Maui’s Future in Good Hands
Now the Maui County Council is organized, there are many reasons to be hopeful and optimistic about a bright future for our County. In addition to the Council Chair, each of the Councilmembers serve as Chair of one of the eight committees. Every Committee has specific responsibilities, or kuleana, of which urgency of action is dictated by challenges facing the County. We appreciate the work of all the Committees and designated Chairs, all deserving our gratitude, encouragement, support and aloha.
It is our hope that new leadership will bring different perspectives for addressing the many pressing problems and issues we face today—lack of affordable housing for hard working residents, homelessness, high cost of living and domestic abuse, to name a few. Here it is, four months after the General Election, and the Council is hard at work to chart a better path to resolving our numerous challenges.
What better way to begin their new term than the unanimous selection again of Alice Lee for Council Chair by her peers, a testament to her ability to lead a very diverse group of fellow Councilmembers, from progressive, to moderate to far-left persuasions. Chair Lee has the experience and skill to navigate a balanced approach to legislating polices benefitting our County’s residents. She is a seasoned Councilmember who is highly respected by her colleagues because of her willingness to listen to all points of view.
Another reason for our optimism is the appointments of the Committee Chairs, and especially the key committees to address our most urgent challenges at this time. Council Vice-Chair, Yuki Lei Sugimura, chairs the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee, focusing on the annual budget after receiving Mayor Bissen’s proposed 2024 fiscal year budget. With her extensive experience in both the private and public sector, she is an excellent choice to steer us on the path of fiscal responsibility placing a high priority on the needs of our County’s working residents. Councilmember Sugimura’s business acumen will help guide the Council to better manage Maui County’s limited financial resources—and not a “tax and spend” approach—which will also give us confidence to weather the storm of a potential recession this year.
It is refreshing to note the Housing and Land Use Committee, a very important committee to address Maui County’s housing crisis, will once again be chaired by Council Presiding Officer Pro Tempore Tasha Kama. She is an excellent choice for this Committee focusing on expediting entitlements for affordable workforce housing projects targeting all aspects of our area’s median income families. Having witnessed her tenacity during the past few years on the Council, it gives us hope and confidence she will meet the challenge of making sure workforce housing will be at the forefront of this Committee’s agenda.
Two freshmen Councilmembers will be leading key committees during this Council term. Nohe U‘u-Hodgins chairs the Government Relations, Ethics and Transparency Committee, whose focus will be on the nominations of department heads, boards and commissions. U‘u-Hodgins is an ideal chair because of her even-tempered and respectful nature. With her leadership, we are hopeful and confident the vetting of appointees of the heads of departments, boards and commissions will be informational and respectful, rather than confrontational, hearings. This Committee also focuses on litigation matters having the potential of financial impact on our County.
Finally, another freshman Councilmember, Tom Cook will chair the Water and Infrastructure Committee, with the very important focus on needed infrastructure for workforce housing projects long neglected resulting in our current housing crisis. With his leadership, can-do attitude and experience as a contractor, we can hope for help in developing our infrastructure accelerating the development of affordable housing projects to benefit our working families.
Please let us all join in unity to support and encourage our new Council leadership team to meet our increasing challenges with resolve and urgency. Let’s continue to make Maui Nui Nō Ka ‘Oi!