Island Trust Consolidating Offices… Pahoa Branch Now Closed

The economic market is hitting home to me personally.   One of my advertisers (Island Trust at top Left) has recently been forced to make a smart economic move and vacate their Pahoa Location.

Side view of former Island Trust Building

Side view of former Island Trust Building

The Island Trust Realty office on Pahoa’s main strip has been in business for quite some time.   Due to the recent market conditions for real estate on the Big Island, Island Trust has decided to consolidate their offices and will no longer have Pahoa as one of their offices.

Front view of building formerly housing Island Trust, Pahoa Branch

Front view of building formerly housing Island Trust, Pahoa Branch

Of course, Island Trust is just one of many businesses that have come and gone through the Pahoa Downtown area in many years.  It is one of the first businesses that I have heard of that was still able to sustain themselves after vacating Pahoa.

Real Estate has really tumbled here in Hawaii, and while it may seem great for some of us first time home buyers… many may not realize the long term implications that this down turn in housing really has on us all.

Often times you may get the vibe from my blog that I don’t like tourists, or that I’d love to keep Pahoa as it is… but the truth of the matter is… we all suffer when we lose businesses here in town.

Inside look at the vacant building

Inside look at the vacant building

Not only is Pahoa losing a great business that did nothing but bring positive things to Pahoa… have you seen the people that have now started hanging out in front of the vacant premise?

I wish the best for Island Trust… and of course… I hope they will continue advertising with my blog.  I would hold no hard feelings though if they decided not to advertise here anymore since their office is no longer located in the Puna.

Department of Public Works Blackballing of Bloggers Tied to TMT Project, Saddle Road and the Military?

I can’t do anything but copy and paste this whole article written by Andy Parx over at Got Windmills.

Although Hawai`i County officials claim the blackballing of journalist/bloggers on the Big Island was over before it began one of, if not the main target of the policy says that’s just more shibai.

“I was the one directly targeted by this directive” says Aaron Stene of the Kona Blog in a comment left on yesterday’s column on the subject.

“The troubling aspect of this debacle” he wrote “is the fact the directive seems to be still in effect. I have had a hard time talking to DPW and the county council ever since this directive was released.”

But according to a Big Island source the derivation of the ban may go back to a rather innocuous video posted by Dave Corrigan of the Big Island Video News last August and is apparently related to the controversy over the expansion of the new Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.and Stene’s campaign in support of it in the face of local and kanaka maoli oppostion.

The video shows the repaving of the “Saddle Road” across the Big Island and is also controversial because opponents of the telescope say it is being done not for the pubic but to enable not just the expansion. of the observatory on what Hawaiians consider sacred land but extensive miliary operations in the area.

That video was followed by a post by Stene in Septembers and many more since arguing with opponents but giving them a platform at his popular blog to oppose the project and claim “a military connection to the science going on on Mauna Kea” and that. “the road is mostly used by contractors and not the general public” among other objections.

According to our source, author of the policy DPW spokeswoman Noelani Whittington was still concerned enough about the original video and apparently the discussion on Stene’s blog to still be bringing it up in conversations in December

Though the connection to the ban may or may not be true, Stene thinks it’s far from over.

In a post yesterday he wrote

“(I)t makes me wonder if Noelani and the DPW had a hidden agenda here…. (I)t seemed this directive was targeted mostly at me. I had by far interfaced with the DPW more often than Damon (Tucker) and David (Corrigan)”.

Those are the other two whose blogs were singled out by Whittington when she banned department personnel from interacting with blogger/journalists on the island.

He continued saying:

On a related note, she tried calling me yesterday and tried to kiss my ass by acting all apologetic for doing this. I tried to remain civil even though it was very hard to do so on my part. However I refused to accept her apology for her actions….

There is one more troubling aspect of this debacle. I’ve had a hard talking to DPW, county council ever since this directive was released. Thus it seems in my case I highly doubt this directive has been withdrawn.

But the saddle road may not be the only controversial project Whittington apparently didn’t want publicly debated. Stene concludes by saying

Lastly, it seems there is a lack of communication between the HDOT and DHHL to minimize the impact of the Waimea bypass, according to this WHT article. If there was better communication the concerns of the DHHL homesteaders would’ve been addressed years ago. Thus this much needed highway wouldn’t be delayed once again

As to Tucker his response to the article was a lot more defensive after Whittington’s slight of his and other reporter/bloggers’ professionalism, as was reported in the Hawai`i Tribune Herald article yesterday that broke the story by obtaining Whittington’s six page policy written policy.
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In his Open Letter to Department of Public Works Spokeswoman Noelani Whittington, Tucker wrote

Ms. Whittington, thank you for insulting Aaron, Dave and Myself with your little knowledge of our backgrounds in today’s article written by Jason Armstrong in the Tribune Herald….

