Foundation set for a promising new year

As we reach the midway point of the 2013-2015 term, now is an appropriate time to review the County Council’s activities over the last year and preview some of what’s ahead.

On Dec. 20, the council unanimously authorized the purchase of 186 acres at Launiupoko in West Maui. Public testimony proved to be invaluable in the decision-making, as many requested for preservation and public use of the property.

As recommended by the Land Use Committee, which I chair, the council approved construction of 56 affordable-housing units in Waikapu. My committee may consider another “fast-track” affordable-housing application, this time in West Maui, early in the new year.

Legislation to support animal control was enacted in November. The bill was vetted by Council Member Stacy Crivello’s committee, which has jurisdiction over housing and transportation policy, as well as human (and animal) services.

The council named a county facility in East Maui as David Kanaloa Kaho’okele Jr. Nahiku Community Center, and a park in Waihee after former Council Member Richard “Pablo” Caldito Sr. Council Member Don Guzman shepherded these bills through his committee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Council Member Elle Cochran’s infrastructure committee enacted several ordinances relating to roadway safety this year, to establish crosswalks in Paia and Wailuku, and prohibit parking on certain parts of Front Street in Lahaina.

In Council Member Don Couch’s Planning Committee, work continues on a proposed home business bill intended to empower entrepreneurs while respecting neighborhoods’ character. The committee also worked this year on several ordinances to update the zoning code.

Council Member Michael Victorino’s Water Resources Committee continues the painstaking task of developing ordinances to govern the Department of Water Supply’s operations.

He also serves as treasurer in the Hawaii State Association of Counties Executive Committee, which has recently been meeting with the Hawaii Council of Mayors with an eye toward promoting county interests in the state legislative session, which starts Jan. 15. The 2013 HSAC conference held on Kauai last spring fostered relationships among council members throughout all four counties.

This year, Maui County Council Chair Gladys Baisa initiated regular meetings of the four county council chairs for the first time. The leaders of the councils face many of the same issues and have found it beneficial to craft solutions together.

Some council members attended the National Association of Counties annual conference in Texas over the summer, where Council Member Riki Hokama was inducted as first vice president. Other council members have taken leadership roles with NACo to facilitate idea sharing among county officials and to ensure counties’ voices are heard in Congress.

Council Member Hokama’s policy committee will review a slate of nominees for county boards early in 2014. The application deadline is Tuesday.

The council approved an annual budget of $559 million in June, through the hard work of Council Member Mike White’s Budget and Finance Committee. The fiscal year 2013 budget reflects a balancing of important policy goals, including maintaining fiscal prudence and investing in Maui County’s people and places.

We have seen significant infrastructure improvements such as the Waikamoi flume, several major new park facilities and the grand opening of the Kihei police station.

As we look forward to the new year, your council will continue to craft legislation to uphold the public’s interest and improve the quality of life in Maui County.

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!

* Robert Carroll holds the County Council seat for the East Maui residency area. He’s vice chair of the council and chair of the Land Use Committee. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.