The Dems Ignore Working Folks

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - May 12, 2005
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What the Legislature failed to do this year makes me doubt that Democrats support working people other than the public union employees who always get first dibs on the public treasury.

Democrats did not give us a long-term care plan (again) or any state tax credits if we buy our own (again.) They didn’t broaden tax brackets to exempt more lowincome families (again.) They didn’t make the financial lives of the middle class any easier.

They did pass a huge increase in Hawaii’s notoriously low real estate conveyance tax on the Richie Rich.

That is great social legislation reminiscent of great social Democrats (Jack Burns, Sakae Takahashi, Tom Gill) of the early ’60s.

Now, if you sell a house for $400,000 the conveyance tax stays at $400. Good for average home sellers.

But if you sell an owner-occupied house for $2 million, you’ll pay $6,000 in conveyance tax. About $9,000 if it’s a $3 million sale. Much more if it’s an investment sale to a non-occupant. Hits speculators where it hurts them most — their profit.

Sixty-five percent of the money goes into state affordable housing and land conservation programs. The rest to the general fund.

Those who sell $3 million houses should be hit for $50,000 for the affordable housing trust. Otherwise, we’re going to be all Richie Rich homeowners with some housecleaners and yardmen living in hovels.  I’m not sure how I feel about Uluwehi.

Not the musician. Not the heavily sexual kaona Kekuhi Kanahele sings in Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai (yeah, yeah, I know people argue about this and say Auntie Edith Kanakaole was only writing about plants in the sea — nothing more.)

No, I mean the state’s decrepit, low-income housing project in Waianae. The state isn’t very good at running rental housing, and next summer a new agency will be created to do that. (Wanna bet it ends up with more HGEA people with pensions?)

Uluwehi is a 60-unit apartment complex which is no longer habitable and has been mostly vacant for years. The complex has to go, or so says the Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii (HCDC), formerly known more simply as the Hawaii Housing Authority.

The original builder used what the state now admits were “defective materials.” But the state accepted the project, so it’s our problem.

It’ll be torn down for about $800,000. One proposal is to erect a halfway house for the drug people living on the nearby beaches.

Oh, but wait! That would be next door to Waianae High and Waianae Intermediate and other project families. Maybe not such a good idea.

I quite by accident dined last month with retired architect Art Hansen. His current life is with his church and Habitat for Humanity. He’s checked out Uluwehi.

“You don’t need to tear it down. It can be easily renovated. I think we can do it for about $60,000 a unit. We can’t do it overnight. Maybe a year, 18 months, two years. We’d get the money, people would put in their sweat equity. Maybe rent at $300 a month.”

But HCDC turned him down and he wasn’t able to get in to see Gov. Lingle.

Here’s what the HCDC tells me:

“Demolition is a done deal. We’re signing the contracts.”

Project manager Stan Fujimoto says a study was done by another architect, who recommended demolishing. What about Hansen’s proposal?

“In our judgment, we don’t think he can perform,” says Fujimoto. “And it comes down to this. If you had an old car and it would cost $15,000 to fix,wouldn’t you be better off paying $20,000 and getting a new one?”

So the 10 buildings are coming down and requests for proposals are out for something on the site to help the beach homeless.

Good intention. But some are people temporarily on hard times. Some are druggies. Some are mental cases. Some are like the infamous and aggravating Beltran family which claims a right to live on Hawaii’s beaches.

Who gets access to whatever happens at Uluwehi?

There’s enough kaona (hidden, mysterious, unknown stuff) there to make even the most faithful The State Will Provide apologist tremble.

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