Come and meet your local Councilmen beginning on Monday, January 12th at the Mountain View Elementary School Gym and ending Friday, January 18th at the Neighborhood Place of Puna (Keaau Location see above).
The Inaugural Ceremonies will be held for the newly elected members of the Hawai‘i County Council on Monday, December 1, 2014, at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo at 12 noon. The public is invited to attend.
Sherry Bracken of Hawai‘i Public Radio will serve as Master of Ceremonies. The Honorable Judge Ronald Ibarra will administer the Oath of Office to the newly elected council members, and the Honorable Mayor Billy Kenoi will serve as keynote speaker.
The Office of the County Clerk extends a warm welcome to the public to attend this special event.
Two Puna polling places, Keonopoko & HPP (Paradise Park) without electricity will not receive voters today!!! Voters assigned to those places will be mailed a ballot in next couple weeks, to be mailed back in. These poll results will not be final until then.
This info is verified by Stewart Maeda, Hawaii County Clerk.
Even worse news: Many residents along Red Road and in Pohoiki are trapped by fallen trees. They cannot get to their polling station in Pahoa. At this time there is no plan to extend voting for hundreds of people in this situation. I will be urging the State Elections officer, Scott Nago, to find a solution for these constituents. I hope others will do so as well.
Senator Russell Ruderman (via Facebook)
Filed under: Announcements, Big Island, Community, County Council, Environment, Hawaii, Legal, National Affairs, Pahoa, Politics, Puna, Rumors | Tagged: Polling Places Closed, Puna, Scott Nago, Senator Russell Ruderman | Leave a comment »
I’m working with Common Cause Hawaii (along with an organization I co-founded called Hawaii Open Data) to spread the word about new tools designed to help Hawaii residents get a better view of how local government works. With the Primary Election looming next week, it’s the perfect time to try them out.
I wanted to encourage you to consider covering these web apps, which all work with publicly available data from the Campaign Spending Commission, but offer different ways to make sense of it. As the data is statewide, there’s also an additional opportunity to gain insight into candidates and campaigns on Hawaii Island specifically.
Here’s a list of the free apps, each of which was created by a local developer (or team of coders) that participated in the Civic*Celerator, a tech competition that challenged geeks to build something to encourage greater participation in civic life and greater transparency in government: http://civic.celerator.org/apps/
Though we’re not talking fun and games like Angry Birds here, I hope the value of these apps to the community is clear. :)
Examples? Perhaps the most compelling web app, visually, is the Hawaii Campaign Spending Data tool by Jason Axelson. Beautiful yet intuitive graphic representations of campaign spending by office (governor, Hawaii county council, OHA, etc.), candidate, party, category… just click around for a minute or two, and some interesting patterns will emerge: http://viz.hawaiicampaignspending.com/
Or here’s an app by Royce Jones that includes both candidate filing information and campaign spending information, and links it to an easily-navigated map of the islands: http://civic-celerator.maps.arcgis.com/home/
You can figure out which voting precinct you’re in, who’s running, who’s donating to their campaigns, and even see online exactly what your ballot will look like.
These only scratch the surface of these free tools, created for everyday people by (slightly geekier) every day people. While there’s been volumes and volumes of data available for years, now a growing corps of “civic hackers” are building ways to make sense of it all.
Not only do I think these web apps would make for a great “tech for good” story, but I think bloggers like you could actually use them to generate a number of other interesting stories. Which candidate spent the most on food on Hawaii Island? Which political party, besides the Democrats, is fielding the most candidates for public office statewide? The possibilities, once you begin to explore the data in new ways, are endless.
Please let me know if you’d like to speak to someone about these tools. I can help connect you with some of the organizers of the Civic*Celerator for the big picture, or help set up a walk through from one of the developers for an in-depth tour of any of the apps. Just reply to this email and I’ll get the ball rolling. Otherwise, feel free to try them out, review them or post a tour, whatever you think will help demonstrate the value of campaign spending data and these volunteer-built apps.
Thank you very much for your consideration!
Burt Lum, Hawaii Open Data
Filed under: Announcements, Community, County Council, Economy, Guest Commentator, Hawaii, Politics, Something New?, State Affairs, Technology | Tagged: Burt Lum, Common Cause Hawaii, Hawaii Open Data | Leave a comment »
Hawaiian papaya and banana growers have joined cattlemen and floral producers to fight a ban on open-air growing and testing of genetically modified crops imposed by the Hawaii County Council.
