Current Thoughts (Mostly Hawaii)
Over the past couple of weeks, as we get closer to Halloween, my wife and I have been talking about what we plan to do on that day. Typically, our discussions talk about where we plan to walk around in, what costumes to wear, etc.
Since this year has been one where the number of cancelations of events has been many and widespread, along with the “doomsday” tone form our local government leaders, I have been teasing my wife, saying “Didn’t you hear, Halloween was canceled by our politicians this year”.
Let’s just say here that the joke I make does not go down well with my wife.
And until I started looking into the matter – what is our leaders saying about the status of the holiday season – I thought anyone saying the holiday season was canceled was more a joke (or political posturing).
But it turns out our government and health leaders in this nation are seriously discussing this possibility – that the holiday season for many may not be more than just another day.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, in an interview on CBS on Wednesday, the 14th, seriously suggested that any plans anyone has to get together for the Thanksgiving holiday should be canceled. He specifically said, “Namely, you may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering unless you’re pretty certain that the people that you’re dealing with are not infected.”
The current news out there regarding Christmas does not sound as dire, yet. Perhaps everyone wants to see how people handle Halloween first before making any predictions on what we should expect to experience.
But needless to say, the headlines predicting a pretty sad sounding holiday season are starting to come out. And this does not bode well for our country’s mental health.
To this writer, it has been a worry since the beginning of the pandemic that health and government officials issuing declarations, ultimatums, and predictions throughout this saga have been stating these things without one ounce of understanding of human behavior.
Human behavior suggests that despite the risks that the health professionals say about the virus, that the desire to “normalcy”, meaning getting together with friends and family and celebrating an event, trumps the warnings.
Now, if we were all to take a pill and convert from having “illogic and foolish emotions” to that of a Vulcan-esqe level of mental fortitude, one can suppose that all dictums related to the virus would be followed to-the-letter.
But unfortunately, we don’t have that pill, or the ability to go through a ceremony like the Kolinahr. Instead, the world that we still live in still has many people who are not as mentally strong. And in many ways, they are being ignored.
It might be best, as a suggestion, to try and figure out how to both address the needs of people during this holiday time coming up with the call to safety. Because right now with headlines that read “Cancel Thanksgiving? Fauci warns Americans may need to ‘bite the bullet’”. It will be a trigger to many, and not helpful in all of us getting through this time.
Last week the Governor of the State of Hawai‘i, David Ige, came to the podium to announce how he was going to spend down the millions of dollars the state has at hand from the CARES act funding given to Hawai‘i.
As some may know, the state has been slow in spending down the money, so much so that even members of the Congressional delegation of Hawai‘i in Washington, as well as a Congresswoman who oversees the funding, sent a letter to the Governor demanding that he answer the simple question of “how are you spending down CARES money?”
This is not a trivial question. And the eventual answer to the question revealed to this writer what the state was trying to do all along with the money. One reveal: it seems our state administration was not paying too close attention to what was happening in reality.
When the CARES money came to Hawai‘i in April, the first people to grab it and figure out how to distribute it was the Hawai‘i State Legislature. In their abbreviated session, they directed the Governor to spend approximately $630 million of the funds on various things to help people and the economy.
When the bill to direct all this funding got on the desk of Governor Ige, he said he was not in favor of spending the money the way the Legislature directed, and instead decided to hold onto the money.
So, by July, we had millions of dollars of CARES money ready to deploy, and the Governor says “no”. Okay, why?
Succinctly put, and this comes from various statements that he made about the expenditure of the money in July, he figured more money was coming from Congress, but if not he might have hoped there was a chance to convert CARES money from that of a grant to the state to that of a direct outlay to the state
(Let’s explain the nuances of this. When a state is awarded a grant, like how CARES money is allocated, the state needs to request from the Federal Reserve an outlay of cash that it intends to spend. You cannot just ask for all the money at once. You need receipts or notices of encumbrance to request the money. And you are only allowed to ask for the amount that you can prove you will spend. Furthermore, that money that you do get cannot just sit in a bank account, you have to get that money out as soon as possible to whatever item it needs to be spent on. What some states were hoping is that Congress, in due time would change CARES money from that of a grant to that of a direct outlay with “no strings attached”.)
