Ask The Mayor
Q: Every Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve the kids in my neighborhood start setting off fireworks days before the holiday. They keep popping fireworks a couple days afterward, and on New Year’s Eve some neighbors go all-out with an amazing display of aerial fireworks. Isn’t it illegal to light fireworks before or after the respective holiday and illegal to launch aerials?
A: You are correct. Fireworks can only be legally set off during designated times. For the Fourth of July, the allowed window of time is from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Setting off fireworks outside the designated time is punishable by law; violations are subject to fines of up to $2,000. Aerial fireworks are illegal and extremely dangerous; importing and selling aerials without a permit is a Class C Felony. Our Fire Prevention Bureau has a number of safety tips and guidelines for enjoying fireworks safely, especially 4th of July festivities that occur during the dry summer season. View the safety tips online at www.mauicounty.gov/FirePrevention under “Quick Links.”
Q: I live in Kula and was wondering if there were any plans to install speed humps on Upper Kimo Drive. Right now people have to slow down because the road is junk and the water department is making upgrades to the system.
A: No, there are no plans to install speed humps on Upper Kimo Drive. The Department of Water Supply is working on the lower section of Upper Kimo Drive (Haleakala Highway to just below Upu Place); that section of road will be resurfaced after the water project is completed. If you and your neighbors would like to submit an application requesting speed humps in your area, you can access information on the county’s speed hump program at www.mauicounty.gov/engineering. The program is administered by the Department of Public Works’ Engineering Division.
Q: Who is that fool, and why is he allowed to post such obscene things about you in front of the courthouse, accusing you of such wicked things? I know about First Amendment rights, but this is ridiculous. I almost confronted him the other day but noticed he left.
A: I appreciate your concern, but please do not confront this individual. The things he accuses me of are untrue, but he has accused the chief of police, prosecutors and others of the same thing and just seems to be venting his frustrations. If you see any laws being broken by this person, of course contact police, but otherwise ignoring him is probably the best policy.
Ask The Mayor
Q: Would you be kind enough to explain why the circuit breaker tax credit is being denied to residents who serve to bolster the county economy? Our circuit breaker application has been denied by the Real Property Tax Collections section because “it does not meet the statutory requirements of the current circuit breaker credit ordinance” in that our property “is not the only property owned by any of the titleholders on Maui, in Hawaii, in another state or territory, or in a foreign country.” In fact, our second property is a condominium unit presently rented on a long-term basis, which we will occupy if we become unable to manage the house that is presently our principal residence and the object of the denial. The revenue derived, combined with our Social Security benefits, allow us to live a more comfortable retirement. It appears unfair and discriminatory that residents who have invested in real property that is not real estate or in intangible, monetary or other assets that do not serve to bolster the Maui economy are unfairly allowed to continue to benefit from the circuit breaker credit. The statutory requirements further discriminate in that they single out owners who have a second property versus those whose property includes an ohana unit. Is an ohana unit not, in fact, a second property? Thank you in advance for your response.
A: If you were denied when previously you received the circuit breaker tax credit, your application has been kept on file and may be reconsidered pending changes currently being discussed by the County Council. If you did not apply because it seemed like you would not qualify, you can apply until Sept. 15 to be considered if the recently proposed changes are approved. The council Budget and Finance Committee recently passed new revisions to the circuit breaker credit that will be heard soon by the full council. There were several requirements that were enacted in 2013 by the council in an attempt to weed out homeowners who were legally receiving the tax credit even though they had ample resources to pay their tax. However, the council’s changes also served to disqualify a number of our senior citizens and others living on fixed incomes who then became ineligible for the circuit breaker. Because I felt there were flaws in the council’s bill, I issued a veto that was overridden. During the year the changes were in place, many people who had previously received the tax credit were disqualified. The council is now making further amendments to the tax credit. The circuit breaker is not an exemption, it is a monetary credit that reduces qualified homeowners’ property taxes based on the owners’ adjusted gross income. The revisions to the circuit breaker program are intended to grant circuit breaker credits to homeowners who truly do not have the ability to pay their fair share of property taxes. When the circuit breaker was created, it was intended to assist homeowners who were unable to pay their property taxes due to escalating land values. Circuit breaker credits are supposed to help homeowners keep their home, not to help them maintain a “comfortable” lifestyle. Regarding the ohana unit issue, technically an ohana unit, like a detached cottage, is considered an accessory dwelling that is part of the main property, not a second property.
