Island Perspective With Governor Neil Abercrombie

Gov. Abercrombie was on the Kona side of Hawaii Island on Saturday and was able to sit down with Sherry Bracken to discuss Hawaii’s strong fiscal standing, paying our unfunded liabilities, early childhood education, the rural residency program for physicians, Honokohau Harbor, airports, his position on the President Obama’s Council of Governors, renewable energy and energy costs.

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Tarp Surfing!

Epic Tarp Surfing in Hawaii. Shot at Kuliouou Community Park in East Honolulu on the island of Oahu. Apparel by: VH07V – http://a7oha.com

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Shot by: Shibby Stylee – http://shibbystylee.com
Music by: Jody Kamisato – http://ukulelehale.com
Mastered by: Vance Morimoto – http://funsongsguy.com
Boards by: DY Skateboards – http://danielyoungskateboards.com

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Hilo Trap and Skeet Range Closing to Host State Championships

The Hilo Trap and Skeet Range will be closed Friday, February 14, through Monday, February 17, in order to host the Hawai‘i State Pacific International Trapshooting Association Championships.

Hilo Trap and Skeet Range

The public is invited to watch the competition, which will be held daily from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission is free.

Located just beyond the Hilo landfill at 1010 Leilani Street, the Hilo Trap and Skeet Range is normally open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday.

The Hawai‘i County Department of Parks and Recreation thanks range users and the general public for their patience and understanding while the range is closed temporarily to accommodate the state championships.

For more information, please contact Jason Armstrong, Public Information Officer, at 345-9105 or jarmstrong@co.hawaii.hi.us.

Council Chairs Seek Return of Projected $72 Million Hotel Tax Revenue to Counties

Council chairs from all four Hawaii counties jointly announced their support for legislation that would repeal the cap on distribution of hotel room tax revenue to the county governments.

County Council Chairs for the Hawaiian Islands

County Council Chairs for the Hawaiian Islands

Council Chairs Gladys Baisa of Maui County, Jay Furfaro of Kauai County, Ernie Martin of the City and County of Honolulu and J Yoshimoto of Hawaii County said they testified  in support of House Bill 1671 (2014), which was before the House Committee on Tourism on Monday, Feb. 3, at 9:30 a.m.

Revenue from the state’s hotel room tax, known as the transient accommodations tax or TAT, is partially remitted to the counties. Citing the state government budget shortfalls, the legislature imposed an artificial cap on the counties’ annual remittance three years ago, resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue to each county.

The council chairs said county residents and county governments earn TAT revenue by supporting the visitor industry in countless ways, including by funding tourism promotion, providing police, fire and lifeguard services and maintaining roadways, beach parks and other public infrastructure. They say the revenue should be proportionally returned to the counties, under an established formula.

According to Mike McCartney, CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, more than 8.2 million visitors traveled to Hawaii in 2013, a 2.6 percent increase from 2012, generating a total of $1.5 billion in state tax revenues.

Of the TAT revenue that’s returned to the counties, Kauai County receives 14.5 percent, Hawaii County 18.6 percent, Maui County 22.8 percent and the City and County of Honolulu 44.1 percent. Eliminating the artificial cap on distribution would mean the counties would realize additional annual revenue of more than $10 million each.

“We stand united and humbly ask the state legislators to lift the cap they imposed upon our counties three years ago.  Since then, the economy has improved.” Hawaii County Council Chair Yoshimoto said. “We ask that the State legislators allow the counties to receive our fair share of the TAT revenues so that we can provide the necessary services and meet our obligations to residents and visitors alike.

Hawaii County’s capped TAT revenue is $17.2 million. The TAT revenue distribution for Hawaii County would rise to more than $30 million (based on a projected increase of $13.4 million) if the cap is eliminated.

“In any given day, 21 percent of the population on Kauai is visitors,” Kauai County Council Chair Furfaro said. “It is one of our primary economic engines. If we want them to return to our island, we have to meet their high demands and expectations.”

Kauai County’s annual TAT revenue distribution is currently capped at $13.4 million. With the cap eliminated, Kauai County would expect to get $10.4 million in additional TAT revenue, based on Fiscal Year 2013 projections.

