Mayor Arakawa Delivers 2018 State of County AddressFebruary 28, 2018, 6:58 AM HST · Updated February 28, 7:02 AM 0 Comments
Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa emphasized community projects, managing growth and providing more affordable housing during his 2018 State of the County Address last night.
In his 23-page speech, the mayor said that Maui County is financially stable, environmentally secure, economically resilient and strong because of work done together. Accomplishments highlighted include the Waikamoi Flume, the Kulamalu Affordable Housing Project and increasing the county’s active park space.
Future projects expected to break ground soon include the ʻĪao Water Treatment Facility, the South Maui Recreation Center, the Wailuku Civic Complex, and the Central Maui Service Center. The address will be rebroadcast on Thursday and Saturday at 7 p.m. on Channel 55.
Full text of the Mayor’s 2018 State of the County Address:
2018 STATE OF THE COUNTY ADDRESS, MAUI COUNTY MAYOR ALAN ARAKAWA
Aloha, good evening and thank you for being here tonight for this, our State of the County address for 2018.
I would like to welcome our county council members, including our Council Chair Mike White, County Clerk Danny Mateo, our department directors and deputies, Mayor’s Office staff and our many county employees.
It has been a real honor to serve with you. Thank you for all of your hard work and for allowing me to lead you for the last seven years.
To our state representatives and senators, (insert names) mahalo for working with us and getting us the funds and projects that the county needed to move forward.
To the rest of the audience and those at home watching this live broadcast on Akaku television, thank you for tuning in.
Today, I am confident in saying that the State of Maui County is more than just good. The State of the County, as it stands right now, is stable, secure, resilient and strong.
I know typically you use one word to describe the State of the County, but there’s a good reason for every word selected.
We are financially stable, once again we have received the coveted AA plus bond rating, practically the gold standard for government and best in the state.
We are environmentally secure, because we have purchased or placed into open space a majority of our shorelines, to keep it safe from development. Our beaches are for everyone, and steadily we have taken steps to make sure it stays open to all and not just a few.
We are economically resilient. Recessions come and go and still our visitor based economy comes roaring back. Once again we have had another record breaking year for tourism and our latest unemployment numbers are below 2 percent.
We are strong because our communities work side side-by- side to get things done. We see something that needs to be accomplished and we have the will and tenacity to see it through.
We don’t give up easily.
It’s that strength – the strength of our people – which has propelled this county forward, and will continue to propel this community into the future.
The only question is, in what direction?
In my lifetime the population of Maui County has grown from fewer than 35,000 to more than 165,000 people. There are more than 66,000 tourists here on a daily basis which means somewhere around 230,000 plus people are on this island all the time.
That’s a lot of people to watch out for, to care for, who are using our resources and infrastructure.
What do we want our communities to be like for future generations? We can pretend we’re too busy to deal with it and that it’s not happening.
Like ostriches we can bury our heads in the sand.
Or we can deal with it realistically.
This administration will continue to move forward. That means addressing issues and challenges head on and looking for and implementing solutions.
We will continue:
1. Improving and maintaining our infrastructure.
2. Protecting our shorelines.
3. Finding new ways to recycle and use wastewater.
4. Promoting the collection, storage and use of more renewable energy.
5. Expanding sustainable agriculture.
6. Creating more affordable housing and reducing homelessness
7. Improving our economy.
Throughout the years, we have worked on thousands of projects and have always been consistent in these areas and will continue to do so. We don’t intend to slow down.
So let us go over some of these projects and initiatives as well as take note of what has already been accomplished.
Our Department of Public Works has put in many, many hours improving our roads, bridges, culverts, crosswalks and traffic signals over the years. When we got into office we had been falling behind our roads repair schedule but have managed to catch up dramatically and have since paved, rebuilt or slurry sealed about 40 percent the county’s 1000 road-lane miles.
The council has enabled us to do this by approving more funds, but our road crews have also made the most of their resources. For example the slurry seal they’re using increases road life by about 10 years very cost effectively.
The department has also been able to reconstruct some roads from the ground up, such as Kokomo, Hansen, Kamehameha, Lono, Papa and Haliimaile, thanks to federal funds which pay for 80 percent of each project.
