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.