Council finally ready to get to legislative work
By Alice L. Lee
It may have taken us a little longer than normal, but the Maui County Council for the 2023-25 term is ready to get to work on the people’s business.
After a nearly 18-hour meeting on Jan. 27 (and Jan. 28), followed by a Feb. 3 meeting that also went deep into the night, the council has elected eight committee chairs and, I’m humbled to say, unanimously returned me to the position of council chair.
I would like to thank our community members for taking the time to provide heartfelt and thoughtful testimony as we took on the biennial challenge of organizing the council. I urge everyone in the public to consider sharing your views with me and colleagues at the next opportunity—which is the council meeting on Friday at 9 a.m. in the Council Chamber and on streaming video—and at other meetings during the upcoming term.
And I would like to give special thanks to Councilmember Tasha Kama, who ably chaired the council in this term’s first few weeks, until I was able to take my seat for the Wailuku-Waihe‘e-Waikapū residency area. This council will have many policy debates, but we have already shown we are able to unify when common purpose is necessary, such as in making committee assignments.
The council’s organization of its committee reflects the timeless principles I’ve previously touted in this space.
Everyone has value. Everyone has a purpose. Everyone has a role.
Councilmember Yuki Lei K. Sugimura of Upcountry Maui chairs the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee, or BFED. After receiving the proposed fiscal year 2024 budget from Mayor Richard T. Bissen, Jr., she will lead the council’s annual budget session through much of the spring.
The Disaster, Resilience, International Affairs, and Planning Committee, or DRIP, is chaired by Tamara Paltin of West Maui. The council has referred to her committee a bill she introduced last term to establish a process encouraging owners of transient accommodations to convert their properties to long-term rentals.
The Government Relations, Ethics and Transparency Committee, or GREAT, will be soon begin the process of vetting dozens of mayoral nominees to lead various county departments and to serve on boards commissions. Because the nominations have deadlines for council action, Chair Nohelani Uʻu-Hodgins of the Makawao-Ha‘ikū-Pā`ia residency area, will be given extra meeting time for her committee in coming weeks.
The Efficiency Solutions and Circular Systems Committee, or ESCS, is chaired by Councilmember Keani N. W. Rawlins-Fernandez of Molokai. This innovative and diverse new committee will be tasked with issues on cultural preservation and oversight of the Department of ʻŌiwi Resources, which will be established next year based on a 2022 charter amendment.
Councilmember Shane M. Sinenci of East Maui chairs the Water Authority, Social Services and Parks Committee, or WASSP. One of his committee’s first tasks will be appointing members to the East Maui Regional Community Board, following approval of the water authorities’ charter amendment last year.
Councilmember Kama, who holds the council seat for the Kahului residency areas, chairs the Housing and Land Use Committee, or HLU, which will tackle the vital issues of zoning policy and affordable zoning. The council recognizes the issues are connected.
The Agriculture, Diversification, Environment and Public Transportation Committee, or ADEPT, is chaired by Councilmember Gabe Johnson of Lanai. His committee will work on policies for food security, economic diversification and the Maui Bus.
Councilmember Tom Cook of South Maui chairs the Water and Infrastructure Committee, or WAI. This committee will help the county lay the groundwork, literally, for a vibrant future—both economically and environmentally.
To find more information on the duties of each committee, visit the council’s website and read Resolution 23-4, FD1. The website also has the council calendar, which shows that committees typically meet Monday-Thursday prior to a Friday council meeting.
Let’s get started!
*Alice L. Lee is the Chair of the Maui County Council. She holds the County Council seat for the Wailuku-Waiheʻe-Waikapū residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative and community matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.