Hawaii County’s 2% Land Fund is under Fire! URGENT – TAKE ACTION!

The 2% Land Fund was created by citizens to protect natural resources, watersheds, open space, parklands and cultural sites. We proposed to have the County set aside 2% of property taxes each year to have a guaranteed source of funding to obtain matching funds to acquire property.

A small group of citizens met in 2006, and formed the Save Our Lands Citizens’ Committee to run a petition initiative campaign. Our petitions were signed by more than 9,600 of Big Island voters. The County clerk disqualified more than 6,000 signatures, stopping the petition. The County Council put the 2% Land Fund on the ballot anyway. Mayor Billy Kenoi halted deposits to the Land Fund in 2008 as his first legislation. We realized that we needed a charter amendment that could only be changed by a vote of the people. We did get a charter amendment approved in 2010, but the Charter Commission put it on the ballot at only at 1%. We got the 2% Land Fund back on the ballot in 2012. Each time the Land Fund has been approved by 63% of voters. We believe this is a citizen’s mandate!

The GREAT SUCCESS OF THE 2% LAND FUND: Hawaii Island residents have proposed 180 properties for acquisition and 14 have been acquired to date, with one 2,200-acre property in escrow. There is public oversight of all the components of the 2% Land Fund Program by the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Commission.

Since 2006, LAND AQUIRED: 4,428 acres of land

County of Hawaii 2% Land Fund MONEY SPENT: $27,389,268
Grants from Matching funds: $8,764,083
Private Funds: $2,000,000

Attend the local meetings of the charter commission to show them you care.  Tell them you are a Sierra Club member but speaking for yourself. Please tell them you support our proposal to STRENGTHEN THE 2% LAND FUND PROGRAM.

Upcoming Charter Commission Meetings
March 25 in Kohala 5 pm at the Old Court Building 5pm
March 29 in Na’alehu at the Community Center 5pm
April 1 Pahoa Commmunity Center 5pm
April 2 Honoka’a Gym at 5 pm
April 3 Hilo Council Chambers 5pm
April 4 Hilo Council Chambers 5pm
April 25th Hilo Council Chambers 9:30am

  1. Attend the charter commission meeting on April 25th in Hilo 9:30. You can also testify from Kona.
  2. Sign up to be informed at Hecht.deb@gmail.com
  3. Send an email to the charter commission. Email your concerns to: Charter.commission@hawaiicounty.gov

Funding: Two percent of property taxes was $2 million in 2006 and now has increased to $5 million per year. The highest and best use of 2% of taxpayer’s funds is to use the 2% Land Fund to get dollar for dollar matching funds, which has been gained from US Fish and Wildlife and State Legacy Lands.

We are alarmed to see that unspent money is piling up in the Land Fund, and that there may be a deliberate attempt to avoid acquiring property. Only 14 of the 180 properties proposed have been acquired. There is presently $19 million in the fund. Mayor Kim has said on video that he wants to take the fund to make budget shortfalls.  He has said that he wants to sell the land so we don’t have to maintain it. http://www.bigislandvideonews.com/2017/02/09/video-mayor-kim-wants-to-reduce-two-percent-land-fund/

We have publicly reminded him that he needs a vote of the people to change the fund. Mayor Kim appoints the Charter Commissioners. Some Charter Commission appointees have proposed to axe the 2% Land Fund to 3/4%, use the money for disaster relief and the delete the perpetuity clause.  The perpetuity clause prevents the county from leasing, selling or trading these lands. So far, we have lobbied successfully to get these amendments voted down as part of the current charter commission review. We have been disappointed that since the inception of the Maintenance Fund that only 9% of all expenditures have gone to the non-profits who are caring for these lands, which was the intent when Council member Brenda Ford and I wrote the amendment.  

The Save Our Land’s Citizen Committee has proposed several charter amendments to strengthen the 2% Land Fund Program:  

  1. To pay for a full-time employee under the Department of Finance to work only on the 2% Land Fund Program and paid from the 2% Land Fund.
  2. To improve the Maintenance fund to fulfill the original intent of the Maintenance Fund Charter Amendment to empower the non-profit organizations who are already caring for the 2% Land Fund acquisitions with stewardship grants to build buildings and, toilet facilities and to pay workers whether they may be employees or members of the board from their grants.

Hawai’i is one of the most beautiful places in the world. This treasured land should be preserved in perpetuity for our keiki and grandchildren.

PUBLIC MEETINGS in your area: Please attend in your area and take your friends and neighbors. We have to start educating people for the 2% Land Fund Campaign.  The Commissioners are saying over and over they want to hear from the public. Please show up!

For more information on the history, the process and the successes of the 2% Land Fund please see: https://debbiehecht.com/2018/03/09/hawaii-county-and-the-big-islands-2-land-fund-report-3-9-2018/Debbie Hecht, has been the Campaign Coordinator for the Save our Lands Citizens Committee and the 2% Land Fund since 2006.  She and Councilmember Brenda Ford have written the enabling legislation. Hecht.deb@gmail.com