PLEASE VOTE YES FOR 1% LAND FUND CHARTER AMENDMENT NOV. 2

by Debbie Hecht
The Charter Commission meets every ten years to amend our County charter, which is the highest law of Hawai`i County.  The Commission has passed a not less than 1% Land Fund amendment.  This will appear on the ballot on November 2nd.  As a charter amendment, it can be changed only by a vote of the people.  This will take the Land Fund allotment out of the budget wrangling of the County Council and Mayor each year.  Please vote YES and pass the word along to your friends and neighbors.  If this amendment passes, it will mean that the County will have at least 1% of our property taxes set aside each year to obtain 100% matching funds to purchase land to preserve access to the ocean, important agricultural lands, cultural sites and other important lands.  1% of our property taxes amounts to approximately $2,000,000; with matching funds the County could have $4,000,000 to purchase land.  If we elect a favorable County Council, we may be able to raise the amount again to 2% or more.  Ask the candidates where they stand on this issue.  In Addition, 2% of our property taxes is still an ordinance, and the County Council and Mayor can still approve of more money to obtain land.  Deposits to the land fund are due to resume as of July 1, 2011.  Please support this!  The Land Fund is working!  So far the County has obtained Waipio Lookout, Kawa Bay.  The second property in District 5 is pending, Pao`o and Kaiholena in Kohala.  PLEASE VOTE YES!

To see info about the Land Fund, go to www.dhecht.com.  If you have questions, call Debbie Hecht (989-3222), or email hecht.deb@gmail.com.

REDUCE THE 2% LAND FUND? 

by Debbie Hecht

The Hawai’i County Charter Commission voted 6 to 2 on November 6 the REDUCE the 2% Land Fund to the “Not less than Half% Land Fund.” This means the land fund would get approximately $1.00 per year with full matching funds, so the County would have $2 million per year to acquire your favorite beach access, AG lands, watersheds, cultural places, etc.  Voters approved this in 2006 for 2%. Why is the Charter Commission changing it now?  This amendment was proposed to get the 2% for the land fund out of the yearly budget wrangling.
You will hear that the other counties have ½% or 1%. That’s because most of the other islands are almost fully developed AND they have a larger tax base to draw from, meaning they have 1% of a much larger amount of property taxes.  The charter amendment was submitted at 2% to LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE (once again)!

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  1. TALK to the COMMISSIONERS IF YOU KNOW THEM: Edmund Haitsuka and COMMISSION MEMBERS David Fuertes, Daphne Honma, Casey Jarman, Guy Kaulukukui, Jamae Kawauchi, Joseph Kealoha, Alapaki Nahale, Susie Osborne, Todd Shumway and Scott Unger.
  2. If you want to e-mail the Commissioners, please submit to Karen Eoff, Commission Secretary, at <KEOFF@co.hawaii.hi.us>
  3. Attend the next meeting: There are two more readings of this bill.  The next MEETING OF THE CHARTER COMMISSION IS DECEMBER 18TH AT 1:30 IN HILO AT THE COUNCIL CHAMBERS AT 25 AUPUNI ST.

            I couldn’t speak during the proceedings until after the vote to reduce the amount was taken.  From questions asked, it was clear that the Commissioners didn’ t understand, so it needs to be restated to the Commissioners.  They seemed to think that
*  the Charter would be used in conjunction with the existing ordinance, although when the bill was submitted it clearly stated in the note preceding the legislation on Communication 45 that it would replace the existing ordinance.  GO TO: and click on Comm. 45.  Or e-mail me for the text.
*  the County uses this money to get matching funds (usually dollar for dollar) from other government agencies.  And that private landowners acquire different monies because they already own the land, which are considered their “matching funds.”
* this money is only for property acquisition.  If the money were used for maintenance, there would be nothing left for purchasing land.
* the 2% Land Fund represents the gathering of almost 9,000 signatures to get the matter on the ballot and that then 63% of voters voted for the measure.   We submitted this Charter amendment to  LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE ONCE AGAIN if they want to set aside 2% of our taxes to acquire land; this is just little more than 1% of the entire budget of the County!

Please call with questions.  Debbie Hecht, Coordinator, Save Our Lands Citizens Committee (989-3222).

THE OPEN SPACE BOND & PROPERTY MANAGEMENT for COUNTY PARKS

by Debbie Hecht
Hawai`i Island’s treasured lands need to be saved now!  The $4 million generated from 2% of Hawai`i County property taxes could be used as the principal and interest payment on $50 million of bonds.  This is not a new idea!  Over 200 communities across the United States have passed Open Space Bonds from 2004 to mid-2007.

Bonds are like your home mortgage.  The County borrows money and then pays it back at approximately 5% over 20 years.  The $4 million generated from the 2% money could be used as payment of principal and interest on $50 million in bonds.  Right now interest rates are low; the real estate market has fallen 20%, and is still falling.  Some landowners with properties slated for development are eager to sell.  This economic downturn is a golden opportunity for the County!  If we had this Bond money we could buy open space and parkland properties now!

