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 Nohe Uu-Hodgins, candidate for Maui County Council Makawao-Haiku-Paia District. The other candidates are Aram Armstrong, Dave DeLeon, Daniel Smith and Nara Boone.

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

Candidate for Maui County Council Makawao-Haiku-Paia District

Nohe Uu-Hodgins
Party Nonpartisan
Age 36
Occupation Permit facilitator
Residence Makawao, Maui

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Maui Public Art Corps, treasurer.

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

Housing. Maui needs housing in all sections of the housing ladder, but especially workforce housing. Housing has been a persistent issue for far too long on Maui. Our people are leaving in hopes to find better economic and housing opportunities elsewhere. Perhaps because of this exodus, we are losing that small-town feel that makes Maui so special.

Maui County has an affordable housing fund. This fund would be best used by private and public partnerships on 201H projects, to help with off-site infrastructure. 201H projects are 50% or more workforce housing and are reviewed by the council, so as a body we would have adequate time, information and resources to consider the benefits or drawbacks of each project.

The county could provide the off-site infrastructure to projects — roads, sewer, catch basins, water, drainage, utilities, hydrants (fire protection). This should cost the county roughly $80,000 to $100,000 per single family home. This would help keep the costs down on each home.

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?

As mentioned in the first question, the county should be entering a public-private partnership to help bring the cost down per home. The county could provide financial literacy courses available to the public to help local families understand how to qualify for workforce housing, to prepare before projects become available. The council should review the qualifying criteria of Chapter 2.96, our county’s residential workforce housing policy, to ensure that it best targets our residents.

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?

As a council we have oversight in choosing the police commissioners, which oversees the chief of police. Consequently, we have some indirect oversight.

I am satisfied with the Maui Police Department. Considering the recent internal survey SHOPO conducted, the department would like to see changes made and implemented for their benefit.

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 don’t believe the moratorium has an impact on the number of people we have visiting Maui County, which was the intention of the moratorium. Considering the airport is federal, outside of the state and county’s purview, a moratorium will only push visitors out of the resort areas and into our communities.

Our Maui Island Plan recommends a 1-3 visitor to resident ratio. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, in 2019 the average number of visitors was equivalent to 43%. We need to better manage tourism for Maui County, to preserve the integrity of our host culture and local values. To cap visitor lodgings, we should focus on visitor accommodations in our local communities.

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?

Sometimes, it can feel as if the government is Oahu-centric and the outer islands are left out — but that is not always the case. Oahu is significantly larger in population, so the focus on the majority of the population is understandable. Maui County has supportive legislators being our voice in our state government.

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?

Our county says, “By Water, All Things Find Life,” yet we have a severe water shortage. Maui County should do more to better provide water to its residents.

Currently, most of upcountry is served by the East Maui Irrigation system that is of the plantation era yet that is still serving our upcountry needs for water. Maui County needs to do more to develop additional groundwater resources.

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? 

Maui County needs to plan to actively prepare for climate change. Including, preparing for sea-level rise and creating more groundwater sources to aid with future drought. Lack of water resources is a major issue.

We need to prepare by targeting the most impacted areas and help to move mauka.

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?

Homelessness deserves serious attention and sympathy. We need better resources for the various stages of homelessness; chronic, episodic, transitional and hidden.

Maui County should have a facility where our homeless can receive mental health care and drug counseling if needed, a place to sleep, shower, and get back on their feet. We need to address our hidden homeless by creating more affordable rentals.

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?

We should have a paradigm shift regarding transportation. Where possible we should support bike riding lanes and promote our county’s bus system.

Also, we should bring stakeholders, community members and traffic experts to the table to help solve our traffic issues.

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.

Our local people create the Maui County that we all love so much. In my lifetime, it has become increasingly difficult to live on Maui. I’m worried about our future. I’m worried that our children will not be able to afford to live here, I am worried our grandchildren will be raised elsewhere, I’m worried that Maui will only be a distant memory of our great-great-grandchildren.

We need to create workforce housing for our local people. Maui County needs to be proactive and not reactive to our housing crisis. We need public and private partnerships to create opportunities for our people to be able to live here. Housing might not sound innovative but considering our housing crisis, it is.

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