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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 12, 2006

Letters to the Editor

HOMEOWNERS

HERE'S ONE WAY TO AVOID STEEP TAXES

A fair solution to the property tax controversy would be to allow a homeowner interested in lower taxes to voluntarily sign a contract guaranteeing that when the home is sold, the price will be no higher than the assessed home value the year the contract was signed multiplied by the reduced-tax increases in subsequent years.

This would allow homeowners to avoid large tax increases without unfairly profiting.

The plan also might contribute to future availability of affordable housing.

The contract could include a choice of paying back taxes plus interest and a substantial profit-percentage penalty if the homeowner sold at a higher-than-contracted price in the future.

Homeowners who prefer to profit from rapidly rising home values could quietly pay the tax that is fairly computed based on increased values of their homes.

David Bremer
Mililani

HOMEOWNERS

COMPREHENSIVE RELIEF NEEDED ON OUR TAXES

There have been numerous articles in The Advertiser about rapidly escalating property taxes, with proposals by the mayor, council members and concerned homeowners. Only a few address the need for comprehensive long-term relief and stability as opposed to a short-term or ill-conceived patch. The following should be done immediately:

  • Reduce the tax rate for fiscal 2007 (first payment due August 2006) to reflect an average maximum 5 percent increase over last year's taxes. This will increase revenue by $30 million.

  • Designate $20 million of the $101.8 million "carryover" line item in the fiscal 2006 budget to the "reserve" fund as a step to building that fund, as suggested by the mayor. (This will reduce the carryover buffer to $81.8 million in subsequent years.)

  • Charter a team comprised of open-minded, knowledgeable persons, representing business, finance, government and homeowners, to devise a property tax policy that eliminates the shortcomings of existing policy and provides long-term tax stability with consideration of people's ability to pay. Implement the new policy in fiscal 2008.

    I also implore the mayor and council to scrutinize operations and expenses and institute programs to increase efficiency and productivity to obviate drastic cutting of programs.

    Richard Ubersax
    Waimanalo

    DEFICIT SPENDING

    REVERSE MORTGAGE TO PAY TAX A BAD IDEA

    Of all the letters published about Honolulu's property tax fiasco, I take particular exception to Robert Edmond's Jan. 4 letter suggesting individuals 62 or older who are "house rich" and "cash poor" should take out a reverse mortgage to pay the taxes and enjoy life.

    That is the typical politician's limited grasp of economics: deficit spending.

    Yes, we are "cash poor," and not by choice, with annual vehicle tax increases, a GET increase, higher fuel costs, recycle tax, food, to name a few. Our fixed incomes do not enjoy such an opulent increase in revenues as Hawai'i enjoys.

    As nonresident owner-occupants, we are being treated as investors and are not allowed the same exemptions as a resident homeowner. We pay more and more taxes, only to see more homeless camped out in deteriorating public parks, potholes more abundant and deeper, and an overall higher cost of living. We contribute a full residential share to Hawai'i's infrastructure, yet only use it approximately a third of time.

    And Edmond recommends we take out a reverse mortgage to pay for all of this. Only a fool would part with his money in such a manner.

    It is with a sad heart that we are forced to consider giving up our lifelong dream of living in paradise.

    John Hoffman
    Wai'anae

    BELT-TIGHTENING

    CITY WORKERS SHOULD ALSO FEEL THE PINCH

    The mayor wrote a fairly sensible article about the need for fiscal responsibility and that his administration started by having to handle the excess spending of the previous administration that spent way too much on flash and way too little on infrastructure. And he warned everyone that we would have to make sacrifices to eventually get things back on an even keel.

    Unfortunately, all the sacrifices seem to be coming from the taxpayers. How about government employees joining us in making some sacrifices? (And I know that government employees are taxpayers, also.)

    If the city can't afford to do certain things, we should be looking for a general belt-tightening all around, and that includes salaries and planned raises. Let's share the pain!

    Keith Patterson
    Kailua

    JUST VENDORS

    DON'T COMPROMISE ON STREET PERFORMERS

    If the ACLU supports the street performers who set up business on Kalakaua, then I am afraid that our local ACLU chapter will have lost its focus.

    Street performers are the same as T-shirt vendors who used to set up card tables on Kalakaua. The fact that street performers don't charge spectators but rather encourage contributions is a distinction without a difference. They are in business, setting up shop on our public streets.

    Claiming that it is a First Amendment right to conduct business on the public streets cheapens our cherished First Amendment. Let's show some courage and not be blackmailed into a compromise.

    If the city is so worried about attorneys' fees, why not ask the business community in Waikiki for support.

    Joseph Gedan
    Honolulu

    HO'OPONOPONO

    JUDGE EZRA NEEDED IN FAMILY COURT

    Way to go, Judge Ezra! By promoting ho'oponopono and delaying federal court intervention, you have saved the Honolulu taxpayer countless dollars.