I guess you just assume some of us lack experience because we blog in a blogging format and not in the traditional news sense?

Here is just a little of my Experience… Sorry I got out of the field more then a decade ago and switched to Education:
1 Year Advertising Manager on Mainland1 Year Lay-Out Editor (Hilo)2 Years Reporting (Mainland/Hilo)1 Year Writing Press Releases for the State Legislature…

I myself have never asked DPW for any information. Any information that I have found on them… was already published. I don’t have some “Deep Throat” working for me at your office lady… get a grip!

I know you don’t know who I am… but had it not been for my father-in-law telling me that you are an OK person (and yes you do know him)… You would have ended up on my Smuck list.

Unlike Kaua`i the Big Island is awash with on-line reporting and general information blogs with no less than a dozen people with varying degrees of reporting experience from Kona to Hilo posting tons of information and opinion on everything from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Kaua`i on the other hand is, with a few notable exceptions, practically devoid of blogs with original news and political commentary and reporting which, when combined with a sycophantic local newspaper that rarely if ever rocks the boat, may explain why the county can get away with their unwritten rules of non-engagement and their tight-fisted hold on what is, by law, public information.

Open Message to Hawaii Tribune and West Hawaii Today Employees

Is there any way that you folks can make your articles a bit more entertaining to read?

I know a few of you folks have great senses of humor but it NEVER shows in any of the articles you folks pen for the paper.

I’m not going to name anyone in particular… you folks know who you are!

Save the paper and start giving some of  your readers some humor in the paper.

I’d love to read more humorous stuff at times.  I might even pick up an online copy every now and then.  I have to say… the piece  yesterday about the Department of Public Works blackballing some of us bloggers certainly humored me enough to drop some cash coin on the paper.

It must suck having to work under Stephens Media knowing that your okoles might be on the line for saying the wrong thing at the RIGHT TIME!

I must say… I applaud the recent efforts to get the paper online by at least 12:00 in the afternoon of late.

I know things are getting difficult and you all have deadlines to make… So I’ll make an excerption this time.  :roll:

And I’m just curious… what happens to all the pictures that aren’t published?  I publish all the pictures I take on my blog whether I use them or not… any chance you folks could at least do that with some of your online stuff?  I mean we all know a picture is worth a thousand words.

I’m not gonna start critiquing every damn article and issue that you folks publish.  It seems we have another young gun in town that likes to do that, so maybe I’ll just send a little Brooklyn Kanak Attack your way every once in awhile.

There must be a way to make your folks paper more enjoyable.  The Advertiser obviously just kicked the crap out of the Star-Bulletin.

My general feeling, is besides the big bucks that Gannett has to waste on the paper… the downsizing of the paper and moving it towards more of an online beast is what really dominated the Star-Bulletin.

Posting anything and everything Hawaii related at all times of the day, drew readers to the Advertiser constantly… and still does.

You folks need an online person that can update Big Island things as they happen… Not a day later… not an hour later… but as things happen.

I know someone who is looking for a job like that :lol:

If the Tribune Herald and the West Hawaii Today want to stay afloat in this new digital era… they are going to have to get with it quick.

Already we have online papers like Hawaii 24/7 that give us more content for FREE and in a timely manner then anything the TH or WHT can do.

We have a Video Blogger in Mr. David Corrigan over here at Big Island Video News that gets comments like this from professionals on Oahu:

“Check out Dave Corrigan’s volcano coverage and note the quality of his videos and his website. Blackballing this work is clearly a mistake, I wish we could have similar coverage of Oahu

These pictures don’t have much to do with this blog… I just thought I’d throw it in for nothing.  :roll:

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BIVN EXCLUSIVE: Star-Bulletin Reporter Rod Thompson Interview on Todays Neighbor Island News Bureaus Being Closed Down Today… The Video

Today, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin closes its Big Island Bureau, laying off long time bureau chief Rod Thompson.

…In this video filmed on Thursday, Thompson reflects on his decades of Hawaii County journalism as he clears out his Kinoole Street office…

Click Here for Exclusive Video of Rod Thompson’s Reflections on the closure and other past stories of his covering the StarBulletin.

“…Now a days thirty years later, were into a world of blogs and blogs are so much opinion and they start right often with the opinion without getting out the facts…”

Ouch Rod! Just playing… Best of wishes to Rod and I hope you start a blog soon. Let me know if you would like assistance in starting one, because we sure could use someone like you writing a blog.