The Hawai`i County Council has approved ten resolutions which instruct the Director of Finance to begin negotiations to acquire: Puapua`a Historic Site (12+ acres north of Casa de Emdeko-Ali`i Drive, Kona), Waipio Lookout (acquired), Honoli`i, Cape Kumukahi, Ocean Park, Honolulu Landing, Wai`ele, Kawa`a Bay (partially acquired), Punalu`u Beach Park.  Council Chair Pete Hoffmann has proposed Pa`o`o (on the Kohala Coast) for acquisition, which was unanimously approved by the Council on May 7, 2007.

People say, “We can’t take care of what we have, so why should we buy more?”  The Parks and Recreation Department is unable to effectively care for our parks.  A private Parklands Foundation could be set up to manage these properties, working with a community-based ohana responsible for each property.  The community, the County and the Foundation could work together to manage and maintain these properties with annuity funds set up at the time of acquisition, or the establishment of Community Stewardship organizations.

The Parklands Foundation could:
*  Develop and manage the lands that were acquired via this Bond.
*  Provide continuity not affected by administration changes in the County government.
*  Be a liaison between citizens and the County to provide long-term vision for development and management.
*  Provide an €˜umbrella’ 501c3 corporation for citizen’s groups who wish to become “Friends of the Park,” so donations can be tax deductible, and so that each group need not form a private 501c3 organization.
*  Help citizen’s groups manage their funding.
*  Coordinate with citizens and the County to provide day-to-day management, such as trash collection, hiring of personnel, landscape maintenance, etc.
*  Manage an annuity, which should be established to provide yearly maintenance for each of the   properties, or help with the establishment of Community Stewardship organizations.

PLEASE ASK CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR AND COUNCIL ABOUT AN OPEN SPACE BOND AND THEIR MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES FOR HAWAI`I COUNTY PARKS.  PLEASE CALL ME WITH QUESTIONS OR SUGGESTIONS.     Debbie Hecht (989-3222) (hecht.deb@gmail.com).

SAVING LAND WITH OPEN SPACE/PARKLANDS BOND

by Debbie Hecht
In 2006 57% of voters said “yes” to set aside 2% of our property taxes each year to acquire Open Space. There are now over $5 million in the fund, but the money for ’08 will pay for Kawa`a Bay. The 1.8 acres at Waipi`o Lookout was the first purchase using 2% money.

The Hawai`i County Council has approved nine resolutions, which instruct the Director of Finance to begin negotiations to acquire: Puapua`a Historic site (12+ acres north of Casa de Emdeko-Ali`I Drive, Kona), Waipi`o Lookout (acquired), Honoli`i, Cape Kumukahi, Ocean Park, Honolulu Landing, Wai`ele, Kawa`a Bay, Punalu`u Beach park.

Hawai`i Island’s treasured lands need to be saved now! These lands make Hawai`i Island unique and provide our quality of life. People say, “We need roads, schools and infrastructure.” Absolutely!! This is not a “one thing or the other” issue. Hawai`i County needs all of these things in equal measure. Our infrastructure is not keeping pace with development; our quality of life is suffering. Open Space does not require expensive government services to maintain.

The 2% funds will NOT save all our important lands before they fall to development. An Open Space and Parklands Bond can provide funding to acquire these lands through outright purchase or the purchase of development rights through conservation easements. This is not a new idea. From 2004 to early 2007, 200 communities nation-wide have authorized bonds to purchase open space and parklands. (Trust for Public Lands-Land Vote Database)

An Open Space and Parklands Bond would be levied against properties island-wide. How does this work? The County borrows money the same way you would borrow money for a mortgage to buy your home. The County could borrow $100 million to buy properties today and citizens countywide would pay back the loan. People with more expensive properties pay more. Look at the assessed value on your tax bill. If it states the assessed value is $100,000, you would pay $35.70/year or $2.98/month; someone with a property assessed at $500,000 would pay $178.50/year or $14.88/month; someone with a property assessed at $750,000 would pay $267.75/year or $22.31/month. If the Council passed this measure, you would not be assessed the total amount the next day; but the assessment would be added to your taxes gradually as properties were purchased and the money was spent.
Right now interest rates are low; the real estate market has fallen 20%, is still falling; developers’ cash flows are slowing and some landowners need to sell. This is a golden opportunity for the County!

