Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Shane Sinenci, a candidate for the Maui County Council’s East Maui District. There is one other candidate, Robert Carroll.
Name: Shane Sinenci
Office seeking: Maui County Council
Occupation: Special education teacher
Community organizations/prior offices held: Hana Community Association chair; Advisory Committee to County Planning Department; Aha Moku Hana representative
Place of residence: Hana, Maui
Campaign website: votesinenci.com
1: This year has seen an outsized influence from people who want big changes in how government is run. What would you do to change how the Council is run?
County government can be cumbersome for the average resident who wants to safety check their car, build an addition or rent space for a family event. The process can be a stressful one that includes additional fees, insurance coverage or lengthy wait times for project inspectors. If elected, I will work to make county government transparent, accessible to the public and eager to work with its constituents.
Lately, our local government seems disconnected from its constituents by refusing to certify county elections and more recently, halting work with individual community plans. It is important that we empower individual communities and make government work for the everyday working families.
2. Should your county implement a 0.5 percent GET surcharge? If so, for what purpose?
If I were to support a GET surcharge, it would be for county infrastructure repair and for a limited time period. Maui County has public facilities that are 30-50 years old and in disrepair.
Public bathroom facilities are oftentimes under construction and do not meet EPA guidelines for public health and public safety. County wastewater treatment facilities seriously lack new technological advances that will bring utility services into the 21st century. Currently, the Department of Transportation wants to upgrade the Maui Airport to international status if we are to project population and visitor increases, however, county infrastructure cannot handle the added stresses.
3. There is a desire to grow the economy through new development yet also a need to protect our limited environmental resources. How would you balance these competing interests?
With the closure of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. after 125 years of operation, it is important that the county survey the existing water resources and plan for projected development uses. East Maui provides over 600 million gallons of county water each day, and provides the bulk of water resources. However, extensive usage from South Maui means piping water resources to areas that are usually dry and void of water resources. It is imperative that development correspond with the available resources and planning policies establish these practices for years to come.
4. What would you do to strengthen police accountability?
My grandfather was William Roback Sr., and he was a police officer of East Maui for many years. I am proud to say that he loved his job as a public servant, but unfortunately died in the line of duty. It is important that communities work closely with law enforcement and establish healthy working relationships. With community challenges of homelessness and drug addiction, it is important that law officials be properly trained to handle situations that deal with the mentally ill and the abused/abusers. Working in pairs is always good practice; if not, body cameras could be a positive alternative to police work.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I believe that county offices must work closely with state representatives. Oftentimes, local decisions are made on Oahu and detached from their constituents.
I believe government must be transparent and disclose all financial reports on a timely basis. I strongly believe that our government officials must be held accountable to the duties in which they were sworn to uphold.
6. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes, I support the elimination of fees to access public records when it is in the public’s best interest. Oftentimes these regulations are more obstructive than helpful and can contribute to the overall stagnation of local government. I strongly believe that public health and safety should take precedence over the welfare of a select few. I also support the government’s ability to establish eminent domain when addressing environmental health issues.
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I strongly believe in community boards and community associations. Individual communities know their own challenges more intimately than outside perspectives. Individual communities are unique in their histories, characters and residents. It is imperative that we empower these communities so they are involved in future planning and have opportunities to speak in either open or regular forums.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Affordable housing is a pressing issue in my district. High costs of housing developments in Hawaii have trickled down to the consumer and have overpriced housing inventories to the point where many millennial families are leaving the state, or multiple-family living situations are taking place. First, county government needs to support the state’s affordable housing initiatives and fast-track those projects that will put families in homes so they can begin earning equity. The county also needs to research affordable alternatives that include track and tiny home units. Lastly, the county should look into community land trusts that waive the costs of the land and only sell the house structure.