Maui News

Alice Lee re-elected as Maui County Council chair during often-heated marathon meeting

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Alice Lee. PC: Screenshot 1/27-28 council meeting

In a marathon Maui County Council meeting of nearly 15 hours Friday and into Saturday, the council unanimously voted to approve Alice Lee’s re-election as chairperson. 

Lee led the previous council, and it was her first meeting after recently being declared the winner of the Wailuku-Waiheʻe-Waikapū council seat by the state Supreme Court. The race’s outcome was challenged by opponent Noelani Ahia, who had about 500 fewer votes than Lee.

Tasha Kama served as chairperson at the council’s first meeting earlier this month and for the majority of Friday’s meeting before the nine-member body took up the resolution to discuss the chairperson.

When asked by Council member Tamara Paltin if Kama is sure she’s against continuing in her role, Kama replied: “You are absolutely correct.”

Freshman Council member Tom Cook made the motion for Lee to be re-elected as chair, saying that she handled the recent term well. 


Council member Shane Sinenci agreed that Lee has “been fair during the last process.”

“As council chair for the past three years, I found Council member Lee to be fair, and worked hard to cultivate camaraderie on the council and with our support taff and the office of the clerk,” Council member Keani Rawlins-Fernandez said.

Also, Lee never withheld the posting of legislation unless withhold was requested without opposition and Lee was accessible, she added.

Before the 9-0 vote to approve Lee, Lee thanked people for the kind words, adding that Rawlins-Fernandez’s support “took the cake.”

“I didn’t expect you to say what you said. And I’m sure it was difficult because you and I have had some very strained relationships in the last few months. I hope that part is over. I feel like you are going to make us raise the bar here. And I accept that challenge,” Lee said. “I do want you to know that I intend to be fair as I always have been. And forthright. And this part is hard but you know I’m kind of direct, yeah. I have a terrible lack of sugar-coating things. And that’s not my best strength. I could do a lot for government but never send me on a diplomatic mission because I will fail. 


“I pledge my very best to all of you tonight,” Lee added. “I thank you vice chair (Rawlins-Fernandez). I hope that all of us can and will work together. We have to find ways to work together even though we have very strong differences on things as tonight has shown.”

During one of the longer meetings in council history, more than 40 testifiers were often passionate — with some yelling — over the time to testify, along with items on affordable housing, a cultural overlay map and the restructuring of the council. 

Many testifiers wanted to speak early in the day, but a new state rule states that testifiers should testify before each item or category of items. Paltin floated an effort to bypass this rule, which failed by a vote of 5-4 on Friday morning. 

Paltin later in the day again asked that this structure be reconsidered.

“It’s only the paid lobbyists that can wait around all day for an opportunity to testify,” she said.


The state law took effect in July

“The council occasionally tried last year allowing testimony both at the beginning of the meeting and per item or category of times,” according to Office of Council Services. “But that practice proved confusing and time consuming.”

The council meeting started at 9 a.m. Friday and adjourned at 2:59 a.m. Saturday. With breaks, the council was in session for nearly 15 hours, according to the Office of Council Services.

After midnight, the council voted on new chairs for new council committees. A list of council committees and corresponding chairs can be found on the council website.

Earlier in the day, two efforts to override former Mayor Michael Victorino’s vetoes failed due to a new 5-4 majority.

• Bill 103, CD1, FD1 (2022), relating to residential workforce housing deed restrictions and resale was approved by council last term and vetoed by Victorino on Dec. 30. It would have require that homes developed under workforce housing agreements — currently targeted at households earning 80 to 140 percent of the annual area median income ($80,880 to $141,540 for Maui except Hāna)—to remain owner-occupied in perpetuity. The bill, which was introduced by Council member Tamara Paltin, would also establish a 30-year period during which profits from the sale of these subsidized workforce units are subject to managed appreciation.

• Bill 154, CD1, FD2 (2022) would have established a cultural overlay map and improved permit review process. Sinenci said he introduced to prevent the desecration of burials and cultural resources that occurs when development is done without proper planning. Advocates said preventing desecration would also reduce lawsuits, and the new permit review terms were intended to speed up the review process.

Votes against overriding his veto included members Lee, Kama, Yuki Lei Sugimura, Nohelani U’u-Hodgins, Tom Cook and those supporting an override included Paltin, Rawlins-Fernandez, Sinenci and Gabe Johnson. 

The previous majority was 6-3, with Lee, Kama and Sugimura in the minority.

The 2023-2025 Council committees are:

  • Water and Infrastructure Committee (WAI). Chair: Tom Cook
  • Agriculture, Diversification, Environment, and Public Transportation Committee (ADEPT). Chair: Gabe Johnson
  • Housing and Land Use Committee (HLU). Chair: Tasha Kama
  • Disaster, Resilience, International Affairs, and Planning Committee (DRIP). Chair: Tamara Paltin
  • Efficiency Solutions and Circular Systems Committee (ESCS). Chair: Keani Rawlins-Fernandez
  • Water Authority, Social Services, and Parks Committee (WASSP). Chair: Shane Sinenci
  • Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee (BFED). Chair: Yuki Lei Sugimura
  • Government Relations, Ethics, and Transparency Committee (GREAT). Chair: Nohelani Uʻu-Hodgins

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