territories end up dependent on geopolitical rivals such as Russia.

The sad truth is that while a small and shrinking subset of the U.S. economy has been reaping the benefits from the Jones Act, American consumers — especially in areas dependent on ocean transportation — have been paying the price.

Businesses have suffered too. Farmers and agricultural interests have long complained about the Jones Act, and it has been causing headaches for the U.S. offshore wind industry all across the country.

Balzano also mentioned that the law supports 650,000 U.S. jobs overall, a number that independent researchers are unable to substantiate, and which has mysteriously ballooned in recent years, even as America’s maritime industry has declined; in 2014, the Jones Act lobby said the total was 500,000.

In any case, no matter how many jobs the domestic maritime industry actually supports, the Jones Act has nothing to do with it, and those jobs would not disappear if the law were reformed. To the contrary, reform would likely lead to more maritime jobs, since that would allow for greater shipping competition and more work at American ports.

Balzano concluded that U.S. policymakers should, “Stand up for American jobs, American-made products and America’s security.”

Yes, and the best way to do that would be to reform the Jones Act.

Jonathan Helton is a research associate with the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. For more articles about the Jones Act, go here.

Short-term rentals ban is a dodge from real cause of housing shortage


Photo by Charley Myers

By Keli’i Akina

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but banning short-term vacation rentals is not going to lower Oahu housing prices.

On Wednesday, the Honolulu City Council passed Bill 41 by a vote of 8 to 1. The bill would allow short-term rentals only in certain resort areas and require that rentals in residential areas be for at least 90 days. 

The bill claims that, “Short-term rentals are disruptive to the character and fabric of our residential neighborhoods” and that they “increase the price of housing for Oahu’s resident population by removing housing stock from the for-sale and long-term rental markets.”

The bill’s purpose, therefore, is to “better protect the City’s residential neighborhoods and housing stock.”

Those are admirable goals, but as I’ve said many times, good intentions don’t necessarily make good policy.

To the point about short-term rentals being “disruptive,” this is a reference to issues such as parking and noise. 

But the fact is, there already are city ordinances that deal with such concerns, and in an ideal situation, both short-term rental owners and their aggrieved neighbors would come together to find ways to make sure they are enforced. 

As for the claim about “removing housing stock” from our neighborhoods, this is where the bill really goes astray. I think it is important to focus on the fact that a ban on short-term vacation rentals will do nothing to address Oahu’s — or Hawaii’s — housing crisis, but rather will cause grave economic harm to many Hawaii residents.

Photo by Charley Myers

For example, during an episode of “Hawaii Together” on ThinkTech Hawaii earlier this year, I interviewed owners of vacation rentals who spoke about how this bill would make it impossible for them to afford their homes and could force them to leave Hawaii.

Meanwhile, I find it suspicious that heavy support for Bill 41 came from the tourism industry, whose fortunes were slammed over the past two years by the loss of visitors due to the coronavirus lockdowns. 

Industry leaders touted the concerns about the effect of vacation rentals on neighborhoods and housing costs. But given that they were supporting regulation to eliminate their competition, it’s troubling that such arguments were taken at face value, especially when there is little evidence to back them up.

Research on how vacation rental bans affect housing costs is nebulous at best. There are nationwide studies suggesting that vacation rentals may drive up costs, but there are also studies like the one done by Santa Barbara City and County

In 2016, Santa Barbara was considering a ban similar to the one just passed in Honolulu, but found that the impact of short-term rentals on the long-term housing supply was “negligible, far less than presumed.” 

But we don’t have to depend on mainland studies. We can look at our own experience. 

Though owners of vacation rentals often explain that their homes would not qualify as “affordable” housing or long-term rentals, Kauai, Maui and the Big Island have all enacted some type of ban on vacation rentals. Oahu tightened the screws in 2019. Yet, housing prices still went up. Even when vacation rental usage declined during the lockdowns, it didn’t result in a significant drop in housing costs.

The sad reality is that, once again, Hawaii policymakers are falling for easy answers. How nice it would be if something quick and simple like an “empty homes” tax or a vacation rental ban could solve the housing crisis. 

But those aren’t real answers. What we need are policies that will encourage homebuilding.

As I mentioned in my column last week, “UHERO is my new housing policy hero,” we know that one of the biggest reasons for Hawaii’s high cost of housing is its regulatory barriers to homebuilding. The counties have played a large part in creating those barriers. Now, they need to start the tough work of dismantling them.

Instead of a ban on vacation rentals, which is not going to bring down the cost of housing in our state, our lawmakers should be spending their time enacting policies that have been shown to work, like the Tokyo Model of “light touch” density. 

Hawaii’s housing crisis is the result of decades of misguided policy, and it could take nearly as long to fix. That is why we must work together now to identify and implement tried-and-true strategies that will provide us with the affordable housing we so desperately need.

Keli’i Akina is president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.