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Vote ‘yes’ on 2 Constitution items


The state Constitution, like all organic documents of government, was not meant to be a permanent, marble edifice, unchanged through the ages. And while it's a dubious practice to amend it too casually, it's a living document that needs occasional tweaks to accommodate unforeseeable needs.

Such is the case with two constitutional amendments that are on the general election ballot, both of which should be adopted through the popular vote. One is a measure to provide a needed additional route for some reservoir owners to make needed repairs to their dams; and the other would give the chief justice the option of considering age-capped retired judges to fill temporary slots on the bench.

Here is the precise wording, and some of the background, on each proposal:

» Question 1: "Shall the state be authorized to issue special purpose revenue bonds and use the proceeds from the bonds to assist dam and reservoir owners to make their facilities compliant with current safety standards?"

This measure was precipitated by the 2006 breach of the Ka Loko Reservoir dam on Kauai following flood rains, which killed seven people. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources conducted studies and inspections that are ultimately expected to lead to requirements for various expensive upgrades to the dams and reservoirs.

The Constitution sets out special purpose revenue bonds as a means of financing various improvements on public and specific private properties, improvements that serve a public purpose. Dam and reservoir owners would be added to the list of those eligible to sell these bonds, gaining a less costly source of funds, and the public purpose is obvious: safety.

Kalbert Young, director of the state's Department of Budget and Finance, said the state and its taxpayers would not incur any debt obligation in such a transaction, and that's important for voters to know.

The bond authorization won't help all reservoir owners, who will be held accountable for the debt, Young said. This is because they would need to generate a sufficient revenue stream from the land that can help repay the bond, in order to qualify. Since not all the reservoir owners have a going agricultural concern or other revenue-producing activity on the site, this may not be an option.

Still, we agree with Young that the change would at least provide another tool that will make some of the reservoir upgrades financially practical, and that can ensure a water supply for future agricultural activities.

» Question 2: "Shall the chief justice of the state Supreme Court appoint judges who have retired upon attaining the age of 70 years as emeritus judges, permitting the appointed judges to serve as temporary judges in courts no higher than the court level they reached prior to retirement and for terms not to exceed three months per each appointment?"

Under the state Constitution's mandatory retirement provisions, a judge's appointment to the bench ends at age 70, a requirement that the Star-Advertiser does not support.

However, that is now settled; six years ago, voters rejected a proposed amendment to repeal that mandatory retirement clause.

At least this provision would enable the Judiciary to tap the service of retirees who are still capable to fill vacancies in the interim while the process for selecting a permanent replacement moves forward.

Both of these proposed amendments would be common-sense changes to the Constitution, and voters should feel confident giving them a "yes" vote in this election cycle.