This year public works crews are busy once again, as they literally had projects from one end of the island to the other. From Kahakaloa, where they prevented a portion of Kahekili Highway from sliding down the mountain, to Kipahulu, where crews are trying to prevent the mountain from collapsing into the Piiliani Highway.
Along the way they have also been working on repairing Kahakuloa Bridge, the Waiakoa Drainage under South Kihei Road and many other drainage and bridge projects.
Public Works was also instrumental in working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restabilize the Wailuku River after the flood hit in 2016. The work they did to improve the Wailuku River Flood Control will have benefits for years to come.
In fact, anytime there’s a flood we see examples of how the flood control protects families in Iao Parkside and businesses in Wailuku Industrial. If the deficiencies in the flood control had not been corrected, we could have seen the same damage from Iao Valley in a much more populated area.
Just recently we saw examples of flash floods causing damage to more than a dozen properties in Waihee. Thankfully there were no injuries.
Protesters can say what they want, but if we had listened to them and stopped work, residents living along the Wailuku River could have lost their homes and maybe even their lives. Public safety is a serious matter and should not be debated just to promote a political agenda or to provide social commentary.
Public safety is also at the heart of the debate to install a roundabout at the intersection of Kamehameha Avenue and Maui Lani Parkway. Currently there is some debate among area parents as to what is safer for schoolchildren walking and riding bikes through that intersection, a roundabout or a traffic light.
There’s really no debate. Roundabouts are safer, period. Public Works has the statistics to back this up.
We introduced a request to fund a Maui Lani roundabout previously and we will continue to pursue this project because it will ease traffic in the area and provide a safe crossing zone for kids.
More pedestrian safety projects include retrofitting all of our streetlights. These new, very efficient, environmentally sensitive light bulbs will replace old lights that we have in 5,000 county street lights on all three islands. Not only will these lights make our streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists but they will also save taxpayers about a million dollars a year. This will require council to approve continued funding for this project in the 2019 county budget.
We’re also looking at different ways to build safer crosswalks, potentially installing more concrete medians.
When it comes to cleaning, delivering and conserving our water resources every project is an important one. We have had several large scale projects that have either improved water quality or made the delivery of water to our customers more efficient.
The reconstruction of Waikamoi Flume was as important a project as any out there. Due to the weathered condition of the old redwood flume we were losing thousands of gallons a week.
Replacing that old flume with an aluminum one and recapturing all that lost water was a priority, and we made sure to complete that project early on.
Right now one of the department’s priorities is to finish the construction of the Iao Water Treatment Facility. This facility is almost complete and once it is up and running it will be able to process an extra 1.5 million gallons a day.
Along the way we have built more storage tanks, pump stations, wells and other critical pieces of the puzzle that make up our county water system.
We want to bolster that system by absorbing the Wailuku Water Company’s infrastructure and water resources. A proposal is before council to assess the assets of the Wailuku Water Company so we can buy its 8,764 acres of land.
The asking price is $9.5 million. We need to take this private resource and make it part of our public resource pool. This is good for our customers, kuleana users, cultural heritage protection and overall conservation for our watershed.
Currently we are talking to the state about getting its interest in the East Maui Irrigation system, which would allow us to use the EMI ditch right-of- way to transport water into Central Maui without having to spend millions of dollars and creating new environmental challenges.
We need to complete this agreement as soon as possible.
The water department is also studying the possibility of converting what would have been the duel agricultural irrigation main line from Waikamoi to upcountry to help relieve the old lines and provide better service distribution to Upcountry Maui.
The Department of Environmental Management is looking at possible alternatives to reuse our recycled wastewater effluent so that we no longer have to waste this valuable resource. Maui County’s recycled water is clean enough to be used to irrigate landscape, agriculture, forest reserves, bio-crops and much more.
This is possible because our wastewater goes through a thorough treatment process. Our R-1 treatment includes membrane filtration, ultraviolet disinfection and chlorination.
In Maui County we use recycled water at more locations than any other island, including Kaanapali, Maui Nui, Pukalani and Manele golf courses, as well as at Kihei Elementary and Lokelani Intermediate schools. There are also a number of parks, bikeways, resorts, condominiums, community centers, shopping centers, libraries and fire stations that use our recycled water.
