About The Kaʻū Calendar

Ka`u, Hawai`i, United States
A locally owned and run community newspaper (www.kaucalendar.com) distributed in print to all Ka`u District residents of Ocean View, Na`alehu, Pahala, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village and Miloli`i on the Big Island of Hawai`i. This blog is where you can catch up on what's happening daily with our news briefs. This blog is provided by The Ka`u Calendar Newspaper (kaucalendar.com), Pahala Plantation Cottages (pahalaplantationcottages.com), Local Productions, Inc. and the Edmund C. Olson Trust.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Ka`u News Briefs Feb. 9, 2013

After several thefts of Ka`u Coffee, growers are considering security for their fields and drying pads.
Photo by Geneveve Fyvie
COUNTY PROSECUTOR MITCH ROTH said last night that he is looking forward to helping stop agricultural theft in Ka`u. He and community members plan to look at requirements for all those selling coffee to keep records showing the origin of all coffee on the market. These records and tags to follow coffee through distribution channels will allow both state Department of Agriculture and county police officials to track stolen coffee back to the farm or facility where it was taken. A recent increase in theft has been reported by numerous Ka`u Coffee farmers as the price for parchment tops $9 a pound.
County Prosecuting Attorney  Mitch Roth
      With Kona coffee production down due to the coffee berry borer pest and drought over the last few years, there may be an opportunity for thieves to steal from Ka`u and sell to Kona. 
      Ka`u Coffee Growers Cooperative president Gloria Camba said she urges Ka`u Coffee farms to sell Ka`u Coffee only to Ka`u Coffee wholesalers, retailers and their own customers to maintain brand integrity. She also urged farmers to keep records on where their coffee is going when they sell it. Farmers are also talking about security systems for their fields and drying pads.
      Hawai`i Police Department announced it is looking for the public’s help in finding the culprits who stole coffee from a coffee farm on Wood Valley Road. The police report states 1,300 pounds of Ka`u Coffee parchment were stolen during the last two weeks. Another 1,000 pounds were reported stolen off the Kaalaiki Cane Haul Road between Pahala and Na`alehu. The police estimate the value of the stolen coffee that was reported as $21,700. Call officer Dane Shibuya at 939-2520 with any information on the thefts. Anonymous calls can be made to Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 or 329-8181. A reward of $1,000 is being offered.
      A meeting about ag theft is sponsored by Ka`u Farm Bureau and open to the public Monday at 6 p.m. at Pahala Community Center.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, seen here at Pahala
Plantation House Dec. 2010, proposes to
raise transient accommodations tax.
RAISING STATE TAXES ON HOTELS, B&Bs and vacation rentals is meeting resistance from Hawai`i Tourism Authority. Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s proposal, which would hike the Transient Accommodations Tax to 11.25 percent and take the total tax on accommodations to more than 15 percent, could hurt the visitor industry, which is still recovering from the recession, said Hawai`i Tourism Authority chief Mike McCartney. He testified this week that this year’s TAT revenues are estimated to generate $350 million, with $153 million going into the general fund of the state. The visitor industry also creates more money for the state, some 38 percent of the General Excise Tax coming from non-resident purchases. “Based on this information, the visitor industry is already bearing a sizeable portion of Hawai`i’s revenue-generating burden,” says the tourism chief. “Putting an additional tax on our visitors will diminish Hawai`i’s ability to compete in a price-sensitive market…. Any increase could drive a traveler to a competing destination.” 
      According to Civil Beat, “approximately 32.6 percent of the Transient Accommodations Tax goes to the tourism special fund, 17.3 percent goes to the convention center enterprise special fund, 5.3 percent goes to the TAT trust fund that usually ends up in the state’s general fund, and 44.8 percent is given to the four counties. Of that amount, 44.1 percent goes to City and County of Honolulu, 22.8 percent to Maui County, 18.6 percent to Hawai`i County, and 14.5 percent to Kaua`i County. There are statutory provisions that modify TAT allocations should revenue collections exceed or fall below projections.”
      Civil Beat also reports that the TAT “ was increased from six percent, a level set in 1990, to 7.25 percent in 1998. Seeking to offset declining tax revenues due to the recession, state lawmakers approved increasing the TAT to 8.25 percent in July 2009 and to 9.25 percent effective July 1, 2010. The increase was opposed by many hotel operators.”
State Budget Director Kalbert Young
      An opinion piece in this morning’s Maui News reports that the last time TAT increased, lawmakers promised it was temporary because of the recession and that the two-percent hike would sunset on June 30, 2015. “However, lawmakers have become used to receiving this additional income and want to eliminate the sunset provision in Senate Bills 1194 and 1202, heard Monday by the Senate’s Tourism and Hawaiian Affairs Committee,” writes Pamela Tumpap. “While that is bad and may not surprise you, it gets worse. SB 1202 also seeks to further increase the TAT to 11.25 percent beginning July 1, 2013. This is unfathomable and would hurt Hawai`i’s No. 1 industry at a time when the visitor industry and all who benefit from it are still trying to recover from the recession.”
      Kalbert Young, director of the state Department of Budget and Finance, submitted testimony supporting the increase in TAT, saying that “the last Council on Revenues forecast predicts the state tax revenue growth to be only about 1.2 percent in Fiscal Year 2016.”
      He writes that the state anticipates that the fiscal and revenue condition of the state beginning in 2016 “will be in distress.”