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autumnrose wrote:
Would you like to help pay to fix Pfleuger's dam? It's nice to help the poor small farmers with their dams, but I don't want to help the GMO corporate farmers like Monsanto to fix theirs-- they can well afford to pay for their own dams.... four crops of GMO seed corn a year, nothing for us to eat.
on October 31,2012 | 02:34AM
Mediocrates wrote:
Exactly why I voted no. The wealthy who own enough land in Hawaii to have a reservoir on it can pay for their own dam upkeep.
on October 31,2012 | 07:44AM
from_da_cheapseats wrote:
Wrong - they all have decided it's bettr to take the dam down then pay and pay and pay. It's not just paying to fix it, it's paying to fix it every year. The regulations are SO BAD that the state's own Dept of Agriculture asked DLNR for AN EXEMPTION because otherwise they couldn't afford it. YOU WASTED YOUR VOTE IF YOU FAVOR AG.
on October 31,2012 | 07:54AM
Anonymous wrote:
EXACTLY. These old dams and irrigation systems serve many small farms downstream. The harder we make it on the dam owners, the more incentive for them to just take the dam down. That would put all the small downstream farms out of business.
on October 31,2012 | 01:11PM
Larry01 wrote:
See my above response to autumnrose. Too bad you didn't realize it's not taxpayer money, and you voted no for the wrong reason.
on October 31,2012 | 08:50AM
Kuahiwi wrote:
Yes. This comment from the Star-Advertiser editorial above is very telling, and should show people that this amendment will not help the small landowner: "The bond authorization won't help all reservoir owners, who will be held accountable for the debt, Young said. THIS IS BECAUSE THEY WOULD NEED TO GENERATE A SUFFICIENT REVENUE STREAM FROM THE LAND THAT CAN HELP REPAY THE BOND IN ORDER TO QUALIFY. SINCE NOT ALL THE RESERVOIR OWNERS HAVE A GOING AGRICULTURAL CONCERN OR OTHER REVENUE-PRODUCING ACTIVITY ON THE SITE, THIS MAY NOT BE AN OPTION."
on October 31,2012 | 09:46PM
Larry01 wrote:
Taxpayer money is not part of the special purpose revenue bonds. The editorial even says "the state and its taxpayers would not incur any debt obligation in such a transaction, and that's important for voters to know." The bond earnings are tax exempt, which make them more attractive to buyers, but the sellers of the bonds need to line up their own investors and are totally liable for payment.
on October 31,2012 | 08:49AM
allie wrote:
Pfleuger is totally disgraced. I understand no one will buy his cars to enrich him any more
on October 31,2012 | 10:18AM
Anonymous wrote:
Special Purpose Revenue Bonds are not the same thing as General Obligation Bonds. SPRBs are repaid from the income stream of the landowner and NOT from taxpayers. If the landowner's income stream is insufficient, the SPRB will not be underwritten. You will NOT be subsidizing the landowner's cost. "Poor small farmers" do not own dams...but they do rely on the water from the irrigation systems created because of the large dams upstream. If the dam owners decide that it's just not worth it to keep maintaining the dams, they'll take them down, which will kill small farm agriculture. Vote YES on Amendment 1.
on October 31,2012 | 01:24PM
autumnrose wrote:
Why don't we have enough qualified judges? If the retired judges serve 3 months, are they serving as volunteers? How much will they get paid in addition to their retirement pensions?
on October 31,2012 | 02:36AM
autumnrose wrote:
WHO are these Editors who write these opinions? If you don't fully understand the amendments, VOTE NO. If you complain afterwards that you didn't understand, they will ram it down your throat that YOU approved it. Remember this amendment that established HART? wHO KNEW that voting yes to create HART meant voting to create TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT? Aug. 20, 2009, Honolulu City Council RESOLUTION 09-252, CD1 INITIATING AMENDMENTS TO THE REVISED CHARTER OF THE CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU 1973, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO THE CREATION OF A PUBLIC TRANSIT AUTHORITY. Section -103. Powers, Duties, and Functions -- 1. The public transit authority shall have authority to develop, operate, maintain and expand the city fixed guideway system as provided in this article. 2. To perform its duties… (n) To promote, create and assist TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT projects near fixed guideway system stations that promote transit ridership, and are consistent with the intent of the adopted community plans and zoning.
on October 31,2012 | 02:42AM
loquaciousone wrote:
on October 31,2012 | 04:04AM
soundofreason wrote:
and NO
on October 31,2012 | 07:41AM
