Candidate Q&A: Maui County Council (West Maui) — Tamara Paltin
“I have noticed that new developments, especially commercial properties, are often left vacant or if businesses move to new developments their old buildings are left vacant, to the detriment of our communities.”
President, Save Honolua Coalition, West Maui Preservation Association; member, E Alu Pu, West Maui Community Association; HGEA union Steward; Special Committee on County Governance.
1. Are changes needed in how the County Council is run, and if so what are they?
Yes, I would like to see the County Council be more accessible to all the people of our county. People from the districts outside of Wailuku and Kahului should be able to call in from their district or remotely testify as Hana, Lanai and Molokai do. The county should hear important issues affecting a particular district in that district to better engage the community.
The County Council and the administration both need to work together to focus on solutions for the people of our county. While utilizing Robert’s Rules of Order and dividing issues like water and agriculture into separate committees are one way of doing things, I would like to suggest we try other ways such as facilitated community discussions that comply with our state’s Sunshine Law requirements.
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 Legislature has authorized all the counties to implement a .5 percent GET surcharge for a limited amount of time specifically for the purpose of transportation projects. I’m open to having the discussion because of three specific needed transportation projects that have not made the Maui Metropolitan Organizations list and we would not otherwise have funding for. These projects are: Completion of the Lahaina Bypass, the Paia Bypass and South Maui’s North/South collector road. All of these projects, when completed, would do a lot to alleviate our traffic congestion and improve our quality of life.
What needs to be discussed are the monetary impacts to our most vulnerable community members, our working families who are struggling to make ends meet as it is. I would propose an earned income credit or refund for those in our community who could least afford to pay this surcharge.
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?
I have noticed that new developments, especially commercial properties, are often left vacant or if businesses move to new developments their old buildings are left vacant, to the detriment of our communities. I would like to encourage usage of all vacant commercial properties in a way that is beneficial to our communities. If that cannot be done and properties are being left vacant for long periods of time we need to rethink the taxing of long term vacant properties and rethink the permitting of developing more of the same.
4. What would you do, if anything, to strengthen police accountability?
I would like to build the relationship with the chief of police, Maui SHOPO and local communities to address issues of accountability together through open dialogue.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I would like to investigate lobbying, ethics and finance disclosure laws of other states with laws that are not as lax as Hawaii’s laws and then work together with the public, the board of ethics, my fellow counci members and state legislators to implement tighter controls.
6. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes absolutely, I support increased transparency and accessibility to public records for all members of the community, not just individuals or groups who can pay the high fees.
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I would strengthen my relationship with all the various community associations and other programs that work with our people to effectively address the issues they are concerned with. I am open to hearing from all groups, people and more importantly working together to address their concerns. Groups like the Kula Community Association, Kihei Community Association, Waikapu Community Association and newly formed West Maui Community Association.
Also, in listening to individual complaints, I would always try to at least describe the process to go about getting their desired result depending on if the issue is a county, state or federal issue or whether it is under the purview of the administration or legislators I would help individuals how to best navigate the system as it pertains to their complaint.
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 need to increase shoreline setbacks, move critical infrastructure out of inundation zones, find ways to utilize our treated wastewater and expand local agriculture opportunities, restore stream flow and put more emphasis on community wide disaster preparedness. Overall, the county really needs to play a bigger role in the solutions – there are many groups working on these issues, such as the watershed partnerships which address land based pollution (a big issue in south and west Maui and huge stressor on our reefs, which provide important cultural, wave protection and ecosystem services). When groups work together it is easier to come up with solutions that solve everyone’s concerns.
9. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The most pressing issue facing West Maui is being able to effectively manage the impacts of tourism and climate change without losing the benefits of the tourism industry to our community and ensuring that revenues go to fund our community needs. I will continue to promote outreach and participation in our ongoing West Maui community planning process and if elected, I will enforce our community plans and countywide policy plans. I will work toward solutions that work for everyone’s needs.
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