Council funds affordable housing, considering West Maui projects

COUNCIL'S 3 MINUTES

Your County Council has been busy addressing the key needs of our community.

The fiscal year 2020 budget has been adopted, and the mayor’s nominees for department directors have been reviewed and approved. A fully informed council has been tackling the pressing issues for Maui County.

The County Council adopted a budget for the 2020 fiscal year, which begins on July 1. The council accepted most of the budget proposed by Mayor Michael Victorino but added items to increase the proposed budget to $823.5 million.

The council increased the reservation of property tax revenue for the affordable housing fund to 4 percent of real property tax revenue; this is one percentage point higher than what the mayor proposed. The council also expanded spending to provide facilities to use more of the recycled water generated by our wastewater treatment plants.

Additional money was provided to help those in our community without shelter and those who are “shelter-insecure” through rental assistance programs. The council is proud of the successful compressed budget deliberation schedule led by Council Vice Chairwoman Rawlins-Fernandez and look forward to her leadership on the fiscal year 2021 budget next spring.

With the 2020 budget addressed, your council can roll up its collective sleeves and tackle the pressing issues through its subject-matter committees:

• The Governance, Ethics, and Transparency Committee recently considered whether the county should accept a settlement offered by Hawaii Wildlife Fund and others in the litigation involving the Lahaina injection wells. After much consideration, the committee deferred action on the proposed settlement. As such, the county will continue its current path to having the U.S. Supreme Court address the issue, though the committee may reconsider the county’s options in this matter at a future date.

• The Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee received a presentation on the international law status of the Hawaiian Kingdom from Dr. Keanu Sai at its meetings of May 15 and June 5. The presentations provided the committee with much information and many questions regarding the Hawaiian Kingdom as described by Sai.

• The Affordable Housing Committee heard its first workforce housing projects at its meeting of Wednesday. The two projects in the Launiupoko area on the West Side, if approved, would result in 96 housing units affordable by households at 80-140 percent of Maui’s adjusted medium income.

Council members earlier this month participated in the 2019 annual Conference of the Hawaii State Association of Counties (HSAC) hosted by the Maui County Council. The general theme of the conference was “Hot Topics in Sustainability.”

HSAC is a professional association whose membership consists of the legislative bodies and mayors of each county. Hosting the annual conference rotates among the four counties.

Conference sessions dealt with transportation, housing, agriculture, water resources, climate change and community trends. A highlight of the conference was the launching of The Climate Reality Project: Hawaii Chapter.

The Climate Reality Project is an organization founded by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore dedicated to combating climate change.

In cooperation with Mayor Victorino, we are planning an Attainable Housing Symposium to be held this fall. We are hoping to engage the entire community in addressing our community’s critical shortage of attainable housing.

The goal of this gathering of environmentalists, community leaders, developers, consultants and regulatory staff is to learn the constraints on providing the needed housing and to address those constraints realistically so that attainable housing stops being a dream and becomes a reality for Maui County residents.

As the County Council, we are working for you seeking to provide a better future for you and your children. To reach that goal, we invite you to participate and help shape that better future.

* Tasha Kama is the council’s presiding officer pro tempore and chair of the council’s Affordable Housing Committee. She holds the council seat for the Kahului residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.