Thursday, December 15, 2011

Musings: Steamroller

I came home yesterday to find Jeremy, the yard guy provided by my landlords, preparing to do some weedeating. I apologized for creating extra work for him by putting in garden beds where he used to mow, but he waved it off. “No problem,” he said cheerfully. “I am totally committed to supporting you in your gardening efforts.”

I wanted to give him a holiday tip, but had just $3 in my wallet, so I left a bag of longan and a piece of homemade chocolate cake on his truck instead. And I thought, yup, he's another one of those people working their asses off in the sun all day, sucking down dust and dirt, for not that much dough, just so he can live on Kauai.

And it brought to mind an observation that a Portland visitor recently shared: “It seems you can live rich on Kauai, or you can live poor, but there really isn't a place for the middle class.”

No shit. That's why we've got Grove Farm trying to pass off as "affordable" modular homes from China with price tags ranging from $260,000 to $485,000. According to The Garden Island's coverage of the Koloa Camp eviction story I broke yesterday, Grove Farm VP Mike Tresler is basing that on “a local median household income of $76,300.”

Except if you look at the U.S. Census data, the median income for Kauai County is $55,723. And the way it works is, if you can't move the so-called affordable houses within a certain amount of time, you can sell them at market rates. So tell me, how many folks do you know who could qualify for a $485,000 mortgage, much less come up with a down payment, on the wages paid on this island? Maybe if you're pulling down a hundred grand working for your buddy the mayor, but otherwise, no way.

But what really jumped out at me was the heartless, screw you attitude evident in this comment:

When asked whether Grove Farm would consider allowing the tenants to remain longer, Tresler said, “That’s a tenant-landlord issue. That’s a private issue … They’re trying to make it a public issue and we’ll push back and just say it’s nobody’s business.

Tell me, Mike, why shouldn't they make your dirty deeds public when they feel like they're getting the royal shaft? Why shouldn't they have the right to publicly question your development plans? And why isn't it the community's business what you're doing to our friends and neighbors and the character of Koloa town? You've got 40,000 acres of land on this island, yet you've got to kick out longtime families so you can make a quick buck on some cheaply constructed housing.

But that's exactly what's wrong with Grove Farm and so many other developers on this island. They know they can steamroll right over the people because our elected officials and the yes-men on the planning commission let them do pretty much whatever they want.

While we're on the topic of steamrolling, let's look at the debacle known as the Hawaiian Roll Commission, which I wrote about here. You've got a law passed by the state that allows the governor to appoint a panel of people who will decide who is Hawaiian for the purpose of creating a self-governing body.

The process is being financed by Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a state agency, and it's headed by former Gov. John Waihee III, who is in so deep with OHA that he delivered its State of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs address yesterday.

Come on! This process has been so thoroughly co-opted by the state as to be meaningless in terms of representing a broad spectrum of kanaka maoli. And yet it's chugging along, despite cries of foul by independence groups, Hawaiian nationals and patriots who are likening it to the second overthrow because they're gonna be excluded.

Of course, you wouldn't know there was any dispute at all over this process from the Star-Advertiser's "everything's groovy" coverage, which left me wishing I hadn't wasted my 99 cents for a day pass to read it.

The article included this bit:

Entertainer Henry Kapono performed "Kalama Ku O Kamehameha" during the event. The deep, resonating voices of Palani Vaughan and Kanohowailuku Helm filled the church during their performances.

The reporter apparently didn't know any of the backstory about these musical performances, which were arranged by state Sen. Brickwood Galuteria. I was privy to an email exchange in which Palani Vaughn was getting a little flack from some for agreeing to perform.

His response:

I felt it would be important to contribute, at least, one mele, a song, that is inclusive of our brothers & sisters who continue to, persistently and intelligently, call for the restoration of our true Hawaiian Kingdom Sovereignty...a song that refers to our people as "Hawaiian Nationals", citizens of the true Hawaiian Kingdom Government...a song, that urges our "Na Poki'i" to "Reclaim Our Hawaiian Kingdom Nation"....a song, that speaks "Hawaiian Kingdom Sovereignty" for us the "Ka Lahui Hawai'i.”

If there are those of you who doubt my sentiments and motivation, I ask you to look at my life's record. I have willingly and openly, without fanfare, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with you to "Protest The illegal Annexation Of Our Hawai'i"; to "Protest The Fake State", etc.

We have to try to awaken the "others" to "see the light of truth and join with us in seeking justice" for our Queen Lili'uokalani.

This prompted longtime activist Skippy Ioane to reply:

lucky you go be there, bum bye only puka shell, dig up the bones kanaka. when you sing i can hear the pain, the rage, and the hope.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like people getting shafted is the name of the game.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Joan. You should do an article interviewing some of the residents who will be shafted by Grove Farm. Few people on Kauai can earn enough buy a house. Even if you do have a two person income that makes $76,000, what kind of life is that? No time to enjoy anything! Too many of us are scraping by and many just have one bread winner in the household. How many are still living with their parents in multiple generation households? A lot! Grove Farm has gotten cold heart-ed. China pre-fab housing takes the cake too! Ughh! What an insult!

In regard to the Kanaka Maoli section of your story, all I have to say is that it creates a have versus have nots situation again. Too many of the common Hawaiian class will be shafted by high mukah-muks like Waihee.

Anonymous said...

Ah, remind me, what was the root of all evil, again?

Anonymous said...

Question 1: Who or What agency or process sets the Median income for Kauai County used by Grove Farm?

Question 2: What is the cost range for a proposed Grove Farm home based on the U.S. Census Bureau's median income value for Kauai?

Mahalo Joan for the excellent coverage of all these issues. You display a most Hawaiian hearted view of things local... for everyone of all backgrounds and races.

Anonymous said...

Grove Farmʻs lease is up - long time ago.

Palani Vaughn, maybe you will be there at the Palace to give bruddah Henry Noa support. Heʻll be there January 13-17.

Heʻs a guy that sacrifices. A guy that believes in transferring the political authority so bad, he still hasnʻt given up AND doesnʻt take a cent from federal, state or county money. He should though, rightfully itʻs the kanakas.

Anonymous said...

Why, with all of the land that GF owns would they decide to evict local people from one 24 acre lot, go to the army corp of engineers to with the overbearing requirements necessary to get a letter of material fill to change the flood zone?

Unless there is a logical reason other than that is what they could EASILY get CPR approval for with no infrastructure requirements for the existing citizens of Koloa.

Greedy, Warren, it's called, Greed.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Capitalism with no Heart at work.

Corporations are not people...for sure, and some people are not "good humane beings" but corporations.

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

I'm more of a limited liability partnership, myself.

Anonymous said...

The law defines affordable housing eligibility at 140% of median income, hence the $76,000 figure. It's in line with the federal HUD definition