“The Budget Tap Dance” by Hawaii Councilman Pete Hoffman

Media Release:

The most recent phase of the County’s annual budget skirmish concluded on May 18th with some interesting outcomes. Regardless how one views the Council actions this year, I feel we’ve done a little better than our normal “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” routine. Hours of discussion and testimony did recommend some amendments to the Mayor’s second budget, although I’m not certain the Council did enough to warrant unanimous applause.

Councilman Pete Hoffman

Council members have criticized the Mayor’s budget submissions this year as deferring expenses rather than saving anything. I agree. The Mayor deferred some $29M in expenses to other budget cycles. If those deferments were added to his proposed budget of $367M, that would mean the budget would total approximately $396M. Not much of a ‘savings’ in my opinion, in fact somewhat higher than our current fiscal year budget of $374M. But I don’t disagree with all of the Mayor’s proposed deferments, particularly those associated with debt service payments and the payroll delay. Those are reasonable one-time deferments and are common budget mechanisms employed by almost all other government entities.

The complete elimination of the GASB45 payment is another issue, however. As indicated previously, I called for at least a partial use of the GASB45 expense as a ‘bill-payer’ in prior-year budget skirmishes. I was sharply criticized, told it would cost the County in penalties, that it violated some rules, and otherwise I was dismissed completely. This year, GASB45 becomes the Mayor’s ‘salvation’ and source of the largest deferment that balances his budget. What a difference a year makes!!

The Council in its deliberations focused on the GASB45 elimination. I maintain a partial deferment is OK, but not the entire amount. Towards that end, the Council amended the budget to take $2.7M from the Budget Stabilization Fund, approx. $1M from the Open Space Fund, $200K from overtime accounts, and $5.6M from OCE accounts, the latter amount being referred back to the administration to determine where those cuts would be made. In addition, $500K from the West Hawaii Golf program could also be used as an offset to the GASB45 deferment. In total, the Council decided that the $29M deferment proposed by the Mayor be divided into thirds: we left approx. one third or $9M alone (the payroll delay and the debt service payment). We added back approx. one third or $10M to the GASB45 account. And we agreed to defer one third or $10M of the GASB payment.

Are we happy? Maybe not, but as I mentioned previously, we did a little better than rearrange deck chairs, even though we did kick a sizeable ‘can’ down the road a little. I’ll admit I wasn’t overly excited about referring $5.6M back to the Mayor, requesting that he tell us where the cuts be made. I would have been more pleased if the Council determined the location of these decreases. But in previous budget discussions we did suggest some compromise on a variety of budget issues (Hamakua land sale, GASB45 last year, hiring freeze, and a more aggressive elimination of most vacant funded positions, to name a few), none of which met with favorable consideration. Whether or not we can consider this ‘throwback’ normal budget procedure is arguable, but there seemed to be little recourse to insure that some reduction in the $29M deferred expenses is made.

And exactly what is the result of this “budget tap dance?” Since no one chose to address the “800 pound gorilla” in the room (personnel costs), the $10M in Council amendments adds up to a little less than a 3% adjustment to the Mayor’s budget (that totals $367M). Unless some significant change occurs at the next Council meeting on 1 June, we amended a few items and agreed to most of the administration proposals. The question now: if the budget passes second reading on 1 June, will the Mayor accept the less than 3% in changes made by the Council or will the deck chairs be returned to their original positions?

PETE HOFFMANN

Is Hawaii County Council Opening Pandora’s Box?

I got to love the thought that a few members of our council have opened up the Hawaii County Tip Line.

Unfortunately, I think it’s going to get closed down rather quickly.

They are allowing anonymous folks to call in and report about things with out valid facts behind them.  This Hawaii County Tip Line is paid for with our tax dollars… so therefor anything recorded on that tip line should be available for the general public to hear.

I may ask to hear these recordings in a few days just to see what type of stuff is being said on this tip line.  If I’m denied access to these recordings… I may have to remind them about the Hawaii State Office of Information Practices.

Council Chairman Yagong is going to be the Wizard of Oz and the keeper of the magic box:

…The phone is located in my Chairman’s Office in Hilo, and people can leave their message with a name and number if they want a return call.  However, calls can also be placed anonymously if you so desire…

However, Yagong goes on to state that these phone calls will only be available for review in executive session… What’s up with that?

It is my intention to provide a monthly report to council at an executive session for their review.  Names and phone numbers (if provided) will be redacted from the report.   If a caller wishes not to be part of the executive session report, please indicate so on the message and your call will not be included….

So I believe that the newspapers will soon be asking for the contents of these recordings soon enough… I know I’m thinking about filing an OIP request.

What could come out of Hawaii the Hawaii County Pandora Box... LOL

Tonga Ministry of Foreign Affars: “Hawaiian Visa Scheme is a Scam”

Don’t shoot the messenger here folks… just passing on some information found online:

Tonga’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Immigration Division has issued a warning to travelers to the United States that visas issued by a group known as the “Kingdom of Hawaii” are not valid, and cannot be used for entry to the United States.

