Budget Observations by Councilman Hoffman… “We are currently in that ‘Never-Never-Land’ “

Commentary By Councilman Pete Hoffman:

We are currently in that ‘never-never-land’ that prevails immediately prior to the publication of the first draft of the County budget.  When good years reigned, few people bothered with the specifics.  A sense of optimism surrounded the process, and while budget discipline might not have been completely ignored, neither was it a subject of importance.  After all why worry excessively over any number of vacant funded positions?

Now in our third year of significant economic difficulty, budget preparations take on a whole different meaning, particularly when further wage reductions and even layoffs are real possibilities.  Let’s be certain we don’t misstate this situation: the Mayor and the administration did not cause this recession.  It isn’t their fault.  At the same time, it’s hard not to overlook the obvious.  A few Council members have continuously argued for pro-active measures to address the County’s economy over the past two years.  While these proposals would not have solved the economic downturn completely, implementation of some of these suggestions would have greatly improved our current situation.  Instead, the decisions that will be made for the next fiscal year may prove more onerous for us all.

Regardless of the short-term ‘fixes’ the administration and Council will debate in connection with the 2011-2012 budget, there are a couple of longer-range proposals that should be adopted immediately.  I’ve mentioned these previously, on several occasions, and they have been met with ‘thunderous silence’.  In my opinion, there should be a top-to-bottom review of our property tax system.  The disparities of the current tax structure need fundamental reform.  I recognize this may not be an overly popular topic, but to continue the maze of tax rates, exemptions, and other aspects that inflict our current tax structure is to continue to promote a system that does not adequately address present day or future budgetary requirements.

Second, this County must institute a complete reassessment of property values, particularly for industrial, commercial and resort properties.  This review should be made by professional consultants outside the

County administration. We aren’t receiving anywhere near the tax revenues we should from these properties.  I can hear the cries already, “you will hurt business!!” Nonsense.  It’s time we understood that County taxpayers cannot continue this form of ‘corporate subsidy’.  The least we should do is to assess other property categories at approximately the same rate as residential properties.  When some resort and commercial interests are assessed at 50% of market value and residential homes are assessed at 80/90%, something needs adjustment.

Once again, it is a matter of fairness, but more importantly, these are potential revenue sources into which the County should expand.  If these recommendations were adopted two years ago, we would be in less economic ‘doo-doo’ then we are today.  Don’t misinterpret.  To enact measures like these demand the ability and commitment to make tough decisions.  Not everyone will be pleased.  However, I assure you not all will be pleased with the measures needed to handle next fiscal year’s budget either.  The question is when do we start to make the changes needed to correct this situation?  The longer we wait, the harder the decisions will be in the coming years.  I strongly suggest that as part of any budget ordinance for 2011-2012, property tax reform and a property assessment review be part and parcel of that document.  If the Council and administration are committed to correcting years of neglect in these areas, the time to do so is now.

Big Island Film Festival Announces Screenwriting, Pitching Workshops During May Festival

Media Release:

Professional filmmakers know great movies start with great stories, and to get from idea to big screen requires great skill in the art of “pitching.”  This year,
Big Island Film Festival is proud to present a new workshop “Inside Pitch” by Larger Than Life Productions’ Naketha Mattocks in addition to popular Ron Osborn’s screenwriting workshop “It’s Alive: Breathing Life into Your Characters.”  Workshops take place Saturday, May 14 at The Shops at Mauna Lani, at a cost of only $50 each.

Motion picture industry veteran Naketha Mattocks has given and received more than a few movie pitches during her career.  Her experience with Larger Than Life Productions includes Oscar-nominated projects like “Hunger Games,” “Seabiscuit” and “Pleasantville.”  With Paramount, she oversaw the development and production of “Charlotte’s Web” and “Coach Carter,” and she has worked with Baltimore/Spring Creek Pictures and Oscar winning director Barry Levinson (“Wag the Dog,” “Rainman”) and Emmy Winning producer Paula Weinstein (“Blood Diamond,” “Perfect Storm”).  In the “Inside Pitch” workshop, Mattocks offers invaluable insights from a seasoned professional viewpoint.

Ron Osborn

Screenwriter Ron Osborn returns to BIFF 2011 by popular demand, to share his successful perspectives on the art of character-building.  Osborn’s memorable characters have been making TV audiences laugh (and cry) for over 35 years in comedies like “Mork & Mindy,” “Night Court,” “Moonlighting” and “Duckman” as well as the award-winning drama “West Wing” and feature films like “Meet Joe Black.”  Osborn, who teaches screenwriting for Dreamworks, won BIFF’s first Golden Honu Award for Screenwriting in 2009.

“Let’s face it, we have a ton of talent on this island and in Hawai’i,” said Executive Director Leo Sears, “But how often do you get the chance to meet people like Ron Osborn or Naketha Mattocks?  These are the kind of industry professionals who can help take your idea, your script, possibly your career, to the next level—right here in our own backyard at Mauna Lani Resort.  We couldn’t be more pleased that Naketha has chosen to join Ron and share insights with participants during Big Island Film Festival.”

Both programs take place Saturday, May 14 at The Shops at Mauna Lani (exact location TBD).
•    “Inside Pitch” by Naketha Mattocks, 9:00-11:30 a.m.
•    “It’s Alive: Breathing Life into Your Characters” by Ron Osborn, 12:30-3:00 p.m.
The cost is $50 each with advance registration required.  Early registration is suggested as space is limited and participants will be accepted on a first-come first-served basis.  Workshop registration forms are available at www.BigIslandFilmFestival.com

The Big Island “Talk Story” Film Festival is a celebration of narrative filmmaking, happening May 11-15 at Mauna Lani Resort.  Events include free family films under the stars at The Shops at Mauna Lani, daytime movies and nightly double features at The Fairmont Orchid, Hawai‘i (self-parking validated), stellar social events, networking opportunities, celebrity receptions, awards and a closing night “Best of the Fest” with a top Hawaiian music concert and audience-voted Best Feature and Best Short from BIFF 2011.

For more information visit www.BigIslandFilmFestival.com or call 808-883-0394.  (Follow on Twitter and Facebook).

Links: www.ShopsatMaunaLani.com

New Missile Defense Test Site Planned in Hawaii

Media Release:

The United States is expected in 2013 to begin work on a new testing and training installation in Hawaii for a land-based variant of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system, Aviation Week reported (see GSN, Jan. 25).

“There will be an Aegis Ashore facility in Hawaii,” said James Sheridan, U.S. Navy Aegis programs director for defense contractor Lockheed Martin. The Obama administration plans to adapt the ship-based Aegis missile interceptor system for deployment on land, in part to help safeguard U.S. and NATO forces in Europe from medium- and short-range ballistic missile strikes, according to a previous report.

The Navy wants to tap Aegis system features for following potential air-based threats to also hone in on enemy ballistic missiles, Lockheed Martin Maritime BMD Programs Vice President Lisa Callahan said. The Navy and the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency intend to assign certain Aegis warships to shoot down potential enemy missiles after their boost phase of flight.

“The Navy has embraced ballistic missile defense,” Callahan said. “The focus is on integrating air and missile defense.”

The planned test site would support work to vet and improve Aegis defenses while Lockheed Martin pursues enhancements to the technology’s ship-protection features, she added.

“We are keeping pace with the threats,” Callahan said, “which are becoming more and more complex” (Michael Fabey, Aviation Week, Feb. 10).