Ask the Mayor

Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.

Q: Who do I need to call to complain about smoking being allowed in the bathroom at my workplace? I know it’s against the law to smoke inside a workplace, but my employer continues to ignore the fact that many employees smoke inside our one men’s restroom, which is inside the building. It’s as if my civil rights are being violated by this practice, so would the ACLU be the organization to complain to?

A: Good question. The best way to lodge an anonymous complaint is to call the Department of Health’s Tobacco Prevention and Education program, which will send a letter to your employer explaining the law, signage requirements and potential fines for violations. Copies of the letter will also be sent to police, the Chamber of Commerce and other agencies, putting them on notice that your employer or building owner or manager has been informed of their responsibility to ensure that smoking does not occur as prohibited by law. Hawaii Revised Statutes 328J-4 says that “smoking shall be prohibited in all enclosed or partially enclosed areas of places of employment.” To call the DOH Tobacco Prevention and Education program toll-free, dial (888) 810-8112. To view smoking- and tobacco cessation-related information online, visit health.hawaii.gov/tobacco or www.hiphi.org.

 Q: I live and work in Kahului and have noticed not just homeless, but vagrants who are a nuisance and sometimes even worse. Instead of the usual short-term fix of clearing out various homeless camps, what is the county doing to address the long-term problem of the homeless population? It seems like some of them want to live in peace, while others have no regard for other people and need to be put in jail. Either we need more transitional housing or more prison space but something needs to be done.

A: You’re right in that there has been a pattern when it comes to our homeless population. This cycle repeats itself every time we clear out a park or homeless encampment, only to see the individuals back on the streets or at a different park in no time. Police make arrests, county staff and agency workers clean up the streets and parks, and then the same folks turn up at new campsites in just a few days. Everyone is doing their job, but these are only temporary solutions. For longer-term solutions, my administration has proposed several initiatives to help provide emergency shelter, housing and enforcement. These measures have been transmitted to the Maui County Council for review and funding. Until we are able to move forward with helping people that need help and being able to properly enforce laws, we will continue to witness the same cycle of homelessness that hampers our efforts and erodes our sense of community.

 Q: Is it legal to use a gas leaf blower to blow landscape clippings and leaves on the highway or public roads? I have witnessed a lot of private landscape companies, also hotel workers in Wailea, doing just that. What can be done on this issue?

A: No, it’s not legal. Hawaii Revised Statutes 352H-36.5 states that it is unlawful “for any person to use or operate a leaf blower in such a way as to blow leaves, dirt, and other debris onto the public rights-of-way or onto private property not owned, leased or controlled by the leaf blower operator or the employer or contractor . . . and to allow the debris to remain there in excess of 30 minutes.” It’s also a bad idea because the leaves, debris and yard waste are considered stormwater pollutants. These materials could clog storm drains, which would in turn cause flooding hazards during heavy rains or create breeding grounds for insects, rodents or other vectors. You can report this kind of violation on a county roadway by calling the county Public Works Highways Division at 270-7869, or if the leaves are being blown onto a state highway, call the state Transportation Department Highways Division at 873-3535. For more information on stormwater protection and erosion, including a resident’s guide and a keiki activity book, visit www.mauicounty.gov/stormwater.

* Want to Ask the Mayor? Submit your Maui County related questions to Mayor Alan Arakawa by email at askthemayor@mauicounty.gov, by phone at 270-7855 or by mail at 200 S. High St., ninth floor, Wailuku 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column; to request a personal response to a concern, email mayors.office@mauicounty.gov.

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