Ask The Mayor

Mayor Michael Victorino answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.

Q: What are the county’s plans for the property at the corner of Kaahumanu and Wahine Pio avenues? My understanding is that the University of Hawaii Maui College leased the land from the county and built dormitory buildings on it, then abandoned those buildings. The site would have been perfect for transitional housing for the homeless. Is the county just going to leave the buildings as they are?

A: Mahalo for the question because this is a project I am looking at very closely. As I said in my State of the County address, we are looking at building permanent housing at this site for our homeless working families or families at the edge of homelessness. These dorms have been vacant since 2008, so we hope to partner with private and public entities to bring this project into fruition. We also are receiving support from the community, state legislators, council members and the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. Mahalo again, and I look forward to announcing more details in the near future.

Q: I have noticed there is a leaning telephone pole on Mokulele Highway (Maui Veterans Highway) around Mile Marker 4. The pole is leaning dangerously close to the ground and has what I assume to be electrical wires on it. My wife said she saw it like this a week ago in the same condition. Now, I realize conditions have been windy as of late and likely had a hand in tilting this pole, but is there a reason aside from rough working conditions as to why it would take over a week to get a pole carrying dangerous electrical wires raised back up to a vertical position?

A: I understand your concerns. I’m not sure why there was a delay in repairing this pole, but my staff contacted the state Department of Transportation for more information. State officials told us that Hawaiian Telcom has been notified and will be addressing the issue. The public can assist in reporting fallen poles, downed cable lines and other issues to Hawaiian Telcom at (808) 643-6111. You also can reach Maui Electric Co.’s trouble line at (808) 871-7777 and Spectrum’s customer service line at (808) 643-2100.

Q: I may be mistaken (I live in the United Kingdom) but I thought it was now the law that all sunscreen sold had to be reef friendly.

A: Last year, Gov. David Ige signed the first bill in the country to ban sunscreens containing two chemicals harmful to coral reefs. The banned chemicals are oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are used to help filter UV rays. This law, however, does not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2021, so sunscreen with the chemicals still can be sold over the counter. Research has shown these chemicals to be toxic to our juvenile coral and disruptive of the symbiotic relationship between the coral and algae. The coral larva encases itself in its own skeleton, where it falls to the bottom of the sea and dies.

The FDA recently proposed new regulations to improve American sunscreens to make them more “safe and effective,” but regulators will need to consider its process of how it approves new ingredients. Some experts and dermatologists recommend people use mineral sunscreens that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which physically block the sun’s rays and are believed to be safer for reefs. People have shied away from these sunscreens in the past because they leave a white sheen on the top of their skin. It appears to be a small sacrifice, though, for the safety of our coral reefs.

* Want to Ask the Mayor? Submit your Maui County related questions to Mayor Michael Victorino 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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