2% Land Fund Program at the Charter Commission NEXT MEETING March 8th- report on February 8th Meeting

 

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March 8:  NEXT Charter Commission MEETING 11:00 at the Kona CIVIC CENTER 
Your  testimony is making a HUGE  difference! Big mahalo for taking the time to show up and speak out.
The commissioners definitely were touched and interested in your personal experiences around the lands.
  • Commissioner Billy Bergin- mentioned Fred Cachola’s testimony about historic places and the 2% Land Fund being used to preserve these places.  Thanks Fred!
  • Commissioner Roehrig commented that he was touched by Toni Whittington and Fred’s testimony which took him back to his boyhood and camping on the Kohala Coast.  This seemed to turn his interest in the 2% Land Fund.
  • Commissioner Galimba quoted Gail Byrne’s comments economic development and gave examples about the Ka’u community and how the lands obtained helped Ka’u.
WHAT HAPPENED at the Charter Commission meeting February 8th?
CA-7 would have gutted the fund and reduce to 3/4%, removed the perpetuity clause-  VOTED DOWN- Yipee!
CA-8 moving forward BUT  the language that we requested was axed and replaced by Department of Finance Head, Deanna Sako.
So far this is a “JUST SAY NO” AMENDMENT: Remember if we vote any amendments down we would default back to the existing charter.
Why is this a bad amendment? We have MORE WORK TO DO!
The problems created are:
1-  Does not provided for a dedicated staff person to work ONLY on the 2% Land Fund.  Sako said they could be pulled off if there was a disaster or other need.  
2-  They use the term “staff” to be paid out of the fund- 1 staff, 2?   Remember these salaries, benefits etc deplete the money to be used for purchases.   
3-  Sako also said that the fund could be charged for PONC activities.  How could we oversee this process?  
4- WE want/ need  a person DEDICATED ONLY  to work on the 2% Land Fund Program, so that we can get more properties acquired, more stewardship grants funded and more matching funds obtained. 
CA-13 failed for lack of motion – would have taken both funds in time of emergency. Yipee!
CA-16- failed for lack of motion- combining the 2 funds– Yipee!
CA-18- POSTPONED— This amendment would strengthen the Maintenance Fund – still under discussion with Commissioner Rice and others on how to streamline and accelerate the timelines for stewardship grants. The goal to get more money in the hands of the non-profits.   Postponed until March 8th.
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SAVE THE DATES:  Please, please plan to attend! 
Public meetings in your area:   Please attend in your area and take friends and neighbors. We have to start educating people for the 2% Land Fund Campaign.  The Commissioners are saying over and over they want to hear from the public. PLease show up!
March 25 in Kohala 6 pm at the Old Court Building.
March 29 in Na’alehu at the Community Center at 6:00 pm.
April 1 – Pahoa Community Center 6 pm
April 2- Honoka’a Gym at 6 pm
April 3 – Kona Council Chamber 6:00 pm
April 4- Hilo Council Chambers 6:00 pm

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

a- Attend the meeting and testify OR

b- Send an email to the Charter Commission and tell them your thoughts. Charter.commission@hawaiicounty.gov

c- Need more information? Go to http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/ in the left hand column go to the Charter Commission, click there and look for agendas. There should be an agenda with hyperlinks to read the actual legislation.

d- look for more information and background: https://debbiehecht.com/…/2-land-fund-program-at-the-chart…/

The Charter Commission will soon be going out for public meetings in different parts of the County- please attend.

Forward this to friends and family and talk to them about what is going on.

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HISTORY AND BACKGROUND

The Land Fund has been in existence since 2006 when it was approved by 63% of voters.  63% of voters  also approved the Land Fund in 2010. In 2012 votes the same 63% approved the 2% Land Fund and a Maintenance Fund to care for these lands that exists today.   There have been some great successes, but we believe there is much that can be done to improve the 2% Land Fund.   We hope you will support this legislation and testify at the Charter Commission and also when the Charter Commission goes out for public meetings in your area of the island.  Mahalo for your kokua to save Hawai’i Island’s treasured lands.