peanutgallery wrote:
This is an outrageous editorial by the S/A. The public needs to know that voting "NO" is the way to go. We don't need to allow the city council any more power, or a way to subvert the mayors' office. Shame on you S/A.
on October 31,2012 | 04:41AM
Mediocrates wrote:
These are state constitutional items, not city...
on October 31,2012 | 07:45AM
Larry01 wrote:
As usual, sqawking about something you don't know. These two constitutional amendments are for the STATE, not the city charter.
on October 31,2012 | 08:51AM
Kalli wrote:
The voters turned down the amendment for judges to serve past age 70 and now they are trying to slide another amendment in that does the same thing but worse. Under this amendment, judges would retire and begin collecting their retirement pay and then return to work with continuous 90 day contracts at full pay again so they would be collecting double pay for the same work. They work for 89 days, take a day off, work another 89 days take a day off, etc.
on October 31,2012 | 04:55AM
Ken_Conklin wrote:
Rage against the machine. Vote NO on both proposed amendments. Thereby you vote NO against the power elites, and NO against this newspaper's ridiculous editorials. Let's get enough new judges so we don't need the old ones with their entrenched attitudes. Let's make the dam owners pay their own damn debts.
on October 31,2012 | 05:27AM
Ken_Conklin wrote:
Rage against the machine. Vote NO on both proposed amendments. Thereby you vote NO against the power elites, and NO against this newspaper's ridiculous editorials. Let's get enough new judges so we don't need the old ones with their entrenched attitudes. Let's make the dam owners pay their own dam(n) debts.
on October 31,2012 | 05:28AM
allie wrote:
on October 31,2012 | 10:19AM
control wrote:
If they are so short on judges, then why does the amendment limit who can apply to just those who retired due to age 70 and not for other reasons? If you can't afford to maintain the dam, then get rid of it, drain it, fill it in. Locals would do well to google the Johnstown flood in the early 1900's that was caused by a poorly maintained dam owned by the corporate elite of the era who got away scott free.
on October 31,2012 | 05:34AM
tiki886 wrote:
tiki886 wrote:
I only put the word 'NO' in red but that's missing?
on October 31,2012 | 05:40AM
loquaciousone wrote:
NO I found it.
on October 31,2012 | 02:48PM
palani wrote:
Ah, there's the Star-Advertiser we all know and love, getting it wrong once again. Vote NO on ALL amendments!
on October 31,2012 | 06:32AM
yhls wrote:
To the editor who wrote this piece: Did you just move to Hawaii this year from the mainland ? You shouldn't write an editorial encouraging voters to vote yes on an amendement you clearly do not understand. Autumnrose is spot on. This is exactly how voters are deceived.
on October 31,2012 | 06:33AM
bender wrote:
Question 1 is a gift to the large land owners if approved. . I can't think of one land owner who needs help. On Oahu we have Dole Food, Campbell Estate and KSBE operating reservoirs. Some of the GMO people may also be operating reservoirs. Do any of them look like they need help? On Kauai there is A&B, Amfac, Gay and Robinson, and Pfleuger. Some of the Kauai sugar lands fell into developers hands but they have the ability to pay. . Again, none of these folks need help. On Maui we have A&B and various subsidiaries. Again, no help needed. My knowledge of the Big Island is less but I suspect most of the reservoirs are again owned by defunct sugar operators who are still large land owners and not exactly poor. KSBE to their credit has already upgraded the reservoirs they own on the North Shore. One other thing, we see proposed changed to our state constitution just about every election. But have been repeatedly denied a ConCon. If our state constituion is truly a living document that evolves, then when is the legislature going to let the people participate. As it now stands, they only let us vote on what they deem appropriate.
on October 31,2012 | 07:02AM
from_da_cheapseats wrote:
KSBE has upgraded their reservoirs, A&B has taken them down. If you're a charitable trust that PAYS NO TAXES, you can do that. Are you, Bender, a charity? No? So you'd do the same thing as A&B plus other businesses and take it down. TAKE THEM DOWN, including the small land owners. Why? The dam regs are so tight that dams are being destroyed. The LEGISLATURE screwed up, and got an unintended consequence. Part of the problem is that decades ago they mandated the DLNR monitor the dam safety. BUT THEY DIDNT fund that monitoring. AND they said DLNR isn't liable for NOT monitoring. So that when Kaloko happened, the state said, DON'T SUE US, even though the law said they were supposed to monitor once every 5 years. The Leg changed the law in part so that no one would BLAME them for the kaloko condition, which they failed us on.