CAPPING THE COUNTY’S SHARE of the Transient Accommodations Tax is opposed by Mayor Billy Kenoi. In testimony to the state Senate Committee on Tourism and Hawaiian Affairs, he wrote that “permanently capping the amount of TAT funding distributed to the counties will leave the counties without the necessary resources to provide essential services to our residents or support for the visitor industry in the years ahead.”
Mayor Billy Kenoi
      “From the time of the establishment of the TAT in 1986, the Legislature planned to make the counties beneficiaries of the hotel room tax because lawmakers recognized the importance of county facilities and services to support and enhance the visitor experience. It was always understood that the costs of mass tourism are mostly carried by the counties,” writes the mayor.
      “When a visitor calls for law enforcement help, a county police officer responds. When the visitor gets into trouble in the ocean, county lifeguards or firefighters respond. When the visitor uses sewer and water service, those are county services. The visitors drive on county roads and use county parks. As the visitor count grows, the visitors’ demands on county resources also grow,” testifies Kenoi.
      “We now have more than one million tourists a year visiting the County of Hawai `i, and the cost of delivering service rises each year. TAT collections are our second largest source of revenue, and it is critically important that TAT revenues to the counties increase as the visitor count increases. The counties need these resources to deliver the services that our residents and visitors require and expect,” the mayor states.
      “The cap in TAT revenues to the counties that was imposed in 2011 was always understood to be a temporary measure, and the cap is scheduled to end in 2015. We respectfully ask that your committee remove the cap on the counties’ share of TAT revenues,” Kenoi concludes.

Grants to clean up tsunami debris, which may include small pieces of
plastic like these along the Ka`u Coast, are being offered.
Photo from Hawai`i Wildlife Fund
TSUNAMI DEBRIS CLEANUP GRANTS are being offered by the state Department of Health, and the deadline is March 8 for community groups to sign up. The total to be given out is $100,000, and the health department notes that much of the debris has been pulverized and comes ashore in small pieces – mostly plastics. The money is provided through the state Department of Land & Natural resources and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. DLNR chief William Aila said the tsunami debris will be coming here for years, and the state wants to clean up and record whatever washes ashore. Grant applications are available at www.hawaii.gov/health/epo.

PALM TRAIL HIKE at Kahuku Unit of Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park takes place tomorrow from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. This relatively easy, guided 2.6-mile loop crosses scenic pasture along an ancient cinder cone with some of the best panoramic views Kahuku has to offer.

Friends of Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park explore Pu`u
Huluhulu tomorrow. Photo by Jay Robinson/NPS
ANOTHER HIKE IN HAWAI`I VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK tomorrow is a two-hour, three-mile round-trip hike to Pu`u Huluhulu beginning at 10 a.m. Geologist Cheryl Gansecki leads this moderate, fairly flat hike over pahoehoe lava at an elevation of 3,200 feet. Sponsored by Friends of Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, the hike is free for Friends members, and non-members are welcome to join in order to attend. Annual memberships are $30 for individuals and $45 for families. Sign up at 985-7373 or admin@fhvnp.org

FRIENDS OF HAWAI`I VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK also sponsor a forest restoration project Friday, Feb. 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Volunteers plant native tree seedlings in the Kilauea section of the park. Register by Monday at 352-1402 or forest@fhvnp.org.

VOLCANO ART CENTER’S Ni`aulani Campus in Volcano Village presents a free screening of Surfing the Sonic Sky Monday at 6 p.m. This 2012 REMI Award-winning film by Stephen James Taylor presents a new kind of musical experience.