The GREAT SUCCESS OF THE 2% LAND FUND PROGRAM:

  • PROPERTIES PROPOSED BY CITIZENS FOR ACQUISITION: 180
  • PROPERTIES ACQUIRED since 2006: ONLY 14
  • LAND ACQUIRED: 4,428 acres of land acquired with an additional 2,200 acres will be acquired soon at Waikapuna in Ka’u.
  • MONEY SPENT: County of Hawaii 2% Land Fund   $ 27,389,268. Grants from Matching funds from State Legacy Land and US Fish and Wildlife $8,764,083. And $2 million from a private donor.

The Charter Commission is currently discussing 3 Charter Amendments (as of January 23, 2019)  that affect the fund:

SUPPORT OUR PROPOSAL TO strengthen the 2% Land Fund Program :

CA-9 Uses 2% LAND FUND MONIES to pay for a full time staff person working for the Department of Finance who is dedicated to ONLY administering the 2% LAND FUND PROGRAM. Their duties would include acquiring property, obtaining matching funds, helping the public with suggestion forms and stewardship applications and the administration of the Maintenance Fund.  This saves money for the Department of Finance, with one less salary to pay.  A big mahalo to Commissioner Michelle Galimba for bringing this forward. SEE ACTUAL LEGISLATION POSTED BELOW

WE OPPOSE TWO CHARTER AMENDMENTS:

OPPOSE- CA7- which GUTS THE 2% LAND FUND ( proposed by Hamano)

  • Reduces the fund to .75% of property taxes ($1.5 million which will not be enough money to purchase property)
  • Removes the Maintenance Fund from the Charter to the County Code where it can be cut in the budget each year by the Mayor and Council. Remember Charter Amendments can only be changed by a vote of the people.  We proposed a charter amendment when Mayor Kenoi stopped deposits to the fund for 2 years in 2006.
  • Removes the clause that protects the land in perpetuity. The 2% Lands could be sold! This could affect the County’s ability to obtain matching funds. “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.”

OPPOSE CA- 13- TAKE THE FUND to FUND DISASTER RELIEF: (proposed by Bobby Jean Leithead-Todd) Which allows the Mayor to declare an emergency and raid the 2% Land Fund and the 2 other funds.  This sounds good, but this is aimed at GUTTING the 2% Land Fund Program.  The Mayor and County Council regularly take money from the Budget Stabilization Fund and Disaster Relief Fund to balance the budget. They can take those monies any time and quickly. AND besides, why don’t they fully fund the DISASTER RELIEF FUND? TELL THEM TO LEAVE THE 2% LAND FUND ALONE. 63% of us voted for it 3 times! Be loud and be clear, we care about our treasured lands on the Big Island.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

  • Testify at a Charter Commission meeting: on January 25th and another meeting on February 8th.  PLEASE SAVE THE DATES.
  • Send an email to the Chart to commission@hawaiicounty.gov   and tell them what you support and what you oppose.
  • Talk to friends and family, this will be on the 2020 ballot and we need to educate people.
  • Sign up to get emails to stay informed- Debbie Hecht at deb@gmail.com

SUPPORT Coming UP- February 8th  IN HILO meeting: Maintenance Fund Changes

  • The Maintenance Fund and the entire 2% Land Fund will be administered entirely by the Department of Finance.
  • Increases the scope of activities allowable with Maintenance Fund monies, to include: constructing toilet facilities, ADA improvements, small buildings, trails paths and roads.
  • Clarifies the Stewardship Grant process.
  • Allows officers, board members, or employees of a 501(c) 3 nonprofit to be paid.

Big mahalo to Commissioner Sally Rice who has offered to bring this forward.

