No, We Are Not All In The Same Canoe - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Steve Haumschild

Steve Haumschild is a serial entrepreneur on Oahu. He has an executive M.A. in business administration from the University of Hawaii Manoa and a B.A. in sciences in evolution, ecology and organismal biology from Ohio State University.


At an alarming rate, local businesses are closing. COVID-19 is not killing Hawaii businesses and entrepreneurship, lack of political leadership is.

Voting starts July 21 for the Aug. 8 Primary. I will be an active voter and I urge you to be too.

Tell everyone you know to check that they are properly registered so that they get their ballot in the mail in this first all vote-by-mail year for Hawaii. Our elected representatives need to hear from us through the power of our vote.

They like to say “We are all in this canoe together.” In the canoe I am in, there are thousands of business owners who have been asked to close for the greater good. We were promised support, but thousands are still waiting while our leaders squabble over who controls the aid that now sits in the rainy day fund!

If this isn’t a rainy day, I do not know what is.

Kehaulani Kupihea directs Waianae students on moving canoe to the water at Sand Island before embarking to Mokauea Island.

People in Hawaii often talk about being in the same canoe. But the pandemic has shown that there are different and unequal canoes.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Many of our employees have been without work and unable to receive unemployment benefits. Some of those who lived paycheck to paycheck are now literally starving. Many landlords are demanding lease payments even though businesses have no income. When we reached out to politicians to see how and when we could re-open, we were met with silence. If you were in my canoe, you would have felt like you were in the middle of the storm, soaking wet, and patching the holes with nobody steering.

In their canoe, politicians and large industry CEOs are all receiving paychecks. They are not facing eviction. Their staff are either employed or have unemployment checks.

Maxed Out

Checks are still coming in while they encourage people to enjoy this time off. They have no sense of urgency. If you are in their canoe, you are asleep warm and comfy inside your bed in the cabin watching “Tiger King” and posting about supporting small business by ordering take out.

Going on 12 weeks now, many of our staff have maxed out their credit cards and borrowed from friends and family. Local businesses have personal relationships with our employees. We work side by side, our keiki go to the same schools together. We have a bond that is completely different compared to a massive corporation.

Initially, many of us business owners were asked to shut down to “flatten the curve,” to not overwhelm our hospitals and care facilities. Residents sacrificed for the greater good. We deserve credit for keeping each other safe.

But it’s time to expect more leadership from lawmakers. We must never forget elected officials work for us.

For the majority of businesses within the state to open up, they need start-up capital and time. We don’t have teams of lawyers and advisers going through the regulations to make sense of them. We have to find the money, read, interpret, shop for the necessary items, implement new practices, and then we make adjustments as needed. That takes time.

So who survives? Corporations, mostly, that can weather the storm.

Yet the aloha of the islands is dependent on local people running local businesses. If these businesses close, we lose part of what attracts the visitors we depend on. All of this could be avoided with strong leadership with actionable plans.

All the small businesses on the island are all essential. Claiming one business is more valuable than another disregards that nearly every small business is run by local families.

The aloha of the islands is dependent on local people running local businesses.

Nobody understands our businesses and what we need to do to protect our community members better than us. We are families willing to work hard to make a life for ourselves, support our communities and provide jobs.

We are the same people you ask to support your child’s fundraiser or sponsor your event. We care.

I welcome the fact that we are starting to open up kamaaina businesses while restricting large gatherings like Aloha Stadium concerts. I am glad that some businesses like retail and restaurants are being allowed to spill over to the sidewalks to increase capacity. It is good to see families going to the beach and limited social interaction taking place.

And yes, people that are high risk should continue to stay home. We need to keep monitoring and testing. We all agree that we need to take care of each other.

But like it or not, we need to address the safe and quick return of some tourism. We need strict criteria including 100% mandatory COVID-19 negative testing certification in hand or continue with the mandatory two-week quarantine.

The state should also immediately guarantee abatement of rents between landlords and tenants, reduce taxes on businesses and allow loans for operating capital.  Consider 100% debt relief for those months we were shut down. Reduce all state and city building permits and licenses for small businesses to no more than one month, with no fees, so we can try to build up new businesses. Do something, try anything, show that you care about our kamaaina families that run small businesses.

Right now the true colors of our political leaders are showing and I for one have lost faith in their ability to steer any canoe through the storm. It makes me want to get off this canoe.

We, the business owners of Hawaii need to stop licking our wounds and insist on change. Or be sure to vote our silent lawmakers out. And tell a friend to do the same.

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About the Author

Steve Haumschild

Steve Haumschild is a serial entrepreneur on Oahu. He has an executive M.A. in business administration from the University of Hawaii Manoa and a B.A. in sciences in evolution, ecology and organismal biology from Ohio State University.


Latest Comments (0)

Here’s what serial business owner Steve wants: "1. safe and quick return of some tourism. We need strict criteria including 100% mandatory COVID-19 negative testing certification in hand or continue with the mandatory quarantine." Working on it. Logistics are complex with the testing, quarantine, rights.  2. "immediately guarantee abatement of rents between landlords and tenants, reduce taxes on businesses and allow loans for operating capital. Consider 100% debt relief for those months we were shut down." I agree on the lease rent but your landlords, won’t. Reduce taxes for the past 3 months - also agree. Allow loans - talk to your bank. Many are helping out.3. "Reduce all state and city building permits and licenses for small businesses to no more than one month, with no fees, so we can try to build up new businesses." Umm, let’s save the old businesses first.i hear your frustration but this is a difficult situation all round with no easy answers.

kbaybaby · 1 month ago

ItÊ»s time to huli the old boy and old girls network politiciansout of the canoe.  VOTE Make sure the ones you vote for arenot beholding to other politicians.  Otherwise the same ole same ole career politicians will get in again.  Mahalo Steve

6_Pence · 1 month ago

Agree with you 100%.  I live in Massachusetts, but was in Honolulu until early April.  I supported local restaurants there by getting take out a couple of times a week.  My problem is that here, as in Hawaii, the "advisories" simply are so arbitrary and thoughtless.  Until last week I could go to "big box" stores, touch everything, use the bathrooms, etc.; but I couldn’t go to a local shop which doesn’t get 10 customers all at the same time any day.  Now the restaurants are open for outdoor seating - no misting for the heat, no outdoor heaters (it is Massachusetts) and no music!  The politicians here are singlehandedly putting small owners out of business.  I can get a haircut, but I have to wear gloves!  Absolutely no thought given to anything.  Most deaths were in nursing homes regulated by the State.  Things are no better here due to the failings of our elected officials.  

Micky · 1 month ago

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