Smoking ban, bills honoring youth mentors considered

Bills to prohibit smoking at Maui County parks, including beaches, and bus stops are pending in committee as the County Council seeks to move key legislation before its calendar becomes consumed by the annual budget session starting late this month.

On Feb. 21, Council Member Don Guzman’s bill to prohibit tobacco use and tobacco products in county parks was referred to the Economic Development, Energy, Agriculture and Recreation Committee, which he chairs. At the same council meeting, a proposal to ban smoking at bus stops, introduced by Council Member Michael Victorino, was sent to the Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Council Member Riki Hokama.

Resolutions 14-23 and 14-24 were adopted at the meeting, as requested by Council Member Guzman, to start the process for renaming the Kahului Pool to the Coach Spencer Shiraishi Memorial Pool. The resolutions transmitted the legislation to advisory commissions for review and comment.

Coach Spencer died last summer at age 87. Testifiers became emotional at the council meeting and wondered aloud how the coach’s passing would change the landscape of the local aquatics community, as his name was synonymous with swimming on Maui.

He trained many children on both swimming skills and life skills, with his leadership inspiring young athletes to develop more confidence in facing challenges. Coach Spencer’s contributions to the community are unparalleled, and renaming the Kahului Pool in his memory seems an appropriate way to honor his legacy.

A proposal to rename a field at Makawao’s Eddie Tam Complex as the William “Blee” Amoral Sr. Field was referred to the same committee. Blee, who was 86 when he passed away four years ago, was a longtime superintendent with the Department of Parks and Recreation and was instrumental in the development of additional athletic fields in Makawao.

Blee was well known in the community as someone who devoted time to organizing and coaching youth sports leagues. He took a particular interest in kids who needed a second chance, such as those who failed to make their school teams or were facing life challenges.

He also founded a senior softball team named “the Makawao Guavas,” which is currently coached by Blee’s friend Jimmy Fernandez, one of the leading advocates of the field renaming effort. “Blee was like a big brother to all of us,” he says.

Mahalo to Council Member Victorino for presiding at the Feb. 21 council meeting. My responsibility to lead the council’s intergovernmental affairs took me to the State Capitol, where I was joined by the chairs of the other three county councils.

Longtime state legislators told us it was a historic and impressive display of county unity. I hope our efforts will lead to success during the current state legislative session, where we are seeking a more equitable return of hotel room tax revenues to the counties where they are earned.

Speaking of intergovernmental relations, some council members will be traveling to Washington, D.C., this week to attend the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference and meet with our congressional delegation.

The next two council meetings are March 11 at 9 a.m. and March 25 at 1:30 p.m. The budget session is projected to begin March 27.

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.