Randy Piltz – Improving Permit Process, “Harder than I Thought”
By Susan Halas
When Randy Piltz was a candidate for Maui mayor in 2010, one of his major themes was the need for improvements to the permitting process.
The former electrical contractor did not win the election, but he did end up on 9th floor. Now he works as a special assistant to the mayor and permits are still his major focus. He’s a trouble-shooter whose job brings him into contact with many departments including water, public works, waste-management and planning.
“It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be,” he said reviewing his first year.
His days are busy: filled with phone calls and meetings, trying to un-stick the stuck, and help Mauians understand and comply with complex and cumbersome regulations.
“Basically I see complaints,” Piltz said. They come to me from the mayor, or they come in on the phone, or they come up to the 9th floor and ask for help. Whichever way they come in and they end up on my desk.” Currently he estimates he has at least 75 open files, all needing specialized attention.
“Each of these situations is different,” he said. “You have to find out: is it a law? Or is it a rule? If it’s a law you have to follow the law. But if the problem is a rule or an interpretation of a rule, sometimes there is some flexibility. When you get into the details — it is about rules and more rules — rules on top of rules. It doesn’t always make sense.”
Though the job itself is more challenging than he expected, there has been some forward movement.
He pointed to a day-long workshop the county hosted last year for architects, engineers and other construction professionals. The well-attended event delivered two messages: The first was that the county wants to make the permit process more understandable and faster. The second was that things will move more rapidly for the applicant if all the required documents are submitted at the time of filing.
Internally, Piltz said that he, county managing director Keith Regan and Regan’s assistant David Ching now have monthly meetings with heads of the relevant departments. Their goal is to make sure that difficult cases get resolved and stalled projects get the attention needed to get back on track. They’ve dubbed the effort the Permit Processing Improvement Team (PPIT).
Despite the frustrations, there is also a feeling of accomplishment and being of service. “It’s a problem solving situation, and believe me there is no shortage of problems.”
As for his future political ambitions, Piltz who is just about to turn 73, said, “I don’t think that’s in the cards for me. I’ve seen what the mayor has to go through. I think I’m useful here. Even though the going is slow, we are working toward reducing the length of time it takes to get the permits issued and giving the public the service they deserve. We are making progress.”