Risk is too high for council to gamble with Launiupoko land

The Dec. 6 County Council meeting where the proposed purchase of 186 acres in Launiupoko was addressed has many people upset and angry with process.

Council members knew this meeting was likely the council’s last opportunity to vote on this issue in time to meet the sales deadline of Dec. 31, which the seller repeatedly stated would not be extended.

It was an important time for the council to act on the purchase for all who want the county to acquire this public asset that would greatly contribute to our open space along the shoreline and ensure it remains available for residents and visitors to enjoy, including the Maui Chamber of Commerce.

With the reappraisal vetted Dec. 3 at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting, it was time to call for the question since nearly all council members have publicly stated they want the land.

Most felt the purchase was a “no-brainer” and that council members would not risk this critical property. We were wrong. Despite the heroic efforts of Council Vice Chair Bob Carroll, who moved to discharge the Launiupoko land purchase from the Budget and Finance Committee so the full council could vote on the measure (supported by Council Chair Gladys Baisa and members Don Couch and Don Guzman, all of whom should be thanked), Council Members Elle Cochran, Stacy Crivello and Mike White voted against the measure, knowing it could jeopardize the acquisition. Not present were Council Members Michael Victorino and Riki Hokama, whose votes were needed on this important local issue and could have made a difference.

Despite the fact that many council members have wanted to vote on the Launiupoko purchase for some time, White, the Budget and Finance Committee chair, was not willing to discharge the matter from his committee. Cochran, who represents West Maui (where this land is located), noted she does not subscribe to the possibility that we will lose the property, saying “I’m going to call the bluff here.” Crivello, who says she supports the land purchase, preferred to maintain the process, stating, “This committee (Budget and Finance) is not done going through the committee process.”

Process is important, but deadlines are as well, and actions speak louder than words. Keeping this matter in committee puts this land purchase in danger. If we lose it, these individuals are at fault.

The process is frustrating to residents and business people, who view it as another example of politics and government inefficiency. They feel any concerns should have been raised earlier on as the Budget and Finance Committee was aware of the land deal by February of this year, yet questions did not arise until September. Letting this valuable asset get down to the wire has many people upset and in disbelief.

Condemning the property has been mentioned. The chamber testified that such action would be inappropriate and unfair. The county has a willing seller, who has even dropped the asking price. Powers of condemnation are not granted to be unjustly used by the county to lower purchase prices or change deadlines as it sees fit. This is unethical. Given the way this situation has been handled, can you imagine anyone wanting to sell property to the county, recognizing what the seller could be subjected to?

Have we lost Launiupoko? There may be a slim chance of meeting the Dec. 31 deadline if the council takes the matter up on its Friday agenda or calls a special meeting.

Act now if you want Launiupoko for the people of Maui County. These lands are too precious to gamble with. Ask council members to secure them immediately.

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