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County Council panel’s decisions threaten West Maui’s future

By Staff | Sep 6, 2012

August was a challenging month for me, my office and for the district of West Maui. With the directed growth decisions that were made during the General Plan Committee meetings for West Maui, I have grave concerns for our district with regard to overdevelopment and the loss of sensitive lands. In only a few days, the committee gave preliminary approval for at least 16,000 new units in West Maui and removed the preservation designation for Lipoa Point in Honolua.

West Maui is a major economic driver for tourism in Maui County; our economy relies upon tourism to survive. People come from all over the world to experience the beauty of our natural environment. It is our kuleana to care for that natural environment and to ensure that it is unscathed by visitors and residents alike. Families do not save up their hard-earned pennies so that they can be stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, surrounded by pavement and development covering the mountains and coastlines. With the 16,000 new units that were just approved for our district alone, we very likely risk destroying our natural environment and our economic health simultaneously.

I would like to thank the community for their continued participation in the General Plan process and passion on this subject. I have heard stories of flyers being distributed all over Maui County and about the social media effort on Facebook to educate the masses as to what is at stake and how people can contribute. It is nice to know that I am not fighting for West Maui alone and that I have people in my corner that care about our home as much as I do. So, thank you. Please keep up the good work – it is not going unnoticed.

I would like to give a special thank you to the Save Honolua Coalition and all of their supporters for their community involvement and for helping to spread the word about what is happening to our beloved Honolua. Your work is invaluable and tireless. Saving Honolua is not a lost cause. I will never give up, and I know that you will not either. I cannot speak for the other two members that voted with me against taking Lipoa Point out of preservation, but I, for one, truly appreciate your diligence and tenacity in finding the deeply buried facts and for delivering them to the public and to the light where informed decisions need to be made. I look forward to a positive outcome that all concerned participants can be content with.

If you want to learn more about what you can do to help, please visit www.savehonolua.org or www.facebook.com/#!/SaveHonolua.

I can only hope that the unrelenting community involvement and public outcry will be enough to reverse some of the decisions that were made before the end of the year, when the General Plan is approved by the full council.

Another important issue has been brought to my attention that concerns all Maui County citizens: the future of public media, Internet and cable TV in Maui County.

Stakeholders: YOU, citizens of Maui County, and Akaku, Maui County’s ONLY public media and PEG (Public, Educational and Government) program service provider.

The approving agency is the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA), and the applicant is Oceanic Time Warner Cable – Maui County’s ONLY cable company.

What is occurring? The renewal process for Oceanic Time Warner Cable’s Maui County and Lahaina/West Maui Franchises has begun. The franchise renewal is essentially a lease agreement that will establish the applicant’s rent for use of Maui County’s (YOUR) public rights of way for the next 20 years.

Why be involved? As landlords of the public rights of way, YOU, the citizens of Maui County, must speak out to demand sufficient rent be collected to ensure Maui County’s cable TV, public media and Internet needs for the next 20 years are met.

Risks of not getting involved? Losing YOUR freedom of speech. Losing your public access channels; no more Akaku!

Continued access to inadequate Internet speeds that inhibit economic development, educational advancement and government efficiency!

What is sufficient rent?

1) A unique agreement that fits Maui County’s needs. We are the only county in the nation comprised of four islands, significant concentration of Native Hawaiian population and some of the nation’s most rural and under-served areas.

2) Sustainable funding for the future – A contractual obligation whereas cable fees and profits increase annually, the rent we collect should also increase.

3) Access to quality broadband and Internet services – Fast and affordable Internet; increased broadband capabilities and speeds in community institutions such as schools, government and public safety facilities, nonprofit agencies and community media centers; and free access to WiFi in county parks and recreation areas.

4) Equal rights for community media – Provide Akaku the same quality of service as other counties receive and the same quality of service that the leading channels/stations receive.

How to get involved? Visit the Akaku website to learn about Maui County’s needs and what we demand at AKAKU.org. Submit written testimony by Sept. 14 to the DCCA stating your demands from Oceanic Time Warner Cable at: DCCA-CATV, P.O. Box 541, Honolulu, HI 96805.

For more information, visit AKAKU.org or contact my office at (808) 270-5504.