Election Update: Both Open Space Charter Amendments Passed! Mahalo to all of the Volunteers! IT TAKES an ISLAND!The GREAT Success of the 2% LAND FUND PROGRAM

PROPERTIES ACQUIRED as of 11.1.2020
  1. Pohoiki Bay, Puna
  2. Waipi‘o Valley Lookout,Hāmākua
  3. Halawa,North Kohala
  4. Hāwī Banyan Trees,North Kohala
  5. Pa‘o‘o, North Kohala
  6. Kaiholena, North Kohala
  7. Kaiholena, South Kohala
  8. ‘O‘oma, North Kona
  9. Puapua’a, North Kona
  10. Kipapa Park, North Kona
  11. White Sands Mauka, North Kona
  12. Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, CE, South Kona
  13. Kahuku Coastal, Ka‘ū
  14. Waikapuna CE, Ka‘ū
  15. Kahua Olohu, Ka‘ū
  16. Kāwā, Ka‘ū Kawa‘a, Ka‘ū.       (CE = Conservation Easement)

Currently in process of acquisition as of June 30, 2020:  Land acquisition for Kapanaia, which is 93+ acres in North Kohala on the coast.

NOVEMBER 3, 2020 BALLOT & TWO OPEN SPACE CHARTER AMENDMENT-   VOTE ‘YES’ FOR BOTH

Charter amendment to pay for Staff from the 2% Land Fund– This proposed charter amendment will allow the 2% Open Space Fund to pay a staff person to dedicate their time to the 2% LAND FUND PROGRAM.  We are trusting that the county will not deplete the purchasing power of the 2% Land Fund by paying out more than 1 salary, wages or benefits.   The intent is to have:

  • more properties purchased,
  • more matching funds obtained and
  • more Maintenance Funds granted to the non-profits to care for lands purchased with 2% funds.

Charter Amendment for the Maintenance Fund– This proposed charter amendment will allow the non-profits who care for lands obtained with 2% Land Fund money to increase their good works. The Stewardship Grant process will be improved by:

  • Moving the administration of the  Maintenance Fund to the Department of Finance from the Department of Parks and Recreation.
  • Streamlining, and further defining and expediting the Stewardship Grant process.
  • Giving the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Commission AND the Department of Finance Department  oversight for Stewardship Grants.
  • Allowing the non-profits to build, rent or lease toilet facilities, paths, trails and small structures for education purposes or the storage of equipment.
  • Allowing the non-profit stewardship groups to pay workers for their duties caring for the land.

A MESSAGE FROM DEBBIE HECHT: It has been my great honor to be Campaign Coordinator for the 2% Land Fund over the last 14 years. I have learned that kuleana communities are built around our island’s treasured lands.  Building community is the  t greatest benefit that has grown out of the challenges for the 2% Land Fund.   Out of the 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 2019 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/doc/101885/Page1.aspx

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 they work hard to care for the land after acquisition, 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 preserved for the use of all of us, our keiki and grandchildren.  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?

Here is a summary of all the monies spent from the 2% Land Fund acquistion fund since the inception:  http://records.hawaiicounty.gov/weblink/1/doc/107797/Page1.aspx

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 lands. 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 used these  funds. But in the last 5 years there have only been 6 groups that have obtained these funds for a total of $343,800.00  out of the $3,833,000 that has been deposited in this fund since 2018.  THAT MEANS THAT LESS THAN 9% OF FUNDS WHERE OBTAINED BY THE NON-PROFITS THEY WERE INTENDED FOR- WHY?  Charter Commissioner Sally Rice was our champion on the Charter Commission to get the changes that were requested by the non-profits and to move the administration of the Maintenance Fund to the Department of finance.     PLEASE VOTE YES!!  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.     Only 9% of all deposits in the Maintenance Fund have been received via stewardship grants by land conservation non-profits.   Here is the information:  Maintenance Fund with Critique 1.31.2019   https://debbiehechtdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/maintenance-fund-with-critique-1.31.2019.pdf

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

In the above map you can see there are 18 properties that have been purchased and 15 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 2019 Report to the Mayor contains:  The Report is located here: http://records.hawaiicounty.gov/weblink/1/doc/101885/Page1.aspx

The Public Access and Open Space and Natural Resourses Commission’s 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:

*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.

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 only 1.5% of the total income for the County.   County Clerk Connie Kiriu and County Counsel Lincoln Ashida (both Kim appointees) 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 changed 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 and our wonderful volunteers  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 2,200 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.   They represent about a large portion 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)  Our grassroots efforts asks supporters to forward our emails to friends and family.

Citizens have proposed 180+ properties for acquisition:  This will be updated once the County updates their information (7.20.2020)

  • 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

2 thoughts on “Election Update: Both Open Space Charter Amendments Passed! Mahalo to all of the Volunteers! IT TAKES an ISLAND!The GREAT Success of the 2% LAND FUND PROGRAM

  1. I read your information page about the public land and the 1% they want to pay someone to keep track of it, but it’s been 14 years and no one was paid to watch it and we still got to purchase land. Now with that you mention for education purposes, why would you bring up education? The way i see it is every time they need or what something they use the kids so they can get what they want, but that is not right yes the kids need the right help but don’t use them for your advantage. The way I see it is that if it passes it will seem that who ever watches the fund will have a negative affect on how we go about buying and selling of the land. In the county or political eyes the word shall is considered the word mandatory. If the money is right to purchase land they will change the law and give it to the person with financial means. For insist the land that was sold to one of googles employee. And for insist the prat road why did the county sell that? It was to use for emergency exit.So things like that is what is to be told. Yes we have the laws in place but it can be changed by the law makers just to satisfy their need for money. Like they say what they say and what they do is 2 different things. Yes things has changed not for the better it’s changed because you have some people who would do anything and I mean anything to get what is good for them. How do we know what is in the charter amendments that it will do what it says. How do we know once it gets pass that it will follow through. Kohala has been a place of family and culture yes but half of them can’t get a home so how do expect to make it right? Please don’t say things to miss lead the public of the real truth.

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    1. There were staff people paid by the Department of Finance to work on acquisitions. Charter amendments can only be changed by a vote of the people, that’s why they are on the ballot. No one said that anyone would be paid 1% that is wrong.

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