Launiupoko a priceless holiday gift for people of Maui

On Dec. 20, members of the Maui County Council gave the community a precious and priceless holiday gift. They voted to discharge the Launiupoko purchase from the Budget and Finance Committee, waive the committee referral and report, allow the revised bill to be passed on first reading and be ordered for print, and, most importantly, approve the proposed resolution to purchase the 186 acres in Launiupoko, a purchase the chamber supported.

Testimony at the council hearing that morning was overwhelmingly in favor of the $13 million purchase and many urged action, given that the council did not act earlier, on Dec. 6, when the matter was considered pressing at that time.

However, by Dec. 20 it was clear that council members heard the community and even those with reservations voted in favor of the purchase. The votes were eight in favor, none against with one member, Council Chair Gladys Baisa, excused. Chair Baisa should be commended for her tremendous efforts; she vehemently tried to get this done before leaving and wanted this purchase.

It was a winning day for the people of Maui as the Launiupoko purchase will preserve this land for residents and visitors to enjoy. Despite the long and involved process, we were glad to see the right thing done and thank all council members for their efforts.

In terms of the process, two issues arose that we feel would be helpful for the community to be aware of.

First, as we came very close to a critical deadline, some questioned the process and wanted to keep the measure in committee longer, which could have completely jeopardized the deal. Comments were made about protecting the process and getting work done in committee. Yet, the process allows for the council to get all this work done in one session – as it did on Dec. 20 – if needed when time is of the essence (not that we are recommending this always be done). Which, by the way, it also did for another project that day due to an important deadline – the acquisition of real property in Maalaea for the Hauoli Street Drainage Improvements Project. Here again council members recognized the urgency and quickly acted on this purchase, without keeping it in committee. We support this action as well as it is an important project.

Our point is that when it comes to getting business done, deadlines matter and when council members ask for the opportunity to vote they need to be given that opportunity and not wait until the eleventh hour. The public is sick of this. While it generally happens at the federal level regarding fiscal matters, many made the correlation with this project, including a testifier on Dec. 20.

Secondly, efforts within the Budget and Finance Committee went beyond exploring the details of the deal that the administration negotiated as the committee proposed coming up with options for renegotiating the deal. As we understand it, that is outside the committee’s scope. Fully exploring a project and voting for or against it is its role, but negotiating or renegotiating the deal is not. And, one can see why. This would create too many cooks in the kitchen and would make it even more difficult to get business done.

Despite the process, we have received a wonderful gift. The land purchase is a start, but making it a beautiful place will require improvements and maintenance and will cost money. As council members pointed out, we too need to realize that when the budget process comes around. We do, and this land is the beginning of a legacy for generations to come.

Mahalo to Mayor Arakawa and the administration for their leadership and to the County Council for approving the purchase of this treasured land.

* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.