When both the HEROES act stalled in Congress (to this day, which by the way is a direct outlay and not a grant to states), as well as the realization that Congress was not going to convert CARES money from that of a grant into an outlay, the State of Hawai‘i by August, was stuck trying to figure out what to do.
And the pressure was building. The economy continued to collapse as certain CARES funding items expired. The City and County of Honolulu were forced into a second shutdown while the entire Department of Health was in meltdown. And the Lt. Governor was running around telling everyone that doomsday was coming and to batten down the hatches.
Given two months later from that, and a lot of very strained events, the state finally came up with a plan to reopen the state and execute that reopening. The realization that no bags of money were coming down and that monies that the state was allocated as a grant better be used by December 31 seemed to slap some wisdom in our leaders to “get a move on”.
This leads this writer to wonder “was anyone paying attention to what was going on in Washington when it came to CARES and HEROES money?”. It was apparent by at least the end of July if not the start of August, to anyone that was paying attention, that whatever was wished for in April was not coming to pass.
Now provided there may have been some wishful thinking – the people would rise and demand something happens. That the situation in America would become so dire that Congress would need to act, or that “for the good of all” an agreement would be reached.
None of that happened. A good swath of the country started to reopen and stay open. The pressure on putting more stimulus into the economy was lessened by the fact the stock market had stabilized and people’s 401K’s were getting recharged. And while many were still out of work, the unemployment insurance situation started to stabilize for many states, allowing people to get funded quicker.
And the question that is left is “did Ige pay attention to any of this?” We may never truly know, but as with many things, the proof is in his and his administration’s actions.
You’d think that political “experience” was a hard and fast rule for anyone seeking to occupy a political office. That being said, no matter how you slice or dice, experience always becomes the trump card when persuading people – whether it’s a hiring committee or regular voters – to choose one person over another.
For years Hawai‘i voters seemed to angle toward experience as the main factor in whom they voted for. Even if it was a politician jumping from, say, the legislature to a county council, they would always be seen as a strong candidate just because of the perception that they knew what to do when they got into office.
And for a long time that is exactly how the rules played out for the up and coming politician. And those candidates could bank on getting into office and staying in office based on just that.
Then COVID -19 came along.
What the virus has shown to so many constituents is that while the “experienced” politician can talk a good game when it comes to managing the state in good times, the ability for them to convert into war-time crisis leaders does not exist. We are seeing now that the leaders we elected, for one thing, are falling apart when the situation has dramatically changed.
So, if this is what “experience” gets you at this time, I am sure for many voters, there is much to be desired.
In come the newbies.
On the ballot this general election session, there is a slate of “new face” candidates that, for many, this is the first time they have ever run for office. From James Aki and Augie Tulba for City Council to Rick Blangiardi, Keith Amemiya, Mitch Roth, and Ikaika Marzo for the office of the county mayor in Honolulu and Hawai‘i County, there are a few new names to chose from this cycle.
And unlike in the past where the new guy was told “you’ll lose this one to (named incumbent or lifelong pol), but you will get your name out for success later on”, there is a real possibility that a healthy group of these candidates will get in on their first time campaigning.
One of the keys to these new candidates’ success is the fact that many voters, even before COVID, were getting a little tired of the antics the “experienced” politicians were performing. From the key issues of economic development to ecological protection, there has been more than once I have heard from people that “they are not listening to me” on these matters.
With the addition of the COVID saga, where, in no fault of their own, thousands of people have been thrown out of work and livelihoods put on hold over questionable dictums from these “experienced” politicians, and one can see why the voter of Hawai‘i may be out there looking for something, and someone new.
Now, how much “new” does the voter want will very much depend on how much change they are desiring. We will see what the judgment is when all of us go over the numbers on Wednesday, November 4, 2020, after the last print out.
Read past entries of Stan Fichtman and PoliticsHawaii.com!
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Tim Pool (on YouTube)
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Sargon of Akkad - Carl Benjamin (on YouTube)
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Here are my current thoughts of things going on.