The ban exempts existing papaya crops and growers. However, no new acres can be planted, according to the case filed June 9 in federal court. Hawaii County includes the entire Island of Hawaii. A scheduling hearing is set Sept. 8.
Growers say the ban — known as Bill 113 — conflicts with state and federal laws and is unconstitutional, according to the case filed by the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association (HPIA) and the Big Island Banana Growers Association. Other plaintiffs joining in the case include the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council, the Pacific Floral Exchange and the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
The Hawaii County Council approved Bill 113 in December with a 6-3 vote. It requires existing GMO growers to annually register and pay a $100 fee. In another court action, a judge recently ruled the county cannot make public growers’ personal information and specific field locations collected in the registry.
Growers challenged publication of the registry saying it would encourage vandalism, which has previously resulted in crop destruction.
Hawaii’s papaya industry was nearly destroyed by ringspot virus in the early 1990s, and development of the Rainbow variety was the industry’s answer. The Rainbow variety passed federal review and was first planted in 1998. According to court documents, at least 85% of the papaya crop grown on Hawaii Island is Rainbow.
“Bill 113 has stigmatized HPIA members by conveying a false message that (GMO) crops and plants harm human health and the environment and has imposed other costs on HPIA,” according to the lawsuit.
Banana growers, including Richard Ha who is a plaintiff in the federal case, contend they need the option to test and possibly plant GMO bananas to mitigate threats from bunchy top virus and other diseases.
More here: Cattlemen Sue Hawaii County Over GMO Ban
Filed under: Agriculture, Announcements, Big Island, County Council, Environment, Food & Drink, GMO, Hawaii, Health, Legal, National Affairs, Rumors, Security | Tagged: Cattlemen Sue Hawaii County over GMO Ban | Leave a comment »
The Hawai‘i County Department of Parks and Recreation’s plans for improving the Hilo Municipal Golf Course will be the subject of a public presentation set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 22, in the Hawai‘i County Council Chambers located at 25 Aupuni Street in Hilo.
The purpose of this meeting is to explain the project’s entire scope to interested parties and gather their input.
Proposed improvements include replacing the clubhouse facility, waterlines and both of the course restrooms, reconstructing four greens, and performing various maintenance and repair work throughout the site. Another key component involves bringing the Hilo Municipal Golf Course and adjacent driving range into full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Design work has started, and the Department of Parks and Recreation expects to solicit construction bids early next year.
The golf course, restaurant and pro shop will continue operating throughout the anticipated construction period of 12 to 16 months. However, it’s anticipated that pedestrian, vehicle and golf cart traffic will be rerouted intermittently while construction work is occurring. Also, areas of play on the course will require temporary modifications to allow construction operations to occur safely and successfully.
The 18-hole Hilo Municipal Golf Course totals 165 acres, making it the largest developed recreational site in Hawai‘i County’s inventory. It’s located at 340 Haihai Street in Hilo and is open daily, except Christmas and New Year’s Day, from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.
The meeting place is accessible to individuals with disabilities. To request an Auxiliary Aid or other accommodation, please contact Jason Armstrong, Public Information Officer, at 961-8311 or firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, July 16. Individuals who are Limited English Proficient may also request an interpreter.
For more information, please contact Jason Armstrong, Public Information Officer, at 961-8311 or email@example.com.
I asked Mr. Paleka Jr. how he felt about the endorsement and he said:
I am deeply honored to be endorsed by HGEA, UPW, ILWU and Hawaii Operating Engineers. I believe we share the same values and commitment to our working families and the endorsements are a reflection of that fact. I am aware that my fellow candidates did seek endorsement from these organizations which is very humbling to me considering the competition that was also vying for they’re support. Although I do anticipate further endorsements by other sectors of our community it is with the utmost sincerity that I send a Mahalo Nui Loa to our Union Ohanas.
County of Hawai‘i Law Raising the Age of Sale to 21 Years for All Tobacco Products – Takes Effect July 1, 2014
Last year the Hawai’i County Council unanimously approved a bill to raise the age of sale of tobacco products to 21. That measure, Hawai‘i County Ordinance 13-124, takes effect on Tuesday, July 1, 2014.
