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Representative Nicole Lowen’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Representative Nicole Lowen

Damon,
I can’t give a yes or no answer about my vote on a bill that I haven’t seen yet, but I appreciate your concern about this and I intend to keep the interests of the Big Island and of my constituents at the forefront. I will be advocating to increase the share of TAT to the counties and for a bill that is in the best interests of taxpayers in my district and across the state.

Mahalo,

Nicole Lowen

——————-

Aloha Rep. Lowen,

Mahalo for representing the Big Island in legislative issues. I have some questions for you folks and hope you will respond to me by Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
Questions:
1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?
If your answer is YES, please explain why? If your answer is NO, please explain why?
2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
Thank you for your participation in this quick and important decision that will affect all of us on this island.

Lehua Restoration Operation to Rid Island of Rats Begins

Eradication of damaging rats aimed at protecting incredible bird, plant, and marine diversity

Today, hope reigns for Lehua Island, as an operation commenced to make the island’s threatened wildlife safe from introduced, damaging, invasive rats. DLNR and its partners carried out carefully made plans to remove the invasive rats with support from Native Hawaiian and local communities. Dozens of Federal and State permits affirming that the operation poses very little risk to people, marine mammals, fish, sea turtles, birds, or other wildlife were secured in advance of the operation.

Lehua Island

The operation was executed as planned—successfully, safely, and under the close watch of regulators from the Hawai`i Department of Agriculture and an independent monitoring team from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A science and values-based cost-benefit analysis reflected in project proponents’ Final Environmental Assessment (FEA) required years of operational planning, scientific research, trials, analysis, and community engagement. After exhaustive evaluation of scientific publications and hundreds of island invasive species eradications around the world, the Lehua Island Restoration Steering Committee determined that the only feasible method for safely removing rats is the deployment of bait containing a small amount of rodenticide.  The committee chose urgent intervention over allowing Lehua’s invasive rats to continue to devastate birds, plants, marine waters, cultural sites and resources.

Sheri Mann, Kaua‘i branch manager for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) which manages Lehua Island as a State Seabird Sanctuary, said, “Our teams applied the first of three rounds of conservation bait to Lehua Island today by helicopter with supplemental applications by hand. About 99.995 percent of the bait used is comprised of non-toxic, human food-grade ingredients made to attract rats. The remaining fraction is diphacinone, a first-generation anticoagulant rodenticide.”

The project presents little risk to marine life. Consistent with rules and regulations governing rodenticide application, project permits acknowledge and authorize a negligible amount of bait drift into shallow near-shore waters. The permits also acknowledged that this poses little risk to the environment. Lab studies have shown that fish reject bait containing diphacinone. Furthermore, fish are among the least likely animals to be affected by the rodenticide. What little bait drifts into water from the over-land application sinks to the sea floor and degrades quickly.

Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture Chair Scott Enright approved the aerial application permit, necessary for the project to move forward. He observed today’s operation from the helibase on Ni‘ihau and commented, “I am pleased with the planning, preparation and execution of this project to restore Lehua Island. It was carried out very professionally and with the utmost care.”

Diphacinone, being almost insoluble, scarcely dissolves in water and thus most remains in bait pellet fragments on the sea bottom. Diphacinone breaks down quickly in water when exposed to ultraviolet light (e.g. sunlight) —  a likely fate for some drifted bait. Eventually, the rodenticide decomposes into carbon dioxide and water and intermediate compounds in its decomposition process are non-toxic. In hundreds of similar projects, no documented impacts to marine mammals or corals have been documented, and invertebrates are not affected at all as they do not metabolize diphacinone. Thus, regulators concluded that marine life will have little to no exposure to the negligible amount of rodenticide that drifts into the water.

Patty Baiao, Hawai‘i Program Manager for Island Conservation, the NGO partnering with DLNR on the project explained, “Despite the low risk, the operation is using proven strategies to avoid, minimize, and mitigate risks whenever possible. All bait is distributed over land with deflectors in place when baiting adjacent to the shoreline to direct it inland.”