Please ask your Council members to introduce resolutions to conserve our special lands, buffer reefs, preserve beach access and park properties — especially lands which will soon fall to development, before they are lost forever. Ask your community development plan to include a recommendation for an Open Space and Parklands Bond. Make this a campaign issue – ask Council candidates, “What is your plan for preserving parks and open space?”
Next month – a plan for park management. Aloha, Debbie

2% Solution Vote YES in November 06

By Debbie Hecht

The Sierra Club is working with the Save Our Lands Citizens’ Committee and supports the 2% for Open Space Ballot Initiative. A YES vote in November will change the existing Open Space and Natural Resources Ordinance by dedicating 2% of Hawai`i County property taxes each year to preserve open spaces and by removing the $5 million limit on funds that can be held in the Preservation Fund. Strong support was indicated by the 9,500 signatures (12.7% of registered voters) that were collected by volunteers in 3 months and by the unanimous approval by the Hawai`i County Council to place this measure on the ballot in November.

In 2005, the Hawai`i County Council passed an ordinance that created the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund, and the Open Space Commission, as part of the County Code, Chapter 2, Article 42, Section 2-214. An Open Space Commission was formed with nine commissioners, one appointed by each Council member and confirmed by the Mayor. This fund is intended to protect access to our beaches and mountains, preserve historic and culturally important sites, and to preserve watershed areas, forests, coastal areas and agricultural lands.

On April 6, 2006 the Open Space Commission submitted to the Mayor their list of properties recommended for acquisition (see below). Real property tax revenue for Hawai`i County’s fiscal year ’04-’05 was $131,087,098.76.

If this ordinance had been in place in 2005, we would have set aside $2,621,741 with the potential of leveraging County funds up to $11 million in buying power from Federal, State and private matching funds for land protection. If this measure passes, it is estimated we could expect almost #3.5 million to be placed in the fund this year.

The Sierra Club supports this initiative because it will provide a stable source of funding to support island-wide, cooperative land conservation efforts and attract funding from the State and Federal governments and priate conservation donors. For example, Honu`apo was acquired in 2006 with only $500,.00 in County funds. State, Federal and private funding covered the balance. This property is 225 acres of coastal land in Ka`u, adjacent to Whittington Beach Park; it is valued at $3.5 million.

Kauai and Maui have set aside ½ percent and 1 percent of their property taxes. Oahu is also working on a ballot measure. This change to the Open Space Ordinance will not raise taxes. This money will come from 2% of the existing taxes. Hawai`i County had an increase of $50 million in property tax revenue last year. This is not a change to the County Charter. We are dedicating our efforts for a large voter turn-out so that our elected officials will recognize the wide spread support for Hawai`i County land preservation. We hope voters will send a strong message to the County Council that the Open Space Fund cannot be raided for other expenses as the $3 million that was re-appropriated in June of 2006. Our open spaces are what make the Big Island unique and are fundamental to our way of life. Natural, undeveloped lands do not make demands on overburdened existing infrastructure or County services. Please vote YES for the 2% Solution in November, and send a strong message that you support Open Space Conservation.

For information or to donate funds, contact Debbie Hecht (989-3222), hecht.deb@gmail.com.

Open Space Commission’s Priority Properties recommended for purchase: Kawa Bay; Waipio Lookout Point; Pohue Bay; Maulua Gulch; Punalu`u Beach Park and adjacent lands; Mahukona; Kamano; Kou; Hihiu; Kamoa; Cape Kumukahi; O`oma (makai of Queen Kaahumanu Highway; Keamuku; Queen Emma Estates (coastal parcel Mau`umae Beach); Puapua`a; Ke`ei Beach.

Properties recommended for acquisition through partnerships: Kiholo Bay; Kealakehe Regional Park; Kahena Ditch Road; Lalamilo Farm Lots Waimea; Forest Reserve Honaunau and South Kona, Ka`u Coast; North American Properties: Ka`a puna, Olelo Moana, Ka`ohe; Kamoa Point; Reish (Lapakahi State Historial Park aes); Makalawena; Old Kukuihaele Quarry and Breakwater; Hoku`ula Battleground; Kahoe; Ka`u Forest Reserve; Botelho Ranch; SC Ranch; KK Ranch; Keanakolu Koa Forests; Ka Lae/South Point; Cohen (Lapakahi State Historical Park area); Pu`u `O`o Ranch Pi`ihonua; Ka`u Great Crack (Southwest Rift of Kilauea Volcano); Waipunalei/Laupahoehoe.

LEGISLATIVE NEWS

By Matt Binder

We have started receiving Action Alerts for the new state legislative session from our lobbyist/executive director, Jeff Mikulina. If you are interested in helping pass good laws and/or opposing bad ones.

This year we are making a strong effort to work in a grand environmental coalition with other groups so that we will have more impact on the legislative process.

On the Big Island, the County Council has yet to pass the General Plan that so many of our members have worked on over the past three years. This is the document that states the overall goals and strategies for the future of our island. It is supposed to be adopted at the turn of each decade. The current draft of the General Plan has some very good environmental statements, and this may be why the Council is refusing to pass it. Please call or write your representatives to tell them it is a disgrace that it is now 2004 and we still don’t have a General Plan. This is another example of their current “No Planning” philosophy. There are a lot of anti-environmental Council members now. Please encourage good people to run against them.