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).