Lehua is one of the largest and most diverse seabird colonies in the main Hawaiian Islands with 17 seabird species and 25 native plants (14 Hawai`i endemics – occurring nowhere else in the world) inhabiting the steep, rocky, windswept slopes of the tiny island. Lehua is an important part of native Hawaiian culture—the Ni‘ihau community gathers ‘opihi (limpets) in adjacent marine waters and on the island are several important native Hawaiian cultural sites.

The invasive rats forage on native plants and seeds, which imperils the entire ecosystem. These impacts can contribute to erosion which can in turn impair near-shore marine and coral ecosystems and fisheries. Native birds like the threatened Newell’s Shearwater are likely being restricted from breeding on Lehua Island due to predation by rats. Smaller, open-nesting seabirds such as terns and noddies are conspicuously absent from Lehua (save small numbers found in sea caves), also a suspected artifact of rat predation. Invasive rats ravage other threatened birds.

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case concluded, “A safe, careful, by-the-book operation, together with the downstream conservation outcomes of this project in coming years, will provide the proof-of-concept the community is seeking for this important conservation intervention”. Two additional applications of rodenticide are planned in the next few weeks depending on weather conditions.

Senator Kahele to Kick-Off Statewide Higher Education Tour at UH Hilo Next Wednesday

State Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele, Chair of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, is announcing a statewide higher education tour for its committee members. The tour will also include discussions with students, faculty, staff and administrators, that will focus on “transforming the University of Hawai‘i System for the next decade.” Arrangements are being made to visit all 10 University of Hawai‘i System campuses and affiliated education centers this fall as follows:

  • University of Hawai‘i at Hilo 
  • University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa 
  • University of Hawai‘i at West Oahu 
  • University of Hawai‘i Maui College 
  • Hawai‘i Community College (Hilo) 
  • Honolulu Community College 
  • Kapi‘olani Community College 
  • Leeward Community College 
  • Windward Community College 
  • Kaua‘i Community College 
  • Hawai‘i Community College – Pālamanui (Kona) 
  • North Hawai‘i Education and Research Center (Honoka‘a) 
  • Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (Kaneohe)

To kick off the statewide tour, Senator Kahele is hosting an East Hawai‘i Higher Education Town Hall on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at UH Hilo in UCB100. Topics of discussion will include leadership, enrollment, tuition, governance, student life, facilities, athletics, community engagement and new programs. University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College students, faculty, staff, administrators and the community are encouraged to attend.

For questions regarding the higher education statewide tour or the town hall meeting, please contact the office of Sen. Kahele at 808-586-6760 or senkkahele@capitol.hawaii.gov.

Representative Joy San Buenaventura’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Representative Joy San Buenaventura

As other legislators have noted, this questionnaire is premature in that we have not been told what we will be voting on in the special session. However, it is clear that there are 3 choices (and variations of these 3 choices) facing the legislature regarding rail funding: 1. No additional taxes and have rail be built until current funding runs out. HART claims that this is not an option because the federal government will want its $1.55 billion back. 2. Extend GE taxes forever (original request) or for 10 years until 2037. This is senate’s last position. 3. Increase TAT by 1% for 10 years and GE .5% for only 1 more year and gave back $10 million in TAT to the various counties with honolulu’s entire TAT share paying only for rail. This is the House’s last position. This was originally proposed late in the 2017 session because Mayor Caldwell testified that most of GE taxes were paid for by tourists (without data supporting his assertion); and it was to ensure that tourists did indeed pay for rail like he testified.

The tourist industry has recently spun the third alternative as a neighbor island tax on rail despite the fact that those who travel & stay with friends or family will not pay TAT tax at all; and completely ignoring the fact that a GE tax increase is also a tax on neighbor islanders who buy on-line from stores like Macy’s, Best buy, Sears, Target & Walmart. For the months of April &May 2017, amazon voluntarily collected Hawaii GE taxes too at 4.5% (http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/34933913/sorry-hawaii-your-tax-free-shopping-on-amazon-is-about-to-end) and stopped after it appeared that the US Supreme Court was not going to rule on internet sales but now there are 9 members of the US Supreme Court. See: one-step-closer-to-internet sales tax. Don’t let the tourist industry fool you, a GE tax increase affects everybody, especially neighbor islanders who depend on on-line purchases, and not just Oahu.