Tribune Herald Has Correction in Department of Public Works Blackballing Bloggers Story “Setting the Record Straight”

The following correction appeared in the “Setting the Record Straight” column of today’s  Hawaii Tribune Herald under the Police Report (it didn’t make it to the online edition)

“Due to a production error, two lines were deleted from Thursday’s article on the county Public Works department media policy.  The complete paragraph, which began on the front page and continued on Page A7, was:

“Whittington wrote the policy, which contains her cell phone number and e-mail address, in mid-November.  She initially said DPW had not implemented a media policy, then changed her answer after being read excerpts from the document”

——————————————————————————————

I’m reprinting the whole article here as it should read:

The county Department of Public Works has rescinded a recently implemented media policy that sheltered employees from public scrutiny, denied reporters access to road projects and blackballed Internet bloggers.

The 6-page document obtained by the Tribune-Herald directed DPW employees to stop filming attempts, not to talk about cause or fault, and to withhold information from so-called “citizen journalists.”

It said that “anyone implicated in the situation are not to speak to the media,” yet also advised “far more is lost by refusing to speak to the media than is risked by doing do.”

The policy ended when Warren Lee became Public Works director on Dec. 1, said DPW spokeswoman Noelani Whittington said.

“All of this has been rescinded,” she said.

Whittington wrote the policy, which contains her cell phone number and e-mail address, in mid-November. She initially said DPW had not implemented a media policy, then changed her answer after being read exempts from the document.

“I wasn’t denying anything on it. I just didn’t know what you were referring to,” Whittington said in a follow-up interview Wednesday.

Whittington said she might have been very busy when first interviewed occurred Feb. 19.

“Sometimes it takes me a minute to focus,” she said.

In crafting the policy, Whittington said she drew a distinction between bloggers with professional backgrounds and “citizen journalists” lacking that experience.

“It’s a fine line,” she said.

Bloggers often add personal comments to news information, which would be unethical for traditional journalists, including those who do only online reporting.

There was no incident that prompted the policy, but rather a desire to differentiate “new media” from traditional reporters and concern by some employees that they had been filmed for a TV newscast, Whittington said.

The policy specifically instructed DPW employees not to give out information to bloggers Aaron Stene (The Kona Blog) and Damon Tucker (Damon Tucker’s Weblog) and Dave Corrigan of Big Island Videonews.com.

“I’m actually kind of angry about it,” Stene said when told the old policy specifically named him. “It just stinks on all levels on this one.”

Stene, who said he gets about 200 hits daily on the blog he started in October 2005, said he suspected a change because it’s been about six weeks since Lee has returned his calls.

“I consider myself somebody that’s trying to get information for the general public,” he said.

Lee could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Tucker said he rarely asks the Department of Public Works for information, opting instead to republish information he gets from other sources.

“I’m honored they even know my blog exists,” Tucker said of comments he’s been posting for about six months.

There is no question this is not an acceptable media policy,” said Hunter Bishop, public relations specialist for Mayor Billy Kenoi.

“It is not in effect. We do not support this policy,” added Bishop, a former Tribune-Herald reporter who authored a popular blog before pulling it voluntarily when he started working for the county in December.

Bishop said he first heard of the DPW policy this week after the Tribune-Herald inquired about it.

“As far as I know, there are no other media policies in the county, but I can’t say that for sure,” he said.

But that status likely will change, Bishop said.

“We are working on a new general media policy for all departments mainly as a result of seeing this,” he said.

That forthcoming policy will call for fair and equal treatment, he said.

It will treat bloggers like any other media or member of the public,” he said.

When asked how DPW officials now respond to bloggers’ requests for information, Whittington said, “I have no idea.”

Today’s Kook

Notice what the sign says:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2ugG_l0vUw&hl=en&fs=1]

Hydrogen fueling Station at Volcanoes National Park… “Hydrogen Highway”?

Hat tip to Georgette Deemer over at the Hawaii House Blog for blogging about some of the “US Army Environmental Initiatives for the Big Island“.

The following initiative caught my eye:

“Hydrogen Highway” – The Army is working with the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and the Environmental Protection Agency to implement recommendations from the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. One initiative is working to establish a hydrogen fueling station at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

“I am excited about the possibility of the County of Hawaii and Hawaii state government to partner with the Army to allow and enable our local government fleet to fuel up at a hydrogen fuel station,” said Representative Cindy Evans, a former vice chair of the House Energy & Environmental Protection committee. “As more county and state vehicles turn to hydrogen fuel, not only will we decrease our dependency on foreign oil, but we will also see significant savings in the future. My hope is that this first station will be one of many that will dot a ‘hydrogen highway’ where private and public vehicles can tap into the benefits of this renewable energy source in the future…

I like the concept, but in today’s economy, I have the feeling that only the rich and wealthy will be able to afford the cars that use some of these alternative energies.

