Opposition to amending the Hawaii constitution to help support public education is the subject of two 30-second television commercials that began airing Monday.

Both come from the political action committee Affordable Hawaii Coalition, which just this week received $600,000 from the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii for its campaign against the constitutional amendment measure.

Both spots are pointed and easy to understand: A “yes” vote on the ConAm will hurt local families and businesses.

One ad, slugged as “No On Con Am — Small,” stars Tom Jones, the owner of Gyotaku Japanese Restaurants.

A screen shot from an Affordable Hawaii Coalition TV spot urges opposition to the measure. 

“People will hear a lot about how the constitutional amendment on the ballot — ConAm — is nothing but a tax on big, out of state corporations,” Jones says. “But that’s not true.”

As Jones speaks, the screen shows delectable servings of Japanese food and a screen shot from a Sept. 18 Civil Beat story that says, “The proposed constitutional amendment is already one of the most contentious issues to go before voters in the 2018 election.”

“ConAm is so vague that it is a blank check to raise taxes anytime,” says Jones.

The ad closes with the ominous posting of a red sign on a glass door that reads, “Closed: Going out of Business.”

View the ad here:

The second TV commercial from the Affordable Hawaii Coalition is titled “No On Con Am — Too Many.”

The star is Cathy Ostrem, identified as a resident of 50 years and as a grandma, who complains that her family is being “priced out of paradise.” The screen references a July 24 Hawaii News Now story to underscore the point.

“Too many children, including our own, have left,” says Ostrem as the camera pans family photos as well as Ostrem and (apparently) her husband sharing a meal alone at a table.

Ostrem emphasizes the use of the words “con am” and warns that the ballot question, should it pass, “will only make Hawaii less affordable because it raises the cost of living. We’ve sent enough of our children to the mainland.”

View the ad here:

There is and will be debate over whether the ConAm, should it pass, will affect many people in Hawaii or mainly the owners of investment properties (primarily wealthy offshore investors) that exceed $1 million.

The president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, Corey Rosenlee, says the ConAm is a first step toward improving public schools by generating more funding for salaries, special education, arts education and training.

But opponents say the language of the ConAm is too vague and would give the state a new taxing power without guaranteeing the revenue would increase education funding instead of just replacing existing funds that go to the Department of Education.

(On Wednesday, the Hawaii Supreme Court agreed to consider a lawsuit filed by the state’s four counties that want to invalidate the ConAm question.)

The Affordable Hawaii Coalition’s ads are powerful and persuasive. Scheduled to run on KITV, KGMB, KHON, KIKU and KHNL through Oct. 8 at a cost of $120,000, they are also the first television commercials from an anti-ConAm group.

No pro ConAm ads aired on TV so far, leaving viewers with no counter-arguments to consider.

Civil Beat reporting fellow Blaze Lovell contributed to this report.

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