Commentary: East Hawaii vs. West Hawaii – Paradigm Changed After Kenoi was Elected

I don’t think it would be wise to split Hawaii County into two counties. Yes, West Hawaii does pay 70% of the property taxes. However, this disparity is due in part to the value of the homes being higher on the west side versus the east side. In other words, West Hawaii homeowners are subsidizing the lower property taxes paid from East Hawaii residents.

Hawaii in Half

This was a bone of contention during Mayor Harry Kim’s eight years in office. West Hawaii paid most of the property taxes, but got very little in return between 2000-2008. The paradigm changed after Mayor Billy Kenoi was elected in 2008. His administration brought West Hawaii back into the fold by constructing needed infrastructure improvements, and by bringing county government closer to the residents living in West Hawaii.

This is a non-inclusive list of these infrastructure improvements completed between 2008 and 2016 by Mayor Kenoi’s administration; West Hawaii Civic Center, La’aloa Avenue Extension, Mamalahoa Highway bypass, Kaiminani Drive rehabilitation phases 1 & 2, Makalei Fire Station, Ane Keohokalole Highway, etc. Mayor Harry Kim’s track record was less than stellar.

His administration dropped the  ball with Ali’i Parkway, and failed to address burgeoning traffic issues on the west side. The only noteworthy project started in West Hawaii during Mayor Kim’s term was the realignment of the Kealaka’a Street intersection.

Mayor Kenoi’s administration has thoroughly addressed that burgeoning west side traffic congestion issue, and has largely put to rest any talk of splitting Hawaii County. However, this issue has started to percolate to surface again due to upcoming election, and because Mayor Kenoi’s term is ending at the end of this year.

There is at least one current mayoral candidate, who believes splitting the county into two would be wise. I believe this would be huge mistake.

Hawaii County currently receives 18% of the yearly Federal Highways fund allotment, and $19.2 million dollars in transient accommodation tax revenue. If another county is conceived, these funds would have to be shared. On top of that, it would establish a new layer of unneeded government bureaucracy on this island I firmly believe we should stay one county, instead of splitting into two. We have to help each other, especially since we’re so isolated from the rest of the world.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Kona Business Ends Affiliation With Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce

Today, a well known business that was a member of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce requested to be removed from all affiliations with the Chamber of Commerce.

It all began when a deal fell through and Parker had to do what anybody would do when they were wronged.

It all began when a deal fell through and Parker had to do what anybody would do when they were wronged.

Tiki Shark Art Inc, its Owners and Board of Directors recently won a $43,000.00 judgment against a Middle Eastern Firm out of Dubai and today Tiki Shark Art Agent Abbas Hassan sent a letter to the Kona Kohala Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Kirstin Kahaloa, expressing his displeasure in the Chambers decision in having one of its board members defending the foreign corporation.

Hassan writes:

Kirstin (Kahaloa)…..thank you for taking the time to come see me.

As discussed in our meeting this morning, Tiki Shark Art Inc, its Owners and Board of Directors are not comfortable with the fact that one of your Board members is actually defending a foreign Corporation in a legal motion against us. That too when a local Hawaiian judge has already ruled in our favor over a month ago.  Furthermore, this individual may have been previewed to information via casual conversation in Chamber gatherings that could potentially effect the outcome of the case………just does not make sense to any of us!

Anyway’s it is with a heavy heart that I inform you of our immediate withdrawal as a member of the Kona Kohala Chamber of Commerce.

Please make sure our name is taken off and “unsubscribed” to all mailing lists.

I wish you and your Chamber the very best in the future.

Sincerely,

Abbas Hassan

Well known artist Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker weighed in and said, “This seems unfair. It’s a question of responsibility. Someone who sits as an officer on the board of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce represents the Chamber, and to some extent, also the City of Kailua-Kona. That’s a big responsibility. To the average guy on the beach, when he hears that a law suit is being filed against a local small business and the prosecuting attorney is a officer of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce, well, in the court of public opinion, the Chamber is probably in the right and the small business man is probably in the wrong.”

Hawaii State Senate Adjourns 2016 Regular Session

The Hawai‘i State Senate adjourned the 2016 regular session with a sense of accomplishment in passing a fiscally responsible budget, addressing priority needs for the state, and tackling a number of challenging issues as highlighted in the Hawai‘i Senate Majority Legislative Program at the start of the 2016 Session.