Mayor Hanneman Approved Twitter Experiment? The Ongoing Twitter Saga of Civil Defense/Department of Emergency Management

On February 12th, I blogged that Hawaii County had a Twitter Account. Hawaii County Public Information Specialist replied to me in an email the following regarding that Twitter Account:
Civil Defense is unaware of that account. As I discovered now that I just signed on for my own account, apparently anyone could have set up the CD account. However City Watch is more efficient in reaching large numbers of people, many of whom do not have Twitter accounts. Almost everybody has a telephone. At some point it may behoove us to use Twitter as part of emergency notification procedures but at the current time we do not because of the alternatives available. Thanks for your interest.

On February 24th, I blogged that the Honolulu Civil Defense had joined Twitter, which in actuality turned out to be the Honolulu Department of Emergency Management the Oahu version of the Big Island’s Civil Defense.

On February 26th, I ammended the above post to say:

Yesterday, I blogged that the Honolulu County Department of Emergency Management was on Twitter.

I have reason to believe, that once again… Twitter users have been duped into “following” a fake twitter account. :evil:

A Twitter friend that would know whether they are on twitter or not, confirmed it with her friend that works there today that it is not a legit twitter account.

Today I find out the following:

OK, clearing things up, my contact @ DEM says @HonAlert was an I.T. experiment OKed by the mayor. DEM was not involved, though.

See my latest tweet about @HonAlert. Sounds messed up. Anyway, the DEM stuff is supposed to be removed from that profile, per my contact.

I just have to wonder if the initial post I reported on the Big Island Civil Defense Twitter Account was also an experiment.

I did say on February 13th:

Very STRANGE that someone would hijack the Hawaii Civil Defense Twitter Name and then post VOG warnings the day that Pahoa got vogged out, on that account.

Surfers vs. the Superferry

Hat tip to one of my readers for pointing out this article in “The Nation”.

Surfers vs. The Superferry

by Jerry Mander and Koohan Paik

It all started in 2001 as a purportedly modest “local” effort to offer inter-island ferry service to “help local people more easily visit their relatives on other islands, and carry their farm produce to market.” Most locals liked the idea but soon found that this ferry, the gigantic Hawaii Superferry, was an environmental nightmare. It uses far more fuel (in total and per person) than big planes. It races at high speed (40-45 miles per hour) through zones teeming with endangered humpback whales, dolphins and rare sea turtles. It could transport dangerous invasive species to pristine islands. And it carries hundreds of cars to tiny places already choking on traffic…

Environmentalists demanded an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its Hawaii equivalent (HEPA). But the Hawaii Superferry Company, with strong support from Governor Linda Lingle, the ambitious right-wing Republican lately famous for introducing Sarah Palin at the Republican convention, refused.

By 2004 the lead investor (nearly $90 million) and new chair of the board for this “local” ferry project was New York City military financier John Lehman, Ronald Reagan‘s secretary of the Navy, a leading neocon with a famously aggressive military vision. (The Washington Post quoted him in 1984 as advocating first-strike nuclear strategies.) Lehman is a member of the Project for the New American Century and a 9/11 commissioner, but his great passion has been pushing for a vastly expanded, 600-ship Navy and a stronger US military presence in the Pacific to assuage mounting concerns about China as a future military superpower. After his company, J.F. Lehman, took over the Superferry project, Lehman appointed a new board with a majority of former top military brass. He later hired Adm. Thomas Fargo as CEO. Only four years ago Fargo was the commander of US military operations in the Pacific, answering directly to George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. So the question is this: why on earth would anyone need a board that qualifies as a mini-Pentagon to run a friendly transport for families and papayas between islands?

A surfer catches a wave at Kakaako Waterfront Park as the Hawaii Superferry approaches.

A surfer catches a wave at Kakaako Waterfront Park as the Hawaii Superferry approaches.

A key moment in this saga came in August 2007, on the small island of Kauai, called the Garden Island by tourist agencies for its folded green cliffs, cascading waterfalls and aloha spirit. But on this occasion about 1,500 locals–including a high percentage of Native Hawaiians, joined by people of Japanese and Filipino descent and a contingent of New Age haoles (recent white settlers seeking Shangri-La)–showed up at Nawiliwili Harbor to protest the Superferry’s maiden voyage from Honolulu to Kauai. Several dozen surfers also played a catalytic role.

When the protesters saw the oncoming speeding colossus on the horizon–bigger than a football field, four stories high and capable of carrying as many as 866 people and 282 cars–the outrage grew. The anger had been magnified a few days earlier when Governor Lingle and Lehman’s Superferry company indicated they would disregard a 5-0 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling demanding the boat suspend operations until it completed an EIS. As it approached, dozens of surfers and swimmers leaped into the water. Ignoring strident Coast Guard threats, they headed out under the Superferry’s terrifying catamaran blades, stopping the ship dead in the water. It created a sort of Tiananmen Square standoff in the waters of Kauai.

