In an act of measured rationality—or political insanity, it’s hard
to say at this point—the Maui County Council killed property tax
“reform” yesterday in a 5-3 vote, according to today’s Maui News.
Spurred by the anti-tax group Committee for More Equitable Taxation
(COMET), the proposed charter amendment would have fundamentally
changed the way county officials do tax assessments. Right now, the
assessors use the home sales surrounding a particular piece of property
(called “comps” in the realtor biz) to come up with tax rate. It seems
unfair, but the price of land fluctuates pretty wildly sometimes, and
comparable home sales are the quickest way to keep track of property
values over time. By contrast, the COMET plan would somewhat mirror
California’s notorious Proposition 13, in that it would tie tax rates
solely to the property’s own most recent sale, though there would be
some allowance for taxes to rise each year based on inflation. While
undoubtedly leading to lower property taxes, the measure—like Prop.
13—has a fundamental flaw: by lowering taxes so much, the amendment
would starve the county of the revenues it needs to pay for things like
police officers, firefighters, lifeguards and so forth. As a result,
the county would have to come up with more creative means of getting
money, which would run the gamut from floating bond measures to
goofball stuff like signing deals with Coca-Cola to name the soda the
“Official Soft Drink of Maui.” Think I’m kidding? The City of
Huntington Beach, California did exactly that in 1999 for $6 million.
THURSDAY, July 20
What are the odds that two separate newspapers on Maui will display
exactly the same ethical lapse within 24 hours of each other? Pretty
high I suppose, considering that both papers share the same owner:
Wheeling, West Virginia-based Ogden Newspaper Group, which owns The
Maui News and every weekly on the island except Maui Time.
Specifically, I’m speaking of yesterday’s Maui Weekly and today’s
Lahaina News, each of which contained a bone-headed lapse in judgment
you’d think kids learn never to commit in Journalism 101. Apparently
not—anyway, both papers ran fawning, extensive stories—40.5 and 36
column inches, respectively—on individuals intimately connected to the
paper without disclosing those relationships to the readers. In the
Weekly’s case, the story “Filipino Folkdance” profiled Bituing Silangan
Folkdance Company director Lawrence Pascua without mentioning that he
also works at the Weekly as their Design/Production Manager. And over
on the Westside, Lahaina News Editor—and Maui Weekly General
Manager—Mark Vieth wrote breathlessly of state House of Representatives
candidate Angus McKelvey’s recent letter to Governor Linda Lingle
pleading for a traffic help in West Maui without disclosing that
McKelvey was until June 21 of this year listed as one of the paper’s
contributing writers. Put simply, doing this kind of thing begs the
question in readers’ minds that the papers were unduly biased towards
their subjects. Of course, had they disclosed the relationships people
still might think they were biased, but at least they would have been
upfront with readers about how they’re having trouble finding news
outside their own newsrooms.
FRIDAY, July 21
Well, they actually did it. Today the Maui County Council voted 8-1
to jump in on the side of environmental group in their big lawsuit
against the state Department of Transportation over that Superferry
plan. And now everybody’s happy! And by “everybody,” I mean citizens
who’ve so far been fighting the plan to run high-speed car ferries
between the islands because of concerns over invasive species and
increased traffic and the Kahului Harbor users and shippers who say the
harbor is much too crowded as it is. I can’t imagine the DOT people,
Superferry Inc. or Maui Land & Pineapple—which has spent big money
on the project—are much happy right now. Nobody expects one lawsuit
will stop the project—there may in fact be nothing wrong with the
plan—but with county legitimacy now bestowed on the fight, it’s
possible the state will finally wake up and finally start doing a full
environmental review of the project.
SATURDAY, July 22
So Big Island Mayor Harry Kim won’t run as a Democrat against
Governor Linda Lingle. Said he’d like to be governor, but he’d rather
serve out the remainder of his mayoral term than do battle with Lingle.
That leaves Waianae Harbor Master William Aila and former state Senator
Randy Iwase in the race. Thank God that “Doesn’t Know/Refuse to State”
is still on the ballot. Put him—I’m assuming he’s a him—head to head
against Lingle and she doesn’t have a prayer.
SUNDAY, July 23
Oh, and by “God” in the above entry, I meant the divine creator of
the universe, not that four-foot alligator in Silver Lake, Wisconsin
that likes to eat raw chickens and frozen mice and seems to have the
word “God” imprinted on its side. I may be crazy, but I don’t think
MONDAY, July 24
Good news everyone: according to today’s Honolulu Advertiser, it’s
entirely possible that the reason nearly 40 percent of our nation’s
workers think they’re underpaid is because recent U.S. Labor Department
data says most employee wages have been more or less frozen since 2003.
Actual wage increases aren’t apparently coming, but at least we know
it’s not all in our minds.
TUESDAY, July 25
Vanilla-flavored toothpaste—is there anything on earth more evil?
Anthony Pignataro doesn’t have a clue what you’re talking about. MTW