All told the county annually distributes 1.3 billion gallons of recycled wastewater across all three island for reuse in some form or another. That’s around 3.5 million gallons reused daily.
While that is a lot of recycled wastewater, it’s less than 30 percent of the wastewater treated at county facilities daily.
In order to use more water we must get aggressive and find more alternate uses.
So far we’ve spent $94 million on our wastewater treatment facilities to better clean our water, so that it can be used for irrigation purposes.
These expenditures includes feasibility studies, construction of distribution systems as well as treatment upgrades and modifications to UV and filter systems.
When the county’s wastewater reclamation facilities were built in the 1970’s, disposal of excess recycled water in deep injection wells was advocated as a much more environmentally sustainable practice than dumping raw sewage through open ocean outfalls, taking advantage of the earth’s natural filtration of groundwater as it moves seaward.
Today, the county is again at the forefront of water reuse advocacy. We have many projects in the works in almost every district and they are progressing steadily.
Reuse projects include another million gallon storage tank in Kihei and the development of a forest reserve/plant nursery/passive park in South Maui by the new police station. This should use all of the water currently going into the Kihei injection wells. If we need to reuse more water we will work with Haleakala Ranch to expand irrigation into the pastures surrounding the project.
In Lahaina we plan to utilize high level reservoirs that can pump and store recycled water, so we can redistribute and reuse it all. We can accomplish this in about a year.
In Central Maui we are coordinating with the State Department of Transportation, Airports Division, to provide them with recycled water. This includes a renewable power generation project near Kahului Airport that will use 500 acres of biocrop as a feed source. This could utilize up to 4 million gallons of recycled water daily from the Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility.
This should essentially eliminate the daily use of the Kahului injection wells within a year. The project will hopefully be functional this year.
The county is also investigating use of soil aquifer treatment basins as an advanced and environmentally sound means of disposing of any excess recycled water.
In Molokai we are working with landowners near the Kaunakakai Wastewater Reclamation Facility on the potential for land application for the recycled water for agricultural irrigation use.
This change in philosophy is not inexpensive.
When all is said and done the county will have spent more than $100 million in capital costs plus many millions in annual operational and land acquisition costs in order to more fully utilize recycled water. This will make increases for sewer user and recycled water user fees necessary for the future.
However, once we bear this financial liability, instead of injecting unused recycled water into wells it will be used to help keep our county green and beautiful.
The alternative is to implement deep ocean outfalls like Oahu, which is essentially dumping good, reusable water into the ocean. This is not a solution to which we subscribe.
Housing & Human Concerns
According to the 2016 Hawaii Housing Planning Study, Maui needs to produce 13,949 units in the next ten years to keep up with the housing demand. And these homes have to be affordable for someone making 60 percent or less of the average median income, which for a family of four in Maui is a little more than 44 thousand dollars.
The Department of Housing & Human Concerns, in association with Managing Director Keith Regan and the Department of Management, has done just that with the completion of the Kulamalu Affordable Homes project upcountry. These homes provide a safe and secure place to live with a rental that is truly affordable.
For example, I know a single mother of two who pays less than $500 a month for a Kulamalu unit. Upcountry is a little colder than what she’s used to but she says she and her kids love their new home.
We need more projects like this and we have more projects like this in the works.
The good news is that changes to our workforce housing ordinance, chapter 2.96, has helped make it easier for construction companies to get into the business of building homes instead of more commercial structures, which had been the trend for years.
There are now seven housing projects totaling more than a thousand units that are currently under construction in West, South, Central and Upcountry Maui, 46 percent of which will be affordable housing.
In addition, there are 14 pending projects that total more than 3,200 housing units which will be 61 percent affordable housing. Another 13 projects are in various stages of pre-development that total over 6,000 units.
So contrary to popular belief, housing is moving forward on Maui. We just have to keep our infrastructure moving at the same pace.
Under the previous restrictions, workforce housing projects had been few and far between, with only 3 workforce housing units generated between 2008 and 2014.