“Over the past few years, Honolulu contributed millions of dollars to upgrade and renovate several areas of Waikiki to enhance the visitor experience,” Honolulu City Council Chair Martin said. “The additional TAT revenues the counties receive would go a long way in maintaining our beaches and parks, to continue to promote our state as a premium visitor destination and, specifically for Honolulu, to avoid enacting poorly conceived revenue-enhancing measures that would negatively infringe upon our well-deserved and longstanding image as one of the most desired tourist destinations in the world.”

The City and County of Honolulu’s projected TAT revenue would be about $72.8 million ($31.8 million more than the current capped amount of $41 million) if the legislature removes the distribution cap.

Maui County’s TAT revenue distribution is projected go up by $16.4 million if HB 1671 is enacted. TAT revenue is currently capped at $21.2 million for Maui County.

“As promised, county officials will have a stronger and united lobbying effort this year to ensure that our constituents and visitors get what they deserve,” said Maui County Council Chair Baisa, noting the Hawaii Council of Mayors and Hawaii State Association of Counties also support repealing the cap. “We encourage the public to join us in supporting this measure by submitting testimony.”

Cumulatively, the counties would receive an estimated $72 million in annual revenue under HB 1671, which was co-introduced by all six members of the House of Representatives from Maui County, including Speaker Joseph M. Souki. During the Jan. 15 opening of the legislature, Speaker Souki expressed support for lifting the TAT cap during his remarks, saying, “It’s time.”

Rep. Tom Brower chairs the House Committee on Tourism. Testimony for HB 1671 is accepted at the legislature’s website at www.capitol.hawaii.gov.

39-Year-Old Kona Man Dies After Being Arrested

Hawaiʻi Island police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a 39-year-old Kona man who died in police custody.

Ernest Alvares

Ernest Ricky  Alvarez

At 12:30 a.m. Tuesday (February 4), a Kona Patrol officer made a traffic stop at a gas station in a shopping center on Palani Road. The driver, 38-year-old Ernest Ricky Alvarez of Kailua-Kona, was arrested on a $10,000 bench warrant for contempt of court.

Randall Hatori

Randall Hatori

His passenger, 39-year-old Randall Hatori of Kailua-Kona—who was wanted for assault and violating temporary restraining orders—fled on foot.

The officer pursued Hatori on foot and a struggle ensued while trying to apprehend him. During the struggle, the officer sustained injuries. Other officers responded to the scene. After Hatori was in police custody at the scene, he became unresponsive. Fire Department personnel arrived and took him to Kona Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:53. a.m.

The officer required treatment for his injuries at Kona Community Hospital.

Alvarez was taken to the Kona police cellblock. In addition to the contempt charge, he was arrested on suspicion of promoting a dangerous drug. He remains at the cellblock while detectives continue that investigation.

Police have initiated a corner’s inquest investigation in connection with Hatori’s death. An autopsy has been ordered to determine the exact cause of death.

As is standard practice in any police involved death, the Police Department’s Area II Criminal Investigations Section will conduct an investigation into the death and the circumstances leading to it, and the Office of Professional Standards will conduct an administrative investigation.

Normal Closing Time for Keōkea Beach Park Following Departure of Endangered Monk Seals

Two endangered Hawaiian monk seals have left Keōkea Beach Park, prompting the Department of Parks and Recreation to return to keeping the North Kohala park open until 11 p.m. each night.

Mom and baby seal

Mom and baby seal

A seal pup was born at the park in November, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, which requested the park be closed at 7:30 p.m. to protect the newborn and its mother.

NOAA has informed the Department of Parks and Recreation that the pup left the park’s shoreline last week and has not been sighted since, eliminating the need for the early closure time.

Hawaiian monk seals are protected under both federal and state laws. Anyone who intentionally harasses, harms or kills a Hawaiian monk seal could be fined up to $50,000 and ordered to serve a five-year prison sentence.

The Department of Parks and Recreation thanks park users and the general public for understanding the need to protect one of Hawaii’s most unique and loved animals.

For more information, please contact Jason Armstrong, Public Information Officer, at 345-9105, or jarmstrong@co.hawaii.hi.us.