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Holidays a time to reflect on what’s important in life

By Staff | Dec 22, 2011

County Councilwoman Elle Cochran is pictured with her husband and staff (from left): front — Chelsey Piano and Cochran; back row — Jordan Molina, Sarah Freistat Pajimola and Wayno Cochran.

WAILUKU – The holiday season is upon us, and no matter what your beliefs are, there is one common element present for each and every one of us: ‘ohana.

The bittersweet ending of each year from November through December gives us all the special opportunity to reflect on what truly has value in life: family, friendships, giving, caring for one another and selflessness, while we also consider others that are less fortunate than we are.

Throughout the year, these important aspects of life can sometimes get lost in the daily shuffle, even for those with the best intentions. While we reflect on the year that is behind us and look forward to a fresh start once again, we should be reminded of the men and women oversees that have given up their invaluable time with their ‘ohana and give a special thanks to their families for their sacrifices as well.

I look forward to the New Year and the new tasks that will come along with it. January will prove to be a very productive month with several projects already in the works. In my Infrastructure Management Committee, I plan to continue the water recycling and conservation movement that has been gaining momentum these past few years by bringing forward gray water usage for discussion. This item, referred by Councilmember Gladys Baisa, addresses recycling water that is generated from domestic activities such as laundry, dishwashing and bathing, which can be recycled onsite for uses such as landscape irrigation or constructed wetlands.

Water is one of our most precious resources. In Maui County, we are consistently challenged by the need for more water. As stewards to this land, it is our responsibility to protect and preserve our water for future generations. The best way to address the water issues is to first address water use, by looking at what we waste and developing means for more efficient use. Between the treated wastewater injected into our nearshore waters and the domestic gray water that is dumped down the drain every day, we could vastly improve our water shortage issue by supplementing potable water with R1 and gray water for purposes such as landscaping and irrigation needs. This is reasonable, responsible, sustainable and smart.

Another precious resource is our air. I have received several e-mails, letters, phone calls and Facebook messages regarding “chem trails” or aerosol spraying in Maui County. I was made aware of some inaccurate information being spread publicly that I was in the process of introducing a bill to put a stop to aerosol spraying in Maui County skies. I would like to take this opportunity to clarify that although this is inaccurate, it does not mean that I am not willing to listen and be educated as to the merits of the issue. My understanding thus far is that this is a health issue, which is in the purview of the state Department of Health, the agency responsible for enforcing health protection laws such as the Clean Air Act. At this time, no proposals that are within the jurisdiction of the county have been made to address this issue. However, if there is a solution that is within my purview to help, I will be more than happy to do my part. I would not have run for office if I did not care about the health and well-being of our land and our people. My door is always open, and I strive to keep an open mind when it comes to issues that matter to the residents of Maui County.

One passion and focus of my mine since taking office has been shoreline access. I have noticed in several areas, where beach access is required by law, that shoreline access points have been unmaintained or nonexistent for quite some time. This upcoming year, I plan to work very closely with the Coastal Zone Management Program to correct noncompliance and establish access that is rightfully owed to the people of Maui County.

During this year, a lot of my time outside of committee meetings has been spent touring public and private facilities around the island to learn and understand the challenges that surround Maui County and its citizens. These tours have given me firsthand knowledge for making informed decisions and have helped me to prioritize and focus my efforts. Although I find myself juggling many various issues at any given time, I know that I am focused and putting my time to its best use.

This year, I have toured public/private partnership facilities and county-supported programs to see how they work and where our budget funding would best be utilized, nonprofit organizations to see how our taxpayers’ dollars are put to work, and in the coming weeks I will be touring MECO and Monsanto to get a better understanding about how they operate in our islands.

With budget sessions fast approaching, the next three months will be in preparation for the grueling work to come. I would really like to hear from the community about the problematic issues that need serious attention and funding this budget session. Of course, with limited capital improvement funds to spread throughout Maui County, not every need can be met right away, but without having all of the information, we as councilmembers cannot make the informed decisions that we need to make.

This is the very reason that at the end of January I plan to hold an evening community meeting in West Maui to gather public input and ideas about where the Lahaina public transit hub could feasibly be relocated. There will be involvement from Director of Transportation JoAnne Johnson-Winer and hopefully from other related departments as well. Our office is still in the planning stages, but you can look forward to public notices in the coming weeks. Director Johnson-Winer and I agree that the final decision should come from the community.

I look forward to your community involvement. Have a happy and safe holiday season, everyone.