on October 31,2012 | 08:03AM
from_da_cheapseats wrote:
The legislature's new dam safety regulations, post Kaloko, have caused dam owners, big and small, to 'decommission' their dams. Take them down. A HUGE number of dam owners have destroyed dams built by plantations, all over the islands, and then sold, when the plantations went out of business. For these new dam owners, they found out that, after Kaloko, it now costs too much money to fix it - because running a dam almost always doesn't provide a return. In other words, the DAM business DOESN'T EASILY MAKE MONEY. This is why you the public are being asked to lend the money for the repairs. Small dam owners don't have a million dollars lying around to fix And banks won't lend it to them. So they do the rational thing, and close the dam. After which, there is no water available to the farmers downstream, unless they pay a lot of money to drill a well, and more money to run a pump. And the water table is depleted. And the rain water goes into the ocean. And agriculture goes away, thanks to expensive water (to go with expensive labor). IF YOU DONT VOTE FOR THIS, PLEASE DON'T ACT LIKE YOU BELIEVE THAT AGRICULTURE IS THE WAY TO GO FOR HAWAII - how can you make money if you don't have water, and it costs too much to get water out of the ground.
on October 31,2012 | 07:51AM
Malani wrote:
Under the state Constitution's mandatory retirement provisions, a judge's appointment to the bench ends at age 70. What is there that is hard to understand? Go find the men and women who are qualified to be Judges. We have them here in Hawaii and they need a job too. These retired Judges already have the benefits afforded them when they retired. As for the Constitution, my response, NO, NO.
on October 31,2012 | 07:56AM
allie wrote:
true..there are thousands of young attorneys who need work out here
on October 31,2012 | 10:19AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Vote NO to question 1. The state needs to stop issue bonds, which, for those of you who do not know, is borrowed money that increases the state’s debt and the burden on our children and grandchildren. I do not believe what the story says about dam owners being responsible for repaying the loan and that taxpayers would not incur any debt obligation. That may be what they are saying now to get your vote for the amendment, but I did not read that in HB2594CD1.
on October 31,2012 | 08:07AM
from_da_cheapseats wrote:
I can testify, this is a loan, not a freebie. And the state can take the land, and dam, in the event of non-payment.
on October 31,2012 | 08:31AM
from_da_cheapseats wrote:
Of course, the question becomes: is owning a dam a good thing, ie, would the state want to take the land and dam over if the barrower can't pay. Obviously, many many dam owners have decided it is not a good thing, and have voluntarily taken down their dams
on October 31,2012 | 08:33AM
Larry01 wrote:
It's not a loan from the state (nor a freebie) - please see my above response to Ronin006.
on October 31,2012 | 08:56AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Please cite your source.
on October 31,2012 | 01:00PM
Larry01 wrote:
You don't understand what a special purpose revenue bond is. It's not a loan from the state. It's a financing mechanism where the borrower lines up his own private investors, and is liable to pay them back 100%. The bonds are tax exempt, which makes them more attractive to investors, but does not count against the state's debt, or any burden on our children and grandchildren, because it's not the state's money.
on October 31,2012 | 08:55AM
Ronin006 wrote:
I stand corrected.
on October 31,2012 | 05:21PM
Larry01 wrote:
Thanks. Plenty of people have a misconception about these bonds. Whenever the subject come up, a better job needs to be done on educating the public.
on November 1,2012 | 07:34AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Vote No to Question 2. The amendment, if approved, would allow judges to retire at age 70, draw retirement pay, and then be rehired with full-time pay to serve as “temporary judges” for terms not to exceed three months for each appointment. We have seen something like this before in other city and state agencies where employees retired and then went back to work under so-called temporary three-month appointments. And what happened? Many of the temporary hires were reappointed every three months for several years. Too much abuse.
on October 31,2012 | 08:26AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:


