KAHULUI - Momentum was the recurring theme of Mayor Alan Arakawa's State of the County address Wednesday night.
While the first-term mayor facing re-election in the fall believes "Maui County has not reached our full potential yet," Arakawa said that his administration has worked tirelessly over the past four years to put in place the infrastructure necessary to move Maui into the future.
"Over the last four years, Maui County has worked to shift our momentum, from simply reacting to problems to anticipating them and finding solutions," Arakawa said in his speech, delivered before a standing-room only audience in the McCoy Studio Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa gave his fourth State of the County address, the last of his current term, Wednesday evening in the McCoy Studio Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. He touted infrastructure improvements during his term, including the repaving of roads and the repairing of park restrooms. “Maui County has not reached our full potential yet,” he added.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
It was standing-room only in the McCoy Studio Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center as Mayor Alan Arakawa gave his State of the County address.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The address also was broadcast live on KAOI radio and Akaku TV.
The mayor touted his administration's "aggressive road improvement campaign," increased reliability and quality of the water supply and system, and numerous improvements and repairs to park restrooms and other facilities.
In the last three years, Arakawa's administration has repaved and repaired "more roads than we ever had before," he said. Some roadways like Wakea Avenue in Kahului have been completely rehabilitated, a process that involves tearing out the old road and replacing it with one that will last for 20 to 30 years.
Other traffic-filled roadways, like Papa Avenue in Kahului, Makawao Avenue, Kokomo Road in Haiku and Hansen Road in Central Maui, are currently on the list for scheduled improvements.
"For all of you that have been calling us about Hansen Road, it's on the schedule already," Arakawa said with a smile as the audience applauded.
But there is still much work to be done, Arakawa said, asking for the community's support in lobbying to remove the cap on the state transient accommodations tax, or hotel room tax, which he said would keep more than $16 million in Maui County; moving county offices out of the Maui Mall where rent is upward of $475,000 a year; and combating the invasive little fire ants that were recently discovered on the island and pose a threat to the ecosystem and the economy.
"Working together, we can stop the little fire ant. Working together, we can do just about anything," Arakawa said.
Wednesday's address marks the fourth and final State of the County address of Arakawa's term. Without any formidable opposition at the moment, the mayor gears up for re-election with his financial coffers brimming with $379,000, according to campaign spending documents released last week.
Arakawa mentioned briefly toward the end of his speech Wednesday that "it would be an honor and a privilege to serve another four years," but added that "this is not the time or place for that speech."
Maui County Council members in attendance Wednesday described the mayor's speech as "gracious," "upbeat" and an accurate representation of what the mayor has accomplished during the last three years of his term.
"I think the mayor is (going) in the right direction of putting our resources into infrastructure. The road (improvement) program, I'm a big supporter of; in fact, I would like to increase that," said Council Member Riki Hokama, who is in line to become president of the National Association of Counties that lobbies for the interests of counties across America.
Council Member Don Couch said that the mayor's address was "upbeat" but still warned the public about upcoming concerns such as the invasive little fire ants.
Both Hokama and Couch noted that they were looking forward to seeing how the mayor plans to finance his many initiatives when he submits his budget proposal in the next few months.
Other initiatives the mayor included in his State of the County speech:
* Consideration of a proposal to bring back Maui Police Department solo motorcycle officers to increase traffic enforcement capabilities while reducing costs for fuel and maintenance.
* Completion of planning for the 100-acre Central Maui Baseyard, which will be able to house vehicles from water, fire, public works, environmental management, parks and other departments.
* Renovating and expanding the Mitchell Pauole Community Center on Molokai.
* Building a new Molokai Police Station.
* Completing construction on the Nahiku Community Center.
* Expanding the county's solar rooftop project by installing photovoltaic panels on 18 more facilities this year, bringing the total to 39 buildings countywide.
* Continuing to add more vehicles to the county bus system to accommodate the anticipated 2.5 million passengers this year. Ten new large transit buses were added to the fleet recently, as well as 10 additional bus shelters. The administration has bids out on three of the smaller, 25-person passenger buses and nine more paratransit buses.
* Installing GPS in 500 county vehicles to monitor wear and tear, to detect engine trouble and to send diagnostic reports.
* Continuing to develop and fund affordable housing projects, such as the one at Kulamalu. The administration also is working with Pulama Lana'i, the company that owns most of Lanai, to develop affordable housing units on that island.
* Relocating the Division of Motor Vehicle and Licensing, Real Property Tax Division and Treasury Collections offices out of the Maui Mall. "Currently, the county pays more than $475,000 in annual rent for Maui Mall office space, and it increases by 4 percent every year," Arakawa said. "If we find the right property, we can save taxpayer dollars and still remain an important resource in the Central Maui community."
* Eileen Chao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.