The law prohibits the distribution of tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices, to underage customers born after June 30, 1996. Retailers need to be aware that anyone who is born after June 30, 1996 is prohibited from purchasing tobacco products or electronic smoking devices until they are 21 years of age.
There is an exemption in the new ordinance for people who reach the age of 18 before July 1, 2014. Those who reach the age of 18 before July 1, 2014 are allowed to continue to purchase tobacco. The purpose of the exemption is to ease the transition for people who already use tobacco, and for the retailers.
The Coalition For A Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i (CTFH) and staff from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids worked closely with West Hawai‘i Councilmember Dru Mamo Kanuha and his staff to pass this bill. Hawai‘i County Council unanimously passed Bill 135 on November 20, and Mayor Kenoi signed the legislation into law in December 2013.
The Coalition For A Tobacco-Free Hawaii applauds Hawai‘i County for standing strong on tobacco control. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (www.tobaccofreekids.org), “National data show that 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21.” The ages of 18 to 21 are a critical period when many smokers move from experimental smoking to regular, daily use. Increasing the tobacco sale age to 21 will help prevent young people from ever starting to smoke.
Hawai‘i County joins New York City and Needham and Canton, Massachusetts, in raising the age of sale on tobacco products to 21. Four states—Utah, New Jersey, Alaska and Alabama—require tobacco buyers to be 19. Several other counties and states, including Texas, are considering similar measures.
It is important for retailers and potential buyers to know these key points for the new law:
- Any person who sells or distributes tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices, to an underage customer will be subject to a fine of up to $2,000.
- Persons, retailers, and employees that sell or distribute tobacco products must verify proof of age of the recipient/purchaser.
- Sale is prohibited to persons born after June 30, 1996.
- Valid identification includes: state driver’s license, state identification card, military ID, or passport.
- Signs are required to be posted at every point of sale.
- From July 1, 2014 – July 30, 2017, persons who sell or display tobacco products shall post signs clearly and keep them posted at the place of business at each point of sale.
- Failure to post this sign shall be subject to a fine of up to $500.
Signs were sent to all registered tobacco retailers in May 2014. Additional signs are available at the Mayor’s Offices in East and West Hawai‘i or by contacting the East Hawai‘i Tobacco-Free Coalition Coordinator via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information please visit the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i website at: http://www.tobaccofreehawaii.org/community-coalitions/tobacco-free-big-island/hawaii-county-new-law-raising-the-age-of-purchase-for-tobacco-products-to-21/
Filed under: Announcements, Big Island, County Council, Hawaii, Hawaii County Public Notices, Health, Kids, Legal, Something New? | Tagged: 2014, County of Hawai‘i Law Raising the Age of Sale to 21 years for All Tobacco Products Takes Effect July 1 | Leave a comment »
On April 7, 2014, Journalist Nancy Cook Lauer, President of the Big Island Press Club (BIPC), sent an email to the Chairman of the Hawaii County Council J. Yoshimoto formally protesting the treatment of three BIPC members and their equipment.
Council Members, County Clerk Stewart Maeda, and Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida also received copies of this email.
After the email was sent, Chair Yoshimoto apologized to Cook Lauer on behalf of all the parties involved in the incident.
Here is a copy of that email:
Dear Chairman Yoshimoto:
On behalf of the Big Island Press Club, we are writing to formally protest the treatment of three BIPC members and their equipment on April 1.
I understand from witnesses and partially from my own personal observation that Clerks Office staff removed thousands of dollars worth of laptops, bags, cameras and other equipment belonging to members of the media from the media area of council chambers and deposited them in the hallway.
This happened after the council had called an executive session and the media had cleared the chambers. The media had gone to the meeting room across the hall and were within calling distance of staff, had they wished to call us back to retrieve our belongings.
Instead, the gear was left in the hallway, risking the loss of equipment by theft in addition to damage by those not familiar with handling others’ equipment. A working journalist’s gear is worth more than its monetary value. It also holds irreplaceable photos, video, notes and articles.
If the rules have changed about whether equipment must be removed during executive session, it would be a professional practice to notify the media ahead of time. As it happened, journalists who have been covering the council for years were treated with disrespect and a lack of trust that they felt undeserved.
Nancy Cook Lauer
President, Big Island Press Club
The College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management (CAFNRM) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and the County of Hawaiʻi will host a free public forum on “Building Momentum Toward a Resilient and Sustainable Local Farming Culture” on Thursday, May 22, 9-4:30 p.m., in UH Hilo’s UCB Room 100. The forum aims to share collective knowledge and brainstorm ideas about the future of Hawaiʻi Island agriculture, beginning with how to improve soil health.
