It was upsetting to see the results of recent ill-conceived actions at the Hilo Farmers Market, where Hawaii County demanded that the market’s tarp roofs come down, and vendors were suddenly forced to buy their own “pop-up” shelters.
This is the state’s best market, renowned for giving residents and visitors products found nowhere else. It’s truly a cultural asset.
What has now taken place is a total disaster. On rainy days, the vendors have partial protection for their products under the inadequate, wall-less pop-ups, but the customers must walk through solid rain and puddles.
This recalls what happened to Keaau Farmers Market last year. W.H. Shipman Co. evicted the farmers from their excellent market building on short notice to make room for a new Longs Drugs, and shifted them to a back parking lot with no signage, no running water and only a porta-potty.
In both cases, the markets ended up looking like refugee camps, and the vendors are the ones who suffered, their lives and livelihoods disrupted. These farmers and craftspeople often live from market day to market day, without a big cash reserve to cushion the blow.
The market’s owner obviously took advantage of the county for years while leaving his vendors out of the loop, with no advanced warning of what was going down. But the county was short-sighted not to think about how to help the vendors — and local customers who rely on them, the tourists who come from the cruise ships to see the market and the downtown merchants — before this all happened.
This is like closing down Pike Place Market in Seattle. Any urban planner will tell you that this results in people abandoning our downtown area. It pours cold water on the whole community.
Dear council, mayor
This is regarding the threat to increase the Hawaii County general excise tax one-half percent instead of raising the gas tax a similar amount.
Raising the general excise tax imposes a burden on those who can least afford it. We all need food, clothing, household items, dental and medical services. Thus, the GET impacts us when we buy these necessities. Furthermore, once the GET is increased, it has never gone down.
The tax on gas is, however, another story. We can adjust our driving behavior to compensate for an increase in gas prices by driving less, carpooling and buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle. And the gas tax can be adjusted in times of a gas shortage or price increase by lowering the tax.
I implore you to vote down this tax on Hawaii County.
William J. King