 WHAT IS THE CHARTER COMMISSION? The Charter Commission meets every 10 years to revise the Hawaii County Charter. Mayor Kim appointed all eleven members. Three of the commissioners are from the Districts of north and south Hilo, 3 of the commissioners are from south Hilo, one is from South Hilo and Kea’ au, one is from Puna, one from north Kona, one from south Kona. No one represents West Puna or District 7 North and South Kona. Eight of the commissioners are from Hilo, ONLY 3 of the Commissioners are from the west side of the island.

THE CHARTER COMMISSIONERS ARE:  William Carthage Bergin, Michelle Galimba, Paul K. Hamano, Kevin D. Hopkins, Bobby Jean Leithead Todd, Sarah H. Rice, Christopher John Imiloa Roehrig, Marcia A.K. Saquing, Donna Mae Springer, Douglass Shipman Adams, Chairperson Jennifer Zelko-Schlueter, Vice Chairperson IF YOU KNOW ANY OF OUR FELLOW CITIZENS, PLEASE TALK TO THEM.

THE REBUTTALS to the Arguments we have heard to reduce the 2% Land Fund:

Other counties have much less dedicated money for land acquisition.   That is true, Oahu and Maui have a lot larger property tax base because they have a larger population and much more property tax revenue. They also have less vacant land to save.   Kauai is almost at full development.

You are taking away money from hiring Police.         Two percent of the county tax revenue is approximately $5 to $6 million per year. In hard times, property taxes are less and the county has less money coming in and the 2% for the Land Fund is also less. The 2% Land Fund adjusts in hard times that are why it’s a percentage.  The County budget is $524 million so the 2% Land Fund amount of $5 or $6 billion is really only 1.5% of the entire revenue stream for the County of Hawaii. I’ve been running my own business for 40 years; I can cut 1.5% from my budget in 5 minutes.  WHY is THIS SUCH A BIG DEAL?

More than half the land on the Big Island is in Conservation, why do we need to buy more land?” asked Commissioner Roehrig.  That is true, but it is zoned Conservation.  Properties zoned Conservation were rezoned and beach access limited at the big hotels in Waikoloa and at Kohanaiki, Mauna Lani, O’oma and Kukio The Four Seasons.  Zoning does NOT protect land!

In the case of a natural disaster the County should be able to take these funds.  The County of Hawaii has earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, high winds and hurricanes.  The County government is supposed to care for Citizen’s Safety.    The County of Hawaii has a Disaster Relief Fund for this purpose.  The real problem is that the Mayor and Council raid this fund to balance the budget.  This was evident in the recent lava flow disaster, when there was little money to cover the costs.

We have to delete the Perpetuity clause, in case we have to sell land because we cannot take care of it, said by Mayor Harry Kim in addressing the Charter Commission. See the link below to the video. The perpetuity clause 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.”   WHY would anyone or any group donate matching funds if they knew the land they helped purchase could be sold and the money put into the General Fund to balance the budget.

We can’t take care of all this land; we should sell some to the National Parks so they can take care of it.  I heard the Mayor say this, it’s recorded in a Big Island Video clip. Doesn’t Mayor Kim know we have a Maintenance Fund for exactly his purpose? 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 Kahuku property. The Ala Kahakai Trail Association in conjunction with the National Park Service’s Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail 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.

VIDEO SHOWING Mayor Harry Kim WANTING TO TAKE THE FUND: http://www.bigislandvideonews.com/2017/02/09/video-mayor-kim-wants-to-reduce-two-percent-land-fund/

Harry Kim talks about reducing the fund and raising taxes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEAwuvjmv50

PROCESS of CHARTER AMENDMENTS:  STAY TUNED!