Q: I am wondering if there’s anything that can be done about uninhabitable homes due to fire. Whose responsibility is it to have these demolished? How can we protect our home’s resale value if these are allowed to remain in the state they are currently in and also protect our neighborhoods from the blight it attracts? Same thing applies to dumped automobiles left long ago in open lots, rusted out and attracting trash and homeless encampments.
A: Issues such as these – burnt homes that have become eyesores; abandoned vehicles and homeless encampments in abandoned buildings – are complaint-driven. This means that the county responds to complaints generated by the public through the Request For Service system. In the case of a home that was destroyed by fire, there may be numerous reasons that the structure remains standing for a period of time, such as insurance processing or appeals, investigations or even legal proceedings. In general, the county tries to work with property owners to resolve the problem, especially if a building has been deemed unsafe. Sometimes, an owner says they do not have enough money to tear down the unusable building, or that they are waiting to claim insurance money to pay for the demolition.
Q: When will the sidewalk from Kihei to Wailea be completed? It is poorly lit at night and dangerous to walk on the narrow unpaved path.
A: The project is currently being designed, and our Public Works Department anticipates having it go out to bid soon with a contract awarded by the end of this year. Construction would most likely be completed by spring 2015.
Ask The Mayor
Q: Every year we have been fortunate to enroll our children in the county’s Summer PALS (Play and Learn Sessions) program. This year, much to our dismay, all the slots had been filled, and there were no spaces available. Will the county be doing any additional hiring or opening of other sites to help with the overflow of children who were not able to enroll? I have called the PALS office, and there isn’t even a waiting list available to put a child’s name on in case a space opens up. My wife and I both work and having affordable child care for our children is necessary for us to make ends meet. Thank you for your time.
A: No, the Department of Parks and Recreation will not be adding any more facilities or hiring any additional staff for the 2014 summer session, but we are discussing ways to expand this important program for the 2015 summer session. One of the main obstacles the PALS program faces every summer is securing a sufficient number of locations to run the program. This summer, the island of Maui has 13 different PALS sites islandwide. Of the 13 sites, five are department facilities and the other eight sites are offered at state Department of Education schools. While it would be great to increase the number of locations, the department has only a limited number of appropriate locations to offer this program. The DOE has been a great partner over the years, but sometimes repair and maintenance projects need to be done during the summer months, so each year we face the challenge of securing new sites when certain DOE schools are not available. The PALS program does not have a wait-list policy, because there are very few, if any, parents who decide not to have their child attend the program once they register. We can revisit this with staff to see if a wait-list policy should be created. Our department staff does try to improve the PALS program each year, and it is clear there is a need in the community to provide quality programs for our youth at an affordable cost.
Q: I am new to living across from Kalama Park. Public events sometimes happen late at night when I would like to go to bed, but the amplified music keeps me awake. This is also true of some local restaurants that play amplified music past 8, 9, even 10 p.m., and sometimes on weekends past midnight. I understand an effort to look at the noise ordinances last year was never completed by the County Council. Could you please tell me what ordinances apply to the public park and to private restaurants, and what recourse I have when there is excessive noise?
A: The ordinances for park users and restaurants and bars are different in time and decibel restrictions depending on the liquor enforcement rules that apply. However, they are similar in that they are designed to protect neighbors who are trying to get a good night’s sleep. Anyone playing amplified music at Kalama Park must have a county parks permit, which will require the sounds to be turned off at 10 p.m. The rules of the Maui County Liquor Commission apply to businesses such restaurants which have a liquor license and limit noise by zoning districts and time periods. Noise complaints about liquor-licensed establishments may be submitted to the Maui County Department of Liquor Control by calling 243-7487 or 243-7101 or emailing email@example.com. While the Liquor Commission may place restrictions on a specific liquor license if noise becomes an issue, enforcing noise restrictions in this particular area can be challenging because there are several liquor-licensed establishments located in close proximity to one another, making it difficult at times to pinpoint the source of the noise. The Department of Liquor Control has sought the assistance of the state through the Department of Health’s environmental health specialists, but even with their expertise, enforcement of noise in this high-density area remains a challenge.