I would like to thank everyone who pushed forward to ease up on these restrictions, especially our county council members, who recognized that things needed to change in order to meet the demand for housing.
We have also made headway in our efforts to house those living on our streets and beaches. The department’s new Homeless Program Division has been tackling homeless concerns and issues head on, and in coordination with our non-profits, social services and when necessary, our Maui Police Department.
Utilizing the Housing First Approach, the county has effectively identified specific needs for the homeless population, to best provide the right services and prevent re-entry into homelessness. So far this Homeless Coordinated Entry System has helped us identify and place into housing 143 homeless families and singles just in the last six months.
There is much more to be done for sure, but in the meantime the Homeless Division, the Community Policing Unit and our partners such as Ka Hale A Ke Ola, the Family Life Center and others, are responding to the community as quickly as they can. They are out there in the field every week in the homeless encampments at Baldwin Beach, Keopuolani Park, the Kahului Industrial area and other encampments in South and West Maui, working to find solutions.
In the next few weeks, we will be sending to the County Council a proposal to lease the old Maui High School property to Tri Isle Resource Conservation & Development – a 501 c 3 nonprofit – and a coalition of community partners. We call it Project Aloha, and the intent is to use this area to create programs to help the homeless, former inmates and the disadvantaged.
Our intent is not to simply move people from one place to the next, but to move them to an area of lesser impact to the rest of the community.
This area will provide a secure and safe site that is not currently used by members of our community.
Project Aloha at Old Maui High School will be a place which will allow for education and housing for members of our population that face difficult challenges. It will be much better to care for them in a peaceful environment with safe housing, rather than in our parks, beaches and streets.
Homelessness did not happen overnight and it will not end overnight. But with patience and a compassionate response we are making progress.
Last year I proposed adding $9 million dollars a year for property acquisition to help alleviate the workforce housing/affordable housing/homeless population on Maui. The Council rejected the idea and eliminated the proposal.
We plan on proposing this housing fund again this year, because $700,000 plus for a single family home is not affordable for anyone and homelessness is a growing concern in our communities.
Parks & Recreation
Back in 2012 we made a lot of promises when it came to our parks. We wanted to increase active park space from what was then under 190 acres of parks to more than 600 acres; we wanted to improve the conditions of our restrooms, community centers and other parks facilities and we wanted to add more specialty parks, such as dog and skateboard parks.
Fast forward to 2018 and we have done just that and more.
Working with the state we added the Central Maui Regional Sports Complex to our parks facilities. This is 65 acres of what will be 11 designated sports fields – including softball and baseball – once the final phase is completed.
We have also just recently acquired 14.4 acres at the Maui Lani Regional Park with restrooms and a small parking lot, along with 13.1 acres in Wailuku Heights, just off of Kehalani Mauka Parkway. The restrooms there have already been installed and should be open up to the public sometime next month.
In Kihei we are building the first new gymnasium in the county in the last 20 years. The South Maui Recreation Center will feature not one but four full-sized, multi-use courts. This will provide for a variety of uses and activities that will well serve the recreational needs of the South Maui community.
In Kula we are partnering with the state and federal government to acquire 3,276 acres of former Von Tempsky property to create Kamehamenui Forest, a conservation park.
This week we are breaking ground on the beautifully designed Upcountry Skate Park in Pukalani. This is located just below the Upcountry pool and will be a great fit with our community center, playing fields and other park facilities there.
As part of the department’s pro-active approach to plan for the future of the Maui County parks, we have initiated master planning for a many more parks across the island, using input and suggestions from park users who have attended community planning meetings.
This includes master planning for Kanaha Beach Park, the South Maui Community Park update, Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens, Wells, Waiehu Golf Course Club House and the South Maui Forestry Project.
And in Paia we will be master planning 25 acres next to Baldwin Park to expand that area and provide the North Shore with its own regional park. This will one day replace the brush and homeless encampments which are currently there now and connect Baldwin Park with Lower Paia Park.
Over the last three years the Department has been able to focus and improve just over $23 million of deferred maintenance projects including restroom, upgrading parking areas, playgrounds and other well used facilities.