    We need you to transfer to Family Court to advocate for alternative dispute resolution in the best interest of families and children, not to mention taxpayer dollars.

    I personally requested ho'oponopono and mediation in Family Court. I was denied. I was further ordered to pay opposing counsel's fees even though I was self-represented. I was then ordered to pay the several thousands of dollars in court fees at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

    Judge Ezra, the keiki and families of Hawai'i need you to move to Family Court.

    Myrna B. Murdoch
    Children's Rights Council

    LONG WAITS

    CITY ADMINISTRATION OF ROAD TESTS ATROCIOUS

    Last week when we went to the Pearl City facility to take a road test, there were at least 30 people ahead of us in line at 6:30 in the morning. Some were in sleeping bags. We found out that the first had arrived at 5:30 p.m. the day before to get a spot. At 8:30 a.m., when road tests were to begin, they displayed a sign saying that they were full up for the day, turning away most of us.

    The same sign was up when we drove over to the Kapolei facility. When we asked a clerk how early we needed to get in line for a road test, he said that people usually start gathering at 4:30 the previous afternoon for a test the next day.

    No doubt City and County officials are aware of the atrocious situation; I've read newspaper articles about it. So what are they doing about it?

    If they can't get their act together, maybe they should step aside and let a private-sector organization come up with a workable system.

    David Sohmer
    Kailua

    HUI MALAMA

    NO TO HO'OPONOPONO IF IT MEANS EXPOSING REBURIAL

    I am an inmate in the Federal Detention Center #95548-022. At a status conference with Judge Ezra and Judge Chang on Jan. 5, the court announced that it was encouraging the parties to the Na Lei Ali'i lawsuit to pursue traditional Hawaiian forms of dispute resolution, including ho'oponopono.

    I believe this latest development in the case is the most promising and important because it seeks to return the dispute to where it rightfully belongs: in the Hawaiian cultural realm and not in the courts.

    I think it is incumbent upon the parties to take this latest development seriously. I applaud the efforts of the judges to seek a cultural-based resolution to a cultural dilemma.

    Having said this, as long as I am ordered to disclose how we conducted the Kawaihae reburial, I am compelled to decline, respectfully. To disclose such information would violate the general commitment to malama i na iwi, the specific commitment to malama, the Kawaihae kupuna, and the teachings of my kumu.

    Put another way, we of Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei are incapable of consciously betraying the sanctity of the grave. I/we can't do it, all due respect to the court.

    Finally, although I am the only Hui Malama member incarcerated, the decision to forgo personal freedom if it came to that was a hui decision. All members of Hui Malama made the same commitment that I did. In that sense, I am not alone.

    The fact that Pualani Kanahele, Charles Maxwell, Konia Freitas and William Aila all held fast to our conviction not to be a party to the intentional disturbance of ancestral graves provides me with the continual strength to persevere. I am proud of all of us and honored to be in this position.

    Nanette Napoleon is correct: I am not a hero. But I am hard-headed, as we all should be. Whenever faced with the need to be 'onipa'a regarding fundamental values, I practice from wa kahiko. Ola na iwi the bones live.

    Edward H. Ayau
    Executive director, Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei

    HOW MUCH MORE CAN WE BUILD, CONSUME IN ISLANDS?

    Editor's note: This is another in a series of letters from previous Advertiser Community Editorial Board members on the 2006 Legislature.

    I came to our beautiful Islands less than five years after statehood. It was a simpler, less-crowded place. It was a place that, to me, was marked most by the caring attitude of the people and their government, a place where aloha was much more than something that masses of tourists were taught to shout.

    People all over the world dreamed of coming here to a place of waterfalls and green valleys, of beaches and flowers. I came, and they came; we built and we used, we "improved" and we chose the "highest and best use" for the 'aina.

    Many of us prospered, but something didn't seem quite right.

    As time went on, we seemed to care less for each other, and the government cared less for the people, and some communities seemed to get more drug treatment facilities, halfway houses, prisons and care homes than they thought was fair.

    And "Aloha" was something we put on bumper stickers.

    It is time to stop the apparent degradation of our physical and social environment.

    I propose that the Legislature mandate and fund a study of the carrying capacity of the state. How much more can we build, consume, welcome visitors and new residents "progress" without destroying the essence of Hawai'i?

    How much more can we fish, fertilize, pour concrete, build golf courses and luxury housing before the fish run out, the land is poisoned, the things the visitors come for have disappeared, and most of us can't afford to stay here?

    Coordinated with the statewide study, the counties should receive funds to study the issue of the siting of current facilities that the communities need, but which are considered less than desirable.

    As part of this study, we should establish standards for future development that will accommodate community needs while minimizing real or perceived burdens.

    I told my son, a keiki o ka 'aina, that I was writing about the need for a study of the carrying capacity of the state, and a fair share of facilities in the communities.

    He said, "It's too late."

    I hope he's wrong.

    Leonard Pepper
    Aliamanu/Salt Lake/Foster Village Neighborhood Board member