It was a dangerous business, but next day when the Superferry returned, the crowd of protesters had grown, and the surfers and beach brigades had too. In the ensuing eighteen months, the boat has never returned to Kauai and now has only one daily run, from Honolulu to Maui. The “spirit of Nawiliwili” has become the stuff of legend in Hawaii .

On the island of Maui, similar outrage led to a series of large if less spectacular protests. But the Maui resistance settled on legal actions from groups like the Sierra Club, Maui Tomorrow and the Kahului Harbor Coalition. It was these groups that had won the unanimous Hawaii Supreme Court ruling demanding the EIS. Everyone thought that decision would settle matters. Instead, it stimulated Lingle to demonstrate her Machiavellian chops by coercing the State Legislature (many of whose members had received Superferry largesse, as had Lingle) to pass a law theoretically circumventing the court ruling and permitting the boat to operate. It was an in-your-face move worthy of Bush/Cheney at their peak. Lingle’s new law, Act Two, invented an EIS process with few features from NEPA or HEPA. The new law, for example, has no power to stop the Superferry from operating, no matter what the environmental findings. It’s a fake EIS.  The Maui groups have gone back to court to charge that Act Two is unconstitutional–violating separation of powers and directly favoring a single company, among other problems. The final decision is expected any day.

Three weeks after Nawiliwili, another huge throng filled the 1,500 seats of Kauai’s War Memorial Convention Hall, with many more outside, for a “public meeting” called by Governor Lingle. Imperiously she warned that she would not discuss whether there would be a Superferry–that had been decided. Her purpose was to instruct people that if they repeated their protests, they would be charged under new anti-terrorism laws that carry prison terms up to five years and/or a $10,000 fine.

Her statements were met with hoots and laughter and then a series of eloquent testimonies about protection of sacred lands (aina in Hawaiian) and sea creatures and the rights of local communities to protect themselves from invasive species and invasive corporations with militaristic intentions. Many indicated they were not opposed to a ferry if it would operate within community and environmental standards rather than those of an absentee owner with profit motives and military intentions. Others denounced Lingle’s embrace of the project and its owner, suggesting she’d abandoned Hawaii for personal ambition.

Lingle’s goals surely go beyond providing a useful local ferry. They certainly seemed to have far more to do with getting closer to powerful Republican Party figures–notably Lehman, slated, as the New York Times reported, to have been John McCain’s chief of staff, had he won.

Throughout all this, the governor and the Superferry company denied the ferry’s long-range military implications, despite earlier statements by Lehman and other executives about transporting Stryker tanks and other military services along with similar statements from the US Maritime Administration, which had issued a loan guarantee. Pacific Business News reported in March 2005 that Timothy Dick, Hawaii Superferry’s original chair, confirmed that “Hawaii Superferry provided the Army with a cost analysis and expects to negotiate a long-term contract.” The article also noted that “with Lehman’s expertise, the Superferry plans to…carry military equipment and ferry vehicles from Oahu to the Big Island on a daily basis” and quoted Lehman saying that “the Superferry is strong enough to take Stryker vehicles.”

Then in November the Superferry’s manufacturer, Austal USA of Mobile, Alabama, was awarded a $1.6 billion Pentagon contract to build ten high-speed catamarans under the Navy’s Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) program in preparation for possible future conflicts with China. The model that Austal submitted for that contract competition was almost identical to the Hawaii Superferry’s large-scale, aluminum-hulled high-speed catamaran design, except for military fittings and accommodations. The fact that the Superferry was already in the water, proving its seaworthiness while the JHSV contract was being considered, suggests that it may have always been intended as a prototype or demo model for the larger deal. It also explains the consistent refusals to do an EIS, which might have delayed getting the boat operational and visible.

Two years earlier, Lehman had also purchased a shipyard, Atlantic Marine, adjacent to Austal in Mobile. It’s not yet clear if Lehman’s company, or Superferry, stands to gain from the Austal award, possibly by subcontracting aspects of that huge construction project, but speculation in Hawaii runs wild.

All parties await the next ruling from the Hawaii Supreme Court on the Maui appeal. A new diverse grassroots community of activists on Kauai is warily assessing whether it will again need to respond. Will the company try to send the boat back to Kauai? Or will the Superferry quit Hawaii altogether as too much trouble, selling the boat for military uses, or to someplace with no activist surfers? As for Lingle’s future, it’s not bright. While touring with Palin during the presidential campaign, Lingle was quoted saying that Barack Obama’s “claim” to be from Hawaii is “disingenuous.” That enraged the Hawaiian public more than the Superferry. She may no longer be politically viable.

Mayor Kenoi’s Letter to Hawaii Council on Operating Budget for Fiscal Year Ending 2010

Media Release

Dear Chairman Yoshimoto and Council Members:

As required by the Hawaii County Charter, submitted with this message is the proposed operating budget for the County of Hawaii for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010.