In addition to these projects the department has tackled CIP renovations including ballfield light installations, rebuilding and resurfacing of outdoor tennis and basketball courts, irrigation system installations and upgrades, ADA access improvements, and dozens of other park facility improvements.
In addition to facility improvements the Beautification section of the parks department has completed a comprehensive overhaul of the way we approach playing fields and turf management. We are the proud owners of the best grass stadiums in the State that were renovated by our own staff and have been featured in national publications for the high quality of turf in our facilities.
The community should be proud to play on some of the best county owned and maintained fields in the nation.
The department should also be commended for bringing our parks permitting programs into the 21 st century.
Parks workers are now able to email finalized permits out to users, accommodate requests for any facility county-wide at 5 different permit offices, and schedule the majority of field, court, and gym use tri-annually to maximize the fair and equitable distribution of county parks resources to the community.
Our Parks Enforcement section has been diligently working under the coordination of the Department of Housing and Human Concerns in addressing homelessness challenges and has taken an active role in assisting MPD with enforcement efforts throughout county facilities under the management of the Department of Parks and Recreation.
For decades we watched our population grow while our playing fields and gymnasiums got more crowded. The county is catching up our parks and park facilities for our very active community.
And these improvements will continue as the population grows because we have already secured or are in the process of securing the properties that will allow for expansion as needed.
Our Planning Department probably has the toughest regulations to follow in the county. They need to plan for development while protecting our resources; they need to balance the often polar opposite needs of the community all the while adapting to physical changes to our aina, including rising sea levels and shoreline erosion.
As an island community we cannot overlook how climate change is affecting our home. And so last year, when the state established the Hawaii Climate Change Mitigation and Adaption Initiative, the county made sure to include it in our planning purposes.
This means that when it comes to all county plans, especially the Maui County Hazard Mitigation Plan and our Community Plans, all of them need to take into consideration Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaption Report.
Planning for these changes means we may have to relocate infrastructure and critical facilities out of hazard areas which means we may have to ask the council for the funds to make these capital improvement decisions.
This heightened attention on how sea level rise impacts Maui County has the potential to affect communities, culture, history and natural resources and cannot be taken lightly.
The Planning Department is working on changes to the rules of our three planning commissions to address sea level rise. Maui County had the first shoreline setback in the state that factored-in annual shoreline erosion rates. Soon, the Planning Department will ask the Maui, Molokai and Lanai Planning Commissions to consider amending their rules again to include sea level rise in their shoreline setback calculations, further protecting our coastal resources as well as property.
In fact, one week ago, the Lanai Planning Commission voted to amend the Special Management Area boundaries for the entire island to include additional coastal hazard areas, making it the first island in the state to comprehensively amend all of its SMA boundaries.
County planning is ever evolving just as our communities evolve. If our population increases every year, and doubles every 20 years, should we look ahead just 10 years or the next 50 years? How about 100 years?
Thankfully we have a lot of open space but we need to get control of the uncontrolled and unregulated development that is damaging our ecosystem, causing traffic snarls and taxing the infrastructure that was originally designed for a rural, agriculturally based community.
Maui used to be pastureland and sugar cane, and now our open space is cluttered with gentleman estates. We need to do something about this to prevent further proliferation of this pattern.
Usually when large subdivisions spring up they improve the infrastructure in the immediate vicinity, but rarely is the impact of the entire community taken into consideration. Growth in Haiku affects Paia; growth in Kihei affects Lahaina and so on and so forth.
Again, what happens when our population doubles or triples? Our administration has been working to address some of these problems.
Ironically some of the people protesting against our solutions live in these gentlemen estates I just mentioned and are part of the problem.
If we can designate where growth is going to be, we can keep everything where it should be, by agreement. As in the medieval days, they built a castle around the community for protection.
This also had the effect of limiting what we now call sprawl, by keeping the lands outside the castle walls open. This is what the Maui Island Plan growth boundaries are all about, and what our community plans could achieve.
I’m not saying we go back to a feudal system with castles and drawbridges, but we need to look at different options to control sprawl. Going vertical is one; don’t grow or expand out, grow or expand up instead. Not everyone can afford a single family home on a 10,000 square foot lot.
