MAUI COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS JOIN TO GIVE SOBERING PICTURE OF MAUI FUTURE
This is for anyone concerned about such things as population growth and land development. And no, I’m not talking about all the homeowners associations of the island hooking up into one monolithic bloc seeking to standardize rules about house paint colors and how often you mow your lawn all while enclosing the entire island behind a giant metal gate. Because such things have happened, though about 98 percent of them took place in James Bond flicks.
Anyway, I’m talking about the Alliance of Maui Community Associations, a relatively new political group that seeks to get all of the county’s diverse communities talking together about common goals (and troubles).
“Leaders from several (about nine) Maui Island Community Associations have been meeting since June 2012,” states the alliance’s new website (Maui-communities.weebly.com). “The monthly Monday evening meetings at Kaunoa Senior Center in Spreckelsville have provided us with an opportunity to exchange ideas, to discuss common and unique community issues, and to learn about county and state government actions that affect our community associations and the residents whom we represent.”
Longtime Maui community activist Dick Mayer first alerted me to the alliance, and their website is a treasure trove of very sobering information about the future of Maui County. The homepage includes a beautiful chart showing population growth for the county since 1930, making it very easy for anyone to see that while more people than ever are moving to South Maui (Pop. 6744 in 1980 vs. 26,918 in 2010), places like Paia, Hali‘imaile and even Kapalua are relatively stagnant.
From there, it’s very easy for anyone to find a whole library of articles, planning documents and charts detailing every major development project currently on the books in Maui County. Want to see the latest on Maui Land & Pineapple Company’s massive Pulelehua project in West Maui? Or do you want to glance through the various environmental impact statements for South Maui’s Honua‘ula (Wailea 670) project? It’s all there, as well as information on all the community plans and community associations.
Spend just five minutes at the website, and you’ll see that a generation from now, Maui County will be a very different place than that we know now.
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Speaking of massive, unchecked population growth, it looks like the County of Maui is finally getting really serious about the ever-growing numbers of axis deer. Back in April. Maui County Environmental Coordinator Rob Parsons told me the county was in the process of hiring someone to look at the wildly disruptive invasive species full time (“Maui Environment Status Report,” April 25, 2013). “Eighteen have applied, and we interviewed the top six candidates,” Parsons said.
On June 2, The Maui News reported that 30-year-old Kanalu Sproat from Hawaii Island got the job. According to the paper, Sproat’s last job was spent “doing natural resource management and overseeing rare and endangered plant and bird species” for the Oahu Army Natural Resources program.
The stunning growth of the spotted deer, which consume endemic and endangered plants from Upcountry to South Maui, represent one of the most pressing invasive species problems on Maui. And according to The Maui News story, county officials have no idea how many of the deer are on island. The number could be as low as 4,300 or as high as 42,000.
Curiously, Maui Invasive Species Committee Manager Teya Penniman told the News that “we could care less about how many there are.” This seems odd, considering that a plan to control 4,000 deer would require considerably fewer resources than one attempting to deal with 10 times that figure.
In any case, here’s hoping that Sproat and the various county invasive species committees treat the deer as an opportunity to feed poor and homeless people rather than as simply another invasive animal that needs to be wiped out. Unlike coqui frogs, veiled chameleons, pampas grass or miconia, the deer are sources of venison, which many people find to be delicious. It just seems to me that the county has a chance to do some good with what’s otherwise a bad problem, and it would be shameful to waste what might be a cheap source of food for people in the county who have so little.
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WHEN THE PAST IS OUR FUTURE
Speaking of what the County of Maui might do in the future, county Managing Director Keith Regan has an unintentionally hilarious op-ed piece in the June 3 Maui News. Clearly written in response to news that the Maui County Council may hire an outside counsel to investigated Mayor Alan Arakawa’s handling of the old Wailuku Post Office (it’s been demolished), the op-ed piece offers a very defensive reasoning for the current administration’s plans.
“We’re trying to bring Maui County into the 21st century, which is why we’re placing photovoltaic panels on our facilities and looking at turning our trash into energy,” Regan wrote in the June 3 op-ed.
The 21st century?! How about we finally incorporate Maui County into the 20th century first?
Yes, the county is finally going to have an official in-house auditor. The voters approved one back in November, but it’s taking forever to get the job staffed and started. This kind of check on municipal power is good, but it’s just proof that when it comes to oversight, the County of Maui is still decades behind comparable Mainland cities and counties.
The biggest example of that is the Maui Police Department. The whole thing is a monument to the lack of accountability that plagued big city and small town law enforcement a century ago. Sure, we have a police commission, but the commissioners do little else than meet once a month (inside the imposing police headquarters) to convey congratulations on whoever is officer of the month or whatever and then meet in closed session to reject the latest citizen complaint.
Police spokespeople and the county corporation counsel’s office have told me that the department’s training emphasizes civil rights, but given the ruthless way officers handle citizens who try to film them in action, there’s ample reason to doubt their assurances.
There’s also the Department of Liquor Control. That place is completely independent, with its own revenue stream, which makes it ripe for exactly the kind of corruption that departments like that were created to fight.
Oh, and if you really want to take Maui into at least the 20th century, then we’ve got to shut down the sugar mill in Pu‘unene. Nothing screams 19th century imperial excess like watching that old mill belch smoke into the otherwise gorgeous Maui sky.