Ho’okele News: Toxoplasmosis impacts Hawaii’s native wildlife

(Via: Ho’okele News)

August 17, 2018

Navy Public Affairs Support Element Detachment Hawaii

In Hawaii, the growth of feral cat colonies is endangering Hawaii’s indigenous birds, marine animals and other native wildlife through toxoplasmosis, which is spread through the cat’s feces. Cats are the only known reproductive host of the toxoplasmosis parasite.

Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the parasite toxoplasma gondii. It enters the environment when its eggs are shed through the feces of cats. Billions of eggs can be dispersed into the environment from just one cat over a two-week period of infection. The eggs remain alive and infectious for months to years after they leave the cat.

Angela Amlin, Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said the increase in feral cat populations has had a direct effect on the increasing number of cases involving monk seals, Hawaiian coots, ducks and booby birds.

“We currently estimate the amount of feral cats on Oahu alone are anywhere from 50,000 to 300,000,” said Amlin.

“The primary thing that people can do to help is keep pet cats indoors and not to abandon unwanted cats or kittens outdoors or at feral cat colonies.”

NOAA fisheries shared the unfortunate news that three female monk seals were found dead between May 15-17 on Oahu. This revelation brings the known monk seal mortalities from toxoplasmosis to 11.

The disease is also responsible for killing native birds like the alala and nene in the terrestrial environment.

The parasite can also be washed downstream by rainfall and flow into the near-shore environment, where they infect monk seals as well as spinner dolphins. Cats that roam and defecate outdoors in any part of the island eco- system can become carriers and spreaders and ultimately cause the death of native wildlife.

Given that not all deceased seals are recovered for examination, it is likely the reported mortality numbers from toxoplasmosis are higher, as more mortalities have likely gone undetected.

Amlin added that a trend is emerging wherein female seals are disproportionately affected compared to males.

“This exacerbates the impact on the entire species,” she said. “As each female seal lost to the population means that all of her potential future off- spring are lost as well.”

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/ parasites/toxoplasmosis/ or email any questions to monksealinfo@noaa.gov.

Source: Ho’okele News

Star Advertiser: Supreme court hears arguments on constitutionality of city, state rail tax issue

(Via Star Advertiser)

By: Sophie Cocke

September 6, 2018

A judge is expected to rule Friday on a motion by Hawaii’s four counties to remove a question from November election ballots that would allow voters to amend the Hawaii Constitution and give the state authority to tax investment real estate to support public education.

The counties are suing the state to try to stop the question from being posed to voters, arguing among other things that the way the Legislature worded the ballot question is unlawfully vague. The counties, which currently have the exclusive power to levy property taxes, have also expressed concerns that allowing the state this additional taxing authority could cut into their ability to raise revenue for county services.

On Tuesday, First Circuit Judge Jeff Crabtree granted the counties’ request to expedite a hearing on a motion for preliminary injunction. The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Kauikeaouli Hale in downtown Honolulu.

The counties are hoping that Crabtree will go so far as to invalidate the ballot question.

“State law requires ‘the language and meaning of a constitutional amendment [to] be clear and … neither misleading nor deceptive,’” wrote Honolulu Corporation Counsel Donna Leong in a statement to the media. “Here, the question is misleading and deceptive.”

The wording of the question, as approved by the Legislature, is to state:

“Shall the legislature be authorized to establish, as provided by law, a surcharge on investment real property to be used to support public education?”

Hawaii Attorney General Russell Suzuki said in documents filed with the court on Wednesday that the counties’ arguments are without merit and that enjoining the state from placing the proposed constitutional amendment on ballots could disrupt the general election. He wrote that there are 240 ballot types that would need to be “changed, proofed and coordinated with the counting system.”

Suzuki also argued that the language of the question was clear and that the counties have two months before the general election to educate voters on their position on the amendment.

A majority of voters would need to vote “yes” for the proposed constitutional amendment to pass. The amendment would only give the Legislature the power to tax property for public education. Whether the state would impose such a tax, who exactly would be taxed and by how much would still have to be debated and approved by legislators.

Source: Star Advertiser

Star Advertiser: Most speak against vacation rental bill

(Via Star Advertiser)

By:  Gordon Y.K. Pang

September 6, 2018

Most of the nearly 50 people who testified on Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s proposed short-term vacation rental bill Wednesday found something to dislike about it.