In fact some of our local residents can’t even afford to rent a room in a single family home. This is not an exaggeration.
We need to look at allowing greater density and a variety of housing types, including apartments, town houses, cottage and courtyard housing, duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes.
These allow more homes in a smaller area than a typical subdivision or gentleman estate, and are a more efficient use of land and infrastructure. They also preserve open space and agricultural lands.
I certainly do not want all of our former cane and pineapple fields and ranch lands to become a sea of homes like the Ewa plain on Oahu.
Our Housing Department says housing projects are on the horizon to fill that 13,000 home void that we will need in 10 years. If so we need to get ahead of those homes to put in the pipes, roads and water that will be necessary when the time comes to build.
With sea levels rising, our shoreline eroding and population growing, our plans should reflect that reality and proactively prepare for it instead of reacting to it.
The Planning Department is working on the first community plan update on Maui since the adoption of the Maui Island Plan. The West Maui Community Plan update process is involving the community in a new and innovative way with an interactive and informative website that is updated after every meeting. This plan will have to address and seek to balance these major issues – housing and sea level rise – in addition to traffic, cultural, natural resources, and other concerns.
We have some hard working residents out there who work maybe two or three jobs and still can’t afford their own homes. They’re doing everything they’re supposed to be doing and still some of them are forced to live in their vehicles.
These are the working homeless, and we need to do better for them. Rezoning so that we can direct the right sort of housing to the right areas will help our people out immensely.
We can plan our communities better. Just take a look at what we’re doing in Wailuku Town.
The Wailuku Civic Complex project is a wonderful opportunity revitalize Wailuku Town. This is a project that is generations in the making.
We need parking in Wailuku. We need public gathering spaces. We need quality commercial property for small businesses.
The Wailuku Civic Complex project is all of those things rolled into one and much more. This project will also totally reconstruct Vineyard Street from High to Market street by providing sidewalks, storm drainage even putting the powerlines underground.
Mahalo to planners Erin Wade and David Yamashita, our councilmembers, especially Budget Chair Riki Hokama; Maui Redevelopment Agency Chair Carol Ball and our Wailuku merchants.
Department of Management
The Department of Management oversees all other departments, but also takes on projects of its own. Often times Management is called upon to manage projects under other departments that might need some help moving forward.
Managing Director Keith Regan and his department have had a great track record moving projects forward behind the scenes over the years. They include the following:
Getting the Kulamalu Affordable Housing Project up and running
Helping to build and complete the Kihei Police Station
Making sure that the island of Molokai did not lose it’s only Public Works baseyard
Management’s next task is to oversee the $25 million Central Maui Service Center project in the A&B Business Park. This project is ready to break ground and once it is complete will provide a much cheaper alternative to the rent the county is paying at the Maui Mall.
So mahalo to you Keith and your department for taking on the projects that is needed by the community, and congratulations on being the only International City/County Management Association Credentialed Manager in the State of Hawaii.
Not only that but for also winning 1 out of 19 Certificate of Achievement in Performance Management awards for the County of Maui this past year.
I am pleased to announce there have been quite a number of beneficial initiatives coming out the Office of Economic Development or OED which is overseen by my office.
You can thank OED for the following:
Bringing back Halloween to Front Street – This is an economic force in West Maui which brings thousands of visitors every year. Some local merchants have said that this one night is crucial to their annual bottom line.
Expanding the Friday Town Parties – Before she was a council member, Yuki Lei Sugimura spearheaded the first Friday Town Party with Wailuku First Friday some years ago. The event was such an economic and social success for Wailuku Town that OED helped to launch and market four more town parties in Makawao, Lahaina, Kihei and Lanai.
Establishing Maui County’s first premiere product show, the Made in Maui County Festival – This festival reaches new heights each year and showcases locally made products from all over Maui, Molokai and Lanai. Last year the festival was recognized globally by the International Economic Development Council when they gave OED the 2017 gold award for Excellence in Economic Development.
