Friday, April 5, 2013

Musings: Political Will

We're out beneath the golden wedge moon, the dogs and I, moving through the coolness of fog, when a bright light, stationary above Makaleha, captures my attention. How odd, I think. No planet should be there at this time. Yet no star would be that brilliant. I keep watching, and walking, and then it takes off, moving across the sky at a rapid clip, heading southwest, with none of the navigational lights of a plane.

PMRF? UFO? I don't know. But I was disturbed to read of a push to turn Hawaii into a test site for domestic drones — a push being made by a drone flack from Alaska who no doubt has our best interests at stake: “The interest and expectation is that this is a multibillion dollar industry just waiting to explode on the country.”

Oh, goody. Another explosion of questionable commerce. Yet as the ACLU's Vanessa Chong cautions:

Without proper regulations, Hawaii's people are faced with the threat of a constant invasion of privacy that would treat everyday citizens with constant suspicion.

And therein lies the problem, because Hawaii isn't really so great at regulating things that bring in big money, like the seed corn industry, the military, tourism and real estate. Witness the TVR mess I've been reporting through the Abuse Chronicles, and yesterday's hearing before the Hawaii Supreme Court that challenged the state's process for determining the shoreline.

It was a sad sight indeed to see the three deputies from the state AG's office joining with a private landowner — represented by Kauai attorney Walton Hong — to go against the people and argue for giving away the public trust, our beach.

I know it's been making folks sad — and mad — to read the 11-part-and-growing Abuse Chronicles, as well it should, because it's a travesty. As one person commented, in part:

The real question is what are we going to do with this information? What is the next step? We can't just read about it, get angry and than go about our lives. How can we as ordinary citizens make real changes to the way our Planning Department and County in general do business? How do we put an end to these fraudulent practices?

It's never been my intention to just bum folks out and leave them in despair. Because it's not hopeless, there are things we can do. 

We can press for a criminal investigation into the planning department, the building division and the property owners (and their Realtors) who have apparently engaged in fraudulent activities to obtain and keep these valuable non-conforming use certificates. 

We can urge the County Council to conduct an investigation into the implementation of the TVR law that it adopted. We can push the Council to revise and amend that law to remove loopholes, tighten up enforcement.

We can also tell the mayor and County Council that we want to stop subsidizing the TVR industry. As The Garden Island reports today, the planning department is recommending an increase in its fees. Though the TVR application fee is not specified, it's obvious $150 is insufficient to cover the cost of processing an application, much less sending an inspector up to Haena to check things out.

The administration is also proposing raising the TVR tax rate from $7.46 to $8 per $1,000 of assessed value. Resort rates, however, would increase to $9 from $7.80.

As I've pointed out, many of these TVRs are functioning exactly like resorts, right down to their ownership structure. Yet they have never been assessed for any road, sewage or water improvements, like resorts, never required to provide any access, beach parking or public recreational areas. They have no plans for evacuating or caring for their guests in an emergency, like resorts do. Instead, they leave it up to the county and residents to pick up the slack. And their employees often work for cash, and enjoy no health insurance or retirements benefits, like resort workers do, which places an additional burden on public services.

Heck, many of them are not even paying their general excise and transient accommodation taxes. Yet they are enjoying a lifetime perk that adds hundreds of thousands, even millions, to the value of some properties — properties that are frequently owned by investment consortiums.

And then there are all the folks who are merrily gaming the system by operating TVRs without any permit at all.

So yes, there are things we can do. Or more specifically, that our elected officials can do. In the coming weeks, I will be presenting some very specific calls to action that you can take to help our elected officials muster their political will.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Right on, Joan. Now, let's get to it and shake 'em up

Anonymous said...

There's obvious FRAUD, TAX EVASION, Falsifying official documents, environmental violations, and other Federal, State, County violations. Each one of these violators need to be sent to jail & some building will have to be knocked down to give the beach back to the people!

Anonymous said...

Mahalo e Joan!

Anonymous said...

This administration catering to the wealthy - somehow not a surprise...

Anonymous said...

I sense you are uncovering or let's say coming so very close to some raw nerves, and obviously some dirt ball shenanigans that go on with the planning department. No can say that with a straight face
politically, the Mayor will need to show somw muscle on cleaning up county gov or someone else just might get his job.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this sucks! Bring on the calls for action. Just maybe something can be done about this crap! Let's start with a new Mayor!

Anonymous said...

Well TVR investigation might bring crybaby troublemaker Bynum back into the limelight.

The drones, I had been having an interesting blog discussion on the UH site about the military funding tuition for students to map Hawaiiʻs areas and build drones for the curriculum. But the blogmaster cut the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Joan...where do you think "humans" came from ? Big universe out there.

Anonymous said...

Don't leave out the contractors who build those lower floor units without the proper permiting. They get to take the money and run. An aduit of the small contractors on the north shore would be interesting...

Anonymous said...

Good point about going after contractors for building illegal structures. One would assume that they learn when they get the contractor's license, that they should not build illegal structures.

Wonder if there are any patterns between who got approved for TVR despite an illegal structure, and who was the architect and/or contractor.

Anonymous said...

9:20 AM

excellent point that I'm sure the feds will be investigating...I sure hope they do...the trail will be obvious.

Anonymous said...

Getting County or State to investigate, would be having the fox watching the hen house.

Gotta be Federal, for thorough investigation.

Anonymous said...

and it aint one bad apple either

Anonymous said...

pretty pathetic the Mayor has not responded. what can he be thinkin, ho hum does he think this is important or something else to sweep under the rug? or the planning commission, since they are responsible for the actions of the director and deputies whether this one or the ones they quietly moved out of planning. Do you think this had anything to do with it?

Anonymous said...

I count 5 maybe 6 very BAD apples in planning...

Anonymous said...

Its obvious, only surgical removal of the growing infection in county government will help.

Vote these Clowns out of Office.

Then the EX-Mayor can take his Aloha and ukele and song, and do some good in the community drug treatment center we don't have yet.

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

how about that landfill fiasco -

http://oeqc.doh.hawaii.gov/Shared%20Documents/EA_and_EIS_Online_Library/Kauai/2000s/2004-10-23-KA-FEA-KEKAHA-LANDFILL-PHASE-II-SECOND-VERTICAL-EXPANSION.pdf

http://oeqc.doh.hawaii.gov/Shared%20Documents/EA_and_EIS_Online_Library/Kauai/2000s/2007-11-23-KA-FEA-Kekaha-Landfill-Phase-II-Lateral-Expansion.pdf

seems that the height of the vertical expansion was long a problem before DOH identified it...as these EIS only identify a vertical expansion of 85 feet and expired in 2009 - so whatever this administration is telling you is bullcrap.