Capital

Over the course of this legislative session, Senators, along with their House counterparts, approved substantial funding to install air conditioning for our public schools, provided an unprecedented appropriation for homeless programs statewide, delivered additional support to meet the housing needs for Hawai‘i’s families, and improved health care services.

In his closing remarks, Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (Dist. 8 -Kaua’i, Ni’ihau) reflected upon the trials the body faced this session with the passing of Sen. Gilbert Kahele, as well as the health challenges faced by Senators Breene Harimoto and Sam Slom.  He praised the courage of Senators Harimoto and Slom, and complimented the Senate staff for working hard under trying circumstances to get the work of the people done.

“In the face of difficulty, I congratulate each and every one of you for continuing to focus on the important work of the Legislature,” said Kouchi. “Through collaboration and cooperation, we are able to present not only a fiscally responsible budget, but also sound policy of which the citizens of Hawai‘i will see benefits.”

In alignment with the Hawai‘i Senate Majority Legislative Program theme of providing for our families (Mālama ‘Ohana), a $12 million lump sum appropriation for homeless programs is a recognition of this statewide concern and represents a significant opportunity to change the way to approach the homeless problem.  In understanding the holistic need to address this crisis, $160 million in funds for improvements at the Hawai‘i State Hospital, along with $3 million in general funds for the Hawai‘i Public Housing Authority and $75 million allocated toward the rental Housing Assistance Revolving Fund and Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund will support efforts to approach the homeless issue from a variety of angles.

In an investment in our children, lawmakers took a bold step and increased Preschool Open Doors base funding to $10 million, which will help struggling families with real opportunities for school readiness. Lawmakers also found a fiscally creative solution to fund a $100 million emergency appropriation for air conditioning and heat abatement measures that will help move forward the Department of Education program to cool schools.

In terms of nurturing our earth, (Mālama Honua) lawmakers provided substantial resources to study in-stream flow standards and assess water availability, a number of bills along with $1.6 million in general funds for various water infrastructure support statewide and more than $4.7 million in general funds was provided in bills for conservation efforts and the fight against invasive species.  More than $4.8 in general funds in various measures provide a solid foundation to reinforce agriculture as an industry moving forward.

By focusing on growing jobs and our economy, appropriations and measures to provide $4 million in grants and allocating funds to strengthen our infrastructure and position in the Pacific through the Hawai‘i Broadband Initiative, along with $1 million in general funds to budget for HI-Growth and $100,000 in matching general funds for the state’s Creative Labs program, fall in line with sustaining our communities (Mālama Kaiāulu).

Lawmakers passed measures that reflected good governance (Mālama Aupuni) by making steps toward taking care of our debts and obligations by approving $150 million for the Rainy Day Fund and $81.9 million to pay down unfunded liabilities.

“This puts us on a more solid financial footing going forward, knowing that if and when times get tough, paying less always helps,” said Sen. Jill Tokuda (Dist.24 – Kane‘ohe, Kane‘ohe MCAB, Kailua, He‘eia, ‘Ahuimanu), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

Lawmakers also provided $1.15 billion in general obligation bonds and $2.5 billion for projects funded by all other means of financing for capital improvement projects that will play a vital role in rebuilding our economy and strengthening our social infrastructure.

On the contentious issues this session, such as water rights and transient accommodations tax collection, the Senate displayed its ability to participate in healthy debate, yet continue to collaborate while keeping the best interests of the people of Hawai‘i in mind.

“One of the strengths of the Senate is our ability to have differing opinions, yet recognize when to put those sentiments aside to get to work and come up with solutions,” said Senate Majority Leader, Sen. J. Kalani English (Dist. 7 – Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka‘i, Lana‘i, Kaho‘olawe). “The measures we passed this session achieved our goal of improving the quality of life for our keiki, kūpuna, and nā ‘ohana who are most in need and we will continue to work to ensure what we’ve put in place this session will continue to move our state forward.”

The Hawai‘i Senate Majority 2016 Legislative Program can be viewed on the website: www.hawaiisenatemajority.com

Hawaii Senate District 1 Awarded Over $89 Million in Capital Improvement Project Funds

With the adoption of the supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2017, Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele (Dist. 1 – Hilo) is proud to announce more than $89 million in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding has been appropriated for various projects for District 1. These projects address aging infrastructure, improve existing schools and facilities, and establish additional safety measures.

