Does your vote really count? Ten months ago, on November 3, 2021, you voted for President of the United States, a new Mayor, and several new County Council members. You also voted for 2 charter amendments to change the 2% Open Space Land Fund Program. It was our goal to get the County to hire someone to work on the 2% Land Fund Program and to streamline the Maintenance Fund Stewardship grants to empower the volunteers who care for the 2% Lands. I have asked the Mayor and Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources (PONC) staff several times to implement these changes. Nothing has happened to make the changes that you voted for!
Our group of thoughtful, committed volunteers proposed these changes to the existing charter because we believe that the money in the Land Fund should be used more responsibly to protect places deemed of high value by the respected PONC process of prioritizing. Both the Kim and Kenoi administrations have had staff work only part time on PONC issues, while our island’s treasured places that have been chosen and proposed for acquisition, come up for sale, were purchased by private parties and lost for community use. The same policy continues in the Roth administration. Ten months after you voted FOR these changes nothing has been done. We were told by staff it could take 2 years to fill this important new position and streamline the Stewardship grant process. WHY? There is $21,465,389 sitting in the Land Fund and no properties have been purchased in 2021. Only 2 properties were purchased in 2020. There were 16 properties recommended by the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources commission for acquisition for 2020. There are 17 properties on the list for 2021, which will be included in the 2021 Report to the mayor. To see this list of properties go to: https://debbiehecht.com/2021/09/18/the-great-success-of-the-2-land-fund/. There is more than $3 million sitting in the Maintenance Fund, and only some of the non-profit volunteer groups who care for these lands have just received grant money they applied for in 2019. No funds have been issued since then. Stewardship grants are two years behind! This means that volunteers are using their own money to care for these lands.
Voters voiced their strong support for the 2% Land Fund repeatedly in 2006, 2010, 2012 and yet again in 2020. When will our elected officials see how much benefit citizens get out of having open space and parklands for healthy recreation? The land is what makes our island one of the most beautiful places in the world and attracts tourists. Once acquired, these lands can be enjoyed forever by our keiki and grandchildren. These lands are our legacy as a caring community!
We worked hard to get these amendments approved by the Charter Commission and on the ballot. This involved many hours of preparation, research, education and writing communications. The Charter Commission met for almost a year, and we attended all but 2 of their meetings. Ardent 2% supporters sent in 92% of all communications and testimony to the Charter Commission. 10-15 people showed up at most monthly Charter Commission meetings. These two amendments made changes to the 2% Land Fund Program:
- 2% Land Fund Charter Amendment- This amendment instructs the government to hire staff to work on the 2% Land Fund Program with the goal to acquire more properties, obtain more matching funds, and fund more grants to the non-profits who care for these lands. The salary or wages would be paid out of the 2% Land Fund, so there is no extra money needed from the County budget.
- The Maintenance Fund Charter Amendment- The goal of the Maintenance Fund is to get funding to the “boots on the ground” volunteer groups who care for these lands. The County was not doing the maintenance on 2% Lands. From 2013-2018 only 9% of all the money in the Maintenance Fund was received by the non-profits. This was a dismal failure! Today the non-profits have not received money from their 2019 and 2020 applications. The grants are bogged down in the Parks and Recreation Department. We were told that it would take 2 years to transfer the Maintenance Fund Stewardship program to the Department of Finance. WHY? It should have been done by now!
We worked with Charter Commissioner Sally Rice to make these changes through this amendment:
- Move administration of the Maintenance Fund stewardship grants from the Department of Parks and Recreation to the Department of Finance,
- Streamline the Stewardship Grant process,
- Give the PONC Commission and the Department of Finance Department oversight on Stewardship Grants,
- Allow the non-profits to build, rent or lease toilet facilities, paths, trails and small structures for education purposes or the storage of equipment,
- Allow the non-profit stewardship groups to pay workers for their work caring for the land.
Make your vote count! Please send an email to the Mayor and Council member and ask them to make these changes to the 2% Land Fund program as we voted 10 months ago and as they are now required by law in the Hawaii County Charter. Help save Hawaii County’s treasured lands! Cut and paste this email list to send an email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Maile.David@hawaiicounty.gov, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
For more information on the 2% Land Fund Success go to: https://debbiehecht.com/2021/09/18/the-great-success-of-the-2-land-fund/