During election years, the Kihei Community Association (KCA) serves as a forum where voters have the opportunity to meet candidates up close. At the Tuesday, June 17, meeting, state Sen. Roz Baker, state Rep. Kaniela Ing and Maui County Councilmember Don Couch spoke about their track records.
KCA President Mike Moran greeted a crowd of nearly 100 at the Kihei Charter School Auditorium, gathered to hear updates on the Pi'ilani Promenade project, Maui Electric Company (MECO) "smart meters" in Maui Meadows and alternative energy solutions for Kihei.
Moran also said in June, KCA board members would meet with Crouse Development Corporation, a California firm in the permitting process to build the "Downtown Kihei Project" shopping center on both sides of Pi'ikea Street below the roundabout. As a community service, summaries of all updates and every meeting are posted at www.GoKihei.org.
District 6 State Sen. Roz Baker, District 11 South Maui House Rep. Kaniela Ing and County Councilmember Don Couch addressed Kīhei Community Association members and guests on Tuesday, June 17.
Photo: Katherine Smith
South Maui Legislative Update
Sixth District (West and South Maui) Sen. Baker chairs the Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection. She cited some minor forward movement on funding to build a new Kihei high school, saying the $130 million is there, including $30 million for site work. However, decisions by state Department of Education (DOE) officials are taking time. Baker was happy to report, however, that $500,000 was added to revise the dangerous intersection at the proposed high school site.
Funds were approved for a state park at Makena, and $5 million more for invasive species control and shoreline protection. The liability exemption for lifeguards was extended, and funding for two Kihei and two West Maui first-responders was approved. A new SUV first-response medical aid unit in Ma'alaea now provides life-saving medical support for accident victims until transport arrives.
District 11 (South Maui) Rep. Ing presented the results of a voter survey conducted by his office. He hopes to stimulate voter turnout by addressing issues of interest to residents. He also attributes Hawai'i's poor voter turnout to inconvenient voting systems based on old paper ballots. He favors all innovations that make it easy to vote. (See "Results of Rep. Kaniela Ing's 2014 Voter Survey" at the end of this article.)
Ing reported successful passage of bills that support Kamali'i Elementary School capital improvements, repair of the Kihei Boat Ramp, Kihei Elementary School remediation, Lokelani Intermediate repairs, Pi'ilani Highway resurfacing, a Kihei to Upcountry highway study and sustaining funds for Walter J. Cameron Center in Wailuku.
South Maui Councilmember Couch began his segment by thanking both Ing and Baker for continuing the fight to remove the cap on the Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT). Maui County's rate of return improved a little, which will help, he said. Couch said the County Council was proud to lower Maui real estate tax 3.1 percent this year, and to improve the "Circuit Breaker Tax Credit to help keep elderly and disadvantaged persons on their land as valuations rise beyond the help afforded by homeowner exemptions."
Regarding a $16.6 million line item for a Kihei gym recently vetoed by Mayor Alan Arakawa, Couch vowed, "We will get the gym." This week, the line item veto indeed was overturned by the council. He encouraged Kihei residents to "call my office and tell us what you think the gym should be like."
The council also approved rehabilitation and bike paths for Wailea and Wailea Iki Drives this year. Major extension lines and new storage tanks for R1 (recycled, non-potable) water were approved and are now being installed to make cheaper irrigation water available for landscapes and agricultural lands.
Couch explained that North Kihei Road Phase IV is a federal project involving building bridges. The design will include bike lanes like the one along Liloa Street.
"That's why the process is so long," Couch said.
Politicians Answer Tough Questions
Many of the KCA meeting's first-time attendees were there to oppose political support for genetically modified organism (GMO) testing and growing in Hawai'i--an issue of interest to many voters.
Deborah Mader of Maui Mommas asked Baker why she killed the GMO bill that called for labeling of GMO produce and products made from them. The bill briefly came before a joint committee at the close of the legislative session.
Baker replied, "I did not kill the bill."
She explained that the joint committee considering the bill included two other committees besides her Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection. They could not come to consensus on enforcement and other issues, she said. The bill did not have enough support.
Mader was also under the impression that Baker received a $20,000 campaign donation from Monsanto Company. Baker said that is "incorrect." The Maui Weekly later confirmed with Baker that Monsanto donated $500 to the Baker campaign this year. Baker raised a total of $140,000 during her 2012 campaign.
In response to Gloria Roman's question on the smoking ban at state beach parks, Couch said the act was passed on Earth Day, April 22. Enforcement has been delayed until the signs are posted, he said. Not all beaches are state beaches, so the ban is not island-wide, he added.
Bob Straub wanted to know why the state legislature does not have teleconferencing for testimony from Maui, Lana'i and Molokai. Baker explained that the solution is complex because of the many committees that need to have equipment and space to make it possible. It is coming, but slowly because of the expense and logistics, she said.
A discussion of the work on Kilohana Road, brought forward by a question from Jackie Tavares, revealed that it is a private road owned by Alexander & Baldwin (A&B). In order for Maui County to repave the road, the waterlines would need to be moved and new sidewalks would need to be added, as was done on Waikea Street. After A&B brings the infrastructure up to County Code, it will be designated as a county road, and the county will repave it, said Couch.
Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez wanted to know more about Gov. Neil Abercrombie's aggressive over-revenue budget, and how the finance committee is dealing with reserves. Baker explained the Turtle Bay area easement in conservation, which is valued at $45 million. These and other issues at the 11th hour caused problems, she said. Funding is always easier to manage when there is time to find resources, such as grants. The governor is not obligated to spend monies allocated to him by the state House of Representatives, so the budget does not ensure that projects will actually be implemented, she said.
Regarding the Kihei high school, Andrew Beerer voiced a concern over slow progress. Baker reiterated that $30 million of the $130 million allocated is for site work, including an added $500,000 to revise the intersection at the high school entrance, the site of 11 accidents in the past year. Actual implementation now depends on the state DOE.
Ing spoke to Duane Chevy's concern for declining numbers of reef fish. In addition to aquarium fishermen, the issue is complicated by enforcement problems--bag limits and spearfishing regulations, he said. Baker added that kapu zones where fish can grow undisturbed were needed.
Next month's KCA meeting on Tuesday, July 15, will host a forum for all 2014 Primary Election candidates. Voters will have opportunity to hear incumbents and challengers first-hand at the Kihei Charter School Auditorium in the Lipoa Shopping Center. Networking begins at 6 p.m.; the program will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Primary Election Day is Saturday, Aug. 9.
RESULTS OF REP. KANIELA ING'S 2014 VOTER SURVEY
For marijuana legalization61%
For new voter registration regulations66%
For video conferencing for Neighbor Islands 90%
For raise in minimum wage83%
For GMO food labeling80%