Published in The Maui News June 16, 2013
By DON GUZMAN , for The Maui News
With its four areas of policy oversight, the Maui County Council’s Economic Development, Energy, Agriculture, and Recreation Committee, known as the EAR Committee, is an adroit body — addressing opportunities and obstacles to improving Maui County’s economy, alternative energy advancements, valuable agricultural industry and heritage and multi-faceted community parks and recreation.
Recently, the EAR Committee considered the acceptance of a statue honoring Sun Mei, a Chinese immigrant who settled on Maui in 1881. Sun Mei’s elder brother was renowned revolutionary Sun Yat Sen, who became the first president and founding father of the Republic of China.
Sun Mei, a successful businessman on Maui and Oahu, once called Ulupalakua home. On June 3, a dedication ceremony celebrating Sun Mei’s statue was held in Keokea Park.
It was an honor to recognize Sun Mei, as well as his descendants, Chinese government officials and media who traveled from China. Our shared celebration was a tremendous success, and we look forward to nurturing an international relationship that will help future economic development with China.
To pursue a more diversified economic base and encourage strong and healthy entrepreneurship in Maui County, my committee will be examining the County’s Economic Development Revolving Fund. In collaboration with the Office of Economic Development, we are striving to identify opportunities for the fund that can assist the development of new and emerging industries.
Since taking office nearly six months ago, it has become clear the definition of “agriculture” continues to be a critical issue affecting our farming and ranching families, as well as commercial enterprises.
The issue of how “agriculture” is interpreted by various County agencies, such as Planning, Water Supply and the Real Property Tax Division of the Finance Department, remains difficult. To assist in this effort, I have been meeting with people in the community who can provide insight and guidance into agriculture-related matters.
Additionally, in future EAR Committee meetings, we will review a compilation of agriculture-related ordinances and departmental practices. This will give the EAR Committee the ability to thoughtfully consider any action needed to address policies and practices that may have unintended consequences.
Agriculture is a very important industry for our islands. Currently before the EAR Committee is a proposed bill relating to roadside stands and farmer’s markets in agricultural districts, which would support produce grown and sold locally.
Connecting island farmers with local consumers creates a win-win opportunity for everyone in our community.
The next EAR Committee meeting will be held on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber Committee agendas are available at www.mauicounty.gov/committees/EAR.
Because matters that come before the committee affect jobs, cultural and sporting events, natural resources, farming, ranching and commerce in our County, testimony on any item before the committee is valuable and always welcome.
Following a busy and productive 12-week Council budget session, the coming months will be important ones for the EAR Committee. We look forward to contributing toward making Maui no ka oi in all we do.
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Don S. Guzman holds the council seat for the Kahului residency area. He is the chair of the Economic Development, Energy, Agriculture, and Recreation Committee. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.