On Monday, the Legislature convened a public hearing at the Hawai‘i State Capitol Auditorium with key government entities and the general public on state funding for the City & County of Honolulu’s rail project.
The hearing was led by the respective chairs of the Senate Committees on Ways and Means, Transportation and Energy, and Public Safety, Intergovernmental & Military Affairs alongside their counterparts in the House Committees on Finance, and Transportation. What turned out to be a seven-hour briefing served as a prolong discussion between the State Legislature, the City & County of Honolulu, the County Councils, and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. The lengthy discussions between these bodies of government and HART not only set the groundwork for the real question at hand, which is how will we be funding Honolulu’s rail system.
Prior to the public hearing, five options were presented by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means covering the potential funding mechanisms necessary to finance the Honolulu Rail system. These proposals included a mix of extending and raising the general excise tax, adding an increase to the transient accommodations tax, and discussions on whether funding for this project should come just from Oahu or statewide.
In response to the potential inclusion of the transient accommodations tax to the funding formula, over 50 hospitality leaders and associates from the HLTA membership made their way down to the capitol to share our concerns during the briefing. I would like to send my mahalo to all those who came out to rally for the industry on Monday, to those who sent in testimony for the hearing, and to the 142 individuals that signed on to HLTA’s letter opposing a raise to the TAT, which I presented to the executive branch and key political leaders. Also kudos to Rick Egged, Ed Case, and Mike White who joined me in offering public testimony. We will continue to stay vigilant as we near the tentative special session date of August 28th. We appreciate the engagement of those that have participated in the process thus far and we will continue to seek your support for this very important issue.
In other HLTA news, over the weekend, tourists and locals in the International Market Place got a glimpse of Hawaii’s Golden Days as a statue of music legend Don Ho was unveiled in the very place he used to reign supreme with his nightly entertainment at the popular Duke Kahanamoku's night club. To celebrate the statue, a blessing ceremony with speakers and performances by the Ho family and Kimo Kahoano took place in the early afternoon, followed by special entertainment by Hawaiian music all-stars, Melveen Leed, Marleen Sai, Nina Kealiiwahamana, Kimo Kahoano, Nathan Aweau, Henry Kapono, and more. During the entertainment portion, my staff and I presented in conjunction with the Pauahi Foundation, the first-ever Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association Don Ho Legacy Scholarship to this year’s inaugural recipient Daylan-Blake Kala‘i, who will be attending New York University to pursue performing arts this Fall. Joining us on stage to make the presentation was Haumea Ho, Uncle Don's widow. We were following through on a commitment we had made to Haumea and son Dwight when we presented Don Ho, posthumously with the Na Poe Paahana Legacy Award in 2016 that we would establish such a scholarship in his honor. I also commended Jack and Cha Thompson of Tihati Productions for raising funds years ago to enable HLTA to recognize the arts and music in this fashion. Congratulations to Michael Fenley, the GM of International Market Place and his staff for a job well done.
On Monday, several members of HLTA attended a presentation by Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research and Policy for Americans for the Arts, who shared compelling research from the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 (AEP5) report. This national study, conducted by Americans for the Arts and implemented in Hawaii by the Hawaii Arts Alliance, details the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in the State of Hawaii. The AEP5 report showed that the nonprofit arts and culture sector is a $205.6 million industry in the State of Hawai‘i, and supports 5,968 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $23.2 million in local and state government revenue. Nationally, a U.S. Department of Commerce study found that the arts is a $730 billion industry- 4.2% of the GDP. This shows that the arts not only enhance our quality of life, but is also a viable economic driver in our communities that intersect with many industries, including tourism. To read the report, visit the Hawaii Arts Alliance website: http://www.hawaiiartsalliance.org/aep5. For more information about Americans for the Arts and the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5, visit http://www.americansforthearts.org/by-program/reports-and-data/research-studies-publications/arts-economic-prosperity-5
Finally, mahalo to all our sponsors, volunteers, and golfers who attended HLTA’s 18th annual Scholarship Golf Tournament last week Thursday at the Hawaii Prince Golf Course. Together we raised over $55,000 to support HLTA scholarships and educational programs! I’d also like to give a shout out to emcees Kimo Kahoano and Senator Brickwood Galuteria who did a great job announcing our prize winners and conducting a live auction that evening to continue with the day’s festivities.
My staff and I with our inaugural Don Ho Legacy Scholarship recipient Daylan-Blake Kala'i and Haumea Ho at the Interational Market Place.
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