This is a copy of the Scam 'Hawaiian Visa' from the 'Hawaiian Kingdom'

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Immigration Division (MFAID) has received information that Tongan nationals have spent monies for a visa issued by what has become known as the ‘Hawaiiian Kingdom’,” says the Release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Monies collected by the ‘Kingdom of Hawaii’ for the issue of these visas may be part of a fraudulent scheme…”

More Here: Hawaiian Visa Scheme is a Scam

Anonymous Tips Being Accepted by Hawaii County Council… The County Council Tipline

Media Release:

Hawaii Council Chair Dominic Yagong has a special message for those who wish to express their concerns but would like to remain anonymous. Please read on for more information:

808-932-2999 County Council Tipline

“Phone number 932-2999 has been set up as a County Council Tip Line to provide county employees and the general public the opportunity to call anonymously (if they choose) to report any concerns, impropriety or suggestions on how we can improve County operations.   It is my hope that many great ideas can come forward, and if there is a potential problem we can be pro-active and help address issues important to our employees and county.   The phone is located in my Chairman’s Office in Hilo, and people can leave their message with a name and number if they want a return call.  However, calls can also be placed anonymously if you so desire.

It is my intention to provide a monthly report to council at an executive session for their review.  Names and phone numbers (if provided) will be redacted from the report.   If a caller wishes not to be part of the executive session report, please indicate so on the message and your call will not be included.

This service is being implemented at NO ADDITIONAL COST to the taxpayers.  We took one phone line that was assigned to the Chairs staff (former # 961-8017) and replaced with a pre-assigned number provided to the County of Hawai‘i.  No additional phones were purchased and there will be no increase to our County Clerk budget due to this service.
If you have any questions regarding the County Council Tip Line, please do not hesitate to call me at 961-8264.

Warmest Aloha – Council Chair Dominic Yagong”

Road Rage on Highway 130 in Puna

Hawaii County Police Department
Media Release:

A 54-year-old Puna man is in police custody following an apparent “road rage” incident in Puna on Wednesday (May 18).

Around 7:49 a.m., police received a report of what initially appeared to be a traffic collision on Maku’u Drive at the Route 130 (Kea’au/Pāhoa Highway) intersection. Police received numerous reports from passing motorists that prior to the collision, the occupants of a blue Chevrolet Equinox had been arguing with the driver of an early model blue BMW sedan and it appeared that one of the vehicles intentionally rammed the other, forcing it off the roadway and into a guardrail.

The 47-year-old driver of the Chevrolet and his 17-year-old son were injured but declined medical treatment. The 54-year-old driver of the BMW sustained minor injuries and was taken to Hilo Medical Center for treatment.

Police learned that the Chevrolet was traveling up Mauku’u Drive when the BMW passed it on the left. This action apparently was followed by aggressive behavior by an occupant of the Chevrolet. The driver in the BMW allegedly made a U-turn and intentionally rammed his car into the driver’s side of the Chevrolet.

The 17-year-old occupant of the Chevrolet was arrested for criminal property damage but was released pending additional investigation.

The driver of the BMW, David Woodward of Kea’au, was arrested for first-degree criminal property damage once he was discharged from the hospital. He is being held in the Hilo police cellblock while detectives from the Criminal Investigations Section conduct further investigation.

Police ask that motorists who witnessed the initial incident on Maku’u Drive or the subsequent collision call Detective Wendell Carter at 961-2378.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Another Highway 130 Wreck… Fatality Involved!

Media Release:

A 61-year-old woman from Oregon died Thursday (May 19) from injuries she received in a motor vehicle/motorcycle crash at the intersection of Route 130 and Ainaloa Boulevard in Pāhoa.

Intersection of H130 and Ainaloa

Responding to a 9:57 p.m. call on Wednesday (May 18), Puna patrol officers determined that a 52-year-old Pāhoa man was operating a 1994 Toyota four-door sedan and traveling west on Route 130 when he made a left turn onto Ainaloa Boulevard, failing to yield the right of way, and collided with a 1997 Honda motorcycle traveling east.

Left over debris

The motorcycle operator, a 55-year-old man from New Jersey and the female victim were ejected from the motorcycle. They were not wearing helmets.

Fire Rescue personnel took both of them to Hilo Medical Center.

The man was in serious condition and had undergone surgery.

The victim in this case was pronounced dead at 12:22 a.m. Thursday.

A memorial from a previous motorcycle wreck at the exact same location

The driver of the Toyota and his two female passengers, ages 45 and 23, were treated for minor injuries and released.

Police believe that alcohol was a factor in this crash.

Traffic Enforcement Unit officers have ordered an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

The name of the victim is being withheld pending positive identification and notification of the next of kin.

The driver of the Toyota, identified as Fidel Jeronimo Bautista Jr. was arrested on suspicion of negligent homicide, negligent injury, operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, no operator’s license and no insurance.

He is being held at the Hilo police cellblock pending further investigation.

This is the 9th traffic fatality on the Big Island this year compared with 10 at this time last year.

Average Age of Hawaii Resident 38.6 Years Old

Logo for the 2010 United States Census.

Image via Wikipedia

Media Release:

The U.S. Census Bureau today released the Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 for Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The demographic profiles provide 2010 Census data on age and sex distributions, race, Hispanic or Latino origin, household relationship and type, the group quarters population, and housing occupancy and tenure (whether the housing occupant owns or rents). Throughout May, these profiles are being released on a rolling basis for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The profile includes more than 150 data items in all, plus percentage distributions. Highlights from the state data released today include:

Hawaii

  • The median age was 38.6.
  • The average household size was 2.89 people per household.
  • Among the state’s occupied housing units, 57.7 percent were owned, compared with 42.3 percent that were rented.