WAILUKU - The month of January has kept my fellow County Council members and me in constant motion. Whether traveling by plane or by car, we have made our way to every district on the island of Maui, as well as to the islands of Lanai and Molokai, for Budget and Finance Committee meetings to discuss the disparity of real property assessments for agricultural versus nonagricultural lands.
Amidst our journeys, we have received great feedback from the attending public, and it is my hope that we have also been able to successfully address concerns and questions in the process.
It's nice to be able to seize these valuable opportunities to spend time in the outer lying communities during our committee travels to speak to the residents one-on-one and to be present at community events that we would otherwise find difficult to attend. While visiting East Maui, we were able to head over a little early to appear at the grand opening and blessing of the Hana landfill recycling center - a project that we can all be excited about and proud of. It is a much appreciated service that is long overdue to East Maui.
West Maui County Councilmember Elle Cochran gives an update on infrastructure projects — such as “waste to energy” and “landfill to gas” — at the West Maui Taxpayers Association meeting on Jan. 12.
The other members and I also took our annual trip to Oahu for the opening day of the state legislative regular session, which, this year, was quite different from opening day activities in years past. This session, the House and Senate leaders decided to scale back the normal activities and entertainment and to focus the opening ceremony on getting right to work with addressing the pertinent issues important to the State of Hawaii. The afternoon included a hearing and official presentations to state leaders from the various mayors and their representatives.
Mayor Alan Arakawa humbly asked that during their deliberations, the legislators leave our transient accommodations tax intact, and that they stick to the agreed upon terms that were made last year and not take any more of the revenue that our county's most crucial services rely so desperately upon. At this point, I remain cautiously optimistic that since our state deficit does not seem any worse off than it was last year, the County of Maui will be able to count on that revenue in our own fast-approaching budget session. But, as always, I think we will hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Earlier this month, I took a solo trip to Oahu - in my role as chair of the Infrastructure Management Committee - to attend the Public Utilities Commission 2012 Energy Efficiency Showcase and Training. This proved to be a very useful conference, keeping attendees well-informed on the up-and-coming technologies available and potential plans for our state's utility upgrades. This information goes hand-in-hand with items that my Infrastructure Management Committee will be discussing in the next few regularly scheduled committee meetings. We very recently discussed adopting the new Uniform Plumbing Code standards, which passed out of committee on Jan. 23, and have now scheduled the adoption of the new International Building Code standards and International Residential Code standards for Jan. 30 at 9 a.m. It is my intention, if all goes well, to take another look at the LED lighting bill that we discussed in my committee toward the end of last year. I believe that we will be able to find language that will work for all concerned parties and address the different concerns that were raised, so that we can move forward with utilizing this great technology to our benefit.
I would like to wish everyone Kung Hee Fat Choy! (Happy Chinese New Year!) The Chinese Zodiac year of 2012 is upon us, and this year marks the Year of the Dragon, which also happens to be my Chinese astrological symbol. According to the zodiac, a person born under this sign tends to be a "doer," and that is exactly what I have set my mind to being since I was elected to office last year.
This year will only be better and even more effective, as I have grown into my own skin on the County Council and learned the ropes of government. My office staff and I have already begun this New Year with a sprinting start and plan to work together with all of you to accomplish as many goals as physically possible in a calendar year. The Year of the Dragon is considered the luckiest year in the Chinese Zodiac. We wish you all a happy, healthy and lucky 2012! Let's make this year count.