The Maui News - Weekender
A fresh start for local leadership
In a pivotal moment in Maui County and
Hawai‘i Nei’s history, we are starting afresh with a new governor, a new mayor and two new members of the
Maui County Council. The past few years have been turbulent, with COVID spikes and economic uncertainty coupled with global unrest and climate-related disasters. At the start of this new political chapter, our community will need thoughtful, effective leadership that strives to serve the best interests of all sectors of our population.
This past Monday I had the opportunity to attend Gov. Josh Green’s State of the State address, as well as Mayor Richard Bissen’s presentation at the joint briefing of the Finance and Ways and Means Committees. I was heartened by the shared concerns and commitments I heard, and I am hopeful that numerous county-state and county administration-council partnerships can be carried out for the benefit of our people.
Here are a few of the issues that were outlined, which I will also be seeking action on:
≤ Housing — As Gov. Green stated, we need infrastructure and housing units for all income levels including low-income, families, workforce and the unsheltered.
On Maui, we may look at a state-county partnership to expedite the construction of a “kauhale” emergency shelter village, which the governor described as being “low-footprint, low-cost housing” that features tiny homes and shared common kitchen and hygiene facilities as well as access to social and medical services. The emergency proclamation Gov. Green issued is expected to help speed the process along, with a total of 12 kauhale villages planned throughout the state. Mayor Bissen noted that water source and delivery development in Maui County is greatly needed, and that families wanting to subdivide their property to provide housing for their children need access to water and streamlined permitting. I would add that Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiaries on the waitlist need funding and technical assistance to build the homes they have been waiting for, for years and even decades. The time is now.
≤ Community supports — State tax credits are planned to help teachers and caregivers, and to offset the sharp rise in the cost of living. I agree with our governor that no one should be teetering on the brink of poverty, and we must do everything in our power to ensure that families do not need to make a difficult decision between paying for food, their electric bill or even school supplies. A food excise credit would also help about one-third of our population, with another credit for those caring for children and the elderly.
≤ Environmental concerns — At the top of the list is our collective anguish over the handling of the water crisis at Red Hill. Although this is primarily an O‘ahu issue, our hearts are broken over the tainted wai and the chronic pushback and lack of transparency encountered as this environmental crisis has unfolded. Here on Maui, I stand in agreement with Mayor Bissen at the urgency of addressing the overpopulation of axis deer that are ruining Upcountry crops and backyard gardens and creating a traffic hazard for drivers. Over-tourism presents another environmental hazard of sorts and underscores the need for heightened management of this industry that our economy depends on. Gov. Green discussed traveler impact fees, which could help pay for new ways to manage the impacts of the daily influx of visitors to our islands.
≤ Economic development — As we seek out new markets, we must also support existing local businesses, including Native Hawaiian-owned businesses. I agree with Gov. Green that focusing on Hawaiian agricultural products and foods can help us stay connected to the ‘aina, and to each other. To sustain our community and our traditions, these bonds will help us reach a common vision and achieve great success.
Tasha Kama is currently the chair of the Maui County Council. She holds the County Council seat for the Kahului residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Visit mauicounty.us for more information.