Ordinances come under review, evaluation by council

As the legislative body of the county, the Maui County Council passes laws called ordinances.

Maui County’s codified ordinances, old and new, reside in a document called the Maui County Code, available at mauicounty.gov.

One of the most important jobs of the council is to review the laws that are on the books and evaluate how they’re working. The council must determine whether they should be revised or even repealed.

For instance, the Maui County General Plan calls for modernized land use policies, including support for “smart growth,” mixed-used and in-fill development, and other means to minimize urban sprawl and create walkable communities.

Bringing these goals to fruition will require an overhaul of the county’s ordinances for many zoning districts. The Department of Planning has been working on the necessary legislation, some of which the planning commissions have reviewed and forwarded to the council’s Planning Committee, chaired by Council Member Don Couch, for its review.

When the Plastic Bag Reduction ordinance was enacted five years ago, the Maui County Council became one of the first legislative bodies in the nation to prohibit plastic bags at the checkout register. The law took effect Jan. 1, 2011, and was premised on the council’s finding that “the production and use of plastic bags have significant impacts on the environment.”

The ordinance’s purpose was “to prohibit certain businesses from providing non-biodegradable plastic bags and encourage the use of environmentally preferred alternatives such as compostable bags or recyclable paper bags or reusable bags,” according to Committee Report 08-96. Goals included decreased litter, lessened demands on landfills and minimized harm to marine mammals.

How’s the plastic-bag ban working?

That’s what the Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee, chaired by Council Member Elle Cochran, will be considering. Last Friday, the council formally received a copy of the Department of Environmental Management’s report on the effectiveness of the plastic-bag ban, codified in Chapter 20.18 of the Maui County Code.

In 2010, the Maui County Council took the lead in roadway safety by banning the use of handheld phones and other electronic devices while driving. This year, the state Legislature saw the wisdom of such a policy and enacted a statewide prohibition.

The council is now considering the repeal of its ban on the use of electronic devices while driving, to avoid any conflict with the state law.

Has the Commission on Culture and the Arts – formed by ordinance in 1987 to foster “exposure to culture and the arts in all its forms” – outlived its usefulness? As recommended by an advisory body, the mayor has submitted legislation, formally received at the Sept. 6 council meeting, to dissolve the commission.

According to the Cost of Government Commission’s 2010-2011 report, Maui County has developed a “vibrant arts community,” which is supported by the council’s grants to cultural organizations. The Commission on Culture and the Arts reportedly costs about $75,000 per year to staff and has had a history of meetings being canceled because of lack of quorum.

Do you know of an ordinance that should be reconsidered? Please tell the council by contacting @mauicounty on Twitter, MauiCountyCouncil on Facebook or county.council@mauicounty.us on email.

A hui hou.

* Gladys C. Baisa is chairwoman of the Maui County Council and holds the council’s Pukalani/Kula/Ulupalakua area residency seat. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.