Q: I would like to applaud you for the sidewalk renovations going on in Kahului along Wakea and Kamehameha avenues. I was just wondering if there is any consideration to redo the curbs and install handicap American with Disabilities Act ramps along Pomaikai and Makalii streets. I have brought it up with the county’s engineering division and also a council member two or three years ago, and I get the impression that nothing is going to be done. Might I say this also may be a school zone, and at times I have noticed a lady passing by in her motorized wheelchair.
A: Actually, plans are already underway to construct ramps in the areas you described. Ramps along Makalii Street at Pomaikai Street and Apapane Place are currently being designed as part of a curb ramp project being conducted by our Department of Public Works. The plans are under review, and Public Works is aiming to have this project out to bid later this summer or in the early fall of this year.
Ask The Mayor
Q: My question involves the enforcement of laws regarding noise pollution. We hear a great deal about air pollution whenever cane fields are burned, and rightly so. But a motorcycle with an illegal exhaust system can disturb people in their homes for more than a half-block radius everywhere they go. One individual can affect thousands of people every single day. Cane field burning, whatever your position on the subject, is still being done legally. The motorcycle, or car for that matter, with a modified exhaust system designed for maximum volume, is illegal. Yet, I’ve never seen a police officer issuing a ticket. I would like to know what kind of effort is being made to reduce this type of pollution that is much more pernicious than some would have us believe.
A: Maui County Code 10.20.440 specifies that a motor vehicle must be equipped with a muffler in good working order with sufficient capacity for the motor and/or exhaust system to “prevent the escape of excessive or annoying fumes or smoke, and excessive or unusual noise.” Additionally, motor vehicles are not allowed to have an exhaust system that has been altered or modified to such an extent that the noise or exhaust is excessive or unusual, as defined by the code, or equipped with a dummy muffler, cutout, bypass or similar device. The Maui Police Department routinely issues citations on vehicles that are in violation of this law.
Q: I work near a business on Kupuohi Street in Lahaina. This business always has a sign blocking the sidewalk, and street parking in front of its business is blocked off with cones and a huge sign. They are the only business doing this. Who do we report this to? Isn’t it illegal to block a public area for private use? Thanks in advance!
A: You’re correct: Portable signs like “sandwich board” signs on sidewalks are specifically prohibited. The county’s commercial sign ordinance (Portable signs: Chapter 16.13.150.E) is very specific about the size, type and location of signs that businesses are allowed to have. On-street parking is intended to be available for public use and cannot be coned-off for the exclusive use of any individual or business. You may use the county’s Request for Service system to have these problems investigated and enforced. To access the online system, visit www.mauicounty.gov/rfs.
Q: In a previous column someone inquired about the legality of a contractor using his residence to conduct his business with company vehicles parked in front of other homes, using tools early in the morning with employees reporting to work, backup horns going off, etc., – all this in a residential neighborhood. Now, the only recourse a resident would have is to file a Request for Service complaint, but apparently the offending neighbor can find out who made the complaint. Do you think this might possibly turn out badly? Do you believe the county policy should be changed, that an anonymous complaint should fit in these types of situations? Or should the neighbor keep quiet for fear of retaliation?
A: Those are excellent questions that we wrestled with for a long time before establishing the current policy, which does not allow for anonymous complaints. We evaluated the volume and types of complaints that had been coming in under the previous policy, and found that people were submitting a lot of frivolous and sometimes retaliatory complaints simply because they could do so anonymously. These complaints were costing taxpayer dollars to follow up on and were wasting many hours of staff time. After much discussion, it was decided to require people to provide personal information so the complaint could be verified. This also allows the person who must respond to be informed of the origin of the complaint. That being said, if a person wanting to file a Request for Service belongs to a homeowners or neighborhood association, the organization can submit the complaint as a group, rather than as an individual.
