New & Views:Jobs, Akaka Bill, Traffic, Elections, Financial Reform?

Sam Slom
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Sam Slom

BY SAM SLOM — National and local polls reveal jobs and the economy are the number one concern, not LeBron James or the BP Gulf oil spill. Small business is struggling the most under the weight of government.

Honolulu’s commercial vacancy rate continues to increase-and it shows.


CNBC ranks Hawaii 48th in its annual  “America’s Top States to Do Business.”

Governor Linda Lingle had always been a staunch supporter of the divisive Akaka Native Hawaiian Sovereignty Bill and called on U.S. Senators to support it. But then it was amended (one of several times) and she publicly withdrew her support, writing Senators again. This week, the Governor said that Senators Akaka and Inouye have now assured her the Akaka Bill once more has been changed (behind closed doors) and once again she wrote the Senators urging their support. Problem is you can’t find a true copy of the amended bill; you have to take the two Senators’ word. This bill would be bad for small business in Hawaii and creates more tax and property issues.

Representative Barbara Marumoto (R-19th House District) reported that fourteen Kahala Avenue properties of the twenty-four owned by Japanese billionaire Gensiro Kawamoto are for sale.  Her message: “Please buy them!”  According to Marumoto, “Mr. Kawamoto has allowed Hawaiian families to reside in three of the homes, but most of the other houses and vacant lots are run down and overgrown.  He knocked down many perimeter walls, tossed the rubble into the swimming pools and then paved the pools over.  Some houses were broken into by vandals.  Neighbors buzzed with anecdotal information that drug paraphernalia was found inside.  Several of the million dollar homes were razed.  One property was cited for construction of an illegal seawall.  The City and County Department of Planning & Permitting cited and fined Kawamoto’s properties for at least fifty-three citations.  The City & County has initiated liens on at least 2 lots for repeated non-compliance.”

The City has broken ground on a $100 million traffic management center on Alapai Street in Honolulu. The stated goal; to bring state and county agencies together to better utilize traffic synchronization and management. The center has been on the books for six years. the lack of traffic light sync is costly and non defensible. The new transit center is scheduled to be completed in 2012. Does it really require a $100 million project to synchronize the traffic lights and manage traffic? Maybe it would be less costly to elect a Mayor with an engineering background who could do the job for much less.

The filing deadline for all candidates for this Fall’s (September 18 Primary) election is next Tuesday, July 20 at 4:30 pm. Many incumbents have pulled papers but not actually filed.  The deadline will end speculation as to who is in and who is not in many statewide and local races. Mayor Mufi Hannemann is expected to abandon his office to run for Governor (two years remain on his term)  and put Kirk Caldwell (Managing Director) of the City & County of Honolulu in charge. There could be a record number of candidates. Ad agencies, the media and sign makers love it!

The UH Board of Regents is about to vote to add a mandatory $50 athletic fee for every UH student. The money-several million-is needed to balance the athletic department’s deficit budget. There are already several mandatory fees on the students that add to their educational costs. As a UH grad, and a season ticket holder (football), I oppose this fee and believe the athletic program should solve its own fiscal problems. 

Part 3 tomorrow, Thursday, of the Sen. Donna Kim  Senate Ways & Means Committee investigation of state transportation contracts. Watch it on O’lelo tv at 1 pm.
The falsely named Wall Street Financial Reform bill is likely to pass the U.S. Senate tomorrow with three Republican Senators voting aye. It is a terrible bill. Reportedly, local banks and other small financial institutions across the country oppose (but they seem quiet in their opposition). It will not protect consumers but will cost us more.  It is more of a Washington business power grab with little reform. Don’t believe me? One of the primary supporters of the bill is a firm named Goldman Sachs.

And also in D.C., the Federal Debt Commission is telling us (this is news?) just how devastating Congressional spending and debt is to all of us. But their likely recommendations?  Eliminate mortgage interest deductions and add a new 1% tax.

We all are fed up with the never ending parade of new airline fees, right? Now the Congress wants to come to air passengers’ aid. They are calling airlines on the carpet. To protect us?  No, because many of the new fees are not taxable-yet. It’s all about the money (for government).

“Paul,” the German octopus who gained international acclaim by  accurately predicting 8 World Cup soccer matches is rumored to be about to retire. That’s what we need here in Hawaii: perhaps a Hawaiian Monk Seal that accurately predicts the next legislative tax increases and bad business bills.

Please visit SBH’s newly redesigned website . Link to the site from the next column over. We still have more work to do and your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Need help with a business problem? Please call me personally at SBH for assistance, at  (808) 396-1724 or email me at

The next monthly SBH SUNRISE Networking Breakfast will be Thursday, July 29, 7-8:30 am, at the Macy’s Pineapple Room in Ala Moana. The speaker is Lt. Governor James “Duke” Aiona.  Reserve now by calling Darlyn at SBH, 396-1724.

Sam Slom is President of Smart Business Hawaii and SBH Entrepreneurial Education Foundation and a Hawaii State Senator. Reach him at (808) 396-1724 or