Property tax hikes tough on retirees
I wrote a letter on 8/15/16 to the Real Property Tax/Fee Collections & Tax Relief Program, Mayor Alan Arakawa and Chairman Mike White regarding why my property taxes quadrupled for 2016-17. No reply from anyone.
The Maui County Council needs to look into the property tax assessments for people who are retired with limited income.
In 2014, the council modified the eligibility criteria for the tax credit. A sliding scale was added that allowed for those whose homes were valued up to $450,000 to receive a partial tax credit. Median housing values have gone up dramatically since then.
According to Zillow Research, on Maui, single-family home median prices in January 2014 were $526,000. In January 2015, it was $579,000. In January of 2016, it was $599,000. At the end of September 2016, it was $611,000.
Living in Lahaina, the Lahaina single-family median price in January 2014 was $562,000. In January 2015, it was $617,000. In January 2016, it was $669,000. At the end of September 2016, it was $684,000.
I sent in my Circuit Breaker Tax Credit Application for the tax year July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017, which I qualified for. There was only an assessed building value difference from 2015-2016 of $46,000, and a taxable value difference of $46,000. How does this equate to a quadrupling of my real property tax bill for 2016-17?
I understand that with my building assessed value over $450,000, I was eligible for zero percent of the Circuit Breaker Tax Credit. What happened between 2015 and 2016? Why did I qualify for a 75 percent Circuit Breaker Tax Credit then?
Mayor Alan Arakawa and the Maui County Council, please help out the retired senior citizens on limited income on Maui and re-evaluate the property tax assessments.
DONNELL A. TATE, Lahaina
Educate visitors on reef safe sunscreen
(The following letter was sent to State Senators Roz Baker and J. Kalani English.)
Just recently visited Maui. Loved it. Amazing place, amazing people. Can't wait to go back. Daily snorkeling was our favorite activity. It was almost a religious experience. My entire family gained a deeper admiration for the oceans, coral reefs and the inhabitants of these areas while visiting.
Prior to our vacation, we purchased a guidebook that encouraged the use of reef safe sunscreen. While I had already planned on grabbing some for the trip (being the conscientious ocean visitor that I always hope to be), this was a great reminder to grab some.
Upon arriving in Maui, I found the absence of education on using reef safe sunscreen a bit shocking.
With tourism being the main economic sector, and it being credited by some for carrying Hawaii through the recession, why is there not more being done to protect one of the main reasons people visit the Hawaiian Islands?
On only three occasions did I encounter a message of protecting the reefs by using reef safe sunscreen. Three occasions: over a ten-day trip. Three occasions, at one restaurant (when we visited at least ten), at one beach (when we visited at least ten), and through speaking with one tourism-related vendor (I can't even remember how many tourism-related vendors we spoke with during the ten days).
During a visit to one restaurant, The Fish Market in Kaanapali, there was a small poster designed by a local third grade class explaining the reasons for using reef safe sunscreen, with a great picture displaying the potential effects of harmful chemicals included in "regular" sunscreen on the coral reefs.
The second occasion was on what seemed to be a homemade sign created by a local and posted at a small beach on the northeast area of the island (by Hana). The third occasion was while purchasing snorkel gear, I was told by the vendor that if I could show evidence of using reef safe sunscreen, we could get a discount.
Why isn't there a sign (similar to the one at The Fish Market) posted in every establishment that sells sunscreen? Why is there not a sign at every beach briefly explaining this easy way to protect the reefs? Why isn't there more encouragement/participation on behalf of the many hotels/time shares/resorts in spreading this message? Why isn't there a highly advertised (to tourists through guidebooks and travel agents) list of discounts that can be had by those using reef safe sunscreen?
I get this takes work; I do not flippantly suggest these things. But again, seeing as how the Maui locals can benefit from increased protection of their local environment, protecting and encouraging a local food source, protecting the reefs means protecting tourism, and protecting tourism means more money flooding into the community. It seems this is a mutually beneficial endeavor.
Good luck! I will be doing my part by spreading the word to my fellow tourists any which way I can!
Stop hawking products on Front Street sidewalks
I recently had visitors from the Mainland, who of course wanted to do Front Street and explore the galleries and shops. I had been telling my visitors about the aloha spirit and how humble, considerate and pono locals are, but every time we passed one of the new foo-foo makeup shops, we were harassed. And when we tried to say "no thank you," they only became more aggressive.
The "salespeople" always had something to say, either from the door or the sidewalk, and we were followed more than once by some nitwit kid who actually thought we were going to buy his line of crap about how beautiful we are at 66 and should use their brand of moisturizer to protect our skin. Guess what? By 66, women are smart enough to spot a con.
I told one woman to back off, and the response was to "Chill; you are in Hawaii." I told her to chill and said I live here and don't appreciate you shoving your products in our face every time we walk by. The answer was "no thank you" the first five times and still is!
Another made me so angry I turned around, got in his face and told him to go back into his shop and be quiet. As we walked away, he blew me a kiss, so I showed him the Hawaiian good luck sign.
I don't believe for a second these people are locals; rather, they are newbies without a clue and need to know this won't fly here. Take your bull somewhere else.
Do we want this in Lahaina? Do we want to be a South Beach or L.A. or Waikiki? How good can the product be if they have to resort to these kinds of high-pressure (and rude) sales tactics? I only saw two people in one of the shops and none in the others... gosh - I wonder why! If you are turning people off before they can even set foot, do you expect them to go inside? And how do they pay their rents, which we all know can be as much as twenty grand or more a month?
Every evening, as we head to town for dinner, some kid from a timeshare center approaches us, over-the-top friendly, and tries to get us to stop so he can enlighten us about where to eat and what activities we should do. I tried to nicely tell him "no need; I live here," but he only became louder as we walked away. "Just ignore them," I was told, but that doesn't work either. They assume we didn't hear them and follow us - or yell at our backs.
Sadly, another young man standing on the sidewalk later said, "Aloha folks," and I told him to "save it." I then had to apologize because he was just being friendly for no reason at all except that it was a nice night, and he was actually showing the aloha spirit.
I've been here 20 years and have always been able to wander down Front Street at my leisure without being hassled. I realize they are "just trying to make a living and it must be a tough job" (blah-blah-blah), but I just don't care! Grow up. Get a real job, and stop with the product shoving, speaking to everyone, stupid compliments and chasing visitors up the sidewalk. Not pono!
NAME WITHHELD BY REQUEST
Lobby for West Maui roundabouts
Are you tired of the traffic situation on the West Side of Honoapiilani Highway yet? Are you ready to write our mayor and the governor? I presented County Councilman Don Couch's roundabout solution, at Launiupoko and at Hokiokio, to the both of them, but we all need to write and ask for a solution now or watch it get worse. With roundabouts, you don't stop - you just slow to 20 mph and continue the smooth flow of traffic. For real, no stopping! Got to love it.