This balanced budget includes estimated revenues and appropriations of $386,279,510, which is 4.2% less than the current year’s budget and includes the operations of eleven of the County’s special funds as well as the general fund. The budget does not include an increase in property taxes.

Today we are confronted with a worldwide economic downturn that has hurt the tourism and construction industries. There is a consensus that this is the most severe economic upheaval in decades. In this environment, the County is forced to consider all options for balancing the budget in a way that maintains essential public services such as police and fire protection.

Preparation of the budget involves estimating costs such as debt service, retirement and medical insurance requirements, and obtaining estimated expenditures from departments.

While the need for services has continued to grow and a backlog of maintenance projects remains, the economic changes during the last year have impacted our County revenues with drops in real property tax values, reduced transient accommodations tax proceeds and reduced interest earnings. The challenge of next fiscal year’s budget is to meet our core responsibilities and cover costs that are beyond our control by managing costs that are within our control and by identifying other sources of revenue.

Departments were initially instructed to submit status quo spending plans that included limited inflationary increases. Subsequently, departments were asked to cut 10% of their budget, excluding base salaries and grant-funded expenses. Reductions in overtime expense, travel and training, contract services, equipment purchases and other items were identified by department directors. Additional reductions were made by eliminating or reducing funding for expansion of the police fleet, transfers to reserve accounts and Council contingency funds, and several other programs. I imposed a temporary hiring suspension at the beginning of my administration and we are currently holding 481 positions vacant. This budget eliminates funding for 42 of those positions. While we are hopeful that this will have minimal impact on services, there certainly will be an impact on departmental operations.

To achieve this balanced budget, which is $16,925,488 less than the current year’s budget, we will be requesting that the Council approve a transfer of $2 million from the  Budget Stabilization Fund to the General Fund. We will also request a two-year moratorium on transfers of 2% of the real property tax revenue to the Public Access Open Space and Natural Resource Preservation fund, which represents approximately $4.5 million for the next fiscal year. Finally, in order to balance the budget we will request authorization to sell property located in the Hamakua District that was previously received in lieu of property taxes. If none of the requested changes are made, the revenues generated will result in a budget shortfall of $14.7 million.

The real property assessed valuations used are still preliminary figures and the values certified in April may vary from those assumed here. The final budget presented to you in May will be based on the final numbers.

REVENUE CHANGES

The major changes in projected revenues are as follows:

Real Property Tax. Real property tax revenues are expected to decrease by 5.6%, or $12.3 million, due to a 3.64% decrease in taxable values.

Fuel Tax. Fuel taxes are expected to decrease by 9.6%, or $0.8 million due to a decrease in fuel consumption.

Revenue from Use of Money and Property. Interest revenues are expected to decrease by $4 million due to the low yield on investments, which is reflective of the current economy.

Intergovernmental Revenues. The increases in a number of grants are more than offset by the decreases in housing voucher assistance and transient accommodations taxes, resulting in a net decrease of $1.6 million.

Charges for Service. Overall revenues from this source are expected to increase by $870,000 with increases in automotive charges exceeding the decrease in construction permit revenue.

Other Revenues. Other revenues are expected to increase, primarily from the anticipated sale of Hamakua property budgeted at $8.2 million, as well as the requested $2 million transfer of funds from the Budget Stabilization Fund.

Fund Balance Carryover. Carryover savings are expected to decrease by approximately $10 million due to the current year’s revenue shortfalls in TAT, real property tax, building permits and others. Fund balance is expected to be much lower than last year, but we will continue to monitor and adjust in the May budget if necessary.

EXPENDITURE CHANGES

In addition to the cuts made by the departments major changes in projected expenditures are as follows:

General Government

  • Clerk/Council. Election’s budget has been reduced in this non-election year. The Council’s $900,000 contingency account has been eliminated.
  • Office of Management. Funding for coqui frog eradication has been removed from the budget request.
  • Data Systems. Funding restrictions prevent the department from proceeding with expansion of the document management project.
  • Finance. Savings resulted from closing out a financing lease, postponing a real property tax software purchase, reducing Hague Convention costs for real property tax sales and distributing the budget for advertising.
  • Public Works. Additional costs for janitorial services and fuel offset the reduction in budget for Flood Insurance Rate Maps updates.

Public Safety

  • Police. Offsetting the decrease from the postponement of the police fleet transition and the omission of the grant match for the interoperable communication system are increases in fuel costs and police officers’ wages from a previously negotiated collective bargaining contract.
  • Fire. The budget includes fire fighters’ salary increases from a previously negotiated contract and is reduced by the elimination of the prior year budget for helicopter purchase.
  • Civil Defense. Included in the budget is the projected $1.1 million State Homeland Security grant.

