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Opinion pieces, analyses and letters are intended to provide a diverse range of views from our community. They are not intended to represent the views of Maui Now.

Ask the Mayor: Why Anonymous Complaints No Longer Allowed

The mayor answers questions from the public in this series.

By Mayor Alan Arakawa

Photo courtesy Harley Davidson.

Photo courtesy Harley Davidson.

Q: My question involves the enforcement of laws regarding noise pollution. We hear a great deal about air pollution whenever cane fields are burned, and rightly so.

But a motorcycle with an illegal exhaust system can disturb people in their homes for more than a half block radius everywhere they go. One individual can affect thousands of people every single day.

Cane field burning, whatever your position on the subject, is still being done legally. The motorcycle, or car for that matter, with a modified exhaust system designed for maximum volume, is illegal. Yet, I’ve never seen a police officer issuing a ticket. I would like to know what kind of effort is being made to reduce this type of pollution that is much more pernicious than some would have us believe.

A: Maui County Code 10.20.440 specifies that a motor vehicle must be equipped with a muffler in good working order with sufficient capacity for the motor and/or exhaust system to “prevent the escape of excessive or annoying fumes or smoke, and excessive or unusual noise.”

Additionally, motor vehicles are not allowed to have an exhaust system that has been altered or modified to such an extent that the noise or exhaust is excessive or unusual, as defined by the code, or equipped with a dummy muffler, cutout, by-pass or similar device. Maui Police Department routinely issues citations on vehicles that are in violation of this law.

Q: I work near a business on Kupuohi Street in Lahaina. This business always has a sign blocking the sidewalk and street parking in front of their business blocked off with cones and a huge sign. They are the only business doing this. Who do we report this to? Isn’t it illegal to block a public area for private use? Thanks in advance!

Kupuohi Street. Maui Now/Google Maps image.

Kupuohi Street, with a sign on the sidewalk. Google image.

A: You’re correct: Portable signs like “sandwich board” signs on sidewalks are specifically prohibited. The county’s commercial sign ordinance (Portable signs: Chapter 16.13.150.E) is very specific about the size, type and location of signs that businesses are allowed to have. On-street parking is intended to be available for public use and cannot be coned-off for the exclusive use of any individual or business. You may use the county’s Request for Service system to have these problems investigated and enforced. To access the online system, visit www.mauicounty.gov/RFS.

Q: In a previous column someone inquired about the legality of a contractor using his residence to conduct his business with company vehicles parked in front of other homes, using tools early in the morning with employees reporting to work, back-up horns going off, etc.– all this in a residential neighborhood.

Now, the only recourse a resident would have is to file a Request for Service (RFS) complaint, but apparently the offending neighbor can find out who made the complaint. Do you think this might possibly turn out badly? Do you believe the county policy should be changed, or that an anonymous complaint should fit in these types of situations? Or should the neighbor keep quiet for fear of retaliation?

A: Those are excellent questions that we wrestled with for a long time before establishing the current policy, which does not allow for anonymous complaints.

We evaluated the volume and types of complaints that had been coming in under the previous policy, and found that people were submitting a lot of frivolous and sometimes retaliatory complaints simply because they could do so anonymously.

These complaints were costing taxpayer dollars to follow up on, and were wasting many hours of staff time. After much discussion, it was decided to require people to provide personal information so the complaint could be verified. This also allows the person who must respond to be informed of the origin of the complaint. That being said, if a person wanting to file a Request for Service (RFS) belongs to a homeowners or neighborhood association, the organization can submit the complaint as a group, rather than as an individual.

Want to Ask the Mayor?

Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email: AskTheMayor@mauicounty.gov, phone: 270-7855 or mail: 200 S. High Street, 9th Floor, Wailuku, Hawaii 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the Ask the Mayor column.