  1. SUBMIT Charter amendments have to  a Charter Commissioner to be considered.
  2.  The Charter Commission then DEBATE The proposed amendments are debated and if they are approved move on to
  3. FIRST READING.  If a majority votes no, then the proposed amendment dies, If they are approved at first reading (sometimes with amendments) then the proposed charter amendments are presented at
  4. PUBLIC MEETINGS-  public meetings (please attend these when they are in your area).
  5.  Ideas  by the public may then be incorporated into the proposed charter amendments to be reconsidered at the Charter Commission
  6. SECOND READING- The Charter Commission votes  again at Second Reading
  7. COUNTY COUNCIL -those amendment that passed 2nd reading go to County Council for 2 or 3 readings.
  8. The process must be finished by August 19
  9. APPEAR ON THE BALLOT FOR NOVEMBER 2020

SiGN UP TO BE KEPT INFORMED: hecht.deb@gmail.com

QUICK HISTORY OF THE LEGISLATION FROM 2005 to 2018:

  1. Where did the 2% amount come from?   In 2004 and early 2005 Sammie Stanbro-Olson donated money to the Trust for Public Lands (TPL) for a survey of Hawaii County residents to ask if they would approve a 1% or 2% Land Fund as a ballot measure. A large majority of residents said they would want a 2% Land Fund because land is so expensive on the Big Island.
  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 only1.5% 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 to get the measure on the ballot, but because of the disqualifications we didn’t get enough. The County Council at Chair Stacy Higa’s request, decided to place the 2% 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- As the his first piece of legislation, Mayor Kenoi and the County Council suspended deposits to the Fund for two years. This was possible 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 (costing $14 million), which were then cut, but Mayor Kenoi failed to reinstate payments to the 2% Land Fund after cutting these budget entries.
  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. The Save Our Lands Committee supported this because it was a charter amendment and could only be overturned by a vote of the people. We wouldn’t have to sit in budget hearings each year.
  7. In 2012, to honor all the people who signed the petitions and worked so hard over the years, we 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 deposits. 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 that states: “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.” 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.

CA-9, the legislation below,  has passed to FIRST READING ON JANUARY 25TH IN KONA AT 1:30 COUNCIL CHAMBERS.

2% Land Fund charter amendment for Charter Commission

January 11, 2019

 CHANGES made are the underlined areas are added and struck  through areas are deleted.  Charter Commissioner Michelle Galimba has presented this proposed amendment. Big mahalo to Michelle!  Here is text of the proposal at present, which adds a section under (c)

Fund a senior staff person dedicated ONLY to the administration of the provisions of this section, who shall be employed under the department of finance and whose duties shall include, but not be limited to: assisting the public with applications for acquisition; assisting the public access, open space and natural resources preservation commission with its prioritization of properties to be acquired; negotiation and acquisition of eligible properties; seeking and acquiring matching funds; and managing the maintenance of lands acquired by this fund, by overseeing and implementing the provisions of Section 10-16 of this charter. This position shall be exempt from civil service laws and classifications and be distinct from any other positions that provide support for the provisions of this section, Section 10-16 of this charter, and any matters related thereto. This position shall be distinct from and IN ADDITION TO ANY OTHER POSITIONS that provide support for the provisions of this section, Section 10-16 of this charter, and Article 42 of the Hawaii County Code or any matters related thereto.

THE FOLLOWING LEGISLATION WILL BE PRESENTED ON JANUARY 25TH AT 1:30 IN KONA COUNCIL CHAMBERS FOR DEBATE: Charter Commissioner Sally Rice is presenting this proposed amendment. Big mahalo to Sally!

DRAFT- PROPOSED CHANGES TO THE MAINTENANCE FUND at the CHARTER COMMISSION coming up soon

 QUICK SUMMARY of CHANGES:

  1. The Maintenance Fund and the 2% Land Fund will be administered entirely by the Department of Finance.
  2. Increases the scope of activities to including constructing toilet facilities, ADA improvements, small buildings, trails paths and roads.
  3. Refines and better defines the Stewardship Grant process.
  4. Allows officers, board members, or employees of the 501(c) 3 nonprofit to be paid.

STAY TUNED.  IT TAKES AN ISLAND TO SAVE the Big Island’s treasured lands.  Mahalo.

 

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