SECRET WAILUKU POST OFFICE INVESTIGATION MEETING!
At long last, the Maui County Council’s Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs (PIA) Committee (which has the same members as the council itself) has taken another step on the long road known as the Great Investigation of the Demolition of Old Wailuku Post Office, according to an Aug. 15 story in The Maui News. Upcountry kids are having to grow up as their beloved playground equipment at Giggle Hill rots behind a metal fence with no end in sight, but it totally makes sense that council members would want to find out what, exactly, Mayor Alan Arakawa’s administration was thinking when it demolished an old building that had been closed for many years that everyone on the council wanted gone.
It’s also nice to see that the PIA Committee members’ love of irony is still healthy. As we showed in our June 27 story “Is The Maui County Council Nuts?,” officials with the administration discussed their plans to demolish the old post office in public hearings on multiple occasions over the course of a couple years, whereas the Maui County Council members who make up the PIA committee chose to meet for over an hour in secret Executive Session to discuss their “strategy,” according to member Don Couch in the Aug. 15 Maui News story. After an hour-long closed session, the committee made all of its decisions on the matter in a public hearing that last 10 minutes.
What’s more, the committee decided (very prudently, I imagine) that rather than add the the County’s Corporation Counsel to the investigation list, it’s better to just exempt them from the whole thing so the committee (and council) can continue to get legal advice from them. In any case, the committee voted to ask newly minuted County Auditor Lance Taguchi to look into the thing.
Which, to be honest, is exactly what he should be doing anyway.
* * *
ARE TIMESHARES ON MAUI OUT OF TIME?
Not sure if you noticed this, but on Thursday, Aug. 15, the Maui County Council Planning Committee (like the PIA committee, it’s just made up of the Maui County Councilmembers) took up a bill that would prohibit future timeshares on Maui.
Granted, the bill only dealt with new timeshares–those already in existence would be given a pass. But the bill would make clear that new visitor accommodations built in the county would definitely be of the hotel nature.
“We need hotel rooms, not time share units,” Councilman Riki Hokama said at the hearing, according to an Aug. 17 post from Councilmember Don Couch on the Maui County Council blog (yes, there is such a thing). “We need hotel rooms. It is time we take a look at this issue since we are updating community plans.”
Hokama wasn’t alone in showing disdain for timeshares, which differ from hotels by typically employing far fewer people and sending far fewer visitors to nearby restaurants. According to Couch’s blog post, Councilmember Mike White (who is also the GM of the Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel and thus slightly biased on the issue) noted that when the Marriott in Ka‘anapali switched to a timeshare, “there were jobs lost from banquet staff, the luau was eliminated, retail services were eliminated and the convention business was hurt.” Councilmember Elle Cochran, who was apparently working at the Marriott when the changeover occurred, said that she’d lost her job because of the conversion.
The committee ended up deferring the bill (councilmembers like Cochran and Mike Victorino said that timeshares, problematic as they might be, do offer “stability” for those who do work for them) which means it’s off the proverbial table for the time being, but Planning Committee Chairman Couch says his plan is for the issue to return for discussion in the near future.
“Before the deferral, I made clear that my committee may not be the right vehicle to tackle the job, but I’m willing to take on the discussion with other standing committees,” Couch wrote in his blog post. “It will take some time. My projection is to have a clearer direction perhaps sometime next year. It is very important to get public input, statistics, and legal guidance.”
* * *
A&B GIVES. AND GIVES. AND GIVES…
Given the last few years of general reductions in public services provided by all types of government in the face of ever-increasing debt (caused to a great extent by public employee pensions and benefits), I wasn’t at all surprised to read that one key social service in Maui County receives a great deal of its funding from a corporation. A very powerful corporation, in fact, named Alexander & Baldwin.
Yes, the same A&B that owns Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar, which burns all that sugar cane that’s growing over 37,000 or so Central Maui acres and then converts it into sugar, which we Americans then convert into things like “heart disease” and “diabetes.” Hey, it’s a living: on Aug. 17 The Maui News reported that A&B reported a $8.3 million operating profit in the second quarter of this year (the company got even more good news from the paper the next day in the form of a big story on A&B’s proposed 103-unit ‘Aina O Kane condo project in Kahului).
Anyway, earlier this month A&B gave the county $20,000 to help it fund a senior nutrition program.
“The $20,000 grant will help Kaunoa’s Congregate Nutrition Program provide nutritious meals for seniors at several satellite centers located throughout the County, as well as support special activities and events for people age 60 and over,” stated the County of Maui’s Aug. 14 press release announcing the donation. “A&B has made financial contributions to senior services for over 35 years.”
Though to be fair, senior services isn’t the only entity in the county that benefits from A&B’s largess. In fact, the public officials who deal with A&B on a regular basis have long benefited from the company’s generosity.
Since 2012, Hawaii state Campaign Spending Commission records show that A&B’s Hawaii political action committee (HIPAC) has given at least $46,700 to a wide variety of officials across Hawaii, including Mayor Arakawa and current and former Maui County Councilmembers Gladys Baisa, Bob Carroll, Couch, Hokama, Don Guzman, Danny Mateo, Joe Pontanilla and Victorino. The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) reports that the same PAC has also given $42,600 to various federal candidates and other PACs since 2012. Further, CRP data indicates that in that time period A&B employees have themselves donated another $37,198 to federal candidates and PACs.
After all, what’s $20,000 among friends?