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  • Loopholes

    Mr Mayor,
    Requiring people to provide personal information to law enforcement so as to verify a complaint,

    makes plenty of sense. However if the activity being reported is actually illegal, harmful to the community, and unfrivolous, perhaps a citizen filing the complaint should be able to keep their personal information confidential within a report, so as to remain safe? A small modification to the current RFS policy to ensure community safety would certainly not be a waste of taxpayer dollars.

  • AntiToad

    Mr. Mayor has all the answers, but does anyone see him doing anything useful about these concerns? Thought so………………..

  • unreal

    The Mayor’s response and all who passed this is bull. Lazy and one could argue failing the good law abiding taxpaying citizen. It is obvious to most, an illegal business is being run, especially in the situation described. You Mr. Mayor are failing the taxpayer. You know darn well, if Joe Idiot has that lack of respect for his neighbors and one can argue dodging taxes too, you owe it to the people of Maui, to send someone to check it out. Sadly, you put this on the poor neighbor, do you really think Joe Idiot will take kindly to his racket being found out? You give the neighbor a target right to his front door. Most people doing brazen stuff at the expense of neighbors are not born with much brains or empathy, I feel bad for the neighbors..and you should too Mr. Mayor. I have heard enough stories and seen enough of law abiding citzens wanting the County to be responsible for the laws they pass, but yet the County has a zillion excuses not to enforce. The arguement of lack of manpower is laughable..laughable if it wasn’t so sad. Right now I am thinking of a very dense area in Kihei that has a very obvious home business of some type of car repair or body work..tarps and tents all over, cars up and down the street, a idiot can tell it’s more than likely it’s non conforming. Why does a person have to put their safety out there with their private information, when a inspector ride by would more than likely end it?? Come on. I do realize there are people who complain about a spec of paper on their lawn, but that does not give you a excuse to hide and not act on the rules you put in place, or to hide behind the laziness you have for something so overt.

    • Sam

      Mr. Mayor doesn’t give a rip about neighbors. Jusk ask any neighbor on Palama Street in Kahului on how they enjoy the massive concrete wall at their backyards. Now, if he was living there, it would have been a different story!

  • One Less Vote

    “Maui Police Department routinely issues citations on vehicles that are in violation of this law.” REALLY! Well lets see them start pulling over some motorcycles, starting this summer. Mayor you must have been a hell of a Dodge ball player back in the day. Every single question you have dodged, you have lost my respect and vote.

    • amazed

      well said, this column is comical, he is representing the County and himself and has taken no ownership for one darn thing written about. The County dole, typical. They all should be ashamed, but are not. Just trying to get the most relatives “in”, screw everybody else.

  • Maui_Mike

    The personal info should only be available to the county department, there is no logical reason to make it available to the one the complaint is filed against, this is ludicrous.

  • Earl

    Am I the only one that’s having a hard time following the Mayor’s logic behind the RFS? Citizens are doing the County a favor in helping to flag down illegal activities done by a few, which impose on the rights of many. Case in point: if a number of large towing vehicles are parked in the striped area along Kuikahi Drive (leading up to Wailuku Heights) every evening and are gone during the day, what does that indicate? Could it be that maybe, just maybe, someone is using a public roadway as a baseyard parking lot, free of charge? Does the County need a formal written complaint in order to investigate something so obvious? Slippin’ and slidin’, feintin’ and weavin’, mayor must’ve been a pretty good boxer at one time; sure has the skills………………slick.

    • Remember Maui Lani

      Alan “Money Mayweather” Arakawa

      • Jencks

        Oh, good one!!! Alan “Money Mayweather” Arakawa for mayor, again!!! Hahahahahahahahahaha…………………….

  • GoodOldDays

    Well, now that we know that the County cannot (and will not) enforce violators who run illegal commercial operations out of their homes (most notably contractors), we should see an increase in these illegal businesses, especially in the metro Kahului area. Those of you with good neighbors, don’t take your peace and tranquility for granted because when that “neighbor from hell” moves next door to you, you’ll be suffering every single day like some of us do.

