Leasehold measure’s
detractors turn to TV

A video to air on 'Olelo says
Hawaiian trusts would lose income

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Opponents of a key leasehold conversion bill now before the Honolulu City Council are taking to the airwaves and the streets to get their message out.

A video titled "All the Queen's Children" will begin airing this weekend on public access cable television.

Sponsored by the nonprofit Pua Foundation, the video spells out concerns raised by the Queen Liliuokalani Trust against Bill 53, which seeks to bolster the city's mandatory leasehold conversion law.

The video, by filmmaker Anne Keala Kelly, pointedly accuses bill introducer John Henry Felix and others who have given preliminary OK for the bill as attempting to rob Liliuokalani's legacy.

The four other Council members who have supported the bill thus far are Duke Bainum, Steve Holmes, Gary Okino and Jon Yoshimura.

The video calls on supporters of the trust to join native Hawaiian organizations for a protest march from the Royal Mausoleum in Nuuanu to Iolani Palace at 10 a.m. Monday, the queen's birthday. A rally is slated for noon on the palace grounds.

Lono Correa, a grass-roots organizer for Kupaa Mahope o Liliuokalani, a loosely knit coalition dedicated to supporting the causes of the trust, said both the video and the march are designed to educate the public about the trust's objections to the leasehold conversion bill.

Set up by Liliuokalani to aid destitute and orphaned children, the trust is not directly addressed in the bill.

The nonprofit's trustees, however, charge that passage of Bill 53 could greatly affect its income stream and, in effect, the more than 300 programs it funds.

Foster Tower, one of four properties in Waikiki that the trust owns and from which it derives income, is among the condominiums that would be eligible for leasehold conversion under the bill.

Felix said yesterday that while he respects the work of the trust, opponents have grossly overstated its impact.

The annual interest returned from the proceeds of the sale of the fee units could even be greater than what the trust now receives in lease income, he said.

Further, he said, property rights law would allow the trust, because it is still the major interest in the Foster Tower property, to develop the site at a future date even if the other owners oppose it.

Council members have stated repeatedly that the bill is designed simply to clarify their original intent of the leasehold conversion law, which allows qualified leasehold owner-occupants to gain title to the land under their units by using the city's powers of eminent domain.

The Hawaii Supreme Court issued an opinion in late June that threw the city's condominium leasehold conversion act into limbo by limiting the number of owner-occupants who could initiate a mandatory conversion action.

The bill seeks to increase the number who could qualify.

But Correa described the bill as "a major policy shift being done without real discussion in the community."

The 26-minute video can been seen on 'Olelo, cable channel 53, at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. Saturday and at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. Sunday.

E-mail to City Desk


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