Health, Education and Welfare

  • Housing. A drop in grant funding results in the $1.7 million decrease in the department’s budget.

Culture and Recreation

  • Administration. Excluded from Parks Administration’s budget are funds for the Veterans Center match, the Mahukona Boat Ramp study and the Kahalu’u Park Ranger programs. The Lava Viewing program will continue. The West Hawai’i Golf program subsidy has been reduced to $500,000.

Sanitation and Waste Disposal

  • Solid Waste Division. The Solid Waste budget has decreased with the reductions in miscellaneous contractual services and cover material expenditures.

Debt Service

  • Debt Service. Debt service is projected to decrease with the delay in issuing bonds and the use of bond anticipation notes.

Pension and Retirement

  • Employees Retirement System. The Employees Retirement System cost is expected to increase by $1.7 million due primarily to an increase in the salaries and wages for Police and Fire.

Health Fund

  • Health Benefits. Health costs, including post-employment benefits, are expected to increase by $2.2 million due to rising rates for both active employees and retirees. The health insurance rates for next fiscal year have not yet been set by the Employer Union Trust Fund, so increases to this budget item are possible.

Miscellaneous

  • Transfer to Disaster & Emergency Fund. This transfer has been reduced to $100,000, the minimum set by the County Code.
  • Transfer to Self Insurance Fund. No funds are being transferred, due to County’s financial condition.
  • Transfer to Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund. This budget proposes a moratorium on this code requirement.
  • Transfer to Budget Stabilization Fund. Instead of transferring funds into this fund, this proposal seeks to withdraw from this “rainy day” fund as a means to balance the budget.
  • Sewer Fund Replacement Reserve Repairs. Scheduled repair projects have been reduced to $1.5 million.
  • Other. Provisions being reduced include vacation and unemployment compensation, which were increased in the current budget for this election year. Provisions were reduced for workers compensation, claims and judgements, and disaster/emergency due to our current financial environment.

OPERATING BUDGET BY FUND

The following table describes the budgeted expenditures for FY 2008-09 and the proposed budget for FY 2009-10 for each fund.

OPERATING BUDGET BY FUND

(Amounts in thousands)

FUND

FY 08-09

Budget

FY 09-10

Proposed

Increase

(Decrease)

Percent

Increase (Decrease)

General Fund

$307,159

$295,657

($11,502)

(3.7%)

Highway Fund

27,474

27,567

93

0.3%

Sewer Fund

11,638

9,995

(1,643)

(14.1%)

Cemetery Fund

10

10

0

0.0%

Bikeway Fund

171

171

0

0.0%

Beautification Fund

225

225

0

0.0%

Vehicle Disposal Fund

3,543

4,004

461

13.0%

Solid Waste Fund

33,971

31,153

(2,818)

(8.3%)

Golf Course Fund

1,202

1,202

0

0.0%

Geothermal Royalty Fund

350

550

200

57.1%

Housing Fund

17,412

15,696

(1,716)

(9.9%)

Geothermal Asset Fund

50

50

0

0.0%

$403,205

$386,280

($16,925)

(4.2%)

REVENUES BY SOURCE

The following table presents a summary of projected FY 2009-10 revenues from various sources and the changes from the current budget:

REVENUES BY SOURCE

(Amounts in thousands)

Source

Amount

Percent

Of

Total

Increase (Decrease)

From

FY 2008-09

Amount

Percent

Increase

(Decrease)

Real Property Tax

$219,930

56.9%

($12,314)

(5.6%)

Public Service Company Tax

8,630

2.2%

325

3.8%

Fuel Tax

8,021

2.1%

(772)

(9.6%)

Public Utilities Franchise Tax

9,216

2.4%

95

1.0%

Licenses and Permits

17,064

4.4%

(95)

(0.5%)

Revenues and Use of Money & Property

3,214

.8%

(4,017)

(125.0%)

Intergovernmental Revenues

59,576

15.4%

(1,602)

(2.7%)

Charges for Services

25,208

6.5%

869

3.5%

Other Revenues

18,135

4.8%

10,667

58.8%

Fund Balance Carryover

17,286

4.5%

(10,082)

(58.4%)

$386,280

100.0%

($16,925)

(4.4%)

EXPENDITURES BY FUNCTION

The following table presents a summary of projected FY 2009-10 expenditures from various sources and the changes from the current budget:

EXPENDITURES BY FUNCTION

(Amounts in thousands)

Expenditures

Amount

Percent

Of

Total

Increase (Decrease)

From

FY 2008-09

Amount

Percent

Increase

(Decrease)

General Government

$  48,289

12.5%

($3,870)

(8.0%)

Public Safety

113,990

29.6%

2,412

2.1%

Highways & Streets

17,878

4.6%

268

1.5%

Health, Education, & Welfare

23,185

6.0%

(1,751)

