MARCH 2018: 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 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 has only been 1 group that has 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 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.
Here’s the link to find out who is your representative. 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 can 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 Commission is very concerned about the process and the form currently being used for Stewardship Grant applications. There is also lack of clarity about what expenses are eligible for funding using the Maintenance Fund.
- The Commission encourages non-profit community groups to apply for stewardship grants.
- PONC STEWARDSHIP GRANT: Properties that are acquired with Land Fund monies can apply for maintenance funds. Here is a link to the application. http://records.co.hawaii.hi.us/weblink/1/edoc/80189/PONC%20Stewardship%20Grant%20Request%20Form%20(application%20period%20801%20-%2083116).pdf
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 Fund $27,389,268.
Grants from Matching funds* $8,764,083.
Private funds: $2,000,000
*From US Fish and Wildlife to protect lands for Endangered Species, State Legacy Lands $7,434,083 actually received, $1,330,000. Pending from Legacy Lands for Wai’opae, Puna.
*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:
- The Save Our Lands Citizen’s Committee Petition Initiative drive collected almost 10,000 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).
- 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.
- 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 to become part of the Hawaii County Code.
- 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. The Save Our Lands Citizens’ Committee pointed out that there were more than 260 funded but unfilled job in his budget, but Mayor Kenoi failed to reinstate payments to the 2% Land Fund after cutting these budget entries totaling approximately $14 million.
- 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.
- In 2012, to honor all the people who signed the petitions and worked so hard over the years, we felt 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 that 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.
- 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.firstname.lastname@example.org