Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 Primary Election, 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 Mike Molina, candidate for Maui County mayor. The other candidates are Cullan Bell, Richard Bissen, Kim Brown, Alana Kay, Jonah Lion, Kelly King and Mike Victorino.

Go to Civil Beat’s Election Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Candidate for Maui County Mayor

Mike Molina
Party Nonpartisan
Age 62
Occupation Maui County Council member
Residence Makawao

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Maui County Council member; officer for Veterans of Foreign Wars and Maui Evangelical Church; past Maui Chapter president for Hawaii State Teachers Association.

1. What is the biggest issue facing Maui County, and what would you do about it?

The two biggest issues are housing and diversifying our economy. For housing, I would seek to establish lease agreements with builders to construct affordably priced units for rent or ownership on county owned properties. The county can pay for infrastructure costs using the Affordable Housing Fund and get in return more affordably priced units from the builder.

I would also support funding for community land trusts that keep homes affordable in perpetuity. I am in favor of partnering with property owners to rehabilitate existing structures that working families can be moved into.

While tourism is still a major part of our economy, we need to expand other industries such as agriculture. As mayor, I would work with our Office of Economic Development and County Department of Agriculture to aggressively market local agriculture, provide grant assistance and other funding assistance to expand agriculture to the point where viable jobs are created and Maui County becomes a major exporter of foods for other communities.

I am also in favor of partnering with educational and private institutions to develop training programs in the health care and high-tech industries to create good-paying jobs in Maui County. This would also save students and parents the expense of traveling off-island for training.

2. In the last two years alone, the median sales price of a Maui home has shot up almost $400,000, driven by a surge of out-of-state buyers during the pandemic. What can the county do to ensure that families aren’t priced out?

I support increasing real property taxes on properties purchased for investment or second homes. To help our residents, I support reducing real property tax rates and providing subsidies for eligible families in need of rental assistance.

To assist families who need more down payment assistance, I support increasing the down payment amount for the Maui County First Time Homebuyers program.

3. In recent years, there has been a significant push to reform law enforcement and beef up oversight of police. What would you do specifically to increase oversight of local law enforcement? Are you satisfied with the Maui Police Department and the Maui Police Commission?

I support the creation of a community advisory review board that provides the public an additional “sounding board” to express concerns, and solutions that could help lead to more effective policing.

Overall, I am satisfied with the performance of our Maui Police Department and the Maui Police Commission, however, there are morale and retention issues that need to be addressed and as mayor, I would like to provide input to find solutions to these concerns.

4. The Maui County Council recently passed a temporary moratorium on the construction of new hotels and other visitor accommodations and will over the next several months decide whether to make it permanent. Do you support capping the number of hotels and visitor lodgings on Maui? Why or why not?

I support capping visitor accommodations on a temporary basis. As mayor, I will work with the Maui County Council to increase housing inventory.

It makes more sense to prioritize developing housing for working families before developing new hotels and other visitor accommodations. If there is no housing, where will workers stay? Capping visitor accommodations also gives the community time to come up with solutions to address over-tourism.

5. Do you feel the governor and Legislature appreciate the issues of Maui County, or are they too focused on Honolulu and Oahu? How would you change that?

Our Maui County representatives in the state House and Senate are doing a good job advocating for the needs of our community. On the other hand, I believe our present governor seems to be more Oahu-centric and has lost touch with neighbor island concerns in some instances.

The most important thing I am looking for in our next governor is a person that is truly collaborative, has integrity and is sincere about addressing neighbor island concerns.

6. Do you think the county of Maui should do more to manage water resources that were long controlled by plantations? Why or why not?

Yes, I believe Maui County should manage our water resources instead of leaving it in private hands. Water is a public trust and leaving it in private hands could result in less water for small farmers, generational landowners and stream restoration.

I support a lease agreement between the County of Maui and State of Hawaii (CWRM) for the East Maui water system.

7. Climate change is real and will force us to make tough decisions. What is the first thing Maui County should do to get in front of climate change rather than just reacting to it? 

Regarding climate change, as mayor, I would work with government agencies, the Maui County Council and environmental groups to establish a managed retreat plan and establish new boundaries for development near shoreline areas. We should consider CFDs (community facilities districts) that require property owners to contribute additional tax revenue to pay for damage caused to their property due to sea level rise and shoreline erosion.

8. It’s estimated that up to a thousand people might be homeless on Maui on any given day. What do you think needs to be changed to help people get into housing, and stay housed?

Regarding the unsheltered, I would pursue acquiring, leasing or using existing county-owned properties to establish “safe zones” that could include “tiny homes” or shipping containers that can be used as temporary shelter.

I am in favor of considering a class action lawsuit to seek compensation from communities who send their homeless to us, which places greater financial burden on our taxpayers.

9. Traffic is getting worse on the island of Maui, and different regions face different challenges. What would be your approach to improve Maui’s transportation problems?

Conditions can be placed on all housing projects to insure traffic mitigations are in place before final subdivision approval is given. The county administration and council need to continue working with the state officials to leverage money to obtain federal funding for highway improvements.

With the high cost of fuel, the county can do more educational outreach to promote carpooling and use of public transportation. If schools are willing, I would like them to consider different start and ending times that could reduce traffic congestion.

10. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Maui County. Be innovative, but be specific.

Because our residents are unable to afford a home and many are displaced due to outrageously high land and property costs caused by outside speculation, I would reinvent Hawaii to establish tougher requirements for land acquisition and higher taxes to disincentivize the purchase of property by non-residents and outside interests.

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