Letters to the Editor: 02-19-19

Enough with taxes

With the hearing scheduled for today, Feb. 19, to double the county surcharge on sales/general excise tax, I feel compelled to bring something to the attention of our residents. We are being taxed to death and the residents are being unfairly targeted.

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Health care providers are forced to pay GET and county surcharge on medical services because private health insurance companies and Medicare/Medicaid do not pay this tax. So the tax is passed on to patients and providers. Visitors do not usually access health care, so the residents are the ones targeted.

Hawaii is reimbursed by Medicare the same as Guam, and it is almost the lowest reimbursement in the country. On top of that, Hawaii is the only state to charge sales/excise tax on medical services from government programs and there are only two states, including Hawaii, that charge tax on any medical services.

We face a health care provider shortage on this island and part of the problem is the providers find that the reimbursement for services is low and we are charged tax on top of that. And our residents are charged the insurance company’s portion with private insurance companies because they refuse to pay the tax. It is time to take a stand on this issue and exempt health care services from this county surcharge and bring this issue to attention of all Hawaii residents to get GET exemption statewide. Let’s help Hawaii residents be free from this burden.

Jean Thompson

Kailua-Kona

Paving access a mistake

Mahalo to Kelly Greenwell for his signature insights. The fact that endangered, Hawaii-only native birds are being harmed by thoughtless infrastructure development is something many people don’t see or know. One point, however, that doesn’t fit with his hypotheses of poor planning and lack of understanding for the need to protect natural resources is his call to remove speed humps from the Mahaiula access road of Kekaha Kai State Park.

There is a publicly created and supported agreement that says that the south section of this one-of-a-kind, commercial-free, wilderness park will remain unpaved to protect the uniqueness of its natural and cultural resources for future generations. The goal is to keep the area relatively untamed and unimpaired by the trappings of human beings while allowing for passive human enjoyment.

The park plan was hammered out over a decade, including well-attended public charettes and follow-up meetings attended by a cross-section of stakeholders including government and development representatives and environmental and cultural practitioners (myself included as representative for the local Sierra Club). It was democracy in action. A top priority was to maintain a “go-slow,” wilderness-appropriate road on the Mahaiula section that would remain passable to two-wheel drive vehicles while putting the brakes on the near-crisis of over-crowding that now exists at places like Maniniowali (aka Kua Bay) at the south end of the park.

Despite the good intentions of state officials, they made an errant decision by recently paving parts of the roadway — one that seems to contravene the park’s SMA (Special Management Area) permit that allowed only minor “improvements” including adding an emergency shower and level parking. Paving was deemed a nonstarter, and no approval for it was given. To much of the public, paving even parts of the access road is seen as a serious breach of the plan, the SMA, and the public’s trust.

To honor the park plan and to be legally compliant seems to require the removal of all pavement, speed humps, and unsightly over-signage. At the same time, the state must do whatever maintenance is required to allow two-wheel vehicles to slowly and respectfully access this unique, irreplaceable park as per the park’s original intent and design.

The speed hump “remedy” is not enough to compensate for the loss of the benefits of an unpaved roadway, but until the pavement is removed, speed humps are critical to preventing the dangers and annoyance of speeding vehicles and protecting the less congested south section of the park.

Janice Palma-Glennie

Kailua-Kona

Regulation needed

Senior citizens moving to Hawaii often discover that the comfort and joy of living here can become spoiled by rogue homeowners associations. While the state regulates condominium HOAs, there seems to be no agency to oversee the associations in communities of single-family homes. The lack of regulation and enforcement often lead to loss of accountability, shady HOA practices, and fraud targeting the elderly.

As specified in Hawaii Revised Statutes, planned community associations must own and maintain certain real property for the common use and benefit of the owners (HRS 421J). HOA assessment fees are administered “with the purpose to maintain that common property and provide services.” Contrary to the law and under questionable circumstances, HOAs are still organized in some areas with zero common property. The owners are pressured to pay assessments for nonexistent assets and unnecessary “services,” professional management, and legal fees the HOA incurs. The board of directors choose to ignore the owner’s concerns, but threaten their critics with fines, liens, and even foreclosure.

The owners of homes on drive-through county streets already pay federal, state, and county taxes, as well as individual insurance and utilities fees. For clear lack of common areas, there is no legal ground or mandate to associate and make additional payments. Problematic HOAs tarnish the reputation of the county, the state, and real estate professionals, while deepening the problems of affordable housing shortage and fraud against the elderly.

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Olga Alvord

Kailua-Kona