Dr. Hector Valenzuela of the UH Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) and Dr. Norman Arancon of CAFNRM will be the lead presenters with discussion facilitation by Interim CAFNRM Dean Bruce Mathews and County Councilwoman Margaret Wille, chair of the County Council’s Committee on Agriculture, Water, Energy, and Sustainability.
Morning presentations and panel discussions focus on eco-friendly agro-ecological models, integrated crop-livestock systems and feed options, improving soil health, and increasing economical options for high quality compost. The afternoon sessions includes a discussion on red fire ant control strategies and facilitated breakout sessions to follow up on the morning topics.
For further information, call CAFNRM at 932-7036.
Filed under: Agriculture, Announcements, Big Island, County Council, Education, Food & Drink, Hawaii, Hawaii County Public Notices, Sustainable Living, UH, UH Hilo | Tagged: Building Momentum Toward a Resilient and Sustainable Local Farming Culture, Dr. Hector Valenzuela | Leave a comment »
Councilman Greggor Ilagan, of District 4, reopened his office in Puna after months of renovations and building improvements to the old Pāhoa Police Substation. “The public needs easy access to their government and this new office will help achieve that goal,” said Councilman Ilagan.
The new office is located at 15-2879 Pāhoa Village Road, Pāhoa HI, 96778, and is open Monday through Friday 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding holidays. The previous office, located at the Malama Marketplace in Pāhoa, was closed due to budgetary concerns. This office move saves taxpayers over $24,000 annually in rent and associated fees.
This space will also be available for other County departments to utilize as needed. Immigration services will operate from this office beginning April 4, and will continue thereafter on every first Friday of the month. Other services from the Housing and Mass Transit Department may become available in the future.
“Please come and visit; our doors are open for anyone with concerns, comments and suggestions,” said Councilman Ilagan. The video conferencing site for public testimony will remain at the Pahoa Neighborhood Facility, 15-2710 Kauhale Street, Pāhoa HI, 96778.
Here are the things on the agenda for tomorrow’s Hawaii County Council meeting:
Council Index ~ Wednesday, March 19, 2014 ~ Kona Council Chambers:
9:00 a.m PETITIONS, CERTIFICATES OF MERIT, AND EXPRESSIONS OF CONDOLENCE
- Boy Scouts of America – Eagle Scout: Certificates of Merit for Andrew Creitz and James Shalen, Dru Kanuha
- Kohala by the Sea Firewise Community: Certificate of Merit for ten years of dedication, etc., M. Wille
9:30 a.m. STATEMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC ON AGENDA ITEMS
- Comm. 675: NOMINATES WILLIAM MEYERS TO PONC COMMISSION, Mayor Kenoi
- Comm. 676: NOMINATES MS. CAROL R. IGNACIO TO THE FIRE COMMISSION, Mayor Kenoi
- Comm. 705: NOMINATES JOHN DILL TO ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT COMMISSION, Mayor Kenoi
ORDER OF RESOLUTIONS
- Res. 243-13: FORD CRF, Dist. 6, $180 to Mass Transit for Bus Passes for Domestic Abuse Shelter C548.1: Transmits amendment to Reso to increase amount of appropriation from B. Ford.
