WAILUKU - Members of the Maui County Council's Policy Committee voted 5-0 Wednesday to recommend the rejection of the nomination of Wailuku businessman John Noble to the Maui Redevelopment Agency.
The owner of Noble Travel came under fire in testimony from Helen Nielsen and Jonathan Starr.
Nielsen, who is married to Starr, said she has interacted with Noble in her years of attending community meetings in Wailuku, and she found him "a bit too disruptive." She said Noble has hung an "Abolish the MRA" sign on his building in Wailuku for years.
"I don't think he's well-suited for this agency," she said. "I don't think it would be productive to place him on this agency at this time."
Starr, a property owner in Wailuku, said that he and other business owners have invested their life savings in commercial properties in Wailuku and were relying on the agency as being a "very, very critical part of our community and government."
Starr said Noble has been "very disruptive and negative" at public meetings.
"He's been trying to destroy the same organizations he's being appointed to," he said.
Starr described a Wailuku community meeting years ago in which he was setting up speakers for a sound system and Noble tied up his "Abolish the MRA" sign on the speaker stands on stage. Starr said he removed the sign and Noble "physically accosted and shoved" him.
He said he removed his speakers and left the meeting. "I had been bullied out," he said. "It made me feel like I shouldn't participate."
Noble denied the alleged shoving incident, saying there was "no such thing."
"I didn't pay for that banner," he said.
Noble said he was sorry Starr was offended and "deeply apologetic."
However, he said he agreed with Starr that Wailuku is at the center of the "best island in the world," and it should go forward.
Noble said he could work collaboratively with members of the redevelopment agency, although he criticized them for wasting money on studies and failing to take pragmatic steps to fix sidewalks, develop more parking and improve unwieldy design guidelines for the town, which has been designed for the "horse and buggy days."
"Every time you go there (to an agency meeting), they want to decorate," he said.
For example, instead of creating more parking inexpensively by putting in diagonal stalls or acquiring vacant lots, the redevelopment agency has lost parking spaces to beautification projects, he said.
Noble also said that too many properties in the town have been taken over by nonprofit agencies, including some that serve people who are mentally ill. One agency has become a "clubhouse for schizophrenics," he said.
Noble said he has tried to be active in all Wailuku community groups, but he acknowledged that "my views are not always the point of view of other people."
He told committee members he wants to see the redevelopment agency get things done in Wailuku, "at least get a direction" or a "shovel full of dirt that gets done."
Council Member Gladys Baisa said that her experience in working on community organizations has shown that members need to convince others and that's how "you get things done."
Noble agreed and said that as a business person for more than 50 years "you have to do that."
Mike Molina, an executive assistant to Mayor Alan Arakawa, said that Noble is an established business owner in Wailuku. He acknowledged that Noble has strong opinions about the Maui Redevelopment Agency, but "it's just a matter of how one expresses his opinion."
Molina said that if Noble was going to be disruptive, the mayor would want to talk with him first, and then ask him to resign if the problem persisted. If he would not resign, then the mayor would ask the council to remove him from the agency's board, he said.
Committee Chairman Riki Hokama said that he would like to avoid that situation.
He recommended denying Noble's appointment. Committee members joining Hokama in voting for the nominee's disapproval were Baisa, Elle Cochran, Don Couch and Mike White. Council Members Bob Carroll, Danny Mateo, Joe Pontanilla and Mike Victorino were not present when the vote was taken.
In other action, the committee unanimously recommended approval of the appointment of Wailuku resident Harold Davis to the Real Property Tax Review Board. His term would end March 31, 2014.
Davis said he has enjoyed his service on the county's Cost of Government Commission and would like to continue offering his talent and expertise to another board. He said he has had an appeal before the tax appeal board and found his matter was handled professionally and expeditiously with an equitable result.
As a result of his appeal, he said he did see a reduction in his property taxes and found his business with the board to be a "positive and satisfying experience."
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.