Letters for Sunday, June 1, 2008

• Give Juan a ride-along

• Doesn’t want fees raised

• Keeping secrets

• Let’s review the Constitution

• Paying dearly for security


The math of costly energy

It’s the “same old, same old” business as usual with Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative. Now we “members” know for sure how much the KIUC board cares for our input into board elections. The facade of governance by the “members” has given way to the reality of the “Old Boys’ Club.”

They cared zero for what the members wanted and, without making any effort to inform the public of their pet nominations, chose their old buddies (who had not even bothered to run in the election) to come back and join the club.

One thing they do care about, however, is their ability to continue collecting our outrageous fixed “customer charge” and our constantly ballooning “energy adjustment” fees month after month.

I’ll keep this very simple. I live alone in a small apartment and probably use less electricity than 99 percent of the other people on Kaua‘i. Yet last month my “energy adjustment” charge from KIUC was over $53. At my retail pump cost of $4 per gallon, I effectively purchased about 13 extra gallons of fuel for KIUC. Actually, since they get a bulk discount, my $53 probably bought 20-25 extra gallons for KIUC.

I understand there are about 22,000 residential homes on the island. Leaving aside the larger commercial accounts including businesses, hotels, timeshares and churches (all of which presumably have much larger utility bills) and assuming for the sake of argument that my electric bill is typical (even though presumably the bills for families and large homes would be much higher), I did the following calculations:

If each of the 22,000 residential homes paid $53 last month in “energy adjustments,” that would have brought in an extra $1.166 million in one month to KIUC to help them pay for their fuel, or a total of  $13.992 million per year. That is an approximate amount because the charges will undoubtedly increase each month. But who needs that much extra fuel?

Another way to look at it: If each residential “member” (customer) paid for an extra 20 gallons of fuel for KIUC, they would have been forced to provide 440,000 gallons to KIUC for one month, or 5,280,000 gallons per year. Remember this is the most conservative calculation based on my simple, single lifestyle. Remember, too, that these figures do not include the massive amounts collected from commercial “member” accounts.

That’s not all. In addition to the charges for actual electricity used, each residential account also pays a fixed fee of $9.72 each month for a “customer charge.” Thus, those 22,000 homes pay $213,840 each month, or a total of $2.56 million every year just for the “customer charge.”

At what point will people begin to stand up and say, “I’m not going to take this any more?”

Barbara Elmore

Lihu‘e


A landlord’s lament

I was interested to read Howard Tolbe’s letter of May 30 “A renter’s lament.”

From the perspective he put forth, I can empathize with his experience. It’s unfortunate that he is unaware of Hawai‘i’s Landlord-Tenant Code, which is easily obtained at hawaii.gov/dcca/areas/ocp/landlord_tenant/

By law, if a landlord fails to make repairs to the leased property, the tenant can have them made and deduct the cost from his rent if certain time frames are not met. In addition, the landlord cannot unfairly withhold the deposit. This, too, is covered in the code. In reading code, Tolbe may come to realize that Hawai‘i has a very fair way of dealing with these issues and that the code, if anything, leans toward protecting the tenant’s rights.

I was disappointed that in his lament Tolbe failed to recognize the difficulties of being a landlord. He suspected that, “Homeowners who rent their homes, apartments, or studios, are tacking on their property taxes and insurance cost and passing it on to the renter.” Of course they are … if they can. That’s one reason why I was disappointed with ‘Ohana Kaua‘i’s self-serving charter amendment. It places additional cost pressures onto rental properties and, in turn, onto the tenant rents. Do we expect a grocery store not to pass on the rising costs of food, insurance or electricity to its customers?

A landlord, whether it be an owner of an affordable rental or a luxury unit, is a business just as much as any other. The landlord will seek to recover his costs and, hopefully make a return on his investment just like any other business. Why would anyone want to go into business to lose money?

But like a commercial business, the landlord cannot just charge any rate he chooses. He is limited by what the market will bear. If he asks too much, he’ll get no tenants. If he can’t get a tenant, he’ll either lower the rents or get out of the rental business. However, if rents or speculative appreciation, cannot compensate the owner for his investment, he won’t make the investment; he won’t build.

Why do you think that Hawai‘i has not suffered the same real estate devaluations as the Mainland? It’s because the demand for housing here continues to exceed the supply and, by in large, the incomes of the people who can afford to purchase a home here are largely recession and inflation proof.

P. Keat

Makaweli


Glass half empty or half full?

In the Juan Wilson-KPD battle over the perception of life on Kaua‘i, we have a classic glass is half empty or glass is half full scenario.

Please spare me the “you must be naive” comments. I have lived in some high-crime areas and I’m well aware of the dangers that law enforcement faces. Progressive thinkers are not attacking people in law enforcement when they question policies of lawmakers. They are simply questioning whether better decisions from government in structuring society can lead us to a more peaceful society.

I personally believe that most crime is directly related to the inequality of society. I don’t think anyone believes the police are going to go from carrying guns to handing out lollipops overnight, but you have to believe we can do better, right?

I was watching the PBS show “Now” earlier this year and one city on the Mainland figured out it was cheaper to provide housing and food for homeless people, without any conditions, than it was for the city to keep picking up the homeless in police cars and ambulances and taking them to the E.R. or jail.

Imagine that, government with a social conscious actually costing less. That was a policy change that seemed to benefit everyone involved and law enforcement benefited the most. Or maybe the glass-is-half-empty people are right and we are always going to need heavily armed police to keep the peace between rich and poor.

Maybe people are just inherently flawed and only the most greedy of people will reach the top of our society and continue to make self-serving decisions. I don’t really know. What do you believe?

Jason S. Nichols

Koloa

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