The various counties also do not like the TAT increase option because they want the option to collect the .5% GE for its own transportation needs.

To answer your questions:

1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?

It depends on whether the proposed bill gave back to the counties $10 million/year like the latest house position and decreased the GE increase from 10 years down to 1. As I stated earlier, a 10-year GE tax increase affects more neighbor island residents than a TAT increase especially where it is likely that the new 9-member US Supreme Court will rule to allow taxation of all on-line sales. I voted Yes on the house position in 2017.

2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?

YES – but this is unrealistic because the State Constitution requires that Hawaii County and all the other counties be given an option to increase their GE tax once we give Honolulu the extensionso it won’t be a Honolulu-only GE tax AND no one has ever testified that 6 years was sufficient. HART and all entities have testified that it is their request that the GE .5% increase extensions be forever because they don’t think it ever will be financially sustainable with just fares alone. HART’s track record of asking for a 10 year extension in 2015 and now another extension 2 years later has shown that they will keep coming back. In 2015, I voted NO on any GE tax increase specifically because I did not want to give Hawaii County an opportunity to raise GE at a time when we were just recovering from Iselle and the lava flow so if it was a statewide increase in GE taxes, like that in 2015, I would likely vote NO again because a GE tax is regressive.

3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?

Probably Yes but no one has given us this option and see my objections to any GE tax increase in my prior answers

Resolution Affirming Collaborative Stewardship of Maunakea Considered by Board of Regents

The University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents is considering a resolution at the August 24 meeting that affirms UH‘s commitment to the collaborative stewardship of Maunakea’s cultural, natural, educational and scientific resources. The proposed resolution also directs the university to move forward to build a global model of harmonious and inspirational stewardship that integrates traditional indigenous knowledge and modern science.

The proposed resolution commits the university to work with the state, County of Hawaiʻi, Native Hawaiian organizations and the community to achieve this aim, and also directs the university to increase the engagement of Native Hawaiian students, Hawaiʻi Island residents, and residents of the State of Hawaiʻi in the areas of astronomy, celestial navigation and exploration through an active educational and outreach program that highlights indigenous knowledge as well as enhanced student access to and utilization of Maunakea-based astronomical resources.

The resolution will also affirm the university’s commitment to return approximately 10,000 acres of land not utilized for astronomy to the jurisdiction of the state and the pursuit of a new lease or land tenure to secure the continued viability of astronomy in Hawaiʻi.

Resolution Affirming Commitment to the Collaborative Stewardship of Maunakea’s Cultural, Natural, Educational and Scientific Resources

WHEREAS, the Board of Regents believes that Maunakea can and should be a global model that provides inspiration, harmony and peaceful co-existence among culture, education, the environment and scientific discovery; and

WHEREAS, the Board of Regents for the University of Hawaiʻi embraced the university’s commitment to its responsibilities to Maunakea beginning with the adoption of the Maunakea Science Reserve Master Plan in 2000, the Maunakea Comprehensive Master Plan, Cultural Resources Management and Natural Resources Management Plans in 2009, and the Public Access and Decommissioning Plans in 2010; and

WHEREAS, the board and the university administration also aspire for the university to become a model indigenous-serving university and have committed to principles of sustainability across its mission; and

WHEREAS, the board now hereby affirms the commitment of the university to fulfill its obligations under the plans that have been approved, as well as its broader commitment to the community at large; and

WHEREAS, the board wishes to additionally acknowledge the dedicated work and commitment of the Office of Maunakea Management, the Maunakea Management Board, and the Native Hawaiian Kahu Kū Mauna Council, on behalf of the University of Hawaiʻi and the Board of Regents; and

