Mayor, of County of Maui, 12 years; current chair, Hawaii Council of Mayors; current Maui County Civil Defense chief administrator; current member, Hawaii Military Affairs Council; current member, U.S. Council of Mayors;
current member, National Association of Counties; current board member, Maui Shrine Club; current board member, Maui Economic Development Agency; current member, Kula Community Association, Maui Japanese Society and the Shrine Club and the Masons; honorary member, Royal Order of Kamehameha; Maui County Council member, six years; elected to Maui County Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Services Committee, seven years; Maui Vegetable Growers Association member; Maui Pork Producers Association member; Sierra Club member; Kiwanis Club and Kihei Community Association member; Maui Youth and Family Services board member; Maui Mental Health Association board member; Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc. board member; past vice president, Board of the Kahului Town Association; past president, Board of Maui Hui Malama school; past board member and president and current member, Maui Okinawa Cultural Center.
1. Are changes needed in how the County Council is run, and if so what are they?
Yes, there should be some minimum experience and education requirements to be eligible to run for the council seats. This is the highest level of government in each county and individuals who wish to serve on the council should be required to have some professional qualifications. The council creates and changes laws so some knowledge of the legal system should be required.
The council establishes the county budget and appropriates the funds for the construction of facilities as well as operating costs. It also reviews audits and appraisals of property; some business and accounting background should be required. The council also evaluates the management of the personnel and the finances of each department; a business management background should be required.
2. The Legislature has authorized Maui County to implement a 0.5 percent GET surcharge. Should the county do it, and if so, what should the additional revenue be spent on?
The rules of the Maui County Council allow the chairman of each committee to decide which topics to present to the remaining members. The 0.5 percent GET surcharge was never scheduled for discussion or evaluation.
As passed by the state Legislature, the 0.5 percent GET surcharge, if approved by the Maui County Council, would have provided resources to fund repair or construction of roads. Maui has a number of roads that would benefit from such a fund. A partial list of such roads that would benefit our community include a Paia bypass, a Kihei to Haliimaile roadway, reorganizing all of the roads in and around Haiku and Makawao, and an additional road out of Kihei, which would be important during a natural disaster such as a tsunami.
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?
New developments in and of themselves, do not grow the economy. There are many infrastructural challenges that are also part of the equation. If no new jobs are created, how will the residents make a living and support themselves? If the schools, hospitals, water and sewage systems are overtaxed, what is the cost of upgrades and labor?
We have to continue to expand our carrying capacity studies to obtain a good idea of how much development is good and desirable and what is the cost to our environmental and financial resources? Infill construction should be encouraged and growth boundaries need to be respected. New development needs to be planned around available infrastructure to minimize costs. “No Build” zones need to be established to protect sensitive areas.
4. What would you do, if anything, to strengthen police accountability?
Maui’s Police Department reports all personnel actions to the mayor’s office and meets regularly with the mayor. The mayor has access to the police stations and is able to check with any of the department staff as necessary. We also work cooperatively on many joint projects such as homeless sweeps, problem areas that require cleanup, etc.
All economic expenditures are posted and reported. Maui’s Police Department has good policies to ensure accountability.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
County Council members have no direct authority to pass laws in these three areas. These areas are controlled by state laws, which come under the jurisdiction of the state Legislature.
6. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I have always had and will continue to have an open door policy. I’m available to meet with anyone; all that they need to do is to call my office to make an appointment. Walk-ins are discouraged due to previously scheduled appointments resulting in long wait times.
That being said, many complaints about elected officials not listening to voters stem from those who are unsatisfied with the answers they are receiving. Many elected officials generally communicate with hundreds of people on a regular basis. They are required to listen to public testimony during formal meetings. Elected officials attend many meetings and go to many site inspections. They receive advice from administrative professionals and have staff to assist them in researching positions on various subjects.
If the constituents have logical arguments/ideas, elected officials generally take these suggestions into consideration.
8. What more should Maui County be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
We have already created “No Build” zones by purchasing or acquiring by donation approximately 80 percent of our north and south shores. We have many ocean research projects in process, such as coral studies, fish studies, whale studies, etc. We have many studies of erosion and sea level rise with suggestions from experts in the field on how to deal with sea level rise, land use issues, and how to create “No Build” zones.
9. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Creating affordable housing is the most pressing issue in Maui County right now. The county needs to acquire large tracks of land near infrastructure and contract with the private sector to construct affordable units, both for rent and for ownership. We also need to continue to support funding for affordable and workforce housing as well as homeless shelter programs until we can catch up to the demand.
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