Kai Kahele Profile

“The projects funded by the budget will help move East Hawai‘i forward by creating jobs, enhancing our public infrastructure and facilities, and investing in education,” said Sen. Kahele. “By working collaboratively with my colleagues, Senator Lorraine R. Inouye, Representatives Mark M. Nakashima, Clift Tsuji and Richard H.K. Onishi, we will continue to secure funds to drive our economy and improve our quality of life.”

In realizing that the real future lies in the hands of our children and grandchildren, legislators reflected a Senate Majority priority goal of providing for our families and allocated funds for a covered play court at Chiefess Kapi‘olani and Ha‘aheo Elementary Schools, providing kitchen equipment for the Keaukaha Elementary School cafeteria and electrical upgrades for Waiākea Intermediate School.  In passing SB3126 SD2 HD2 CD1, $100 million was allocated to the Department of Education to assist in moving forward their program to install air conditioning and other heat abatement measures in our public schools and providing students with a better learning environment.

Lawmakers also recognized other imperative concerns of District 1 and allocated significant resources for the airports, harbors and health services.

“Throughout my life, my father taught me the importance of community service and I’m honored to carry on his legislative initiatives,” said Sen. Kai Kahele.

Notable CIP funding highlights for District 1 include:

  • $31.8 million for renovations on the Keaukaha Military Reservation
  • $2 million for covered playcourt for Ha‘aheo Elementary School
  • $1.5 million for design and construction for a covered playcourt at Kapi‘olani Elementary School
  • $252,000 for plans, design and construction for electrical systems upgrades for Waiākea Intermediate School
  • $6.75 million for improvements for the Hilo Counseling Center and Keawe Health Center
  • $300,000 for construction for a new adult day care facility at the Hawai‘i Island Community Development Corporation
  • $2 million for land acquisition to expand the Hilo Forest Reserve
  • $21 million for design and construction of a new support building, housing and support offices and security system for Hawai‘i Community Correctional Center
  • $3.5 million for improvements at Hilo International Airport
  • $7.95 million for demolition of pier shed and water tower and other improvements for Hilo Harbor
  • $2.2 million for plans for rehabilitation and/or replacement of Wailuku Bridge along Hawaii Belt Road (Route 19)
  • $600,000 for design and construction for cafeteria equipment installation; ground and site improvement; equipment and appurtenances at Keaukaha Elementary School

In addition to the executive budget CIP funding, appropriations for Grants-in-Aid (GIA) were also awarded to organizations for the benefit of the Hilo community:

  • $1 million for design and construction for an education facility for Hawaii Island Portuguese Chamber of Commerce
  • $1 million for plans, design and construction for a health facility for Panaewa Community Alliance
  • $500,000 for construction for a new Island Heritage Gallery Exhibit at Lyman House Memorial Museum
  • $217,000 for Rainbow Falls Botanical Garden and Visitor Center
  • $200,000 for program to assist with at risk and low income school students to prevent from dropping out of High School in Hilo
  • $150,000 for Kamoleao Laulima Community Resources Center

Student Photographers Excel in First Time Competition

The Shops at Mauna Lani presented nine students with cash scholarships and prizes in its first annual Student Photography Competition on Saturday, April 30, 2016. From 80 total entries, winning photos were selected based on technical excellence, composition, artistic merit, creative excellence, overall vitality, impact and more.

Courtesy The Shops at Mauna Lani. L to R: Marketing Assistant Manager Kawelina Gomes, Thomas Scott, Taylor Mabuni, Nuuhiwa Beatty, Sammi Goldberg, Jordan Vedelli, Priscilla Lange, General Manager Michael Oh

Courtesy The Shops at Mauna Lani. L to R: Marketing Assistant Manager Kawelina Gomes, Thomas Scott, Taylor Mabuni, Nuuhiwa Beatty, Sammi Goldberg, Jordan Vedelli, Priscilla Lange, General Manager Michael Oh

In First Place, Taylor Mabuni, Grade 11 at Makua Lani Christian Academy, won a $500 cash scholarship for his work, showing artistic eye and technical expertise in expressing The Shops’ architectural features and inviting ambiance. Jordan Vedelli, Grade 8 at Parker School, Second Place ($300), captured the fun and vitality of a family dinner at Monstera Noodles & Sushi restaurant. Third Place ($200) went to Priscilla Lange, Grade 8 at West Hawaii Explorations Academy, whose winning photo spotlighted the weekly hula and fire dance performance.

