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Diversifying revenue streams and investing in ourselves

COUNCIL'S 3 MINUTES

Getting through 2020 took a united effort, and I am continually impressed by our community’s resilience and ability to support one another, especially in our more isolated communities like Moloka’i, Lana’i and Hana.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us in a myriad of ways, presenting ongoing, complex issues. But we have remained steadfast in our commitment to creating a safer, more resilient and culturally aligned community.

I remain optimistic that 2021 offers hope through new, innovative ideas and opportunities that have been fostered through our shared hardships and challenges. We will continue to find our way through this together.

I am honored that my fellow council members entrusted me as vice-chair of the council and chair of the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee for a second term. I embrace the opportunity to work with my constituents and fellow lawmakers to continue to endure through the pandemic.

There are three focal areas that remain paramount in helping our community through this critical time: diversifying our revenue streams, investing in ourselves and building a better system.

Last year, Hawai’i ended the year with a 75 percent decline in visitor arrivals, which has had a crippling effect on our state. Consequently, we are facing unprecedented challenges, including a 15 percent unemployment rate, ongoing temporary and permanent business closures and, now, potential furloughs of our teachers and government workers.

We must consider innovative ways to diversify our revenue stream and reimagine a greener, more sustainable and regenerative economy, while seeking solutions that not only address our current challenges, but how we intend to position ourselves for a better tomorrow.

Last week, the council unanimously adopted Resolution 21-19, making Maui County the first local jurisdiction statewide to offer support for legalizing, regulating and taxing responsible, adult-use cannabis. It’s important to note that this resolution also supports granting clemency to anyone incarcerated on a cannabis conviction and expunging those convictions.

Last year, California’s two-year legalized cannabis industry surpassed a billion dollars in tax revenue for the state, providing support for child care, public safety and research. Recently, state Rep. Tina Wildberger proposed a cannabis-legalization bill at the Legislature, which could offer similar benefits to Hawai’i.

This pandemic has forced people to question their future and deliberate on what’s most important in their lives. Too many of us are juggling our kids’ education, staying safe and making ends meet. I share these challenges with you and will continue offering my office as a hub of information.

Recognizing that access to resources are still lacking, the council and I will continue to develop and support innovative solutions at the county level and beyond, such as increasing digital equity.

Our council has continued to lead in accessibility to the county’s decision-making process, allowing people the opportunity to provide oral and video testimony online safely from wherever a person is.

My office is looking forward to a productive and collaborative term with this council. It’s been an exciting and legislatively prolific start to the year. Over the next two years, I plan to focus intently on building capacity within our community by cultivating mentorship opportunities for our next generation of leaders and strengthening their interest and involvement in decision-making.

I also plan to advance the great strides we have already made to ensure transparency and visibility for the public by integrating software to make the county’s finances more user-friendly and accessible during the budget session and throughout the year. This will enable the community to see adjustments made in real-time and gain a better understanding of how fiscal planning for the year is accomplished.

For more information or ways to get involved, please visit www.keanirawlinsfernandez.com. I hope that you will join me answering the kahea to serve and elevate Maui County for a brighter future.

* Keani Rawlins-Fernandez is the vice-chair of the Maui County Council and chairs the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee. She holds the County Council seat for the Moloka’i 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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