WHEREAS, subsequent to the adoption of the various plans, and with the understanding that collaborative stewardship will continue to be prioritized on all Maunakea lands, the university has now agreed to return approximately 10,000 acres of land on Maunakea that it currently leases that is not used for astronomy, to the State of Hawaiʻi; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the university take the steps that are necessary to expedite the return of the 10,000 acres to the State of Hawaiʻi in a timely manner and pursue a new lease or land tenure for the reduced acreage that will support the continued viability of astronomical research and education in the State; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the university work with the State, County of Hawaiʻi, Native Hawaiian organizations, and the broader community to evolve collaborative and coherent management and stewardship plans that are consistent with the Comprehensive Management Plan, and that are supported by appropriate administrative rules; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the university make it a priority, including through additional financial support, to meaningfully increase the engagement of Native Hawaiian students, Hawaiʻi Island residents, and residents of the State of Hawaiʻi in the areas of astronomy, celestial navigation and exploration; and that such initiatives include an active educational and outreach program that highlights indigenous knowledge as well as enhanced student access to and utilization of Maunakea-based astronomical resources in the field; and

The Board of Regents, through this Resolution, hereby affirms its commitment to the collaborative stewardship of Maunakea’s cultural, natural, educational and scientific resources, and directs the university to move forward to collaboratively build a global model of harmonious and inspirational stewardship that is befitting of Maunakea.

North Kona Water Restictions Update – Residents CAN Hand Water Precious Plants On Occasion

The Emergency Water Restriction for North Kona remains in effect. ALL residents and customers in North Kona must continue to restrict water use to health and safety needs (drinking, cooking, and hygiene purposes).

Due to a significant level of overall compliance, water levels in the tanks have remained stable. The Department appreciates the community’s efforts to restrict water use during this time. Therefore, the following is an update on irrigation under the current Emergency Water Restriction. 

  • Limited hand watering of precious plants, on occasion, is acceptable.
  • Use of sprinklers (manual or automatic) for lawns and grass areas is still prohibited.

For other unique situations, please contact the Department to discuss possible options. Suggested best practices for hand watering plants are:

  • Water at night to reduce evaporation. 
  • Use of County’s free mulch to preserve moisture around plants. Visit the County’s website at: http://www.hawaiizerowaste.org/recycle/greenwaste/ for more information. 
  • Use of recycled water from downspouts, washing machines, washing dishes, and shower “warm up” water is also encouraged. 
  • Do not over-water plants.

Without everyone’s continued cooperation, there will be areas that will experience periodic loss of water service or lower water pressures.

We also recommend that residents store a sufficient amount of water for basic household needs, such as drinking, cooking, and hygiene purposes, in the event of service disruptions.

For your use, potable water can be obtained from a water tanker located on Hina Lani Street between Anini Street and Manu Mele Street as well as water spigots on a fire hydrant along Ane Keohokalole Highway, between Kealakehe Parkway and Kealakehe High School. Please bring your own drinking water containers to fill.

For more information visit our website at www.hawaiidws.org. To report any observed wasteful use of water, call 961-8060 during normal business hours or email dws@hawaiidws.org. For after hour emergencies call us at 961-8790.

Peaman Race Lawsuit Against State of Hawaii Dismissed

Attorney General Doug Chin announced that state circuit court Judge Melvin H. Fujino on August 15, 2017, granted the State of Hawaii’s motion to dismiss in Pagett v. DLNR.

Click to view

Hawaii County resident Sean W. Pagett operates a series of races called the “Peaman Races” – events involving both running and swimming – in Kona. Pagett did not get a marine/ocean event permit from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR), which is legally required for certain swimming events. Pagett sued the State, seeking a declaratory judgment that DOBOR’s application of an administrative rule, HAR 13-244-19, to cover swimming events was invalid because DLNR was not authorized to promulgate rules governing swimming events. Judge Fujino dismissed the case because plaintiffs cannot file suit directly in the circuit court challenging the application of a rule. Instead, the plaintiffs can only challenge the underlying validity of a rule, which the court held Pagett failed to do.