- Res. 317-14: EOFF CRF, Dist. 8, $1,000 to Liquor Control for Creating Readers in Babies – Twinkling Stars
- Res. 319-14: ILAGAN CRF, Dist. 4, $1,500 to Prosecutors for Puna JPO Program for Appreciation Day
- Res. 320-14: ONISHI CRF, Dist. 3, $3,000 to Fire Dept. for tracking bracelets and remote tracking devices
- Res. 321-14: KANUHA CRF, Dist. 7, $5,000 to Parks and Rec for Kailua Playground
- Res. 322-14: KANUHA CRF, Dist. 7, $2,000 to Parks and Rec for Table Tennis Tables
- Res. 323-14: KERN CRF, Dist. 5, $2,000 to Parks and Rec for Tobacco Free Signs in Puna
- Res. 324-14: YOSHIMOTO CRF, Dist. 2, $10K to Parks and Rec for annual fireworks display in Hilo Bay
- Res. 325-14: ILAGAN CRF, Dist. 4, $5,000 to Public Works for 20 tons aggregate material
- Res. 326-14: POINDEXTER CRF, Dist. 1, $7,000 to Parks and Rec for Honoka’a Western Week
- Res. 327-14: KERN CRF, Dist. 5, $3,226 to Police Dept. for Stealth Stat Self Radar to enforce speed limits
- Res. 328-14: EOFF CRF, Dist. 8, $3,000 to Civil Defense for C.E.R.T. and Neighborhood Watch
- Res. 331-14: AUTHORIZES MAYOR Re: Agreement to provide Work Comp. Services for P&R and Police
- Res. 333-14: ONISHI CRF, Dist. 3, $700 to Prosecutor for Ohana Fun Day for supplies
BILLS FOR ORDINANCES (FIRST READING)
- Bill 216: Re: OPERATING BUDGET, Approp. $5K for aggregate material for repair of Puna unpaved roads
ORDER OF THE DAY (SECOND OR FINAL READING)
- Bill 196: Re: PUBLIC IMPROVEMENTS, Establishes appropriations of $2,300,121 for various specific projects
- Bill 197: Re: OPERATING BUDGET, Approp. $274,703 for Capital Projects Fund for Public Works
- Bill 198: Re: PUBLIC IMPROVEMENTS, Adds $20 Million for Hokulia/Mamalahoa Bypass, etc.
- Financial Report: Monthly Budget Status Report for the Month Ended October 31, 2013, from the Department of Finance.
REFERRALS FOR EXECUTIVE SESSION
- Res. 331-14: AUTHORIZES MAYOR Re: Agreement to provide Work Comp. Services for P&R and Police Dept.
Here is what was scheduled to be discussed at today’s Hawaii County Council meeting (note agenda item 4):
Committee Index ~ March 18, 2014 ~ Kona Council Chambers
9:00 a.m. GOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
1. Comm. 10.15: HSAC EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING MINUTES
2. Comm. 10.16: HSAC SPECIAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING MINUTES
9:45 a.m. AGRICULTURE, WATER and ENERGY SUSTAINABILITY COMMITTEE
3. Comm. 721: PRESENTATION BY PETER YOUNG, RE: KEAUHOU AQUIFER SYSTEM
Comm. 721.1: Submit power point presentation materials by Peter Young, from Dru Kanuha
12:45 p.m. PUBLIC SAFETY and MASS TRANSIT COMMITTEE
4. Comm. 697: Discussion and Formation of AD HOC Re: VOLCANO-PĀHOA Emergency Road Project
1:15 p.m. PLANNING COMMITTEE
5. Comm. 729: NOMINATION OF MR. JAY UYEDA TO THE WATER BOARD
6. Comm. 730: NOMINATION OF COLLIN KAHOLO TO THE LEEWARD PLANNING COMMISSION
7. Bill 211: Re: SLU, AG TO URBAN AT KEONEPOKO, PUNA, Applicant: Jerry Souza, 1 acre
Bill 212: REZONE, A-1a to CV-20, Applicant: Jerry Souza, 1 acre
8. Bill 213: REZONE, Time Ext., RS-10 to MCX-20 at Waiakea, Applicant: Waterfall Ent., 21,000 sf
9. Bill 214: REZONE, RM 2.5 to RM-1.5, at Waiakea, S. Hilo, Applicant: Vincent Tai, 3.2 acres
3:00 p.m. PUBLIC WORKS and PARKS AND RECREATION COMMITTEE
10. Bill 200: RELATING TO 20 MPH Speed Limit, adds Haunani Road, Puna
11. Bill 201: RELATING TO SPEED LIMITS, amends provision re portion of Haunani Road, Puna
12. Bill 202: RELATING TO MOVING VEHICLES, adds portion of Ka’alaiki Road, Ka’u
13. Bill 203: RELATING TO NO PARKING AT ANYTIME, adds portion of West Kawili, S. Hilo
14. Bill 204: RELATING TO BUS STOPS AND PUBLIC ROAD TAXI STANDS, portions of Banyan Drive
15. Bill 205: RELATING TO PARKING, revises re prohibited parking along Banyan Drive
16. Bill 206: RELATING TO PARKING, revises re prohibited parking during certain hours on Banyan Drive 17. 17. Bill 207: RELATING TO FREIGHT LOADING ZONES, revises freight zone locations on Banyan Drive 18. 18. Bill 217: RE: PARKS & REC FACILITY, names Honoka‘a stadium, “Rose Andrade Correia Stadium”
3:45 p.m. FINANCE COMMITTEE
19. Comm. 3.31: REPORT OF CHANGE ORDERS AUTHORIZED: JANUARY 16 – 31, 2014
