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County Council tackling a wide array of important issues

By Staff | Sep 29, 2011

County Councilwoman Elle Cochran (front row, third from left) and her staff on Aug. 8 toured the Kahului Airport Fire Station and joint county/state field training facility.

WAILUKU — The months of August and September have been a test of strength and endurance for the County Council, and I am happy to say that I am still going strong. With three committee weeks in the month of August, we covered a vast array of topics that are all very important to our communities.

In August alone, we have discussed prohibiting mopeds on bike paths, regulating building on steep terrain, GMO (genetically modified organisms) labeling, the reopening of the Hamakuapoko wells for human consumption, Maui Land & Pine’s Pulelehua development in Kapalua, public parking in Paia, commercial signs, the reversal of traffic flow on Luakini Street, the curbside recycling pilot program and, of course, last but certainly not least, the Maui County General Plan, just to name a few.

Since the last time I mentioned them, two issues have progressed from my Infrastructure Management Committee and have passed second and final reading at the council level: prohibiting mopeds on the North Shore bikeway and Kihei greenway bike paths, and adjusting parking at the county parking lot in Paia to two-hour timed parking.

There is still a lot of work to be done in order to move the curbside recycling pilot program forward. I plan to focus on this issue and work hard with the other members and with the administration to get the ball rolling.

My biggest challenge and focus at the moment has been formulating a draft bill regulating development on steep terrain (with involvement from representatives of the Department of Public Works and the Corporation Counsel) that I hope my fellow committee members can support. We will be discussing the newest version of the bill at the upcoming Infrastructure Management Committee meeting scheduled for Monday, Oct. 3, at 9 a.m.

It is my hope that this legislation can garner the support it needs to put some much-needed protection in place for lives and properties down slope from potential falling rock hazards above. The intention of this draft bill is to put in place a requirement that developers will need to complete a slope hazard engineering report and conduct soil testing when certain triggers (i.e.: steep slope and terrain) are triggered.

This topic has a lot of history with the council; first introduced in 2007, it has since been discussed many times by the former council and by the current group. It has been reviewed from every angle and been given much consideration. I am confident that it will be good legislation that we can all be proud of. I am hopeful that we will see it through before the end of 2011.

On Aug. 17, the chair of the Policy Committee, Councilmember Hokama, brought forward POL-3(3), the 2012 Hawaii State Association of Counties (HSAC) legislative package. I submitted a proposal to include GMO labeling for consideration within the package in hopes that the issue can be heard at the state level once again.

I feel very strongly that regardless of your position on genetically modified organisms, every human being has the right to choose and to know what they are buying and consuming. There are laws put in place that require the labeling of ingredients and nutritional information on every item that is purchased in a grocery store, to protect people from having allergic reactions to food. Organic foods label their products; I do not feel that GMO products should be handled any differently. No matter where you stand on the issue of how our food is produced, it is indisputable that the freedom of choice should be available to every consumer.

The HSAC item that includes the GMO labeling resolution was discharged from the last policy committee meeting to allow every council member’s participation in discussion. This issue will be discussed further on Friday, Oct. 7, at 9 a.m.

On Aug. 8, my office took a tour of the Kahului Airport Fire Station, led by Fire Chief Eugene Perry, to get a better understanding of some of the budgetary issues our public service facilities face. It was very interesting to learn about the inner workings and difficult tasks that our local firefighters face.

A key feature of our tour was the joint county/state field training facility. At first glance, the facility did not seem like much, but I was surprised to learn about the advanced training exercises that could be performed there. The department has been very resourceful in utilizing recycled materials, such as doors and roofing materials donated by various entities.

Maui County has one of the only live-burn simulators in the country and the only one found in the state. This live-burn simulator gives our local firefighters a rare higher level of training that most firefighters don’t have a chance to acquire. Most simulators don’t mimic the real heat and conditions that they will have to face in an actual house or building fire.

The Fire Department expressed their intentions to expand their small outdoor training facility, and after witnessing everything that these firefighters accomplish with such limited resources, I will try wholeheartedly to support their needs. I would like to send a big mahalo to the firefighters on third watch and to Chief Perry for taking the time out of your busy day to show us around and for making us feel welcome.

Please contact my office at 270-5504 or elle.cochran@mauicounty.us if you would like further information regarding any of the upcoming committee and council meetings scheduled the week of Oct. 3.