Quality legislation is the gift that keeps on giving

Like many others during this holiday season, the Maui County Council’s ohana is reflecting on the past while also looking ahead to the promise of the new year.

As a body that’s always in session, the council is still at work seeking legislation that protects and improves the quality of life on Lanai, Maui and Molokai, ideally for generations.

Good public policy can’t be wrapped up or placed under a tree. But it lasts.

It was this time last year that the council finished its work on the policy components of the Maui Island Plan. The Maui Island Plan is a key part of the Maui County General Plan 2030.

As the name implies, the General Plan is designed to guide policymakers on social and economic policy for years to come.

Five years ago, the council passed the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance. Shoppers and merchants alike have apparently adjusted their habits without too much inconvenience or hardship, and the ordinance has been cited as a model for other jurisdictions.

The council’s standing committees are endeavoring to craft legislation with similar staying power, to provide housing for working families, lower the cost of living and develop sound policy for energy practices and environmental protection.

Affordable housing

The Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee, chaired by Council Member Stacy Crivello, is considering a bill from the Department of Housing and Human Concerns to amend the county’s residential workforce housing policy. A copy of the measure is available at the committee’s website at www.mauicounty.gov/committees/hht.

The Land Use Committee, which I chair, may also consider another “fast-track” affordable housing project under the authority of Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 201H, in January, this time involving land in West Maui. The council approved an affordable housing project consisting of 56 homes in Waikapu in September, as recommended by my committee.

Cost of living

The council has been working on amendments to the “circuit breaker” tax credit to ensure it’s used in the manner in which it was intended – providing appropriate assistance to qualified homeowners. The council has extended the application deadline for the tax credit to Jan. 31. Real property tax exemption policies are vetted by the Budget and Finance Committee, chaired by Council Member Mike White.

A study on multifamily water rates is being considered by the Water Resources Committee, chaired by Council Member Michael Victorino. The goal is to create more fairness in the Department of Water Supply’s rate schedule.

Energy and the environment

The Economic Development, Energy, Agriculture and Recreation Committee, chaired by Council Member Don Guzman, received several presentations on alternative energy initiatives in the county. Senior staff of Maui Electric Co. and Sempra Energy were present to answer committee members’ questions last week.

The Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Council Member Riki Hokama, last week considered a resolution supporting the Department of Environmental Management’s integrated waste conversion and energy project with Anaergia Services as implementing the goals of the county’s 2009 Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan. The proposed project would increase the diversion of waste from the county’s landfill and have the potential to generate local jobs.

Earlier this month, Council Member Don Couch’s Planning Committee reviewed development standards for small wind energy systems, ultimately concluding such standards should be included in revisions to building and construction codes.

The Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee, chaired by Council Member Elle Cochran, discussed a resolution pertaining to the protection of Maui’s at-risk coral reefs last week.

On behalf of Council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa and the entire Maui County Council, I wish you happy holidays.

* Robert Carroll holds the County Council seat for the East Maui residency area. He is 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.