Over the objections of Ka`u state Senators Josh Green and Russell Ruderman, who voted no along with Senators Laura Thiielen, Mike Gabbard and Les Hara, the Senate approved SB215 yesterday with a 20 to 5 vote and sent the measure to the House.
From the Senate floor, Ruderman objected, saying many people living in his district are worried that the bill is too much like the PLDC. He noted that the measure almost passed the Senate with a wording that would have allowed the county to provide waivers to the private-state partnerships for complying with local zoning and other land use requirements. The waivers were “glossed over” before being removed this week, Ruderman pointed out.
Three pilot projects would be attempted with private developers using state land, should the Public-Private Partnership Authority pass the state House of Representatives. They would be restricted to a Wahiawa redevelopment, a Maui film studio and one project to be proposed by a county. The pilot project would be for five years before possibly extending public-private partnerships to other projects on state land.
|Voting at the Pahala precinct. Photo by Julia Neal|
KA`U MAY NO LONGER BE THE BIG FISH in public funding coffers for County Council elections. Sen. Russell Ruderman’s bill that would equalize public funding among the county council districts passed the state Senate yesterday and is headed for the House of Representatives.
The formula for recent election funding was based on how much money candidates raised in elections before the pilot public funding went into effect. In Ka`u, former County Council member Guy Enriques reported more than $90,000 in expenditures for his successful 2008 campaign with money raised from private sources. He lost the 2010 election but his spending in 2008 led to the most public funding for any council district during the 2012 election. Run-off candidates Maile David and Brenda Ford received $48,893 each in public funding, and primary election candidate Bradley Westervelt received $41,273.77.
Council candidates in other districts around the island, where large donations were not taken in to conduct political campaigns, received much less when public funding kicked in. District 4 candidate Ian Greggor received $21,282 and James Weatherford $16,320. District 2 candidate J Yoshimoto received $14,559 and District 9 candidate Margaret Wile received $11,600.46. District 8 candidate Karen Eoff received $12,282.
Ruderman’s bill would change the public campaign funding amount for all disctricts on the Big Island to $13,106 per candidate. Ruderman, a freshman senator, campaigned on reducing the influence of money in public elections.
|Seal pups in decline in uninhabited Hawaiian islands.|
Photo from NOAA
A plan for scientific research over the next five years concerning monk seals in Hawai`I can be seen at www.nmfs.noaa. Comments can be made through April 15.
HO`OMALU KA`U is a new non-profit organization with 501 © 3 status. The organization has been established to serve the South Hawai`i region with the purpose of “perpetuating, protecting and conserving the lands, health, knowledge, culture and history of Ka`u and its people.”
The organization has received the Ho`omalu Ka`u property, with 15 pristine acres of native, dryland forest. Founders note that only 5 percent of dryland forests in Hawai`i remain. The property, located makai of Hwy 11 at Road to the Sea, is served by an intact remnant of the Alaloa, an ancient rail used to travel around the island from ahuapua`a to ahupua`a.
The first goal of the organization is to establish The Heritage Center of Ka`u. A statement from the group says, “Ka`u’s unique cultural, historical and traditional knowledge, as well as many priceless artifacts are being lost daily. There is no place in theDistrict where these never-to-be replaced resources can be stored, preserved and accessed by local residental and island visitors.”
The plan calls for a Ka`u Gateway reception center to welcome and inform visitors about Ka`u; the archive and museum; a retail area with local art and agricultural products and community center for local gatherings. Founding board members are Wendy Vance, Lehua Lopez Mau and Chris Reed. The organization is partnering with Ka`u Hawaiian Civic Club and its President Blossom DeSilva.
|PUC Chair Mina Morita. Photo by Julia Neal|
“THE RATEPAYER DOESN’T HOLD THE PUC IN HIGH REGARD,” Public Utilities Chair Mina Morita said yesterday. She was speaking at a public session called PUC Regulation Purpose and Process, held at the Hawai`i State Legislature Auditorium in Honolulu. Morita opened by reporting from a survey of those invited. She said she learned that “If you appear to be a practitioner before the PUC, the general thought was that we were making improvements, but lacked the resources. On the other hand, those who were not regular practitioners before the PUC thought we were incompetent, a rubber stamp for HECO, didn't listen to the public, opaque, operating in a black box. So no doubt, the largest stakeholder group -- the one that the PUC decisions affect the most, the general public, or the ratepayer -- does not hold the agency in very high regard.”
With the PUC entering “its 100th year of public service, it is a good time for re-examination of the PUC, and work towards a common understanding of its role and purpose. And it’s extremely important to make the PUC's core values, transparent, and its work and its decisions understandable to the general public,” said Morita. She called yesterday’s discussion “the first step in that direction.”
The PUC is involved with Ka`u in deciding whether to approve a contract between `Aina Koa Pono and the electric utility for fuel that would be manufactured in a refinery that would be built off Wood Valley Road. The contract would mean increases in electric bills on O`ahu and the Big Island. The approval process could go into the year 2014.
The utilities recently provided answers, on behalf of `Aina Koa Pono, to detailed questions from the County of Hawai`i, the state Consumer Advocate, the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism and Life of the Land. The next round of testimony from the county and others is due March 15. The utility’s additional questions about `Aina Koa Pono are due April 12. The county and others respond by May 10. By June 7, the utilities file rebuttal testimony and exhibits. On July 5, the county and others ask more questions and the utilities reply by Aug. 2. Following these deadlines, there will be settelement discussions to attempt to create a final proposal for the `Aina Koa Pono proposal. Discussions could lead to evidentiary hearings, which could start in September with transcripts delivered in October, opening briefs in November and closing briefs in December. However, the process could be cut short with a decision by the PUC sometime this Fall. If evidentiary hearings are held, the process could go into 2014, the PUC scheduling indicates.
KA `OHANA O HONU`APO hosts Tutu & Keiki, its first 2013 Sunday in the Park family event, this Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Whittington Beach Park. Co-hosts are Tutu & Me Traveling Preschool and Hawaiian Civic Club of Ka`u. The event features Hawaiian activities, games and prizes. For more information call 929-9891.