Ask the Mayor: Why Anonymous Complaints No Longer Allowed
The mayor answers questions from the public in this series.
By Mayor Alan Arakawa
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!
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: [email protected], 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.