Council hears budget requests
LAHAINA – With the Mayor Alan M. Arakawa administration proposing a $700 million budget, with a $96.3 million increase for fiscal year 2016, the Lahaina Civic Center was packed last week Wednesday (April 15) with over 65 citizens testifying on how to spend our taxpayer dollars.
Most of the persons providing testimony were West Side residents, including community leaders, volunteers, youth, executives with non-profits, teachers and seniors. It was a well-rounded and well-fed group gathered before the County Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, with the food and refreshments catered by the Lahaina-Honolua Senior Citizens Club.
The youth spoke first, mostly in favor of continued funding for the Boys and Girls Club of Lahaina and Hui Malama Learning Center on the other side.
On the West Side, according to the Boys and Girls Club unit director, “We feed 85 to 95 kids every day. We go through about 2,000 meals in six months. This is at no cost to the kids or their families.”
One student attending Hui Malama observed, “The nicest thing I can say about Hui Malama is that they are always there to support me, teach me right from wrong. I look at myself now and can see that I am improving at everything.”
Ana Garcia, through an interpreter, spoke in favor of the funding allocated to Head Start. “I want to say thank you so much for helping to fund Head Start after 12 noon.
“It’s been a big advantage for my kids to be a part of the preschool, and it’s helped my family as well as many other families,” she advised.
Two West Maui public school teachers attested to the multiple benefits of the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) along with some of the young business professionals in attendance profiting from their programs.
Lahainaluna High School digital media and video teacher Nancy Young shared the success story of her students.
“In the seven years I’ve been up at the school, because of organizations like MEDB giving me software, computers, printers, cameras, I have everything I need; and it’s all paid off. We just went to the state Project-Based Assessments and qualified a number of our students for honorary designations in Career Technical Education; that’s a big deal. Very few students get that designation. Only 10 percent of the top of the class even gets to go (to Oahu), and only 10 percent of them get the designation; and we came back with a number of students who are going to have special diplomas,” Young said.
As usual, the seniors from the Lahaina-Honolua Senior Citizens Club showed up with a force of about 30 dressed in pink.
May Fujiwara, Anita Yamafuji and Don Gerbig spoke on their behalf.
“Our club celebrated our 45th anniversary this year, and we will have many, many members who are over 90 years old; and, because of your support of these programs, they can still actively participate in the many, many activities that we do have,” Fujiwara said.
“As in the past, transportation has been our biggest obstacle for being independent,” Fujiwara continued. “Many of us no longer drive our own cars, so they are dependent mostly or entirely on MEO (Maui Economic Opportunity) transportation to take us places like shopping, banking, doctors’ appointments, club meetings and to nutrition programs. So please continue to support MEO transportation.
Yamafuji agreed. “Thank you for the support of the senior program. I am handicapped, but I can still participate in many of the senior activities. As I can no longer drive, I depend a great deal on MEO transportation to take me places like this important budget meeting tonight. Please continue to fund MEO transportation.”
Gerbig added a “kicker” to his MEO testimony: “I would like to recommend that you support the building of the $1.5 million transportation center (baseyard) for the MEO bus service to reduce the current $12,000 a month expenditures for outside facilities.”
A group of Kahana Bay residents asked for their two cents as well.
Pohailani-Maui owner and Board President Laurie Lowson presented the request succinctly: “I am in support of the Department of Planning’s budget item for a study of erosion mitigation in Kahana Bay on West Maui. We are concerned about impacts of proposed shoreline armoring within Kahana Bay, including acceleration of erosion along neighboring properties. As a alternative to armoring, we support the concept of regional beach restoration for all of Kahana Bay that will be the focus study.”
Another lobbying group was well-represented, the Maui Bicycling League.
One of the testifiers was Kaanapali resident Carmen Karady. She commended the council “in helping to make Maui a safer place to walk or bicycle,” referring to the North Shore Greenway; the Kihei Greenway; the Paia School, Safe Routes to School; and countywide sidewalk improvements.
She asked that the $300,000 budgeted for countywide bikeways go for the West Maui Greenway.
Phase 2 of the Lahaina Harborfront Improvement Project was supported by a handful of testifiers.
Lindsay Ball voiced his encouragement to the council to fund the Lahaina Restoration Foundation (LRF) plan.
“I am here to give my support for adding the $1.5 million to the budget for Phase 2 of the Lahaina Harborfront Improvement Project. The lawn area makai of the library is the perfect venue for local surf meets,” Ball said.
“The LRF Phase 2 plan includes having a shower in close proximity as well as electrical outlets The shower will be a great addition for all surfers who frequent Lahaina Harbor.”
“Improving the area with walkways, new lighting and benches will make Lahaina Harbor a place where parents and family will actually come to watch their children surf,” Ball added.
The executive director of LRF, Theo Morrison, was matter-of-fact about the request: “We ask that you add $1.5 million to the budget, so that the dreams and plans of the Lahaina community can come to fruition.”
Since West Maui provides the lion’s share of the property taxes that fund the county, Morrison added, the community would like “to reap some of the benefits.”
Budget requests for West Side recycling were heard as well.
Jim Fahnestock, co-president of the Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunset, spoke for the nonprofit.
“West Maui residents would very much like to have the opportunity to participate in recycling. Currently, the options are the limited facility in Lahaina, the more extensive facility in Olowalu, or hiring a private contractor to pick up recycling. These few options cause many West Maui residents to place recyclable materials in their trash – to be disposed of in the landfill,” he said.
There were more requests.
Morrison asked for money to fund the popular senior citizen boat day performances at Lahaina Harbor.
Paul Laub wanted money to take better care of our ancestors at Hanakao’o Cemetery.
Paul Brown, executive director of the Kapalua Resort Association, asked for funding assistance for the “extension of the Kapalua coastal trail,” beginning at Kapalua and ending at D.T. Fleming Beach Park.
Ever-present budget meeting attendee Hans Michel reminded the council, “Don’t forget the flood channel from Lahainaluna Road to Puamana is incomplete.”
Some had concerns about unpaved, unsafe and uncomfortable roadways, with requests for repaving.
Butch Soares is “embarrassed” about the condition of Wainee Street. “I was born and raised 74 years ago on Wahikuli Road, and it hasn’t improved very much, okay; but I can also tell you that one of the main streets in Lahaina Town is a disgrace to Maui County,” he said.
“I rarely drive on it, because you feel every bump. Drive on it and then tell me you guys had a good ride. If you did, you got a Lexus,” the longtime community leader added tongue-in-cheek.
Other streets mentioned as deplorable by area residents are Lower Honoapiilani Road and Wahikuli Road.
Soares challenged the council to answer these important questions: “What percent of Maui taxes are generated from West Maui, and what part of those taxes get returned to West Maui? You guys gotta figure it out and answer the questions.”