    • Jerks

      Yup, all very true scenario’s sadly, how this Mayor cannot see this is just pathetic. Hold all these idiots libel. Again in the world today, the law abider gets the screws.

  • 1DIRECTION

    Voter Registration – There are about 150,000 people living in Maui County. The majority of candidates win with 22,000-26,000 votes. That is just about 15% of the population. Encourage one another to register to vote. The primary on August 9, 2014. The deadline to register for the primary is July 10, 2014…time for change.

  • TSL

    I had a conversation with a zoning officer he assured me the county is not in the bussiness to harrass people,so a complant needs to be on record!MPD needs to enforce the commercial licence plate code,If someone has a bussiness placard on there vehicle and there plate starts with a letter it’s a violation of motor vehicle code!

    • typical

      The orginal complainant sent pictures, what more should be required? In these types of situations a “complaint on file giving the neighbors name” is a typical bureaucratic response, and unnecessary. A knowledge of the obvious and a good pair of eyes is all you need. A call happens to let the County know, a inspector goes out, decides if any violation zoning laws is occuring. Handle accordingly. It should be that simple, not hard. Again what sane people are saying, if the neighbor doesn’t give a rat’s butt about his good neighbors, it is not unresaonable to think some “payback” might be at hand. The County is just plain wrong on this and lazy. The County is failing many good people who pay their salaries.

  • No Can

    You guys gotta be kidding me, getting rid of anonymous complaints was the best thing that they did. My buddy kept getting bogus complaints about renovations to his restaurant and he had to shut down every time someone came to inspect. Always suspected was the competition down the street but couldn’t prove it because he didn’t know who it was. When they started requiring names the harassment stopped. Case in point, everybody here has an anonymous name including myself. Would any of us post if it required real names? I might, then again I don’t give a rip if somebody wants to start something. Threaten me physically and I just call the cops, that’s what they’re there for. Use common sense.

    • Think First

      If you really think it’s that simple, that’s pretty naive. Threats don’t always come first before something happens. What good is calling the cops while your house is already burning down, or you or one of your family members have already been shot or injured, or your car tires have already been slashed? If anything, I can see having the one reporting to provide a name for the authorities records, though it should be kept confidential from anyone else.

      • No Can

        If there’s been a verbal threat to you or your property call the cops before the threat materializes and whoever made that threat becomes suspect number one. But I agree with you that perhaps the names can be provided but only for the record and for authorities, and not for general consumption. I’d be willing to support that modification.

    • yescan

      What you are missing is the obvious infractions (the whole world sees it) and the County is being lazy, you don’t need a name to drive down the street and see something is very wrong. It’s a palin as the nose on your face. This is indeed different. Also stuff can happen around your house and you are sure it’s the hateful non law abiding neighbor, but you sure can’t prove it.

    • Maui_Mike

      I think all interests can be served by the complainant only being known to the county itself, not the one the complaint is against, to give that info opens the door to retribution and serves no practical purpose, as long as the county has all parties on file they can weed out the problems on their own.

  • GoodOldDays

    Just another beautiful weekend ruined by the “neighbor from hell”. Truck doors slamming dozens of times at 5am as company vehicles are loaded with materials. Each time a door slams at 5am. it sends a concussion through my house, rattles my wibdows, and wakes everyone up. What a great way to get up on weekends, especially when you’re trying to sleep in. Oh, and I don’t want to leave out those shreiking back up horns that blow until 8 pm. Yep. just another great weekend ruined by an illegal commercial business operating in a residential neighborhood.

  • GoodOldDays

    Here we go again, right on time. It’s 9:35pm and “neighbor from hell” is still slamming his commercial contractor truck doors trying to load up his materials for the beginning of the new work week. Continuous slamming of these truck panel doors are just a regular nightly routine to make sure he gives all his neighbors around him concussion headaches before they go to sleep. And don’t worry, he won’t forget to continue the same ritual in about 8 hours from now at 5:30am. Yep, just another quiet Sunday evening ruined by an illegal commercial business operating in a residential neighborhood.


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