20. Comm. 3.32: REPORT OF CHANGE ORDERS AUTHORIZED: FEBRUARY 1 – 15, 2014
21. Comm. 7.24: REPORT OF FUND TRANSFERS AUTHORIZED: JANUARY 16 – 31, 2014
22. Comm. 7.25: REPORT OF FUND TRANSFERS AUTHORIZED: FEBRUARY 1 – 15, 2014
23. Comm. 117.1: FAIR SHARE ANNUAL REPORT AS OF JUNE 30, 2013 From Duane Kanuha
24. Comm. 272.3: Submits Report from TIH Re: Procedures for Clerk and Elections Re: 2012 Primary and Elections
Comm. 272.4: Submits Summary of Findings by TIH from Lane Shibata
25. Comm. 704: 2013 ANNUAL REPORT OF PONC COMMISSION, Mayor Kenoi
26. Res. 308-14: AUTHORIZES PAYMENT for PERSONAL COMPUTERS AND LAPTOPS FOR I.T.
27. Res. 316-14: AUTHORIZES PAYMENT FOR INTERNET FIREWALLS FOR I.T.
28. Res. 318-14: ACCEPTS DONATION OF PARCEL FOR MANONO STREET from Violet Camara
29. Res. 329-14: Authorizes R&D to award funds to HCEOC, $113K for Transmedia Accelerator Program
30. Res. 330-14: AUTHORIZES PAYMENT for NEW PHONE SYSTEM FOR Pros. Atty, Hilo Office
31. Res. 332-14: AUTHORIZES FINANCE FOR ACQUISITION OF BANYAN TREES PARK, N. Kohala
32. Bill 181: RELATING TO THE CODE OF ETHICS
33. Bill 210: Re: OP BUDGET, Approp. $70,000 to purchase equipment for terrorism & other hazards.
34. Bill 215: RELATING to Appropriation Of Funds to NP Organizations, (property to belong to the NP)
Sunshine Week is next week, March 16-22, 2014. This is an occasion for all of us to celebrate and facilitate citizen participation in government decision making.
But there’s little to celebrate with HB2139 HD 1 Relating to Public Agency Meetings. If passed by the Legislature this measure would create a loophole in Hawaii’s Sunshine Laws and allow a quorum or all members of a county council to attend and participate in discussions at free in-state meetings and presentations held by private interests.
It is common for private interests seeking county land use approvals, private businesses seeking county contracts and ad hoc “NIMBY” groups to hold “informational meetings and presentations” for the purpose of advocating for or against special interest projects. Currently, Hawaii’s Sunshine Law does not allow a council quorum to attend a “meeting or presentation”. This helps prevent one-sided presentations, discussions and vote-trading in private followed by pro-forma public meetings where official votes are taken.
The Sunshine Law ensures that county councils conduct the public’s business in public. The existing law guarantees the public both advance notice and the opportunity to hear, question, and disagree with any private presentation to a county council quorum. The existing law also guarantees the public both advance notice and the opportunity to listen to all discussions and decisions by a county council quorum.
If HB 2139 HD 1 becomes law, all county council members could be invited to attend an “informational meeting or presentation” organized by proponents of a special interest project. Prior public notice would not be required. Only invitees might know about the “meeting or presentation” even if the event were open and “free” to the public. At the “meeting or presentation”, the proponents could make a one-sided presentation in support of a special interest project and then discuss the project with a quorum or even all council members. It would be possible for the host to structure the “meeting or presentation” to prevent the public from asking questions or participating in discussions. Regardless of how many council members participate, minutes would not be required.
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii and Common Cause Hawaii are not unsympathetic with county councils members who wish to remain actively engaged with their constituents. However, this does not justify amending the sunshine law to allow county council quorums to attend one-sided private presentations and discuss special interest projects without public notice.
Common Cause Hawaii is a state chapter of the national Common Cause organization. Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest. For more information, visit www.commoncause.org/HI
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information visit www.lwv-hi.com
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.
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.