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Much has been accomplished during the past year

COUNCIL'S 3 MINUTES

As the council embarks on a change in leadership, I would like to thank all who supported us this year.

I am proud of my office and our focus on the vision outlined in the Countywide Policy Plan. We have led on issues, some bigger than our own county and even our state.

This past year, the council has addressed issues of the highest priority to Maui County residents, notably adding millions of dollars to the affordable housing and first-time homebuyers funds, bringing climate change issues to the forefront and supporting agriculture at a higher level than ever before.

In April, the council developed a program-driven budget for this current fiscal year. Besides doubling the affordable housing fund by allocating $14 million, including $1.4 million for rental-housing programs and more than $2 million to assist unsheltered residents, we made the process easier for nonprofits and for the first time fully funded the animal shelter contract.

This council has also refocused our tourism industry on managing tourism rather than just continuing to market to increase visitor numbers. We recognize Mauians are the stewards of the most special place on Earth, and it’s time to focus on protections for our environment and our residents.

There is also a renewed push to prioritize housing for the lowest-income population, and I hope 2020 will see new approvals in addition to the north Kihei and West Maui 100 percent affordable rental projects. In an attempt to increase availability of residential rentals, the council codified in ordinance a 2018 charter amendment allowing fines of up to $20,000 to be levied on illegal transient vacation rentals.

The visionary 2020 budget also includes appropriations of $700,000 for an assessment of coastal roads for effects of climate change, sea level rise and shoreline erosion, and $500,000 for Phase I of a Countywide Master Plan for Shoreline Retreat.

On May 17, the council adopted Resolution 19-98 to approve Maui County’s membership in the County Climate Coalition and affirm Maui’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. In June, we hosted the Hawaii State Association of Counties conference, which was a historic effort to focus the attention of local officials from across the state on climate and environmental issues, and Maui launched the Hawaii chapter of the Climate Reality Project.

On Sept. 20, the council adopted Resolution 19-157 to recognize the efforts of Maui County residents to highlight climate change and supporting the global climate strike occurring on that date.

Also on Sept. 20, in the council’s most globally significant issue of the decade, we voted to approve a new settlement agreement for the injection well lawsuit, Hawaii Wildlife Fund, et al. vs. the County of Maui. The vote to also withdraw the case from the Supreme Court was monumental, and it addressed the will of Mauians to focus our funds on solutions rather than attorneys. It also highlighted the charter crisis that resulted from corporation counsel’s inability to uphold the council’s vote, and the need for clarity on the council’s authority to settle such a case. I thank the private citizens who are going to court to get that clarity when the County Council failed to approve our own special counsel to do it.

On Oct. 4, the council adopted Resolution 19-166 to approve inclusion of a state bill in the 2020 Hawaii State Association of Counties’ legislative package to more urgently address sea level rise. Specifically, the bill would increase funding and direct the Hawaii Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission to counter the impacts of sea level rise, identify critical public infrastructure in impacted areas, and provide policy direction to the Legislature about how to move forward with concrete, actionable strategies.

Our council recognized the climate emergency by adopting Resolution 19-209 on Dec. 20, calling for a “just transition” to a safe climate. And we have just created a new Committee on Climate Change and Resilience to work on policies for real solutions. I gratefully accept the responsibility to chair this committee, and I’m excited to get it going!

Also this month, the council approved a new ordinance allowing traffic police to tow cars in cases of arrest as part of a movement to decrease alcohol- and traffic-related deaths. And our legislative package officially supports the proposed state legislation to decrease the legal blood alcohol limit from .08 to .05 percent.

Much has been accomplished during the past year, and my staff is to be commended for keeping up with the heavy load of continuing to serve our community at full pace while taking on the daily duties of the chair’s office. We have been laser-focused on our commitment to the citizens of Maui to concentrate on big-picture issues while creating fair practices and procedures, encouraging widespread civic engagement, supporting honest and transparent meetings and keeping open communication with the public. I have worked closely with the Office of Council Services, and my relationship with OCS has been productive and extremely congenial.

Although I had intended to serve as chair for the full term, I respect the decision of the council majority. To me, leadership was never about the title, and as your council member I remain committed to lead by example, focus on the long-term vision, prioritize the important issues and always serve the public interest first. Thank you for your support, Maui!

* Kelly King holds the council seat for the South Maui 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.

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