Every two years Kaua‘i has an open election. For some politicians it is a full-time job, consulting those newcomers on issues that divide a community and solidify failed agendas only to resurrect every two years.
In the last two weeks, as the political season on Kaua‘i has heated up, Mr. Hooser has continued to rant about raising taxes on TVRs (transient vacation rentals) and hotels. He claims those are not paying their fair share and increasing taxes should be directed to “affordable housing, homeless shelters, youth programs, drug treatment centers and more.”
Memories have faded for many over the last 20 years, as this was the same rant in the early 2000s and every election year since. The community should ask where all the money from the increased property taxes has gone for the last 13 years, that where already earmarked for emergency relief/supplies (North Shore flood), drug treatment centers, youth centers, low-cost housing, aka paid for TVR property taxes (that already are six to eight times greater than 99% of the homeowner population’s rates on Kaua‘i).
The community needs to hold its elected officials accountable to make good policy, not divide people. In a recent county audit, nearly 50% of TVRs are owned by local Kaua‘i families that rely on the income to keep their homes, pay high TVR taxes and provide a higher education for their kids.
Back in 2008 the property-tax rate dramatically increased overnight, and increased many times since. Mr. Hooser now seems to think his political insights are what Kaua‘i needs. His political wisdom to save Kaua‘i is flawed for many reasons. As we have seen since the last election, his political propaganda to distort facts from fiction are well documented.
To fix a problem, no matter the problem, one must first look to the source of the problem. As Mr. Hooser points out, affordable housing, homeless shelters, youth programs, drug treatment centers are solutions to a problem. Not fixing the source is the major problem that will take community involvement along with government oversight.
Drug use, including crystal methamphetamine, fentanyl among Kaua‘i High School students has increased every year since 2008. Ask any former or current high school student what the drug usage is, and overwhelmingly the feedback you will get is over 50% of the kids are hooked before graduation.
Perhaps getting a few drug-sniffing dogs to greet locals and tourists off planes, or dogs placed at FedEx, USPS and even the public schools would help eradicate these drugs.
Family social services can be directed to enforce laws where kids are surrounded at the home around drugs. The community is small. A reward for those who endanger our youth should be a policy we all can support. Kaua‘i placed martial law on Kaua‘i for COVID. Perhaps it’s time the mayor directs an emergency proclamation that drug use in any home with kids will have consequences, including forfeiture until clean. We must start at the root versus round-and-round politics, and watch funds get mixed into the general fund that never can be accounted for.
Homelessness is a direct result of drug use in many situations. Government is not the solution for all problems. Family, church, schools all need to step up to help those in need and be part of the solution.
You can tax TVRs 100%, and the income generated will not find its way to those in need. Working with the 15 largest landowners creating a partnership for the next 20 to 30 years is a better way to accomplish these goals.
Perhaps what Kaua‘i really needs is a local government that can make relationships with those of influence. Maybe one day Kaua‘i will be home to Facebook/Meta tech school that will educate Kaua‘i’s youth and create high-paying jobs for thousands making $10,000 to $200,000 a year to work from home and allow future generations to buy their own homes.
If Kaua‘i wants to solve its problems, irradicating dangerous, life-threatening drugs from the community should be the number one priority. Number two should be providing one-way tickets to the many homeless who have come from the mainland that truly suck resources. The funds from the last 13 years to fix problems should be already accounted for, as pointed out, revenues from TVRs are better than hotels.
Government waste might be the problem. As an example, the drug treatment center in Hanama‘ulu was secured, yet still not operating as paid for by tax dollars.
Now for the facts regarding TVR taxes: Operating a legal TVR on Kaua‘i currently has the highest tax rate in the United States, including Maui, O‘ahu and Big Island, at 19% source (avalara.com, the VRBO tax collection services), which is 4% higher than Maui, O‘ahu or Big Island.
Many have endured nearly four years of being out of business for 2018-19 flood, then 2020-21 pandemic. All at the same time we paid excessive TVR property taxes with no refund or adjusted tax rate. We did not receive millions of free dollars to keep our family going or free grants, loans, but many TVR owners have lost thousands of dollars in the last four years being out of business with a legal TVR.
TVRs pay much more than minimum wage for service-industry-related jobs. Currently, my housekeeper makes $600 a day, my handyman makes $60 an hour, the neighborhood is clean well maintained and improves the quality of living for all.
Kaua‘i should applaud those councilmembers who have the courage to say no more taxes and have acted responsibly. Holding local government accountable to act for the people and deliver results for funds collected over the last 13 years needs to be accounted for.
Robin Yasuoka is a third-generation Kaua‘i resident, married, two daughters, worked for 35 years, and is now retired.
Source: The Garden Island