Working to improve Maui County’s resiliency

April is National County Government Month, as recognized by Resolution 14-39.

It’s an apt time to reflect on the current “Resilient Counties” initiative of the National Association of Counties (NACo), and to assess what is being done locally to enhance our community’s resiliency.

Resilience is the ability to thrive amid changing physical, social and economic conditions.

County Council Member Elle Cochran reminded the body at the April 4 council meeting that counties continued to operate despite the last government shutdown. She said that we all paddle the same canoe, especially during times of adversity.

I’m proud to say the County of Maui is a resilient community. The residents of Lanai, Maui and Molokai continue to thrive, despite facing significant challenges and changes.

NACo is urging counties to focus on programs for disaster preparedness and recovery. The council has already taken action.

The Countywide Policy Plan, approved by the council in 2010, established a policy to “restrict development in areas that are prone to natural hazards, disasters or sea-level rise.” In addition, the plan says the county shall “provide an adequate supply of dedicated shelters and facilities for disaster relief.”

The NACo initiative also recognizes the importance of a strong and diverse economy.

Maui County needs a broader range of employment opportunities to keep our young professionals from leaving the islands. There are many talented residents who want to contribute their skills and expertise in a variety of sectors, such as information technology.

Ordinance 3937, which was signed into law by Mayor Alan Arakawa on March 28, establishes procedures and standards for county grants to promising local companies. This innovative program may help nurture high-tech firms and other start-ups that can provide good-paying, long-term jobs for those wishing to start careers and families here.

In addition, the council continues to fund agencies that seek to foster sustainable employment, including the Maui Economic Development Board and Maui Economic Opportunity.

Several council members recently attended an energy conference co-presented by MEDB. Government and energy leaders agreed that the conversation addressing the changes in the energy landscape of Maui County has only begun.

In an effort to support local agriculture and recognize the need for food security, Resolution 14-40 was adopted at the April 4 council meeting.

The resolution sends draft legislation intended to help small farms, family farmers and farmers markets to the Lanai, Maui and Molokai planning commissions for their review and comment.

Resilience is a group effort.

As we continue to deliberate on the mayor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, which includes increases in rates and fees, please share your thoughts and solutions with the council. The Budget and Finance Committee receives testimony at every scheduled meeting, and the public is invited to testify on any item in the budget.

On a personal note, I’m grateful to those who helped me quickly recover from my injury, especially the staff of Hale Makua. I’m back to pound the gavel, and returned to chair the April 4 council meeting.

I am looking forward to leading the body at our next meeting on April 22. At that meeting, the council will hear on second and final reading Bill 24 (2014), which would ban tobacco use in county parks and beaches.

A hui hou.

* Gladys 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.