Make Your Voice Heard At This Week's Maui County Council Session - Honolulu Civil Beat

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Richard Wiens

Richard Wiens is an editor at large for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at

The council has scheduled a meeting Tuesday that offers the public a chance to get involved in the daunting task of planning for the future.

It appears rather innocuously as Resolution 23-194 on the fifth page of the agenda for the Maui County Council’s next regular meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

A summary establishes its import: “Developing a comprehensive recovery and resilience plan in response to the island of Maui’s tragic wildfires of August 2023.”

But what it really represents is the first public forum where Maui residents can address their leaders since a wildfire devastated Lahaina on Aug. 8. Up until now, public officials have been taking their questions from members of the news media, most of whom have not lost property and even loved ones.

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Council Chair Alice Lee is under no illusion that everybody who testifies Tuesday will be focused on the future rather than the very recent and deadly past.

“We expect some people testifying in a manner that may be harsh at times, but I think we’re prepared to accept whatever they have to say,” Lee said Sunday.

“Some people have said, ‘Oh, people are really, really angry and frustrated, and because we represent government, it’s going to come to us,’” she said. “I embrace anything that people have to say because I understand how frustrated they must be.”

The normal council meeting rules will apply, including a three-minute time limit per speaker with opportunities to talk either at the beginning of the meeting or at the point when Resolution 23-194 is taken up. The meeting agenda contains information about how to submit verbal or written testimony, including from remote sites.

“If they don’t catch us on Tuesday, there’ll be many, many more meetings after that,” Lee said. “But I just thought if they had anything to say, you know, this would be an opportunity for all of Maui to hear them.”

MPD Chief Swearing in
Maui County Council Chair Alice Lee said it’s important for local residents to establish the priorities for helping Maui recover and become more resilient. (Ludwig Laab/Civil Beat/2021)

In technical terms, the resolution asks the council to refer the matter to the Government Relations, Ethics and Transparency Committee. But the so-called GREAT Committee is made up of all nine council members, so they will in essence be handing it off to themselves.

That committee will engage in “extensive, extensive outreach so that we can hear from as many people as possible,” Lee said.

“I mean, even if we have to go down there and get their testimony on the beaches or wherever they are. Going forward, the priorities should be community-generated and we’re very serious about that. So we will take the time to have these public meetings to solicit as much as possible the input of the community.”

After that, specific topics will be referred to the council’s other standing committees, and the resolution calls for council rules to be “suspended as necessary to allow committee chairs to directly refer bills and resolutions to their respective committees to facilitate the development of a comprehensive recovery and resiliency plan.”

“Everything they come up with in terms of priorities will be addressed by the standing committees,” Lee said. “And the reason why we’re starting now is because we want to be prepared for when we start working on our budget, our new budget.”

“We do not want to dictate what the plan is going to be. This is a partnership with the County Council and county government and the community.

County Council Chair Alice Lee

Not that the county’s current budget isn’t going to need plenty of work.

“We’re going to have to be dealing with a lot of budget amendments for immediate expenses,” Lee said. “Once the federal funding starts coming in and the state funding comes in, all of that has to be set in the budget. The budget has to be balanced, so for any additional funds we’ll have to amend the current budget.”

On Sunday, Lee didn’t want to go too far down the road of predicting what priorities the public will have. But she did mention communication.

“Communication was tough,” she said. “It was very difficult. That’s because of the mass crisis. But we need to address that regardless. And we have to figure out what will happen if and when power goes down. How do we continue to communicate? There must be effective alternatives. And we have to do that because people cannot be left alone to fend for themselves.”

And she mentioned transportation.

“It’s one thing to have communication, but it’s another thing to be able to leave,” she said. “We have to look at that very, very closely. What we hear is like, utility trucks may have been in the way or the power lines impeded them moving from point A to point B. All of those things need to be discussed.”

And then she mentioned housing, an “obvious” priority.

Damaged buildings and structures of Lahaina Town destroyed in the Maui wildfires in Lahaina, Maui, Aug. 15, 2023. Members of Combined Joint Task Force-50 from the Hawaii Army and Air National Guard, U.S. Army Active Duty and Reserve are actively supporting Maui County authorities to provide immediate security, safety, and well-being to those affected by the wildfires to ensure unwavering support for the community of Maui and first responders. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Foster)
The County Council is ready to start listening to ideas about rebuilding Lahaina. (U.S. Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Foster)

“And then, rebuilding a town that reflects the culture, the significance and the deep reverence of the past, cherishing the kupuna, cherishing one another and the generations that preceded them,” Lee said. “All of those things have to be taken into consideration on how we begin to rebuild Lahaina. I would even ask if they wanted it to be like a walkable town, just changing the concept.”

She didn’t want to go further because, she said, “We do not want to dictate what the plan is going to be. This is a partnership with the County Council and county government and the community. They’ll get through this together.”

“We have to take it slow because people are still processing the grief,” she said. “So we have to be sensitive to that. But the main thing is that they feel that they’re included. That they’re not only included, they’re still an integral part of this process.

“It may be early for some people but other people, we understand, are ready to talk about it.”

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

Read this next:

Biden To Lahaina: 'The Entire Country Is Here For You'

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About the Author

Richard Wiens

Richard Wiens is an editor at large for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at

Latest Comments (0)

Why not demand competent leadership? How about some honest questions on lack of water, poor planning, weird green energy over lives and safety?

tomato123 · 1 month ago

"Suspended as necessary" Why? To allow Comittee Chairs to refer bills and resolutions to their respective committees. Why? To facilitate the development of a comprehensive recovery and resiliency plan.It's not only Committee Chairs and these committees. Let's not forget the people of Maui being a part of developing the plan all along the way.Absolute transparency and TRUTH telling will go a long way! · 1 month ago

The people to decide the future of Lahaina are it's own owners and permanent residents. No one else. The governor, mayor, outside community organizations, and volunteer groups (no matter how well intentioned) need to let this group of people decide what the community will be (or note be) in the future.

FG2 · 1 month ago

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