June 20th marked the long-awaited groundbreaking for the new skate park in West Maui. I was proud to be there with my fellow colleagues continuing support for the building of a legal place to skateboard for the younger generation. The idea came about in 1994, design began in 2007 and construction should be completed this year. I am glad that we are investing in creating healthy outlets for kids, and I hope to see more of it throughout Maui County.
June 21-23 was the 2011 Hawaii State Association of Counties (HSAC) conference held at the Grand Wailea Resort. Each year a different county in Hawaii hosts the conference, and this year it was proudly hosted by Maui County. HSAC is an opportunity for government officials, businesses, non-profits, community leaders and members of the public to connect. Our conference theme was “Hawaii Counties Connect: Fostering Unity and Excellence in Local Government” and included talks on green workforce development, open government, fiscal management, technology and social media, as well as intergovernmental relations. It was my first trip to the conference, and I would definitely recommend that members of the public get involved at future conferences. It is a great opportunity for the community to learn more about the inner workings of government and to meet officials throughout the state.
On June 22, I was fortunate to witness the arrival of The Pacific Voyagers Project to Hanakao‘o Beach Park in Kaanapali, who are traveling the Pacific to raise awareness about the serious threats our ocean faces. The Polynesian group is focusing their message on the less known “invisible” threats to the ocean, that are none the less causing very serious impacts to marine life. These issues include noise pollution; acidification (carbon dioxide emissions in the ocean that dissolve into acid, making it difficult for sea urchins, mussels and corals to build their skeletons or shells); and anoxic waters, creating dead zones, which occur because global warming is causing the ocean temperature to rise. Since warm water does not hold as much oxygen, the decrease in oxygen mixed with the increased amount of carbon dioxide is making it difficult for marine life to breathe. Their motto is: “Move your paddle silently through the water” (in other words, “Be respectful and gentle”), a concept that I respect very much. The canoes were greeted by hundreds of Maui County residents and a traditional Hawaiian greeting. It was a very special moment to witness.
On June 25, I attended the Okinawan Festival at Maui Mall and took in the culture; sounds, sights, flavors and all. It was an amazing festival with an inspiring theme: “Hashi Kakiin” (Building Bridges). In the fall, I will be traveling to Okinawa to attend the fifth Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival (a.k.a. “Taikai”), which is a festival that gives Okinawans the opportunity to return to the islands and reconnect with their heritage and culture. I plan to utilize this opportunity to build bridges for Maui County and to learn from Okinawa by touring their facilities and discovering their answers to such issues as wastewater disposal/recycling, solid waste recycling and transportation, to name a few. Okinawa Island experiences a similar climate to Maui County, and with an island almost half the size of Maui and nine times the population of Maui County, I am curious to learn how waste management practices are handled and if we can apply their experience to our own issues.
On June 27, my Infrastructure Management Committee met to discuss three items that passed unanimously out of committee and will be up for first reading at the council meeting scheduled for July 22: The dedication of a road widening lot at the intersection of Haiku Road and West Kuiaha Road (Haiku), the dedication of a road widening lot for the Kamaole Homesteads subdivision (Kihei) and a bill to establish a crosswalk on a portion of Kanani Road in Kihei.
At the July 11 Infrastructure Management Committee, we discussed a bill relating to development on steep terrain, which was deferred pending further discussion; and prohibiting mopeds on bicycle paths, which was adopted after some minor language revisions. This bill will prohibit mopeds from traveling on pedestrian paths meant for foot traffic and/or bicycles on the North Shore Greenway in Paia and the Kihei Collector Road in Kihei. It does not include bikeways on streets or on highways.
The next Infrastructure Management meeting will be a site inspection of the Wharf transit hub at the Maui Bus stop on Luakini Street behind The Wharf Cinema Center in Lahaina on Monday, Aug. 1, at 9:45 a.m. Committee members will take a closer look at the issues surrounding the possible relocation of the transit hub. I believe that site inspections are a valuable method for making informed decisions for our community. I would encourage members of the public to join us at The Wharf and share your mana‘o. Testimony will be accepted.
I would like to thank all of you that voted for me in the “Best of 2011 Maui” addition of Maui Time. It means a lot to me to be considered one of the best county officials. I will continue to work tirelessly to make you proud and to keep West Maui well represented.
County Councilmembers Michael Victorino, Joseph Pontanilla and Elle Cochran attended the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area’s second Birthday Bash at Kahekili Beach Park over the weekend and spoke with Kaanapali Makai Watch coordinators, local and visiting researchers, volunteers and community members. Cochran went on a snorkel tour of the reef with Makai Watch Co-coordinators Darla White and Liz Foote. “It was eye-opening to see how much research and monitoring is going on at the site, and the devastation of the coral is sad,” Cochran said. County officials are invited to take the tour and see the reef and its condition. “The coordination team hopes that the fisheries management strategies in place coupled with integrated watershed management can help this site recover and flourish. The community’s support is needed for this to happen,” Foote said.