Efficiency Solutions and Circular Systems Committee to advance systems of EQUITY
By Keani Rawlins-Fernandez
At the start of this term, the council established the Efficiency Solutions and Circular Systems Committee, a new committee that I’ll be leading to evaluate and improve overarching systems and effectively tackle the underlying problems that have plagued our County for years—and in some cases, generations.
Historically, systems have been designed by people intending to maintain power, and their efforts don’t often represent the needs of the broader community. Its critical to increase participation to create more equitable systems that address the needs of the many and not just the few. Examples of these systems include education, politics, health care, housing and incarceration.
Therefore, it’s important we understand who has been elevated to design the systems, who these systems benefit or harm, whose interests are protected and advanced, and what are the envisioned end-goals of these systems. A critical piece in these systems is learning to acknowledge, out loud, the different power structures and the historical context in which they currently exists.
Instead of the adage “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” this committee will follow the adage: “Change it, unless the current way is proven substantially better.” In this framing, systems are not treated as stagnant; rather, they will be actively shaped by society and technological advancement—ever improving in light of evolving consciousness.
The ESCS Committee’s objectives are to preserve local cultures and traditions, promote community self-reliance, engage with circular economic systems, promote systemic equality, support a feminist economic recovery and advance energy-related issues.
The committee has oversight of the Office of the Mayor and the Office of Economic Development as they relate to energy and climate change, Department of Personnel Services, the principal county archaeologist and the Department of ʻŌiwi Resources.
We started our meetings by focusing on systemic inequality with presentations from professor Kaleikoa Kaʻeo and professor J. Kēhaulani Kauanui. As shared by Dr. Kauanui, to challenge settler colonialism as a structure, one must necessarily refuse to participate in and perpetuate the logic of the elimination of the native people.
The systems we live within, including settler colonialism, have been set up to empower some and disempower others, and I’m committed to working towards balancing the scales of justice via legislative action. After all, human laws are nothing more than social agreements backed by threats of violence. The power of designing systems that promote life, is always an option.
Dismantling systems of oppression and replacing it with systems of equity is a long-term, ongoing effort, that starts and continues with awareness and education. Only then can we apply this knowledge to the laws we write, so that we can empower our community and cultivate a culture of care where our families can thrive. We have many opportunities to take advantage of it this term.
For example, last year, the electorate voted in favor of a charter amendment to establish the Department of ‘Ōiwi Resources. We have until the charter mandated deadline of July 1, 2024 to begin bringing this department to life.
Another example is the new state Public Utilities Commission Energy Equity Docket, I’ve invited the commission to present to our committee to promote the concept and encourage participation to re-envision energy systems that prevent continued social, environmental and economic injustice falling upon our most vulnerable populations.
An additional system that is overdue for improvement is the water-rate structure. Single-family customers that use more than 35,000 gallons per month pay a higher rate than hotels and resorts—establishments that use some of the most water. One resort customer uses approximately 500,000 gallons of water in one day.
In working with the Board of Water Supply, we examined the feasibility of creating a new category separating out hotels and resort customers to charge a rate commensurate with this type of use. After working on this for two years, and with the appointment of a new water director, we will see a proposal to establish this new rate category in the next fiscal year.
I’m excited to continue working with our communities to examine and improve systems so they can better serve our current capacity, needs and desires based on a foundation of greater understanding, efficiency and justice.
*Keani Rawlins-Fernandez is the chair of the Efficiency Solutions and Circular Systems Committee. She holds the County Council seat for the Molokai 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.