WE urgently NEED YOUR HELP! 2% Land Fund Program at risk: The Charter Commission & Charter Amendments 9 and 18 that affect the Land Fund will now move to the County Council where they CAN be amended! 6.21.2019

 

PONC acquisitions 2019

Watch a clear, video explanation of what is requested to strengthen the 2% Land Fund: Program:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24ty0e0tFxU

WE NEED YOUR HELP MORE THAN EVER! It is urgent that you make an appointment to talk to your County Council member as soon as possible and have them support our recommendations. The Charter Commission has sent their proposed charter amendments to the County Council. The County Council will meet in early July to consider the proposed charter amendments. The Hawaii County Council can now make recommendations back to the Charter Commission.   YOU CAN EMAIL THE ENTIRE COUNCIL: CUT AND PASTE THE LIST OF ADDRESSES BELOW.

aaron.chung@hawaiicounty.gov, valerie.poindexter@hawaiicounty.gov, ashley.kierkiewicz@hawaiicounty.gov, sue.leeloy@hawaiicounty.gov, karen.eoff@hawaiicounty.gov, matt.kanealii-kleinfelder@hawaiicounty.gov, maile.david@hawaiicounty.gov, tim.richards@hawaiicounty.gov, rebecca.villegas@hawaiicounty.gov

ASK  TO REFINE THE LANGUAGE TO STRENGTHEN THE 2% LAND FUND PROGRAM.

We need YOUR help with 3 things to strengthen the 2% Land Fund Program when you talk to your council member:

  1. Make changes to Charter Amendment-9 deals with ONE full time employee to work ONLY on the 2% Land Fund Program.
  2. Make changes to Charter Amendment 18- deals with the Maintenance Fund and allows the non-profit stewardship groups to pay people who work on the land.
  3. Ask the Council to write or approve a new Resolution instructing the Department of Finance to designate a full time staff person to administer the 2% Land Fund Program by:
    1. Facilitating the purchase of more of the lands that have been proposed
    2. Look for more matching funds and write grants
    3. Assist the non-profit stewardship group.

Black print is what the Charter commission is proposing. The UNDERLINED IN RED  Additions are what we would like to see included in the language:                                          ASK YOUR COUNCIL MEMBER TO INCLUDE OUR RED and UNDERLINED LANGUAGE IN THEIR RECOMMENDATION                                                                                                                       CA-9: 3) “Pay for the salary, wages and benefits of one full-time staff member, employed by the Department of Finance  dedicated only to advancing administering the activities contained within this section and Section 10-16 of this charter.  This is in addition to a staff person provided for in the Hawaii County Code to assist the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Commission”

This seems like a simple matter. We are asking for the UNDERLINED clarifying language. Otherwise WE WILL RUN A JUST SAY NO CAMPAIGN. The word “staff” is ambiguous, would the 2% Land Fund pay for only one position or 3 or 5 or more?   The 2% Land Funbd  could end up funding multiple staff positions which will reduce the purchasing power of the 2% Land Fund. This is NOT what we voted for. Remember 2% of our property taxes is only $5 million per year, which is 1.5% of the income into the county and it adjusts according to property values in times of recession. $5 million per year can only buy one or two properties.

THE LAND FUND IS NOT WORKING AS WELL AS IT SHOULD, we need ONE full time person to work ONLY on the Land Fund Program because:

  1. There is $22 million sitting in the fund
  2. There have been almost 200 properties proposed by citizens for purchase.
  3. Only 14 properties have been acquired.
  4. Only 1/3 of the money spent to purchase land has been in matching funds at least 50% should be in matching funds to maximize the most important potential of an existing land fund.
  5. Only 9% of the money deposited in the Maintenance Fund has been received by the non-profits
  6. HOW CAN WE DO BETTER?
  • BY HIRING ONE FULL TIME PERSON TO WORK ONLY ON THE 2% LAND FUND PROGRAM and
  • BY ALLOWING THE STEWARDSHIP GROUPS TO PAY PEOPLE TO WORK ON THE LAND.

Since October the Save our Land’s Citizen’s Committee has proposed that the Department of Finance use part of the 2% Land Fund money to pay ONE person to work ONLY On the Land Fund because more than one salary wages and benefits for a highly qualified person with law or real estate conservation experience would equal $100,000. This is in addition to the staff provided by the Hawaii County Code to assist the PONC commission.   See the 2 staff positions that are necessary to run the 2% Land Fund Program. We have an opportunity to strengthen the 2% Land Fund Program IF there is someone doing the work. An real estate person or attorney qualified in conservation land acquisitions would be able to negotiation more land purchases, acquire more matching funds and help the stewardship non- profit groups obtain more grant funding.

  • Real estate deals are time sensitive, they are deadlines for appraisals, endangered species studies, historical research, title searches and land surveys.  It takes time to research available matching funds and write the grants to gain these funds.
  • Conservation land deals require willing sellers.  Willing sellers want to be paid as soon as possible because the taxes keep accruing and they may have a use for the money.
  • A full time staff person can assist the non-profits with getting the funding they need to care for the 2% Lands.  The Maintenance Fund grants have been granted to only 6 organizations in the 6-year existence of the fund.  The stewardship non-profit groups have received only 9% of all the money deposited in the Maintenance Fund from 2013.  Stewardship groups say the process has been very difficult and they have had to apply several times before receiving funding.

 CA-18- should ALLOW NON-PROFITS TO PAY PEOPLE TO WORK ON THE LAND.