Special category awards went to:

  • Thomas Scott, Grade 10 at American School Distance Learning Program, Technical Excellence
  • Lily Kassis, Grade 6 at Hawaii Preparatory Academy, Composition Excellence
  • Eima Kozakai, Grade 9 at Kealakehe High School, Artistic Excellence
  • Orlando Corrado, Grade 9 at Kealakehe High School, Creative Excellence
  • Sammi Goldberg, Grade 11 at West Hawaii Explorations Academy, Overall Vitality
  • Nuuhiwa Beatty, Grade 6 at Makua Lani Academy, Overall Impact

“We were thrilled with the quantity, and the quality of all the photos,” said Michael Oh, General Manager. “These young photographers exceeded our expectations in every way. We are delighted to honor them, and wish them much success in their career. And, we are already looking forward to our next Student Photography Contest.”

Hawaii House of Representatives Adjourns 2016 Regular Session – Passing Several Bills

The House of Representatives today adjourned the 2016 regular legislative session, passing several remaining bills, including Senate Bill 2077, House Bill 2086, House Bill 1654 and House Bill 2543.

Capital

SB2077 SD1 HD2 CD2 authorizes Hawaii Hospital Systems Corp. employees facing reduction-in-force or workforce restructuring to opt to receive either severance benefits or a special retirement benefit in lieu of exercising any reduction-in-force rights.  The bill is in response to the pending privatization of Maui Memorial Hospital.

HB2086 HD2 SD2 appropriates $37 million into the state highway fund as a subsidy, and requires the Governor to provide a plan to sustain the state highway fund.

HB1654 HD1 SD2 allows a permanent absentee voter to temporarily receive a ballot at an alternate address for elections within an election cycle. Clarifies that certain conditions that normally lead to a termination of permanent absentee voter status do not apply if the voter resides in an absentee ballot only area. Replaces references to facsimile ballots with references to electronically transmitted ballots. Allows a voter to receive an absentee ballot by electronic transmission if the voter requires such a ballot within five days of an election, or the voter would otherwise not be able to return a properly issued ballot by the close of polls.

HB2543 HD2 SD 1 makes permanent the requirement that the state and the counties take action within 60 days for broadband-related permit applications, take action within 145 days for use applications for broadband facilities within the conservation district, and establish other requirements regarding broadband-related permits, and weight load for utility poles to capacities established by the FCC and PUC.

Click on this link for all bills passed during the 2016 session.

During the session, the House approved major funding for affordable housing and homelessness, air conditioning and heat abatement for 1,000 classroom statewide, the largest ever disbursement to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, help for displaced Maui sugar workers and significant pay down of the state’s unfunded liabilities.

“In January, I asked you to use the momentum created from our last session to keep us and Hawaii moving forward.  During this session, you did just that with hard work and perseverance,” according to House Speaker Joseph M. Souki (Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku, Waikapu) in written remarks to state representatives.

“You helped shape a budget that is fiscally prudent, forward looking, and addresses the state’s priorities on the homeless and affordable housing, our classrooms and education, our public hospitals and healthcare, our prisons and public safety, and Hawaiian Home lands and our host culture.”

Souki thanked House members for providing $100 million for air conditioning in public school classrooms, $650,000 to retrain and support displaced Maui sugar plantation workers, $2.5 million to sustain Wahiawa General Hospital, $150 million to replenish the state’s Rainy Day fund, and $81.9 to pay down unfunded liabilities (owed toward the state retirees’ post-employment benefits).

“You also put us on a path toward building affordable housing units on state owned parcels along our future rail system,” Souki wrote.  “This effort offers great potential for not just home building but community building.

“An essential part of community building is to make that community sustainable for the long term.  That’s why it was important for us to protect prime agriculture land between Wahiawa and Waialua and invest $31.5 million to purchase those lands from Dole Food Co.”

Finally, Souki thanked the representatives for providing funding to support Maui workers and their families affected by the closure of Hawaii Commercial and Sugar Company, as well as for working out a compromise measure dealing with the issue of water rights among competing interests on Maui.

“It is never an easy task to deal with competing interests and priorities,” Souki wrote.  “Each priority seems so obvious in isolation.  But the devil is never in a single priority, but always in the prioritization process itself.