(7.6%)

Culture and Recreation

19,200

5.0%

(1,318)

(6.9%)

Sanitation & Waste Removal

42,115

10.9%

(2,569)

(6.1%)

Debt Service

40,611

10.5%

(2,768)

(6.8%)

Pension & Retirement

32,301

8.4%

1,658

5.1%

Health Fund

37,851

9.8%

2,152

5.7%

Miscellaneous

10,860

2.7%

(11,139)

(102.6%)

$386,280

100.0%

($16,925)

(4.4%)

CONCLUSION

The budget being submitted is $16.9 million less than the current year’s budget. The projected reduction in revenues from real property tax, transient accommodations tax, interest earnings and fund balance from prior year has presented us with a challenge and an opportunity to review our business operations and core functions.

The decision to propose selling County land in Hamakua came only after making significant cuts throughout the County departments, unfunding many vacant positions and deferring transfers to reserve and provision accounts. Because the property was given to the County in settlement of real property tax debts, it is appropriate that it provide a source of revenue to the County in these difficult times. Additionally, we are proposing to transfer $2 million dollars from the budget stabilization fund and to have a two-year moratorium on dedicating 2% of real property tax to the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resource Preservation fund. All of these options combined have allowed us to present a balanced budget.

In preparing the budget submitted today we have been able to avoid property tax rate adjustments as a balancing measure. However, this budget contains estimates that may change as additional information regarding projected revenues and expenditures becomes available. The loss of $12.3 million of real property tax revenue as compared to our current year budget has a large impact, and the need for public safety and general services has not diminished. Over the next two months we will continue to review the current conditions, projections for the next two years and the options available to us to insure we remain a strong and financially sound county government.

The County should be a stabilizing force in the local economy. We need to maintain services to every extent possible, support our local industries and avoid layoffs of employees. The County also must stay fiscally prudent. Conservative management of our budget and maintaining reserves will provide security and insure that we maintain our financial ratings and borrowing power. Looking forward to subsequent years it appears that we will have continued challenges. So, while this budget includes some short term solutions, it also begins the planning and adjustments needed to meet long term changes in the economy.

Aloha,

William P. Kenoi

Mayor

Fast Foods on the Hot Seat – HB 1526 Obesity; Menu Education and Labeling Act: Sounds Right… But WRONG

HB1526 HD1
RELATING TO HEALTH.
Obesity; Menu Education and Labeling Act
Requires a franchise retail food establishment to include nutritional information about each standard menu item. (HB1526 HD1)

Hawaii and Maine are jumping on the menu-labeling bandwagon and considering measures to require restaurants to post total calorie content on all menus, according to Fast Casual.

Maine’s measure would require restaurants with 15 or more establishments to adhere to menu labeling; Hawaii’s would require restaurants with 10 or more establishments.

The only restaraunts that I can think of with 10 or more establishments are Fast Food Restaurants.

People don’t go to Fast Food restaurants because they want a nutritious healthy meal.  Most people go to them because the are lazy and don’t feel like cooking something or making some thing themselves.

McDonalds has their nutritional contents listed at most of their restaurants and I believe Burger King does also.

Requiring establishments to post these things to me sounds pretty ridiculous.  Who reads the ones that are already posted?

This is only going to jack up the prices on fast food in the long run.

If your child or yourself is obese… please don’t blame it on the Fast Food restaurants.  THEY DON’T FORCE you to eat there.

Take responsibility for your own actions and quit blaming restaurants for what people eat.

Now give me that damn Fried Quarter Pounder and French Fries soaked in grease made from meat byproducts!

Wayne Joseph Just Keeps on Running

If you haven’t stopped by Wayne “Big Dog” Joseph’s new blog lately, I suggest you stop by every once in a while.

While he is still learning the ins and outs of blogging while posting a few of his older articles that were published in the Tribune Herald, I noticed a few times he adds snippets to the bottom of things that are upcoming.

I mentioned the other day about the Big Dog 5k run/walk/jog that is happening on Saturday, March 7th a few days ago.

Today, he posted the blog “March Events – Health & Fitness” where he talks about the following things that are coming up.  (Check out his blog for more details on each.)

  • MARCH 8 – The Malama Mile
  • MARCH 20 – Friendship 5K Run/Walk
  • MARCH 21 – Health & Fitness Expo
  • MARCH 22 – Big Island International Marathon, half-marathon and 5K run/walk.
  • EVERY TUESDAY – Waiakea High School all weather track is open to the public from 4 to 6 p.m
  • EVERY WEDNESDAY – Running with the Big Dog segment of the Josh Pacheco Show on ESPN Radio AM 850 starting at 11:30 a.m.

wjmarathon