Editor’s note: Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.
The following came from Hannibal Starbuck, a candidate for Maui County Council (Upcountry). There is one other candidate, Yuki Lei Sugimura.
1. Are changes needed in how the County Council is run, and if so what are they?
For the most part, the County Council’s structure and procedures are adequate and sufficient. It is important for each of the eight members besides the council chair to chair one of the eight committees and for each person to be a voting member on several committees. The choice for these appointments should be based on experience, expertise, interest, and possibly district characteristics and determined through amiable discussion.
I do think that when members want to place items on the agenda of any committee, within reason, that this should be a fair and easy process, even with unpopular items or items with large disagreement. This allows for public testimony and strengthens our democratic process. I think that the current amount of access for the public and the transparency of process is reasonable, with videos available online, remote testimony available for hard to reach areas, and time for all testifiers to speak out on important Maui issues. I would support continuing the discussion on term limits for council members to 10 years total, regardless of consecutive terms, and placing this on the ballot for voters to decide.
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?
Three obvious projects that might gain the immediate support of the community for this increase by 0.5 percent to the state tax are large highway projects. These are: moving Honoapi’ilani Highway mauka from the pali to Lahaina town in anticipation of sea-level rise, erosion, and increase in traffic; building the community’s choice for the Pa’ia Relief Route, which is not the route that has been chosen by the state DOT; and the completion of a north-south connector road for Kihei. The overall cost for these projects will probably be over a few hundred million dollars.
Largely, the community wants the old cane hall road for the Pa’ia route, which is longer than the proposed route. Most of this road is county property and was never purchased by HC&S. If this route is built, federal funds may not be available to match county funds because of historical site crossings. Another use that might warrant the temporary tax increase is the purchase of former cane lands from A&B for preservation, public space, agriculture, and affordable housing.
I would support bring this agenda to the table to have the public and various county and state departments provide input.
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?
The desire to grow the economy at the expense of the environment is not a sustainable model and has gone on long enough. We are already losing some of the physical features that make Hawaii so special, such as our reefs, beaches, and green space, and risking damage to the dynamic, living systems that are our islands and seas.
With high levels of unoccupied retail for the year end of 2017 in Central Maui(21.69 percent), West Maui(11.35 percent), and South Maui(10.9 percent) new commercial projects should be built only if shown to be extremely valuable for the community as a whole. Our drinking water supplies are finite and our aquifers should not be stressed to the limit for any reason, especially for commercial projects that are not needed. Large new residential projects near the shores of our islands should be avoided and denied approval. The impacts are significant, and include damage to reefs through runoff, blocking beach access for recreation and cultural practices, and traffic increase. Private developments should not be allowed to divert the majority of water for their own purposes as in West Maui, and streams should be restored to sufficient capacity.
4. What would you do, if anything, to strengthen police accountability?
In general, I am satisfied with police accountability for Maui County. When information has been made public concerning officers under investigation for any reason, it appears as though due process is being followed and departmental actions and consequences are appropriate. In my experience, as a whole, the MPD serves the interest of Maui County adequately and with integrity. Across the United States a questionable use of lethal force has been in the spotlight lately with some high profile cases. I believe it would benefit law enforcement of all areas to address the nature of these cases and to continue training and education with the intent to reduce the use of lethal force by law enforcement.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I do support strengthening these laws and I would submit testimony in support of legislation that addresses these measures.
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 am in support of public hearings for any topic that the community wants to provide input on and I would be one of the three (minimum) members to request these hearings. It is our job to give opportunities for public testimony and to consider it in all decision making. I would attend community association meetings in my district and in neighboring districts and I would have and open door policy for constituents. I would respond to all emails promptly and have my team research topics brought to our attention.
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?
Sea-level rise is expected to have severe effects on our shorelines and near-shore structures due to passive flooding, annual high wave flooding, and coastal erosion. In looking at the projected effects of a likely 3.2 feet of rise by 2100, the majority of Honoapi’ilani Highway from the beginning of the Pali to ‘Olowalu will be flooded. Plans should be made immediately to move Honoapi’ilani Highway mauka.
The Pa’ia Relief Route that the state DOT has currently selected starts across from Baldwin Beach Park. Not only is this entrance in a flood zone and tsunami evacuation zone, but with the 2100 anticipated rise the shore will have moved halfway to the current distance to the highway of just over one soccer field in length.
The public wants a route further from the shore that uses a road formerly used by cane hauling trucks. Many other beaches, routes, harbors, and structures across the state are going to be affected so this is only a start. With ocean warming comes acidification, which kills corals, and more severe storms. Maui County can continue to reduce the use of fossil fuels for electricity and transportation in efforts to curb carbon emissions.
9. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Similar to the rest of Maui County, affordable housing is probably the biggest issue facing Upcountry, which includes my residency district areas of Pukalani, Kula, and ‘Ulupalakua as well as Makawao, Olinda, and upper Ha’iku, which are in a different residency district. Assuming that residents want to remain Upcountry the options for housing are slim.
Some extended families are waiting for water meters and will face large infrastructure costs to make houses up to specs. I would look into reducing the mandatory 6-inch pipe specs, which are for fire hydrant installation, if these are not truly needed or appropriate (e.g., the fire truck cannot reach the house). I would also support strengthening laws which reimburse or defer some costs of this infrastructure for families living in houses they are building.
I support enforcement of laws regarding illegal vacation rental homes and working on strengthening these laws in effort to increase availability of rentals for locals. I support using county funds for infrastructure for truly and exclusively affordable housing projects with units for sale or for rent that may be county, private, or partnerships. I support the use of county funds to purchase land for affordable projects.