No socializing maintenance costs for private landowners. If you have that much land, get a loan; otherwise, sell the land you cannot afford.

Old judges are not needed. Open it up for the younger folks. Retire already - who do you think you are....a senator from Hawaii?

on October 31,2012 | 08:52AM
Anonymous wrote:
Maneki_Neko, you need to understand how a Special Purpose Revenue Bond works. It simply allows the landowner access to financing at a lower interest rate but it does not mean that taxpayers are in any way subsidizing the landowner's cost. The landowner is still 100% liable for repaying the bonds. Special Purpose Revenue Bonds are used when there is a compelling public interest in providing a public or private entity with access to lower cost financing. In this case, these dams that were built over 100 years ago now supply water to old legacy irrigation systems that serve hundreds of small farmers. Sooner or later, the landowners will figure out that it makes no sense to keep the dams and will take them down. That will kill agriculture in the state.
on October 31,2012 | 01:30PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
As I recall, special revenue bonds differ from the GO bonds in that they are secured by a pledge of a specific stream of income and are typically non-recourse in nature. However, even if the underlying bond documents contain a covenant by the issuer that the pledged revenues will be sufficient to meet debt service (is this true in this case?) the bondholders still bear the risk of nonpayment. Ting is, this is complex stuff with lots of nuances and the general public should not have questions like this dropped on the ballot in a hide the salami style.
on October 31,2012 | 04:40PM
AmbienDaze wrote:
eloquently stated.
on November 1,2012 | 11:31AM
DABLACK wrote:
How come the water coming out of the ground at Pearl City, Pearl Kai and Aiea is not used ?? The Board of Water guys rather raise their fees than re-use good water for our daily use. Still waiting for a reasonable response from the water guys !?!
on October 31,2012 | 09:39AM
LAX2HNL wrote:
Ridiculous editorial.. . . Especially the second one. The public voted against what this editor wanted, so is urging the public to vote for a measure that undercuts what the public has already decided upon...NO NO NO NO
on October 31,2012 | 09:47AM
allie wrote:
on October 31,2012 | 10:21AM
OwenMiyamoto wrote:
Unfortunately the majority of the comments on Question 1 indicate a complete misunderstanding of how special purpose revenue bonds are financed. As the editorial points out the debt service is the responsibility of the reservoir owner, not the general public. The bonds will provide a low interest source of financing for repairs needed to maintain current design standards. Privately owned dams and reservoirs are part of the infrastructure for water management. Trapping stream flow saves valuable fresh water from flowing into the ocean' In addition to storing water for agriculture as needed, there is a portion that seeps into the ground to recharge the fresh water lens for pumping into the domestic water system. Voters are urged to vote YES on Question 1.
on October 31,2012 | 10:35AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Owen, these amendments may have value but is the ballot the place for voters to make these type of decisions? Most of these amendments are vaguely worded and not comprehensible to the average voter. Unless one studies the issue before voting, most voters won't fully understand the implications of a YES or NO vote that's done on the fly in a hot elementary school cafeteria.
on October 31,2012 | 01:31PM
Larry01 wrote:
You make a good point about whether the ballot is the place for a decision. Unfortunately, constitutional amendments are required to be ratified by a vote of the people, and the constitution has to be amended for both of the purposes (dams and judges) involved. Too bad a better educational effort wasn't made, but I'm sure that would have cost some money, and you know how the people on this board love to squawk about government spending....
on October 31,2012 | 04:16PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Look folks...there has been no good side by side discussion of the pros and cons on any of the amendments. Most people simply do not have enough information to make an informed judgment. Have you read all the details? Know the subject in depth? Heard credible discussion from people you trust? Nah....

