2% LAND FUND REPORT: History, Process and Successes for Hawai’i County’s 2% Land Fund 11.1.2018

These properties have been acquired by the 2% Land Fund through 2018

2% Land Fund map 2018

A MESSAGE FROM DEBBIE HECHT: It has been my great honor to be Campaign Coordinator for the 2% Land Fund over the last 13 years. I have learned that kuleana communities are built around our island’s treasured places. Building community is the “gold” and the greatest benefit that has grown out of the struggles for the 2% Land Fund.   Out of this love of the land has grown non-profit community groups that are volunteering their time and using their own money to care for these special places.   To see the 2017 Report to the Mayor by the Public Access and Open Space Commission (PONC), which lists this year’s top 10 properties recommended for conservation go to: http://records.co.hawaii.hi.us/weblink/1/edoc/91477/2017-12-28%20(2017%20PONC%20Annual%20Report%20to%20the%20Mayor).pdf

THE 2% LAND FUND WAS ON THE BALLOT AS A CHARTER AMENDMENT. In 2012, Debbie Hecht and Council member Brenda Ford added an important clause that runs with the land as a Deed Restriction, which says:

“This property (or easement) was acquired with money from the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund.  It shall be held in perpetuity for the use and enjoyment of the people of Hawai’i County and may not be sold, mortgaged, traded or transferred in any way.”

Council Member Brenda Ford and I thought this was very important. It takes several years before a property is proposed by citizens, gets through the Public Access and Open Space Commission and is funded and acquired by the County with our tax dollars.   The groups that propose these lands work hard to bring them forward and hard to care for them after they are acquired, frequently using their own money, their time and hard work to improve these properties. These properties are purchased with citizen’s tax money and the properties should be reserved for the use of all of us, our keiki and grandchildren.   This should not be subject to change just because the county cannot make their budget. The county should be fiscally responsible and have a sizeable Disaster Relief Fund. Our County has more natural disasters than any county in the US. Wouldn’t this be prudent? This is a voter mandated set aside. IF not dedicated in perpetuity, the land could be sold, developed for a hotel; beach access controlled like what happened at the Mauna Kea, Mauna Lani, Kukio Four Seasons Resorts and Kohanaiki. The money would disappear into the general fund. Another great gift of the 2% Land Fund is the capacity to apply for matching funds. The County frequently applies for an gets money for matching funds from State Legacy Lands and US Fish and Wildlife Service. So far, the County has received $8.76 million in matching funds, approximately 25% of the purchase price of the acquired properties. Why would they want to contribute money to these land purchases if the County could turn around and sell the land?

COUNTY/ STATE and FEDERAL GOVERNMENT COOPERATION: The County is currently collaborating with the National Park Service for both the Kahuku property and on the Waikapuna property which is under contract in Ka’u. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park helps to manage the Kahoka property. The Ala Kahakai Trail Association in conjunction with the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail https://www.nps.gov/alka/index.htm, which has a management plan for the King’s Trail or Ala Kahakai Trail that runs 175 miles from Upolu Point near Hawi to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The State of Hawaii Legacy Lands program frequently donates money to purchase properties.

THE MAINTENANCE FUND CHARTER AMENDMENT was on the ballot in 2012. Council member Brenda Ford and I wrote the legislation creating the 2% Maintenance Fund to care for the lands obtained by the 2% Land Fund. Maintenance Fund grants are available to community groups who are maintaining Hawai’i Islands treasured places. Our intent was to empower these groups to continue their good work and to enable and encourage kuleana and the building of community for these lands.  The County has made good use of these funds. But in the last 5 years there have only been 2 groups that have obtained these funds. WHY?  This process needs to be improved. It has now been placed under the care of the PONC Commission. This should help get these funds to community groups!  I was a PONC commissioner and these volunteers are strong advocates for land conservation and maintenance. Get in touch with your PONC Commissioner and ask their help to obtain Maintenance Funds or how to suggest lands for preservation in your community.

PROPERTY ACQUISITION PROCESS is available here: http://records.co.hawaii.hi.us/weblink/browse.aspx?dbid=1&startid=13770

Here’s the link to find out who is your commissioner on for the Public Access and Open Space Natural Resources Commission: http://records.co.hawaii.hi.us/weblink/1/edoc/90257/PONC%20Commissioner%20Biographies%20(updated%2011-13-2017).pdf  In the above map you can see there are 14 properties that have been purchased and 14 groups that can use assistance. If you are one of these groups we encourage you to apply to the Public Access and Open Space Commission (PONC).

The County should do better to enable and empower our communities and the PONC Commission seems to agree.

The 2018 Report to the Mayor contains:

COMMISSION AND COMMUNITY RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCERNS

The GREAT SUCCESS OF THE 2% LAND FUND:

  • PROPERTIES ACQUIRED since 2006: 14  
  • PROPERTIES SUBMITTED FOR ACQUISITION: 180
  • LAND ACQUIRED: 4,428 acres of land already acquired suggested by community members
  • MONEY SPENT: County of Hawaii 2% Land Fun   $ 27,389,268.

                             Grants from Matching funds*                    $8,764,083.

