Hawaii 2011 – My Prayer for Hawaii’s Homeowners and SB 651

My wife, daughter and I have been spending our two week vacation in Hawaii for more… lets see… our daughter’s 15, so more than 15 years.  We started out going to Maui every year, staying in Wailea for 14 nights.  The truth is, it was Hawaii that taught me how important vacations were to my life and my health.  I’d no sooner miss going to Hawaii than I would skip breathing.

I bought my first ukulele at Bounty Music on Maui… a concert-size Kamaka… before they started using abalone in the headstock… and that proved to be the only thing that could have made Hawaii more perfect.  I’d carry it everywhere I went… and everywhere I went, someone would take the time to teach me a little bit more.

After about eight years, we decided that we’d try Kaui… the North Shore… and that began our love affair with magical, mystical Hanalei Bay.  We learned all about it… and if they ever try to tear down the on-lane bridge, I’m going to be chained to it, I swear… but I won’t be alone… I’ll probably have to get there early just to find a spot.  The Pavilion at sunset… playing the uke, it seems to me… is what heaven feels like.

Finally, we planned to visit Oahu… and we were afraid.  We did it because we needed to be close to medical facilities that year, so we didn’t have a choice… we thought it would feel like a big city compared to Kaui… and that was the year we learned that all the islands are Hawaii… each is different but each is wonderful in every way.  Oahu’s storied North Shore is awe inspiring, and I don’t care what anyone says… Waikiki Beach is fun, fun, fun on a stick.

My daughter learned to walk… and later surf in Hawaii.  I saw guys surf 34-foot waves at Hanalei Bay in the winter, and did some surfing myself at Lake Hanalei during the summer.  We brought my in-laws with us on a few trips when our daughter was a toddler… it was expensive, but I wouldn’t want a nickel back… there’s nothing like finding out you’re a family in Hawaii.

My whole life I had been a little bit afraid of the ocean.  Okay, maybe a little bit isn’t being entirely honest.  Let’s put it this way… on out Honeymoon in St. John, when my new bride and I rented a boat and went out to find snorkeling spots… I made her jump in first.  It’s not my fault… I was the perfect age to become scarred for life by the movie JAWS, and my father had no sense as far as that sort of parenting went.

But, my wife and I got ourselves certified to SCUBA dive in Hawaii, and I went on to get advanced certifications.  And now our daughter is diving with us and I love the ocean more than I can tell you.

Each year, as we were preparing to leave for Hawaii, I’d ask my wife if I should bring the ukulele I bought the year before… she would say, “Please don’t.” And then I’d buy a new one when we’d arrive.  It’s become a tradition, and I love my collection… 4-string, 6-string and 8-string Kamakas, a Mele from Maui… a custom standard made by Raymond Ropozo on Kaui that’s just gorgeous.  And our last trip a pineapple shaped concert, also by Kamaka.  There are a few others as well… but it’s way past being something I can list without looking at them.

I guess my point is that for me… and my wife and daughter… music and Hawaii are inextricably entwined.  Whether it was me walking around with a ukulele, or listening to the CDs of Hapa, Keola Beamer, Robi Kahakalau, Keali’i Reichel, Na Leo Pilimehana, and of course… Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.  If you haven’t heard of the first five names above, you heard the last… because it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t loved listening to Brudda IZ do his rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World.  It’s been used in I don’t even know how many movies… and although I’ve heard it a thousand times or more… to say nothing of how many times I’ve played it for others… I could listen to it or play it right now… and still love it.

When the foreclosure crisis started in earnest in the summer of 2007, I started writing about it because I knew the details and truth of why it was happening and I hated the fact that the bankers and even some in our government were blaming the homeowners themselves for losing homes to foreclosure… and that’s just not the case… never been the case… it’s a lie.

Our financial crisis was NOT caused by “irresponsible homeowners,” rather it was caused by irresponsible regulators overseeing unethical and perhaps even criminal Wall Street bankers.  I hate the fact that there are millions of people at risk that think it’s their fault… and are therefore ashamed, afraid to speak out, locked in a form of solitary confinement by bankers who made untold millions… and a government that doesn’t care… well, the whole thing is more than I can stand… and I’ve written all about this…

But, whenever I considered the impact of the foreclosure crisis on the people of Hawaii, the sadness was overwhelming.  I know the crisis is hurting everyone all over the country, but the idea of mainland bankers foreclosing on homes they may not even legally own in Hawaii, or abusing homeowners in Hawaii as they apply for loan modifications, well… the whole thing was beyond deplorable.

Perhaps it’s like littering.  It’s an ugly thing to do anywhere. but throwing trash out of your car window in Hawaii is offensive on an entirely new scale.  Anytime someone over here on the mainland asks me about Hawaii, usually just before their first visit, I always tell them to remember one thing and they’ll have a wonderful time: Don’t act like you own the place… you’re are guest, so act accordingly, and you’ll be embraced by some of the most caring people you’ll ever meet.

The foreclosure crisis also made me think about Brudda IZ, and how he would feel about the crisis were he still with us today.  He might think of it as having happened before… and he’d be right about that in many ways.  In the past I’ve thanked God that Brudda IZ didn’t live to see what our government has allowed our bankers to do to millions of American homeowners.

But maybe I’ve been wrong to think that way… tonight I’m thinking that he has seen what’s happened in Hawaii over these last three years… and that maybe he’s helping us through his music, which lives on forever.

Because tomorrow Hawaii’s state legislature is scheduled to vote on the foreclosure prevention bill, SB 651, that was proposed by Sen. Roz Baker and Rep. Bob Herkes.  It would create the strongest protection against foreclosure fraud in the United States, and it is the result of the grass roots initiative started by a group of homeowners, along with support from FACE, an organization made up of churches and community groups, and in conjunction with the non-profit, Hawaiian Community Assets.

The people involved in bringing this bill to their legislators have accomplished what no other group has been able to accomplish, even though many have tried.  And make no mistake about it… if it passes tomorrow as expected, it will likely signify the end of the foreclosure crisis in Hawaii… an assurance of fairness will have been restored… and the rest of the nation will have a rod map to follow as state by state, homeowners become inspired to intensify the fight to stop the foreclosure crisis in their respective states.

I hope that the people behind SB 651 in Hawaii are proud of what they have done for Hawaii and for the rest of the nation.  I’m certainly grateful to them for doing what they did, and I’m very proud to have written things that assisted in their achievement.

I think it’s worth noting that a group of people in Arizona tried to pass legislation to prevent illegal foreclosures.  Their bill passed the senate 29-2, but then it “disappeared,” never making it to the House for a vote.  The second attempt ended with an elected official being granted a six-figue principal reduction from his servicer, right before changing his mind about proposing the amendment that would have protected Arizona’s homeowners at risk of foreclosure.

But then… the people in Arizona… well, they don’t have Brudda IZ… now do they? Click play… turn up your speakers… close your eyes… and pray for SB 651 to pass tomorrow. Amen.

Mandelman out.


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