The State of Hawaii was represented internally by Deputy Attorney General David Day. Pagett was represented by attorney Jason Braswell.

A copy of the court’s order and judgment is attached.

Mai Tai Festival and Battle of the BBQ Winners Are…

The 9th Annual Don the Beachcomber’s Mai Tai Festival happened this past Saturday at the Royal Kona Resort.  Over 20 of the top bartenders from around Hawaii and the mainland participated for a chance at $17,500 in prize money.

The day began with a “Battle of the BBQ” at the courtyard of the Royal Kona Resort where 13 restaurants competed for the coveted “People’s Choice Award” and the “Judges Choice Award”.

Broke Da Mouth Grindz took home the “People’s Choice Award” with a BBQ Beef dish topped w/ shrimp:

The Kona Butcher Shop took home the “Judges Choice Award” with a smoked brisket dish:

After the Battle of the BBQ was finished folks mingled throughout the courtyard as there were lots of craft vendors selling local Big Island Made products.

Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker’s booth was one of the more popular shops.

People then moved on over to the Resort’s pool area where Henry Kapono performed in concert while folks enjoyed a casual pool party for a few hours.

Then at 4:30 the Mai Tai Festival began inside Don the Beachcombers where hundreds of folks gathered to watch some of the best bartenders compete in ten minute mix-offs with the judges getting to sample each of the Mai Tai’s after the mix-off.

The winners of the Mai Tai Festival were:

  1. Kevin Beary – 3 dots and a dash Chicago with the “Tricky Tricky Wiki Wiki”
  2. Justin Kipapa – Myna Bird – Honolulu
  3. Paul Schreuder – Bar Leather Apron Honolulu

Mai Tai Festival Director Jeff Isbister said, “These are 3 great bartenders all carrying the torch of the classic Tiki Cocktail into the mainstream. Both Justin and Kevin are returnees and both have finished in the top 3 in past events. We couldn’t ask for better representation than that. Paul is a first time competitor but he represents bar Leather apron which is owned by a two time winner and two time judge, Justin Park. These top tier mixologists are testament to how big the Mai Tai Fest has become. Kevin has come all the way from Chicago twice to compete. We’ve had competitors from all over the country and beyond.”

Television personality DJ Maleko helped emcee the event and Celebrity Chef Sam Choy was one of the Judges.

Bacardi USA was on hand and was giving folks a chance to win bottles of Bacardi by posting pictures of the event on Instagram and Twitter under the hashtag #BacardiUSA.

Isbister continued, “Another great event, we went into the planning for the 9th annual Mai Tai Festival with our sights firmly set on our tenth anniversary next year. Everyone’s focus was of course this year but we kept in the back of our minds the idea of what can we do bigger better and bolder for next year. I know Gary Hogan, Tom and Liz Bell and the staff here at the hotel promise the best event yet.”

Rep. Richard H. K. Onishi’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Representative Richard H.K. Onishi

Mr. Tucker,

Thank you for your inquiry, as you know, there are many issues involved in deciding how to fund the Honolulu City & County’s rail project, including the total cost projection, funding from HC&C, Federal funding, public/private partnerships, GET funds, TAT funds, etc. Since there has been no formal proposed bill, your questions are hypothetic options and, may or may not be sufficient to fund the project and there may be combinations of funding methods. I believe that the prudent thing to do is to reserve my comments until after I have seen the proposed bill and have had a chance to ask my questions to the proposers on the details of the project cost and the amount of funding that each source would provide and its potential effect on our residents and tourist. I am also very concern that there needs to be included a method to have the HC&C more accountable for the cost and how the funds are being spent.

Mahalo,
Richard H. K. Onishi


Aloha Rep. Onishi,

Mahalo for representing the Big Island in legislative issues. I have some questions for you folks and hope you will respond to me by Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
Questions:
1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?
If your answer is YES, please explain why? If your answer is NO, please explain why?
2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
Thank you for your participation in this quick and important decision that will affect all of us on this island.