Managing the County’s energy footprint – Our Renewable Energy Coordinator Fred Redell continues to make strides for the county. The county and Haleakala Solar partnered up to provide solar power for the Kaunoa Senior Center. We are working with Maui Electric to help them manage the grid through our Demand Response Program as well as work with developers to help low-to- moderate income residents see savings through renewable energy with our Community Based Renewable Energy Program. We have also completed an energy audit of War Memorial to greatly reduce operating expenses there and are looking to expand this review to other county facilities.
Revitalizing Maui’s film and production industry – Over the last two years
Film Commissioner Tracy Bennett reported $25 million spent in Maui
County for film and production. This includes 150 local crew members
working last year on a mix of 52 films, reality shows and commercials. We
now need to create our own Maui film studios.
Expanding agricultural parks to grow more food – We had a little more than 300 acres of ag park land. Working with A&B we plan to add another 869 acres of land to the Kula Agricultural Park. This includes a $5 million dollar upgrade to water lines for irrigation purposes. This addition will bring our total county ag park space to over 1,400 acres.
It pleases me to say that we have accomplished all this and still our property taxes are among the lowest in the nation. Everyone wants government to do more with less and as you can see, it is possible.
Not only that but we are putting taxpayer dollars to work in the financial sector, very successfully. By the end of Fiscal Year 2018 in June, Maui County’s investments will have earned $5.4 million. This is the highest rate of return in the state.
That’s equal to getting property taxes paid by an extra 4,000 homeowners.
Mahalo to our Finance Department and the Treasury Division’s Jack Kulp for all his hard work getting the most return for our tax dollars.
And you should know that under our administration every dollar of county expenditures and receipts are available for review – 100 percent transparency.
We have come a long way since the first time we stepped back into office in 2011.
The projects that I have highlighted are only a sampling of the many that we have and are working on.
I could have talked about Maui Bus system which we started, our improvements to Ocean Safety, Fire and Police department equipment and coordination, the customs pre-clearance efforts, the water department’s shift to micro-filters, our work with invasive species, new bike paths and sidewalks.
I’ve supported returning water to our streams, designation of our surface and sub-surface water for Na Wai Eha, sedimentation and desiltation basins and laws to mandate better water handling.
We have addressed every major disaster that has hit our beautiful county, correcting landslides, flooding, chemical spills, etc.
We have negotiated and stopped the exportation of sand from our island, helped to preserve and perpetuate the arts. We saved the Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center and worked to celebrate our many cultural heritages.
This administration and our dedicated workforce of 2500 civil servants have worked side-by- side through the good times and the bad, the booms and the busts, the ups and the downs.
Today, we still face many challenges – like housing, traffic and the need to better manage our growth. However there is only limited money, manpower and time.
Even so, there is no better job than Mayor of Maui County, because there is no better community. I have often said it is the best community in the world and I truly believe it is, because all of you help to make it that way.
I’m proud to say we’ve accomplished much over the years. The county’s financial situation is strong. Our AA+ bond rating is the best in the state, and as good as and better than any other time in our county’s history.
I am especially pleased to have placed so much land out of reach of developers.
There was a time not so long ago that one of our main challenges and fears was lack of ocean access.
Now we have under our protection more of our precious open space than any administration before us. On the West side from the pali to Olowalu and from Olowalu to Puamana.
On the North Shore we have parks from Waihee to Hookipa and we are looking to acquire more land all the way to Peahi.
In South Maui it is much the same, plenty of county beach parks in Kihei with state and federal wetlands protecting much of Maalaea.
That’s roughly 80 percent of our North and 80 percent of our South shores protected for you to use and enjoy.
We have some of the best and most reliable drinking water in the state.
We are in the process of adjusting the water department practices and policies so that we can and need to meet the present and future needs of our growing communities.
We keep on improving the system to get water where it needs to be, when we need it, so our water service is of the best quality for our residents.
Regarding our wastewater, Maui County is on its way to becoming the first injection-well- free county in the state.
We have so many recycled water projects that really, the only project that will be left for the county to do in the future is to make it potable, or drinkable.
However that might be best left up to our future mayor, as some of our residents might literally have a tough time swallowing that concept.
Growing up here on Maui I’ve been able to witness the population growing from under 35,000 to more than 165,000 people.