Ask The Mayor
Q: A friend told me about two women in their 80s who were waiting for the Maui Bus near Ah Fook’s Supermarket at Kahului Shopping Center. The women missed the bus because the bus driver did not see them. Because it was raining, the women were waiting under the eaves instead of out in the open. However, since they did not want to block the entrance to Ah Fook’s, they were waiting in front of the next store down – which was even farther away from the bus stop. Apparently, no one needed to get off at the shopping center so the bus driver did not stop. What are Maui Bus riders supposed to do when it’s raining or very hot and there is no bus shelter? Also, what are drivers instructed to do so they don’t miss riders like these elderly women? Luckily, they managed to call a friend who was able to pick them up, but not everyone will be that fortunate.
A: Our county Transportation Department has been busy constructing bus shelters at dozens of locations around the island, but there are still many Maui Bus stops that do not have covered shelters yet. This makes it challenging for riders waiting in the hot sun or in the rain for the bus. At those locations, Maui Bus drivers have been alerted to stop and observe whether any passengers are waiting to board. Since it can be difficult for the driver to determine who is waiting to board, riders are asked to make their way to the stop before the bus arrives so they won’t be missed. For evening or nighttime pickups, it’s advisable for riders to carry a flashlight or other type of illumination to let the driver know they are present. In the case of the elderly women, they may qualify for other types of public transportation such as the “Shopper’s Shuttle” or even Americans with Disabilities Act service provided by Maui Economic Opportunity called “Ala Hou.” To learn more about the MEO options, call 877-7651. Qualified disabled passengers also may ride the Maui Bus paratransit service; more information is available online at “http://www.mauicounty.gov/paratransit”>www.mauicounty.gov/paratransit or by calling the Maui County Department of Transportation at 270-7511.
Q: Where can I find a public restroom in Paia? I work in Paia town and every day, over and over, I hear this question. It seems that this area is booming with new businesses and new construction, so it seems only civilized that we should have a centrally located public restroom for our visitors and residents. How does the citizenry go about getting the process started?
A: We are currently working on a solution that would involve the placement of a portable toilet trailer unit in Paia town. The only county restroom in Paia is located at Lower Paia Park, also known as Baby Park, on the Kahului side of Paia town.
Q: I’ve been hearing that you are planning to move the driver’s licensing office at Maui Mall to Paia near Baldwin Park. Why? That seems like a terrible location.
A: First of all, that is not true, but I can understand why some people are a little confused if they’ve only heard a portion of the whole story. Here’s the situation in a nutshell. The new owners of the Maui Mall are not renewing the county’s lease for our service center, which includes the Department of Motor Vehicle and Licensing, so we are forced to find a new location by next year. A&B has offered to sell the county 4 acres in its Maui Business Park II in Kahului for $7 million so we can build a new service center there. However, the developers of Kehalani Village Center in Wailuku also offered to sell the county 5 acres in the shopping center space for $6.6 million. Now here’s where Paia comes into play; A&B wanted to sweeten its deal and eventually offered to gift the county some 36 acres of beachfront property in Paia from Baldwin Park to the Paia Youth & Cultural Center if we build our service center in Kahului at their business park. Kehalani in turn offered a gift of 14 acres near Longs Drugs in Wailuku if we build in its shopping center. Both are good opportunities and we hope to hear from the County Council and the community as to which they prefer. But again, the new service center will NOT be built in Paia. If we were to accept the A&B deal the service center would be in Kahului, but we would receive the 36 acres in Paia as an incentive; we would then clear the brush and cane field so that people can have better access to the park and beach areas there. Bottom line, the service center will remain in Central Maui; the community needs to advise the council which site it prefers.
* Want to Ask the Mayor? Submit your Maui County related questions to Mayor Alan Arakawa by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 email@example.com.