LAHAINA - Founded in 1974, the West Maui Taxpayers Association (WMTA) held its 2013 Annual Meeting last week Thursday night at Lahaina Civic Center.
The meeting room was full to overflowing with a cross section of community leaders, engaged volunteers, active senior citizens, elected officials and other discerning voters.
Newly elected board members of the watchdog group were announced, including Paul Brown, Pam English, Jim Hentz, Richard Jarman, Ezekiela Kalua, Pat Kelly, Donald Lehman, Gregg Nelson, Joseph Pluta, Bob Pure, John Seebart and Richard Starkweather. Those in attendance were introduced.
The West Maui Taxpayers Association honored Mayor Alan M. Arakawa (center, left) at its Annual Meeting last week. PHOTO BY MEDIA SYSTEMS/RICK NAVA.
As a mid-term salute, WMTA issued Mayor Alan M. Arakawa a special proclamation with six "whereas-es" praising his leadership skills.
The final statement was the most telling: "Mayor Arakawa has always been open to discuss West Maui issues and has greeted every request for help on West Maui issues with his 'How can we fix this?' attitude."
There was a lineup of community organization and nonprofit representatives presenting lei to the chief executive in affirmation of the declaration: Bob Pure, Lahaina Bypass Now; Pat and Richard Endsley, The Lahaina Complex After School Enrichment Tutoring Project; May Fujiwara, Lahaina-Honolua Senior Citizens Club; Theo Morrison, Lahaina Restoration Foundation; Lynn Donovan, LahainaTown Action Committee; Liz May, Rotary Club of Lahaina; Ruth McKay, Soroptimist International of West Maui; Joe Pluta, West Maui Improvement Foundation; and Donald Lehman, West Maui Taxpayers Association.
"I feel like I just graduated," the mayor laughed. "It is everybody working together, not just one person. I'll accept this on behalf of everybody here," he told the gathering.
Specifically, he lauded West Siders for renovating Lahaina Public Library.
"The library - that's really miraculous when you look at all the effort and the work that has been accomplished. Lahaina has outstanding community support," he said.
"We have a lot of big projects coming out this way," Arakawa added.
It was his announcement, however, about the status of the development of a linear park along Highway 30 that garnered the most applause.
"The County Council will be hearing a proposal to purchase the area from Puamana out to the transfer station next week. We'll be taking that area and looking at trying to create a huge park forever along the coastline," he said.
Council members driving to Lahaina from other island districts across the Pali to attend the lobbying group's annual fete were Chairwoman Gladys Baisa, Don Couch and Mike Victorino.
West and South Maui Sen. Roz Baker and Rep. Angus McKelvey updated their constituents on activity at the Hawaii Legislature for the upcoming year.
Baker is the chair of the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee and vice chair of both the Health and Public Safety Intergovernmental and Military Affairs committees. She also serves on the Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing Committee.
At the 2013 legislative session, Baker is introducing an initiative to establish a Special Emergency Medical Response Vehicle Unit based in Maalaea.
The Special Response Vehicle (SRV), she communicated in her newsletter distributed to attendees, is an SUV equipped with lifesaving, emergency response equipment and staffed by an Advanced Life Support (ALS) trained paramedic.
The SRV will not be utilized for patient transport; however, "it will arrive at the scene if the resident ambulances are out of the district and provide advanced life support services to augment the basic services of the fire first responders."
"It is a way that they can get there quickly to remote areas while waiting for the medevac helicopter to arrive," she noted.
"We are trying to push forward and get funded," Baker advised the crowd. "It is not coming out of the general fund. We have an emergency medical services special fund, and it does have some cushion in it that we can draw from."
"There's two of 'em on Oahu, and they seem to work really well. Anything we can do to keep our services timely and help to continue to save lives is important," the senator said.
The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Baker announced, has launched a one-stop Hawaii Foreclosure Information Center (HFIC) and public awareness campaign (www.hfic.hawaii.gov).
Its goal is to support homeowners struggling with their mortgages. HFIC offers links to resources and valuable data, including alternatives for home loans in default and how to avoid potential scams.
"We'll connect you to a certified housing counselor," Sen. Baker remarked.
Baker can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at (808) 586-6070.
McKelvey was "all about the process," distributing various pages detailing the governmental "how-tos" from tracking legislation to submitting online testimony.
"Get involved in the process," he counseled, "because now more than ever, we're gonna need your voice and your input both on bills as well as funding.
"This is really critical now more than ever," the representative from West Maui stressed, because of the competition for state and federal dollars.
To contact McKelvey, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (808) 586-6160.
Joe Pluta, president of the West Maui Improvement Foundation, updated the gathering on the status of the West Maui Hospital.
The Maui County Council, he announced, granted final approval for the subdivision of the West Maui Hospital site in late December.
The challenging permitting process lies ahead, he noted, with supporting studies and entitlements required.
Ever the optimist, Pluta resounded, "We have done the impossible; all that's left is the possible."
To learn more about WMTA, visit www.westmaui.org/.