“It’s easy enough to throw your hands up and call them no-win situations.  But our job is to provide leadership and make the difficult decisions.  In doing so, you may not win any popularity contest.  But you will have earned the respect and appreciation from those who see the big picture, and understand your position and your responsibility to all the people of Hawaii.”

Temple Children Launches Mural Project to Activate Hilo

This week, globally renowned artists Lauren YS, Wooden Wave and David “MEGGS” Hooke are painting sustainability-themed murals as part of a concerted effort to invigorate and beautify Downtown Hilo.
Hilo Mural
Bay Area artist Lauren YS, who studied at Stanford University, is painting the Hilo Town Tavern. Lāʻie-based artist Matthew Ortiz of Wooden Wave is leading the mural at Short N Sweet Bakery in collaboration with Australian artist, MEGGS.

At the Hilo Town Tavern, Lauren pays homage to her sister Dani, who recently graduated from Barnard College at Columbia University with an astrobiology degree. Dani is depicted as a “cyber-hybrid space biologist traversing a sustainable future dreamscape in search of nutrient rich, local flora” because of Dani’s focus during her NASA internship to find plants that could possibly be used to sustain life on Mars.

The maritime scene at Short N Sweet was commissioned by Energy Excelerator, a mission-driven nonprofit dedicated to solving the world’s energy challenges. Inspired by Hawaiʻi’s mandated clean energy goals, Wooden Wave’s mural depicts a large sustainability boat equipped with various permaculture and energy producing systems. The ‘community on a boat’ is outfitted with a bakery, a nod to the building’s history and Hilo’s iconic mom-and-pop shops.

Hilo Mural 2The Hilo murals are led by Temple Children, an arts-based organization founded by Hilo-native Miya Tsukazaki and her partner MEGGS that coordinates projects to strengthen communities, promote social and environmental innovation, and incite positive global change. Ashley Kierkiewicz rounds out the team as Temple Children’s Regional Director.

To support the project, HPM Building Supply generously donated Pratt & Lambert paint and various supplies; Hilo Town Tavern and Short N Sweet provided additional onsite assistance.

The murals are expected to be complete this Saturday, May 7. A third and final mural led by MEGGS in collaboration with Oahu-based muralist and tattoo artist Lucky Olelo will commence at Lucy’s Taqueria/Laundry Express the week of May 15.

Individuals or organizations interested in contributing to the project or inquiring about a mural commission in the Hawaii region may contact Ashley Kierkiewicz at (808) 989-4004.

Big Island Entrepreneurs Launch $25,000 Business Plan Competition

Two long-time Big Island businessmen are aiming to give would-be entrepreneurs a serious jump start.

Click for more information

Click for more information

World-renowned aquaculture expert Dr. Jim Wyban and Kelly Moran, President/Founder of Hilo Brokers, are co-chairing the upcoming “Best Big Island Business Plan” competition, to be hosted by the University of Hawaii at Hilo in the fall of 2016.

At stake is a total of $25,000 in seed money from a variety of sponsors including the Natural Energy Lab, the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce and the Ulupono Initiative..  Entry is open to any and all types of businesses, from Astronomy and Agriculture to Technology and Tourism.

“As long as it’s Big Island-based, it qualifies,” explains Moran, adding, “there’s so much talent out there, and this is a great opportunity to fast-forward someone’s killer concept.”

But the purpose of the competition goes beyond jump-starting a lone entrepreneur or co-op.  Both men are confident that by encouraging budding businesses to put their ideas forward, a better entrepreneurial ecosystem can be built on the Big Island.

“Good ideas can’t thrive in isolation,” describes Dr. Wyban, adding, “it takes peers, mentors and even competitors to push a venture to its full potential.”

Dr. Wyban speaks from experience.  An aquaculture pioneer, he helped to develop pathogen-free shrimp varieties that helped to quadruple global production before selling his technology to a multinational corporation.

Moran is a 30-year real estate veteran, who has overseen more than $500 million worth of transactions in his career.

Plan entries are being accepted now.  Competition proceedings will be held at the University of Hawaii at Hilo in the Fall 2016 semester, exact date and time to be announced.

For more information on the competition and to download entry forms, visit the Best Big Island Business Plan’s website at www.BBIBP.org.

Questions can be directed to Dr. Wyban by emailing jim@BBIBP.org.