If you only do one thing this week please share this video across all of your social media.
This week we made good progress on getting our message through to our elected representatives. I met with Mayor Roth, Heather Kimball and Dr. Holeka Inaba. All three conversations were very productive.
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- Rumor Mitigation - Nothing nefarious is going on. The political process is playing out as per-usual and we have ample opportunity to succeed within it.
- Platform Involvement - VRBO has agreed in principle to send out communications on our behalf. We need to get ready for it.
- Alternative Bill - We’ve drafted an alternative bill. Give it a read and provide comments to Jennifer if you have any.
- Direct Action - We took our first direct action this week with mixed results.
- Items of Concern - Our industry runs the risk of being scapegoated unfairly as the cause of the affordable housing crisis in Hawaii. We need to get better at telling our story if we want to avoid that outcome.
I’ve been talking to a lot of elected officials and I want to put a few rumors to bed.
1. “This legislation is an ambush on our businesses.” - Heather and Ashley put this legislation out into the community months ahead of introducing it. If you look at how other legislation has been proposed recently you’ll see that this is not the norm. They are honestly interested in feedback and I believe they are listening to our message.
That said, they can’t get our message if we aren’t broadcasting it so make sure you write them and let them know what you think.
2. “The legislation seeks to reduce homestays and farmstays in favor of the hotel industry.” - While lobbyists from the hotel industry may be working to restrict competition at both the state and local level, nothing I’ve seen indicates that this is the primary motivation for this bill.
If lobbyists for the hotel industry are taking action they are most likely promoting the story that homestays and vacation rentals take away from affordable housing. This seems to be a story that resonates with lawmakers.
To combat this story we need to stand up and demonstrate that vacation rental income is critical to local families who use it to offset the extreme cost of living here in Hawai’i. Far from reducing housing availability, the revenue from this industry makes it possible for families to purchase and maintain their homes.
The best way to tell our story today is to provide a video testimonial to Ryan Leese who is working to create video messaging that tells our story. A testimonial only takes a few minutes to create and, as you can see in this weeks video, sends a powerful message. Take a minute and contact Ryan today.
Expedia ( VRBO ) reached out to us proactively a few weeks ago and I was finally able to circle back and connect with them. They’ve indicated a willingness to consider sending an email blast to all of the hosts on the Big Island on our behalf.
We’re anticipating this email will go out in the second week of January so we need to get ready for it.
Among the actions we need to take:
- Polish up our video story(s) so it can be part of the message.
- Provide logistical support for listening sessions with Heather, Ashley and the broader community. The email blast will promote these sessions and ensure they are well attended. We need to book venues, promote the meetings, provide snacks and attend them in force.
- Further refine our definition of the bill so that the general public can understand it. We will do so honestly, but also in a way that clearly communicates our concerns.
Short one-page fliers will go further than multi-page detailed analysis, so lets work on creating a concise and honest assessment of what this bill means to our industry, our businesses and our families.
Get our website and messaging configured to recruit paying members.
We really need folks to step up and take the role of community leaders to help organize their local listening sessions. If you’re willing to step up, please send me a note: email@example.com
Several of our members have been working on an alternate bill that addresses Hawai’i County’s concerns while preserving our right to earn a living. Chief among them is Jennifer Wilkinson who has done a lion's share of the work.
Here are links to both the redlined version and a more readable alternate version of this bill. We’d love to see folks commenting on this in the Ohana Aina Association members forum. If you’re a member, please log in and give us your viewpoint. If you are not a member please join. The dues are very reasonable and we need all the help we can get.
We took our first direct action this week by attending Heather Kimball’s talk story session en-mass. Her call usually only has a half dozen attendees. We brought more than 40.
The action was a partial success. Everyone was polite and I think we made our voices heard, but there were far less of us than is really needed to make our point by numbers.
Part of this failing is the late notice. I only sent out the details 2 hours before the meeting and our Facebook group is locked which makes it difficult to message people over social media.
That said, our group is too small. There are more than 7,000 families that could be impacted by this bill. In my household alone we have six: my core family, may farm hand’s family and four cleaning staff’s families. That is for two addresses.
We need to do a better job recruiting owners, but also - critically - activating service providers who depend on vacation rental operations as part of their income.
Items of Concern
Gov. Green recently appointed Nani Mederios to the state’s new chief of housing and she has indicated a desire to convert vacation rentals into long term housing. There are a number of ways to do this including enforcing current rules, providing incentives to vacation rental operators and streamlining permitting of density enhancing conversions from un-hosted floorplans to hosted floorplans. Unfortunately those solutions take resources, consensus building and changes to the bureaucracy.
Simply attempting to villainize and outlaw our industry is the easy path.
I’m concerned that without a strong voice at the state level telling the stories of families who are service providers for our industry, hosted operators in our neighborhoods it is easy to make us a scapegoat for systematic failures of leadership.
To combat this approach we need to organize at the state level and work hard to tell our story to lawmakers who might not understand that many of those 25,000 “illegal” operators are simply families trying to make ends meet in one of the most expensive places on earth.