One segment of those who spoke said the omnibus bill goes too far by allowing an unlimited number of bed-and-breakfast establishments in Oahu’s residential districts while another group said the measure would be too onerous for families just trying to make a few extra dollars to get by.

With 35 registered speakers yet to speak and time running out for the allotted use of the Mission Memorial Auditorium, the Honolulu Planning Commission halted the hearing at 4 p.m. and will resume taking testimony at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 19.

Chairwoman Kai‘ulani Sodaro said the commission will make a recommendation to the Honolulu City Council on the draft bill after public testimony closes. Under city rules, the commission has 30 days from the close of a public hearing to make a recommendation on a draft bill.

Among the key components of the draft of the omnibus short-term rental bill:

>> It allows for the permitting of an unlimited number of bed-and-breakfast establishments in residential districts, but only for owner-occupants with home exemptions. But it bars transient vacation units in residential neighborhoods, allowing a limited number of them in apartment and business districts, also only for those with home exemptions. Permits would need to be renewed annually.

>> It creates new property tax classifications for both B&Bs and TVUs, which more than likely would require the owner-operators to pay at a higher rate than standard residential property owners.

>> It makes it illegal to advertise without displaying the number from one’s approved registration permit. It also establishes stiff penalties for those who violate vacation rental laws — a minimum of $10,000 for violating B&B provisions, a minimum of $25,000 for TVUs.

Kathy Sokugawa, the city’s acting planning director, said she does not believe the bill and two accompanying measures will solve all the issues tied to vacation rentals. “However, we believe that it will strongly and significantly improve enforcement and reduce the impact on residential neighbors,” she said.

Bed-and-breakfast units are rented for less than 30 days by an owner living in the same dwelling. Transient vacation rentals are units rented for less than 30 days where the owner does not live in the same dwelling at the same time. The city stopped issuing permits for both in 1989-90, except in hotel-­resort zones.

As the number of illegal vacation rentals has grown exponentially in the nearly 30 years since, successive mayors and City Councils have grappled with a new model to balance the different interests. The Department of Planning and Permitting reports there are only 816 legally recognized B&Bs and TVUs on Oahu, but that there are between 8,000-10,000 illegal vacation rentals.

Kailua resident Stu Simmons said he’s adamantly opposed to the omnibus bill, arguing that it could make Oahu’s housing crunch even worse by essentially allowing visitor accommodations to be legal in most residential neighborhoods.

“This would spread tourism sprawl everywhere,” Simmons said, adding that he fears “tens of thousands of homes could be converted to short-term rentals” if the bill passes.

John Price, a Kailua resident, said he sees no reason the city should allow more vacation rentals when it has a difficult time enforcing existing laws.

One illegal operator he’s aware of had accrued more than $600,000 in fines but “DPP compromised the fine down to $1,000 and offered only the explanation that they seek compliance, not punishment,” Price said.

Martine Aceves-Foster said she rents out a room in her Kailua home “to help make ends meet.” Her guests include family and friends of nearby residents as well as tourists who’ve already stayed in Waikiki and want a different experience. Area businesses get a boost from those staying with her, she said.

While she supports the idea of fair legislation for short-term rentals, Aceves-Foster said, she questioned the plan to force B&Bs and TVUs to pay more in property taxes when she already pays excise, transient accommodations, state and federal income taxes. She said she earned $10,780 before taxes by renting out her guest room 137 days last year. “I honestly feel that doubling my property taxes for earning such a modest amount for renting one bedroom in my home for less than half a year is excessive,” she said.

Others who support short-term rentals also took issue with the new tax classes and suggested that only the portion of the homes being rented be taxed at the higher rate.

Aiea resident Cara Goodrich said she supports the intent of the new bill but believes there should also be an opportunity for people to operate TVUs in residential zones.

She and her husband are paying for the expenses of three generations of family members and being able to rent their house would help, she said.

“The long-term goal of my husband and I was to move to a neighbor island and retire, and rent out the two extra rooms,” something they would not be able to do without a TVU permit, Goodrich said.

Source: Star Advertiser