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West Maui lawmakers gather ideas for upcoming legislative session

By Staff | Dec 8, 2011

West and South Maui Sen. Roz Baker and Rep. Angus McKelvey sign in at their community listening session on Nov. 29 at the West Maui Senior Center. Photo by Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez.

LAHAINA – Lahaina resident Bob Kawaguchi arrived early to make sure the tables were set in place, the chairs lined up and refreshments laid out for the guests that were on their way to the community listening session held by Sen. Roz Baker and Rep. Angus McKelvey last Tuesday evening at the West Maui Senior Center.

McKelvey participates in a similar session with Baker each year, as a source for ideas to pursue in the upcoming legislative session.

“I want to be able to say that a certain piece of legislation was the result of what I heard at the session,” said Tenth District Rep. McKelvey (D).

“It shows that, in fact, we listen to what people are concerned about.”

“It’s another way for us to reach out to the community,” said Fifth District Sen. Baker (D), “and an opportunity to hear what are interests and concerns that we might be able to deal with legislatively.”

McKelvey reported that the Lahaina Bypass is moving north and south at the same time, and that Phase C will hopefully open next summer.

An intelligent traffic system designed to move traffic safely is also moving forward. All of the traffic projects have the strong support of the governor and state officials, said McKelvey.

Baker spoke of a summer listening session at Lahaina Intermediate School, where she heard about the issue of silt and sand in Lahaina Harbor and the problems it presents for boats using the harbor.

As a result of working with U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and Army Corps of Engineers, Baker told those assembled that she expects dredging in the harbor to start in January.

West Maui community leader May Fujiwara asked why photovoltaic (PV) systems are only allowed in a limited number of neighborhoods.

Baker said the reason is several electrical grids in various areas on Maui are approaching maximum capacity for net metering.

The development of a planned smart grid (see article on page 7) would allow for additional PV generation to enter the grid, since the power flow could be better managed.

Baker said that there is currently only one electrical grid in West Maui, in Kaanapali, that has excess capacity for PV power to be added into it, because it has not maxed out.

There was discussion about the continuing need for improvements to Lahainaluna High School and the challenge to additional improvements being funded given state budget constraints.

One significant improvement cited by both elected officials is the new cafeteria at LHS, which replaced the facility that had been in use since the beginning of the historic school.

A LEED-designed building, the new cafeteria was laid out to allow for its use as a performing arts center that even includes outdoor seating. The kitchen is large enough to be used as a possible culinary institute or perhaps a small restaurant.

Zeke Kalua, executive assistant to Mayor Alan Arakawa, thanked Baker and McKelvey for their efforts in getting the helipad built at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

Baker said that within one day after the training was completed, a call came in from Hana, and a heart attack victim was successfully transported to the hospital’s lifesaving services.

Asked about the status of a West Maui hospital, McKelvey said the proposed medical center is a private venture. The only thing he can do is to create tax incentives so that the facility can thrive and expand, as well as take advantage of its status as a federally qualified sole source critical access facility.

Asked if Gov. Neil Abercrombie has been able to replace state workers cut by former Gov. Linda Lingle, Baker said that when Abercrombie came into office, he found a deficit of $1.3 billion.

While the legislature raised fees and additional revenue came in, the deficit led to some additional cuts. With the use of federal funds, the cuts were moderated, Baker said.

“We ended the year in the black,” said Baker, “but unemployment is still higher than we want, and we are working not to cut those services that people need because they are not working through no fault of their own.”

McKelvey addressed a potential film tax credit that could be linked to hiring local people to get a higher tax credit, and a potential tax credit for people who hire local residents.

Baker urged people to shop local and buy Christmas presents from stores right here on Maui.

Both Baker and McKelvey stressed that job creation and economic development will be priorities of the legislature.

For more information, contact McKelvey at repmckelvey@capitol.hawaii.gov and Baker at senbaker@capitol.hawaii.gov. The legislative session begins on Jan. 18, 2012.