Briefs | East side


Green still building up war chest

State Sen. Josh Green won re-election last November with enough cash left over to fund his campaign nearly four more times.

But the Democrat representing Kona and Ka‘u is already looking to expand his war chest of $312,705 — more than three times the amount held by the other 10 members of the Big Island’s state congressional delegation combined.

Green will host his first post-election fundraiser Thursday at the Pacific Club in Honolulu.

The event, with a suggested contribution of $500, starts at 5:30 p.m., and Green said he won’t miss out on his duties at the state Capitol that day.

Green referred to the event as a nearly annual gathering of friends, family and supporters around his birthday and noted state law doesn’t prevent fundraising while the Legislature is in session. He declined to comment on the campaign cash he has accumulated from donors over nine years in the Legislature.

He also declined to talk about any future aspirations he may have for other public offices.

Holders of county or state offices can use their donations to run for another office (federal offices excluded), said Tony Baldomero, associate director of the state Campaign Spending Commission. Green, a Kona Community Hospital emergency room physician, would be up for re-election again in 2016.

State Sen. Gil Kahele, D-Hilo, is the only other Big Island legislator to hold a post-election fundraiser. His campaign reported a deficit of $9,887 as of Dec. 31. Three other Big Island representatives — Nicole Lowen, Mark Nakashima and Russell Ruderman — also reported campaign deficits, mainly due to loans from the candidates themselves that went unpaid.

After Green, Rep. Clift Tsuji, D-Hilo, has the biggest campaign surplus with $73,677.

Man pleads no contest in deal with prosecutors

A 23-year-old Puna man prosecutors say raped a stranded woman driver after picking her up hitchhiking pleaded no contest Tuesday to kidnapping and second-degree theft.

In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped two first-degree sex assault charges against John Tak. Tak’s five-year probation in a previous felony credit card fraud case was revoked as part of the plea deal. He is scheduled to be sentenced on both the current case and on the probation revocation on April 4 at 8 a.m. before Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara.

The judge said he intends to follow the plea deal, which calls for 18 months of jail time with all but six months suspended, as long as Tak complies with terms of probation and doesn’t commit another crime.

The kidnapping charge carries a possible 10-year prison term, while second-degree theft is punishable by up to five years in prison. First-degree sex assault carries a possible 20-year prison sentence.

County expects property tax revenue to hold steady

Hawaii County could be on the verge of turning a budgetary corner.

Early projections show property tax revenue — the county’s main source of funding — staying flat in the next fiscal year that begins in July, said county Finance Director Nancy Crawford.

While still preliminary and months away from being final, the projection could mean that the 2013-2014 budget would be the first in four years without a drop in property tax revenue, she said.

“For us, this is a plus,” Crawford said, “that (property) values appear to be holding.”

Last year, the county budgeted $196 million in property tax revenue. That’s down 18 percent from 2008.

Mayor Billy Kenoi will submit his first budget proposal to the County Council on Feb. 28.

Kenoi called the projection “very speculative at this point” and noted he is still directing the department heads to keep expenses from rising.

“Until we get some hard numbers we’re taking a let’s wait-and-see (approach),” he said by phone Tuesday from Honolulu, where he was providing testimony on legislation.

“We’re asking everyone to once again to make conservative budgets,” he added.

The county sets tax rates on nine different property classes. How much revenue is received depends on property values.

Property value assessments are done annually, Crawford said. Numbers won’t be final until April, she said.