Therefore....vote NO on them all. We have way too many examples of politicians and special interests slipping stuff by us under broad descriptions that do not tell us all the details.

on October 31,2012 | 01:33PM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
This is a good public editorial. Unfortunately, most voters will not see this. The problem with putting out such a vote on these issues is that most voters have not been informed about these issues. The ballot does not have the information. The wording itself is very legalese and hard to understand to the average Joe. They can help by having a help section that would put it in everyday wording. Further, insight into the issue could be added such as those put out in this editorial. I can see the votes being "no" for the first issue because most may interpret the issue as a matter of making the taxpayers cover the cost of the reservoir repairs when in actuality it is not completely the case. In the second a voter may vote "no" because they may not want retired state employees returning to work because of costs to taxpayers that may be higher if this were to occur. We would be paying these retired judges their retirement pay and their current salary at the going rate at the same time. If this is the case, I, too, would be wary. I see this in the federal sector where retirees return to their jobs collecting their retirement pay and their going rate salary at the same time. This is a form of double-dipping and it is rampant in the military. This kind of thing not only costs the taxpayers a lot but it also prevents well qualified workers who cannot even get a job to apply for the job. What is even more wrong with this is that these retirees get the job through cronyism. Anyone who sees this going on are instructed to report it but we all know what that means. It means that the whistle blower will either lose his or her job or be punished through being passed for promotions or raises. And that doesn't even go into the way these bosses will treat the whistle blower. Yes, they have sessions to inform federal workers on whistle blowing but even those that run these sessions evade the cronyism issue. The Star-Advertiser would find some interesting things if they decide to investigate this matter. TheBus has a reputation of only hiring people who have connections to the family of current bus drivers. Cronyism is alive and well in America.
on October 31,2012 | 11:15AM
jasurace wrote:
Does this sort of thing really go into the state constitution? When you start putting in "micro-amendments" like this to do such specific things that really ought to be handled by the state legislature, you are basically recreating California's proposition process under a different name. And trust me, that has been an absolute disaster. California has almost no discretionary budget as much of it is tied up by poorly thought-out propositions. And many times these things are so tricky in terms of wording that they actually achieve the exact opposite of what they claim (often by design).
on October 31,2012 | 12:01PM
loquaciousone wrote:
You mean like the rail thing?
on October 31,2012 | 01:13PM
Pacej001 wrote:
Very useful editorial position. Vote? No and No.
on October 31,2012 | 01:03PM
Anonymous wrote:
Special purpose revenue bonds are repaid by the landowner, not the state or taxpayers. Taxpayers are NOT subsidizing the landowner's cost to repair or maintain the dams. Besides, the old days when the dams and all the downstream land was owned by a sugar plantation are long gone. The legacy dams and irrigation systems today serve many smaller private farms who would all be put out of business if the owner of the dam decides to take the dam down. If you want to kill small farm agriculture, vote NO on Amendment 1. If you want to give small agriculture a shot, vote YES. Again, TAXPAYER MONEY IS NOT USED TO REPAY SPECIAL PURPOSE REVENUE BONDS.
on October 31,2012 | 01:09PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Anytime you hear politicians asking for the right to issue bonds, raise taxes, get special spending permissions.....run away as fast as you can. Time after time the public gets hoodwinked by these innocent sounding, noble causes that turn out to have all sorts of insider deals and stuff we never expected. Otherwise, why was all discussion about this stuff hidden away until the last week? Huh? Huh?
on October 31,2012 | 01:36PM
false wrote:
Vote who cares - why is minutia in our state constitution - the level of nonsense in Hawaii politics is a symptom of the amazingly stupid pols we have elected. Dumb and dumber is Hawaiian way.
on October 31,2012 | 05:30PM
Kuahiwi wrote:
For information on the pros and cons of these amendments, go to the non-partisan League of Women Voters - Hawaii website: http://www.lwv-hawaii.com. The Star-Advertiser should not be telling people how to vote - it should educate people on both sides of the issues so that they can make informed choices themselves. Your editorial here is a disservice to voters.
on October 31,2012 | 09:30PM
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