East Maui council candidates tackle issues
Carroll, Sinenci discuss tourism, housing, community plans
KIHEI — The two candidates vying for the Maui County Council’s East Maui residency seat addressed questions Tuesday night on tourism, affordable housing, community plans and allowing the community to have more of a say to the Maui Planning Commission.
Candidates Claire Kamalu Carroll and Shane Sinenci faced off at the Kihei Community Association’s “First County Candidate Forum” on Tuesday at St. Theresa Church in Kihei. The two Maui mayoral candidates, Elle Cochran and Mike Victorino, also participated in their own question-and-answer session.
The community association took up the East Maui candidates, noting that all of Maui County, including Kihei votes for those seats. Carroll and Sinenci are vying for the seat being vacated by Carroll’s father, 74-year-old Robert Carroll, who is retiring.
Association President Mike Moran asked candidates how they felt about the impacts of tourism in Hana and countywide and whether there should be modifications in the industry.
“This is actually a really tough question, why is it tough? We all agree there needs to be balance in our visitor industry,” said Carroll, who is the supervisor at Hana Ranch Restaurant.
When Tropical Storm Olivia hit last week, her workers were out of work, and she noted there are families that rely on the industry for their livelihood.
“Whether we know it or not, we are all attached to tourism,” she said.
And in her worker pool, all but one was raised in Hana.
There are jobs for families but not enough housing, she added.
Sinenci said: “I don’t think we should continue in the same manner” in promoting tourism.
“I believe we should put more funds into managing our tourism industry, versus promoting the industry. We already seen the effects in East Maui; West Maui with traffic.
“We need to rethink this. Do we want to continue with tourism being our main economic engine?”
Sinenci said the public has the opportunity to decide.
While South Maui always sees development of an area lagging in affordable housing, Moran asked what council members could do to help.
Sinenci, a special education teacher at Hana High and Elementary School, said whether it be the developers or the County Council, something is holding up the process for affordable housing.
The Hana Community Association chairman also proposes streamlining the permit process for development projects that provide truly affordable housing.
“One way is to have all the permitting processes in one area of the county. A lot of time permits are sitting on people’s desk for five or six months at a time,” he said.
He also suggested that people vote, “putting candidates in there that would support affordable housing and not support big development or 201-H (fast track) projects that don’t conform to your community plans,” he said.
Carroll has experience renting and paying high rates and noted people’s greed with the high rents being charged. She said studios are renting for $1,200 a month.
“There are many issues we need to evaluate,” she said. “Are we going to rent a home and get exactly what other people are doing, by raising the rents? . . . It all comes back to community. What do we choose?”
She also noted that the permitting process needs to be addressed as well.
“But if we can all work together and be humble and work with each other, than fighting with each other, all of us can move a lot faster. I truly support affordable homes, and there are solutions, but it’s about working together.”
Moran said the Kihei-Makena Community Plan was last updated in 1998, and it called for infrastructure keeping pace with development, but that is not the case. He asked how council members could ensure that the plan is updated and implemented.
Carroll said that, if elected, she by herself could not change the community plan. That needs to be done by all nine members, she pointed out.
“There is no ‘me’ in this election, it’s about ‘we,’ ” she said, adding that she would work hard to change outdated plans.
She said the Hana community plan dates back to 1994.
“I think as council members we should look at each community plan and start doing those changes and implement those actions that are in the community plans that are there from 1998 (for Kihei-Makena),” Carroll said. “I’ll ask the support of all the eight members to make that happen.”
Sinenci said that he, too, supports community plans. He said he believes community plans should be prioritized as developments are proposed.
“I support strong community representation on boards and commissions in each community, to ensure the community plans (are) enforced in our county government,” he said.
He said conforming to community plans and vetting through community associations should be the first and second stops for developments, including affordable housing.
Moran also noted that the East Maui community has the only direct voice on Maui to the Maui Planning Commission via the Hana Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the commission. He asked about providing Kihei that option.
Sinenci commended the Kihei Community Association for its advocacy.
“You guys are always ahead of a lot of our other communities,” he said.
He would support all communities having an advisory board to the planning commissions.
“You already started with a strong community association, and inviting candidates like us to hear some of your needs,” Sinenci said.
Carroll said she currently is the vice president of the Hana Community Association and has served in the past as president of the Hana Advisory Committee.
She recognized that if there are plans, projects or issues affecting the community there should be community meetings.
In Hana, she said it’s a challenge to get people to participate, and if she needs to go door to door to spread the information, she would.
“And Kihei should always do the same,” she said.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.