“This is not a budget of fluff and extravagance but one of necessity,” Mayor Arakawa announced as he presented his plan for the 2012 fiscal year to the County Council last week. Arakawa said he got the draft budget to the Council a week early in an effort to “help them in their decision-making process.”
The budget projects $632 million in total County funds, with $475.3 million going to operations and another $156.7 to capital improvements. Reflecting the Mayor’s stated priorities, the largest chunk of money—$43.9 million—is allocated for water sourcing, development and transmission. That’s nearly double the amount in the 2011 budget. Another $22.7 million is set aside for wastewater projects, including new sewer lines, reclamation facilities and pump stations.
Other significant investments include $19.9 million for road work, $16.2 million to replace the countywide public safety radio system and $3.9 million for park maintenance and upgrades. As required by the County Charter, the budget places one percent of real property tax revenue ($2.15 million) into the open space and cultural preservation fund and two percent ($4.3 million) into the affordable housing fund.
“In adjusting to the declining economy, the previous year’s budget reduced the County’s operating expenditures by postponing purchases, delaying the filling of vacancies, instituting worker furloughs and restricting expenditures,” Arakawa wrote in his official budget message. “Unfortunately, the effects of these efforts have had a substantial negative impact on the County. The [2012 budget] aims to restore some of the most significantly affected areas and eliminate the furloughs.”
A copy of the draft budget is available on the County Web site, mauicounty.gov.
Accessing some of Hawaii’s best spots means trespassing on private property. But when people, particularly visitors, get hurt in the process, who’s responsible? That question is being asked on Oahu, where lawmakers are considering a bill that would hold the writers and publishers of guidebooks and visitor Web sites that tell readers how to access off-limits sites liable for injuries or deaths that occur.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and various major landowners support the bill. But media and free speech advocates say it’s a blatant violation of the First Amendment. “The definitions for visitor-guide publications and visitor-guide Web sites are written so broadly they include every form of media in the state,” wrote the Hawaii Publishers Association (HPA) in testimony provided to the Senate tourism committee. Further, HPA argues, “there isn’t a definitive way to determine how the trespasser obtained the information. It could have been from any variety of sources, including word-of-mouth.”
Even if the bill does pass, (it was scheduled for a hearing this week) ACLU Hawaii says it’s “unlikely [to] survive a constitutional challenge.”
As the tragedy in Japan continues to unfold, many in Hawaii are asking how they can help. One possible answer: the Aloha Initiative, an effort aimed at offering housing and other support to displaced Japanese citizens.
“Right now, our primary goal is to build a community of families that are willing to host someone for a week, for a month or even for a year,” said Keith Powers, one of the initiative’s founders. “We also have people signing up to help in other ways like offering to host dinners and to provide clothing.” Powers added that he hopes to involve members of the business community.
Mayor Arakawa, whose managing director, Keith Regan, is also involved in the project, threw his support behind it this week. “Our goal is to provide survivors with an opportunity to get away and recharge themselves both physically and mentally,” said Arakawa. “Even if many choose not to come to Maui for respite, they will receive word through this program that our islands care and embody the true spirit of Aloha.” For more information, visit alohainitiative.com.