Holiday wish: higher fees, better marinas
I must admit that the legal nuances of government are often lost on me.
For instance, I'm not sure I understand why the public hearings for a proposed increase in boaters' mooring and user fees held by the Department of Land and Natural Resources in October were determined to be less than legal and new hearings are to be held next week.
According to one source within the bureaucracy, it's because the notice for the October hearings wasn't posted soon enough on the lieutenant governor's Web site. The boaters I've spoken with didn't even know he had a Web site.
At any rate, October's hearings have been designated as "informal" and the new "real" public hearings have been announced, but I'm willing to bet the testimony will sound pretty much the same.
As one interested, but cynical boater told me recently, even if you have already presented your views, you can't afford to not testify because your earlier testimony may get lost in the shuffle.
With that thought in mind, let's review the reason for the hearings and why every boater in Hawaii should take an interest in speaking out for or against the proposed increases.
The issue that has drawn the most interest has been the proposed hike in the slip fees in our state-operated marinas. These increases will amount to 25 to 40 percent of current fees in the first year, depending on the level of service available at the individual harbors.
As an example, slip fees in the Ala Wai marina -- presently the highest in the state, excluding private marinas -- would be increased from $4.10 per foot a month to $5.25.
Then, providing the Legislature passes two new $10 million capital improvement reimbursable bond issues, there would be additional increases of eight percent in the following two years.
This would bring the fees for boat owners in the Ala Wai up to just over $6 per foot a month beginning in 2008. And, as anyone who has ever moored a boat anywhere else in the U.S. can tell you, this will still be so far below the national average as to be laughable.
Possibly with recognition of that fact, the general consensus at the first "informal" hearing seemed to be that the increases were fair, providing the funds were used to improve the dismal conditions found in virtually every state marina.
In order to have a say in this matter, Oahu's boaters are asked to attend a meeting at either Jefferson Intermediate School or the Keehi Small Boat Harbor on Dec. 20, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., or at the same time on the following night at King Intermediate School, Waianae Small Boat Harbor or the Haleiwa Surf Center.
Maybe we will see a Christmas miracle and everyone will stand up and admit the fee increase is still too low and demand that DLNR begins charging whatever the market will bear; right after we see Santa coming down our chimneys.