Over the years I’ve seen this community transition, from booming agriculture to watching everything major agricultural industry, company and farm either shrink considerably or disappear completely.
In my younger years growing up on a farm in Kula we used to be able to look out over the ocean of cane fields, the pineapple fields, a lot of pastureland. In essence, a sea of green.
We used to be able to go to the ocean with no one else out there and fish to our heart’s content.
Today, we look at an overabundance of high end residential housing in what was once pastureland in Makawao, Haiku and Kula. We see houses springing up in the hillsides of Wailuku, Waiehu, Lahaina and we see what was once open space being consumed by a growing population.
Things need to change, and I know we can change things together as a community.
Speaking of this community we have some important milestones to recognize.
This year marks the anniversary of the first immigrants to Hawaii from Japan and Portugal.
For the Japanese the first wave of immigrants – a group known as the Gannenmono – left for Hawaii in 1868. There were 150 of them in that first group and as it just so happens this year marks the 150 th anniversary of their arrival.
If you are of Japanese descent here today please stand and be recognized in honor of the Gannenmono.
For the Portuguese, their first arrival of immigrants came in 1878, and so this year they celebrate their 140 th anniversary.
If you are of Portuguese descent please stand up and be recognized for all the good sweet bread, Portuguese soup and great conversations you have provided over the last century and a half.
There is a third date to recognize, however this group of people were not immigrating to the islands, instead they were already here.
This year is also the 125 th year anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. In 1993, the year of the 100 th anniversary of the overthrow, President Bill Clinton offered this apology resolution to the Hawaiian people: “Whereas, it is proper and timely for the Congress on the occasion of the impending 100th anniversary of the event, to acknowledge the historic significance of the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii . . . to express its deep regret to the Native Hawaiian people.”
I call upon members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha and all Native Hawaiians in the audience to stand up and be recognized.
Let us also pause and bow our heads for a moment of silence.
Maui County is a success story.
We’ve managed to grow our economy without trashing our environment or having big cities like you see on Oahu. We have all the luxuries of the modern world while still retaining our natural beauty and resources.
And because of that, we are probably one of the most attractive places in the world to live. Everybody wants to live here, and they’re willing to pay anything for paradise. yet . . . that success has come with a price.
These are the challenges this administration and the future administrations face.
How to manage success so that our residents don’t suffer from it.
We have many challenges, as does any community, as we are always evolving. But you should know that Maui County is well poised to be able to meet most of these challenges head on.
This has been a fairly long, in depth presentation, but this is my 12 and possibly last state of the county address. I wanted to give all of you a clear vision of how efficiently our county is running, and how we’re in an excellent condition.
We are in a very strong financial position, we have a pro-active management style that is solution oriented, we have a great community to work with and we have an even greater desire to protect the assets and the essence of what we call home.
To all of you, the residents of Maui County, I say thank you. Thank you for this opportunity that has allowed us to fix many of the challenges that preceded our administration.
You don’t have to look very far to see the level of dedication that our county employees have. This week marks the fourth anniversary of the tragic Lanai plane crash which claimed the lives of two of our planning employees, Tremaine Balberdi and Kathleen Kern.
Planners Doug Miller and Mark King were also on that plane and badly injured, but as soon as they recovered they came back to work and have been with us ever since. They are here tonight, so please Mark and Doug, stand and be recognized and let’s all give them a warm round of applause.
Thank you to my family for bearing with me on this journey, it hasn’t always been easy for you Jodi and Jan, as daughters of the mayor.
Most of all thank you Ann for your patience. I know you put up with this longer than you expected but we kept on getting reelected. So here we are.
I very much love my immediate family and my county family. You have been my entire life for a very, very, long time.
To the thousands of you who work every day to make Maui what it is, to all of you working to clean our oceans, grow our crops and care for neighbors young and old, thank you.
Even the projects we couldn’t complete, are headed in the right direction. We know as we move down this path we will resolve those challenges.
As it stands right now Maui County is financially stable, environmentally secure, economically resilient and strong because we work together.
This is the best community in the world, and thank you for helping us to prepare for a promising future, for ourselves and for generations to come. Because without all of us working together this would have never been possible.
Aloha and goodnight.