Councilwoman Ruggles to Discuss Activism

Hawaii County Councilor Jen Ruggles, the youngest elected official in Hawai’i County,
will speak this Thursday, October 5th at University of Hawaii Hilo on “How to Grow Your Own Community Activist” in UCB 100 at 7PM.  She wants to inspire citizens who want to develop and hone their advocacy skills.

Ruggles will discuss a few of her own battles in behalf of the public, like working for public access to “Mills” beach at Papaikou and for establishing the “clean elections” program on the Big Island. On
Kaua’i, Ruggles worked for Pesticide Action Network to help a coalition of citizens in an epic struggle against huge and very powerful multinational agribusiness corporations.

Ruggles was elected to the County Council District 5 in Puna in 2016. She will talk about upcoming issues at the Council.

This talk is part of Global HOPE’s “America in Crisis Series.” There will be an open community discussion after Ruggles’ talk.

The presentation is free and the public is encouraged to attend.  For more information contact Noelie Rodriguez at 934-2635.

Councilmember Ruggles to Introduce Proposed Property Tax Amendment

On Monday, June 5, at a Special Council Meeting, Councilmember Jen Ruggles will discuss her amendment to Mayor Kim’s proposal to raise property taxes through proposing an entirely new tax rate structure. She says her scenario will cause almost 88% of property owners to pay less taxes in the long run through exemptions compared to the Mayor’s plan, and balances the budget while not increasing the minimum tax, agricultural, and homeowner rates. Ruggles plan would increase tax rates and provides automatic exemptions for the residential, apartment, commercial, and industrial classes.

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Ruggles’ plan would amend Mayor Kim’s Resolution 213-17 which raised taxes in every class except affordable rental. He’s also proposed to double the minimum tax from $100 to $200 which passed it’s first reading on May 18th. Ruggles was the only dissenting vote. “Doubling the minimum tax is a hundred percent increase on the poorest of poor, including disabled veterans and non-profits,” said Ruggles, “I want to ensure the county is not putting the burden on those who can least afford it.” An increase in the minimum tax would cause the tax payment for up to 50,188 properties to increase.

Ruggles said she’s introduced this amendment because she is concerned that across the board increases on all property owners are regressive, and her plan protects low to middle range homes and businesses. For example, 1,548 businesses in the commercial class with property valuations under $456,000 would pay average of $215 less, when compared to the Mayor’s plan, according to Ruggles’ calculations.

Ruggles’ plan would increase residential to $11.7 per thousand with a $30,000 exemption, commercial and industrial to 11.7 with a 40,000 exemption, apartment to 12.5 with a $20,000 exemption, and increase hotel, resort, and conservation to 12.5. The exemptions, if passed would become effective next year. “This means that for the first year every business assessed under $465,000 would pay a little more, and then see a net savings after the second year when the exemptions take place,” explained Ruggles, “for example, Suisan, a local business assessed at $239,000, would pay $239 more than the rates proposed by the mayor for the first year, then pay $229 less every year thereafter.”

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For the apartment class, an apartment valued at $119,000 rented at Waiakea Villas would pay $136 less than the Mayor’s rate under Ruggles’ plan. However, a property in a Waikoloa Resort complex, valued at $421,200 would pay $70 more per year.

“The exemption system shields low and mid-range property values while allowing those who can afford it to pay a little more,” said Ruggles.

Ruggles amendments will be heard on Monday, June 5th, and testimony will be taken at 9am.

Commentary – Call for State Audits of UH Hilo Campus Center

Former UH Hilo Student Association (UHHSA) Senator Jen Ruggles met with UH Hilo Chancellor Don Straney, UH System Chief Financial Officer Kalbert Young, and Senator Russell Ruderman today, July 28 at 11am at the Hawaii State Building to call for state audits of Campus Center.

UHSU

The meeting came out of Senate Resolution 73, a Hawaii Senate Resolution submitted by Senator Ruderman on March 11, 2016. On March 16 the Hawaii Committee on Higher Education instructed Ruderman to call for a meeting with parties from UH and Ruggles. Hawaii Tribune herald wrote an article on April 11.

Ruggles and members of The Student Union, a registered independent student organization (RISO) at UH Hilo, requested various documents from UH Hilo Campus Center pertaining to how student life was managed by Campus Center at UH Hilo during a 10 year time period.

Campus Center Director Ellen Kusano did not provide requested records of 11 months of student fee financial records as well as records of, “The Campus Center Fee Board” a board of which allocates hundreds of thousands of UH Hilo student fees annually.

“We have discovered that records and student fees are unaccounted for. Students and parents have a right to know how and where the mandatory student fees are being spent.” Ruggles said.

In addition to the financial audit Ruggles will also call for a management audit of Campus Center due to numerous complaints and lawsuits of Campus Center employees. See audit overview here.

Certified Public Accountant Jim Buck will also be in the meeting.

For more information contact Jen Ruggles at: 808-464-2015

Jen Ruggles Files for Hawaii County Council District 5

On Monday, March 7th at 2:15pm Mountain View local Jen Ruggles filed papers to run for Hawai’i County Council District 5 covering the areas of Glenwood, Kea’au, Pahoa, Opihikao, and Kalapana.

Jen Ruggles

Jen Ruggles

“I am honored to have the opportunity to be of service to the district where I was born and raised. Our district is under served and underrepresented. I know our struggles, and I know our potential.

University of Hawai’i Professor Dr. Noelie Rodriguez says, “I’ve known Jen for over 20 years, her father was also a student of mine and helped me establish the Earth Day Fair. In my 45 years of teaching Jen Ruggles has been my best student.  I fully support her candidacy.”

Jen was the main organizer of Hilo organization Global HOPE for 5 years. In that time she organized over 50 free events open to the public. An intern for Voter Owned Hawai’i, Ruggles also helped enact Hawaii’s first clean elections program. “Making a positive impact has influenced every decision in my life,” says Ruggles. Ruggles is most recently known for her work on Kaua’i where she helped organize the largest march in Kaua’i history to pass the “Right to Know” bill, bill 2491. The bill enacted protections for schools against pesticide spray that was sending children and teachers to the hospital.

Jen has lived at her Mountain View aina since birth. She graduated Kea’au High School in 2006 and is currently pursuing her second college degree at UH Hilo’s College of Business and Economics.

Ruggles was Hawai’i State Senator Russell Ruderman’s Event Coordinator in his successful bid for office in 2012.  “Jen is one of the brightest people I have ever worked with,” Ruderman said.

For more information about Jen and the campaign visit: www.JenRuggles.com