Stay safe, and stay engaged
by Council Chair Alice L. Lee
If you’ve been watching TV or listening to the radio in the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard me and my colleagues in public-service announcements urging you to stay vigilant against COVID-19.
We of course don’t purport to be public-health experts. But we care about our community–and as elected officials we feel obligated to share the guidance we’re getting from the scientists and doctors who are doing their best to help us minimize suffering as we enter the pandemic’s third year.
I thank the state Department of Health website for providing regular, clear updates to the public. DOH manages the State of Hawaii’s portal at hawaiicovid19.com, which provides these four main points:
- Get your vaccine or booster.
- Wear a mask.
- Maintain physical distancing.
- Get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms.
It’s a simple message, but it bears repeating as we all fight virus fatigue and continue to try to protect ourselves, our families and our co-workers.
I also thank Gov. David Y. Ige for extending his emergency proclamation that authorizes exclusively online meetings by the Maui County Council, its committees and other state and county boards and commissions at least through March 25.
With councilmembers participating from all three populated islands in Maui County and residents testifying from their homes, their offices, their cars, the beach and even the grocery store, the council has continued to conduct the public’s business through video conferencing.
We are in the midst of a busy part of the calendar. The 2022 state legislative session convened Jan. 19, and I’ve been busy submitting testimony to Senate and House committees.
So far, I’ve testified in support of bills to allow counties to regulate vacation-rental hosting platforms, set a climate change mitigation impact fee for rental cars, provide two new positions for the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission and give the county councils additional time to review fast-track housing projects. I’ve also testified in opposition to several bills that would be contrary to home rule by rescinding county authority.
I’ll continue to keep tabs on the legislature until the session adjourns on May 5.
Friday’s council meeting will include a committee report on an innovative bill–from the Climate Action, Resilience and Environment Committee–that will initiate energy benchmarking at county buildings. This program promises to save taxpayer money on the county’s electricity bills while also minimizing the county’s climate impacts.
Later this month, the council’s Government Relations, Ethics and Transparency Committee will start two big tasks: vetting the mayor’s annual slate of nominees to boards and commissions and reviewing the 2021-2022 Charter Commission’s proposals to change the structure of our local government. I’m grateful for the volunteers who’ll soon be starting a journey of public service on a county board or commission and for those on the Charter Commission, whose diligent, thoughtful work will be concluding within a few months.
The council’s Budget, Finance and Economic Development will begin its annual review of the county’s annual budget shortly after receiving Mayor Michael P. Victorino’s budget proposal near the end of next month.
The council’s other standing committees will go on hiatus during the budget session. But in the meantime, committee chairs are busily prioritizing items for meeting agendas.
Nothing is official until the agendas are posted. But my colleagues have mentioned a lot of interesting topics that may be discussed before the budget session.
The new county Department of Agriculture, approved by the electorate two years ago, may be the subject of proposed legislation in the Agriculture and Public Trust Committee to establish policies and programs. The Infrastructure and Transportation Committee may review airplane noise and flight paths over Maui County.
The Human Concerns and Parks Committee will likely continue its oversight of the county’s recreational facilities and programs, including the lease for the Veterans of Foreign Wars activities site in Kihei. The Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee may review the county’s enforcement efforts on unpermitted vacation rentals.
And, of course, the Affordable Housing Committee is continuing its methodical review of policy proposals in the council-initiated Comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan.
Please continue to stay safe. And please continue to stay engaged with your community and your local government.
* 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 matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.