Happy holidays and best wishes from council chair

CHAIR'S 3 MINUTES

As we near the end of the 2017-19 County Council term, I reflect on the legislative accomplishments of the council, the four years I have served as council chair, and my tenure as a council member.

During this term, the council made significant improvements in the efficiency of county operations, fiscal responsibility and community engagement.

The council has supported enforcement efforts against illegal vacation rentals and facilitated audits to enhance management strategies and efficiency of county departments.

The council also tackled solutions to affordable housing through amendments to the Maui County Code and vetted and approved fast-track affordable housing projects. Projects approved through the chapter 201H, Hawaii Revised Statutes process this term include Legacy’s Wailuku rental apartment project, Wailuku Development Venture’s affordable housing project, and Hana’s affordable housing project. Residents also moved into the Kulamalu affordable rental apartments in Pukalani.

The much-anticipated first-time homebuyer’s down payment assistance program was revived by the council, appropriating $2 million and approving program specifications.

Additionally, as authorized by voters through the approval of an amendment to the County Charter, bills were passed to develop qualifications for 11 department directors to ensure department heads are qualified and effective in overseeing county operations.

The council also passed ordinance 4457, which restricts the use and sale of polystyrene foam food service containers. The restriction takes effect on Dec. 31.

Council passed the fiscal year 2018 budget that set forth expenditures of over $562 million to operate the county, and $142 million in capital improvement projects.

The fiscal year 2019 budget set forth $599 million to fund county operations, and $159 million in capital improvements. These budgets supported essential county operations such as refuse collection and road maintenance. They also funded the operation of parks facilities, along with supporting a wide range of nonprofits that provide services to enhance the lives of county residents.

Over the past eight years, the council continuously fought to ensure Neighbor Islands receive their fair share of transient accommodations tax revenue from the state. Maui visitors generate approximately $207 million in TAT annually, but we receive only $23.5 million.

The counties will undoubtedly continue to ensure they receive these sorely needed revenues to assist with important infrastructure projects and county operations to benefit visitors and residents alike.

Throughout my tenure, we have effectively responded to emergency events such as the 2016 flooding of Iao Valley, provided funding to build a new County Service Center and Wailuku Civic Complex, and worked with the state to open phases of the Lahaina bypass.

The council approved the acquisition of lands for preservation purposes using the county’s Open Space, Natural Resources, Cultural Resources and Scenic Views Preservation Fund. This included purchasing 267 acres on Maui’s north shore at Kuiaha, Hamakualoa near Peahi, and 186 acres in Launiupoko to be kept in open space and preserved for future generations.

Great strides to secure and improve fiscal responsibility within the county have been made by creating the Office of the County Auditor and performing a review of the county’s tax code.

The council has strongly supported positive economic development projects, such as the Maui Invitational basketball tournament, the Made in Maui County festival, and grants to support positive, responsible growth of the visitor industry.

The final council meeting of the year will take place on Friday. At this meeting, the council will recognize and offer appreciation to the council members leaving at the end of the term. The council will also consider referrals to pave the way for the business of the next council.

It has been an honor to serve in this capacity. Mahalo nui loa and happy holidays from the Maui County Council.

A hui hou.

* Mike White is chair of the Maui County Council. He holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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