                                   Private funds:                                            $2,000,000

*MATCHING FUNDS- My opinion: The highest and best use of 2% of taxpayer’s funds is to use the 2% Land Fund to get dollar for dollar matching funds. To date the County has only received 1 dollar for every 3 dollars spent for taxpayers OR only 32% of the money spent is from grants.   The ultimate goal would be to get dollar for dollar matching funds.

PROPERTIES SUBMITTED TO THE PONC COMMISSION TO BE CONSIDERED FOR ACQUISITION since December 28, 2016: This information came from the Comprehensive List of Properties http://records.co.hawaii.hi.us/weblink/1/edoc/84955/2016-12-28%20PONC%20Comprehensive%20List%20of%20Properties%20Submitted%20by%20the%20Public.pdf_

QUICK HISTORY OF THE LEGISLATION FROM 2005 to 2018:

  1. Where did the 2% amount come from?   In 2004 and early 2005 the Trust for Public Lands (TPL) did a survey of Hawaii County residents to ask if they would like to see a 1% Land Fund or 2% Land Fund. A large majority of residents said they would want a 2% Land Fund because land is so expensive on the Big Island.   Sammie Stanbro donated the money to TPL for this survey.
  2. The Save Our Lands Citizen’s Committee Petition Initiative drive collected 9,600 signatures from April to July of 2006. This was during Harry Kim’s first term. Mayor Kim was adamantly against setting aside 2% of property taxes for land acquisition, even though this is 1.5% of the total income for the County.   County Clerk Connie Kiriu and County Counsel Lincoln Ashida disqualified almost 6,000 signatures for leaving off Pl, St. or Rd, or if husband and wife used ditto marks for their address when signing under each other or if the year was left off, (we collected signatures from May to July so it was only during 2005 which made the year implied and irrelevant).
  3. We needed 4,400 signatures, but because of the disqualifications we didn’t get enough. The County Council decided to place the ballot measure on the ballot for 2006 anyway.
  4. Despite the Corporation Counsel submitting confusing ballot language using double negatives, the amendment to the Code passed by 63% of voters who voted on the issue and become part of the Hawaii County Code.
  5. In 2008- Mayor Kenoi and the County Council suspended deposits to the Fund for two years as his very first piece of legislation after taking office because the legislation was part of the Hawaii County Code. The Save Our Lands Citizens’ Committee pointed out that there were more than 260 funded but unfilled jobs in his budget, but Mayor Kenoi failed to reinstate payments to the 2% Land Fund after cutting these budget entries totaling approximately $14 million.
  6. In 2010, the Charter Commission put the Land Fund on the ballot again, but only as the 1% Land Fund.  Again the Land Fund passed by 63% of voters, who voted on the measure.
  7. In 2012, to honor all the people who signed the petitions and worked so hard over the years, Debbie Hecht and Brenda Ford realized we needed to put the 2% Land Fund back on the ballot as a Charter Amendment, together with a 1/4% Maintenance Fund. We wanted to make sure the Council and Mayor couldn’t stop fund deposits and a charter amendment can only be undone by a vote of the people.  Again, 63% of voters approved both measures. As part of the 2% Land Fund legislation, every property obtained with our taxpayer funds shall have a covenant that runs with the land stating that these lands are to be held in perpetuity for the citizens of the County of Hawaii and cannot be sold, traded, mortgaged etc.  This has already blocked a potential land trade with the State of Hawaii.
  8. The Maintenance Fund was clarified in the Hawaii County Code in 2016 to allow the PONC Commission to review Stewardship Grants and to recommend which grants to approve to the Director of Finance.

GRASS ROOTS ORGANIZING PROCESS to pass the 3 ballot measures:

  • During the Petition Initiative process, the Save Our Lands Citizen Committee had more than 100 people who collected signatures of more than 50 signatures each in 2006.
  • The Committee has a 3,000 personal email list, which we use to inform our supporters, or if we need emails sent to elected officials, or to ask people to show up for public meetings or to lobbying their Council members.   These 3,000 people were asked to contact their email list. They represent about 10% of the voting public on the island. (There have been approximately 100,000 voters registered for the County of Hawaii, usually about 33,000 of these registered voters actually vote, therefore 3,000 supporters is 10% of the vote.)

Citizens have proposed 180 properties for acquisition:

  • Puna area: 16 properties
  • South Hilo area: 16 properties
  • North Hilo: 7 properties
  • Hamakua: 26 properties
  • North Kohala: 29 properties
  • South Kohala: 18 properties
  • North Kona: 27 properties
  • South Kona: 14 properties
  • Ka’u: 27 properties

The Community recommends a property to the Public Access and Open Space Commission, here is the process and links to the application: http://records.co.hawaii.hi.us/weblink/1/edoc/84953/Process%20for%20Property%20Acquisition%20with%20Funds%20from%20the%20PONC%20Fund.pdf

THE HAWAII COUNTY CHARTER AND THE HAWAII COUNTY CODE: which regulates the 2% Land Fund (PONC) and the PONC Maintenance Fund go to: http://records.co.hawaii.hi.us/weblink/browse.aspx?startid=13770&dbid=1

Submitted by Debbie Hecht, Campaign Coordinator Save Our Lands Citizen’s Committee Hecht.deb@gmail.com 808-989-3222

Join our email list to stay informed and keep your family and friends informed on this important issue.  hecht.deb@gmail.com

 

 

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