Plan should guide us in critical decisions

Our County

The 50th anniversary of the Hawaii State Capitol was celebrated on March 15, and a time capsule that was in a cornerstone of the building on March 15, 1969, was removed and opened. It contained photos of then Gov. John Burns and his Cabinet, the first Hawaii State Constitution and photos of our islands. These showed how much has changed in 50 years.

Now, the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Hawaii State Capitol Task Force has asked me, as mayor, to submit a letter — for inclusion in a new time capsule — that tells future generations about today’s hopes, dreams and struggles and what we envision for the future.

It’s a matter of imagination and educated guesswork to see 50 years into the future for the County of Maui, but what we face now is clear. Now what matters most is taking care of our kuleana, or responsibility, to pave the way for the best future possible for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Today we are confronted by a housing shortage with a deficit of thousands of units, with multiple families living together or people simply unable to afford to live on the islands where they were born and raised. In many ways, this crisis tears at the fabric of society, aggravates an already too high cost of living and leaves people without a roof over their heads that they can call their own. We need to build, and we need to build quickly.

I’m optimistic that together we’ll make progress in expanding housing opportunities for our residents. I also believe we’ll make further progress with development of alternative energy, eventually making our current reliance on fossil fuels a thing of the past.

Climate change and sea-level rise threaten our shoreline, including beaches, structures and highways, with Kihei and Lahaina being among our most vulnerable communities. Our Department of Planning has been working on proposed changes to shoreline area setback rules and special management area permits to respond to these challenges.

What should guide us in these and other critical decisions for our future are the core principles as detailed in the Countywide Policy Plan of the Maui County General Plan 2030. These are:

• Excellence in the stewardship of the natural environment and cultural resources.

• Compassion for and understanding of others.

• Respect for diversity.

• Engagement and empowerment of Maui County residents.

• Honor for all cultural traditions and histories.

• Consideration of the contributions of past generations as well as the needs of future generations.

• Commitment to self-sufficiency.

• Wisdom and balance in decision-making.

• Thoughtful, island-appropriate innovation.

• Nurturing the health and well-being of our families and communities.

In my lifetime, I have seen what was once science fiction become reality: the landing of men on the moon, computers, internet, video conferencing, cellphones, drones and artificial intelligence, just to name a few.

Now, it doesn’t take much of a leap of imagination to see colonies of humans on space stations, the moon or Mars; a cure for diseases like cancer and heart disease; and an end of poverty, hunger, wars and racism. Such dreams may seem unrealistic, but if we don’t dare to dream today there will be no chance of turning them into reality tomorrow.

While I expect there will be many changes in the future, much of what we value today will remain the same: hard work, responsibility, respect and honesty. We will continue to love family and friends. We will continue to value our community and strive to make it better.

It’s been a privilege and honor to be mayor of the County of Maui. Every day, I’m thankful for our community, everyone doing what they can to make the home we love a better place now and tomorrow. To future generations, my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I say aloha and God bless.

* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, discusses county issues and activities of county government. The column usually appears on the first and third Fridays of the month.