(This does not mean we pay board members for being board members)

  • ALL OF THE NON-PROFITS TESTIFIED THAT THEY NEEDED TO BE ABLE TO PAY PEOPLE TO WORK ON THE LAND. ONLY 6 GROUPS HAVE RECEIVED A MERE 9% OF THE MONEY DEPOSITED IN THE FUND SINCE 2013. The County has used the rest.
  • There is a safety, a check and balance built into this system. THE DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE AND THE Public access, open space and natural resources commission HAVE TO APPROVE THEIR STEWARDSHIP GRANT PROPOSAL. IF THEY VIOLATE THIS THEY WILL NEVER BE ALLOWED TO APPLY FOR GRANTS IN THE FUTURE.

HERE IS OUR PREFERRED LANGUAGE: our proposed changes in red please ask your council member to include our preferred language in red:

[(5)](6) No officer, board member, or employee of the 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization or the organization that operates under the umbrella of a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization shall receive a salary or payment for labor or receive any reimbursement for the stewardship work on the project, unless they are paid for duties that are part of the approved Stewardship Grant proposal. The 501(c)3 nonprofit shall sign an agreement so stating these conditions and submit it with the application.

AT THE CHARTER COMMISSION: There were 371 people that sent in email testimony on CA-7, CA-8, CA-13 and CA-27. I counted each communication. There were at least 20 people that took time out of their days to attend each of the 10 charter commission meetings and testify in person that is 200 people. These people represent the 63% of the voting public that voted 3 times to support the Land Fund Program.

BACKGROUND AND HISTORY. The SAVE OUR LANDS CITIZENS COMMITTEE HAS RUN THE 3 CAMPAIGNS AND IS POISED TO RUN A 4TH CAMPAIGN FOR NOVEMBER OF 2020- Each time the Land Fund was on the ballot- 63% of voters have voted 3 times to support the land fund. We believe that the aina is the foundation for our tourist industry, which is the biggest employer on the island. If we don’t preserve the beautiful places and our ocean shores why would people come here? They could go to Waikiki and go shopping and snorkel on a dead reef.

Council member  Brenda Ford and I wrote the legislation  that is in the Hawaii County Code and the Hawaii County Charter. I was appointed by Mayor Kenoi to serve on the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Commission.   Our group, the Save Our Lands Citizen Committee learned that the government would not purchase open space and parklands. So we took the extraordinary measure to run a petition initiative drive and collected 9,600 signatures to first get the measure on the Ballot. 6,000 signatures were disqualified by County Clerk Connie Kiriu and Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida under the Kim Administration.  The signatures were disqualified because a voter forgot to put Pl. Rd or st, or a husband used ditto marks when signing under his wife.  Then Council Chairman Pete Hoffman’s signature was disqualified because he put Pete instead of Peter.  Then the ballot language had double negatives, but still,  63% of voters approved the measure. Then Mayor Kenoi and the Council suspended deposits to the fund for 2 years. We took the next extraordinary measure to move the 2% Land Fund to the charter where it could only be undone by a vote of the people.   That is why we took the huge step of setting aside 2% of property taxes each year to purchase open space. THAT is the only reason why over 4,400 acres have been purchased and 2,200 acres will be added soon. Remember, only $5 to $6 million dollars is added to the 2% Land Fund each year. That is 2% of property taxes, but that amount is only 1.5% of the total income stream for the County of Hawaii. That is only $5 million per year, which means one maybe 2 properties that could be purchased each year.   There is $700,000 added to the Maintenance Fund each year. We believe that if 63% of people vote 3 times to support a program that vote should be honored. I have also been running my own business for 40 years and 1.5% of a budget is a small amount.

Please call with questions or suggestions.  I can send you the actual proposed changes for CA-9 and CA-18 , so you can read it to see the actual changes in the Charter.

Mahalo for your efforts to save our treasured lands on Hawaii Island.

Debbie Hecht , Campaign Coordinator Save our Lands Citizen Committee                             808-989-3222   Hecht.deb@gmail.com

Here is the existing 2% LAND FUND AMENDMENT that is in the charter right now.  

(c) Monies in this fund shall be used solely to:

(1) Purchase or otherwise acquire lands and easements in the County of 
Hawai‘i for public outdoor recreation and education, including:

    • (A) Access to beaches and mountains;
    • (B) Preservation of historic or culturally important land areas and sites;
    • (C) Protection of natural resources, significant habitat or eco-systems, 
including    buffer zones;
    • (D) Preservation of forests, beaches, coastal areas, natural beauty and 
agricultural lands; and
    • (E) Protection of watershed lands to preserve water quality and water

(2) Pay the principal, interest and premium, if any, due with respect to bonds 
issued in whole for the purpose of this fund.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

  • Talk to your council member and ask them to support and recommend our preferred language to the Charter Commission.
  • Attend the next charter commission meetings in August, you can testify from Kona.
  • Sign up to be informed at Hecht.deb@gmail.com
  • Send an email to the charter commission. Email your concerns to: Charter.commission@hawaiicounty.gov
  • Keep reading below for the full proposed legislation and more information on the history, the process and the successes of the 2% Land Fund

Debbie Hecht, has been the Campaign Coordinator for the Save our Lands Citizens Committee and the 2% Land Fund since 2006. She and Council member Brenda Ford have written the enabling legislation.   ARE YOU ON OUR EMAIL LIST? Please contact me. Hecht.deb@gmail.com

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:

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.

 

 

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