Dropping back in to the Green Room in 2019
Aloha West Maui. I really missed writing this column!
After a year of delivering the Green Room column in 2017, I went dark in 2018. Let’s just say the clean-up set of raising my three-year-old daughter wiped out my solitary writing time for awhile. . . .
But the column is back this year, and I’m excited to continue to explore West Maui’s ocean community, culture and environment in 2019 in this space. My vision is to help preserve the matchless mana of our island idyll by telling stories and raising awareness, and taking time out for fun along the way.
Allow me to re-introduce your humble columnist,
I am a 37-year-old teacher in West Maui, having lived here for almost a decade. Before that, I lived on the Big Island and North Shore, Oahu. I’m “flown here, not grown here,” but there is no place on Earth my wife, daughter and I feel more alive than West Maui.
In the past decade, the Surfrider Foundation has been my primary way to serve by cleaning beaches, improving laws, protecting open spaces and advocating for beach access, and I continue in that role as volunteer coordinator in 2019.
I am a guest of the Hawaiian host culture, and if I don’t strive to contribute to West Maui, I don’t deserve to call this land home. It’s a privilege to be able to call this sacred ‘aina my home, and my kuleana is to malama this precious community however I can.
In sum, I’m a husband, a father, an educator, a concerned citizen and a passionate surfer, in that order.
Enough about me.
There is a lot to discuss, because 2019 is going to be a game-changing year for Maui for three reasons.
First, our new County Council has just been installed, and this may well be the most progressive, green and blue, sustainability-focused council in the State of Hawaii today and in Maui’s history.
Lifeguard and Save Honolua Coalition Founder Tamara Paltin will take over the West Maui seat held by Elle Cochran. Councilwoman Cochran served her community valiantly over eight years in advocating for affordable housing, community-focused development, waste reduction policies, open space preservation and more. She stepped down to run for mayor, but she will continue to play a positive mentoring role to Councilwoman Paltin and carry forward on as an active and engaged citizen.
Paltin brings the perspective of an environmentalist, ocean lover, life saver, public servant and county employee to her position, and it will be fascinating to see her emerge as the key representative for West Maui in the coming two years. I wish, and all of West Maui wishes, Tamara the best of luck in her public service.
With County Council Chair Kelly King steering an environmentally minded coalition of council members, it will be fascinating to see how this council impacts the present and future of Maui, and this columnist looks forward to unpacking and engaging with the key policy issues in this space.
Second, later this year the Lahaina Harbor expansion will begin. This is a major federal infrastructure project conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers on the busiest small boat harbor in the state. Lahaina Harbor is absolutely central to the economy, community and culture of our West Maui maritime lifestyle, and this necessary project in a sensitive area will certainly be one of the key stories to track in West Maui in 2019.
Finally, in December 2018, Alexander & Baldwin confirmed the sale of some 30,000 acres in the Central Valley to a private Mainland consortium that aims to transform the old model of commercial sugar operations into a new, diversified model of agriculture. This is the biggest real estate deal of the last the century in Maui, and its successful implementation will be essential to thzae bright future of our island home. So, of course, we’ve got to keep a close eye on this transformation.
Our Maui County issues exist against the backdrop of Hawaii State politics, embedded inside the machinations of federal politics in Washington, D.C. As the Democratic Party has taken the majority in the House of Representatives there, the next two years nationally will be different than the previous two years, when the Republican Party held more power.
This all matters, because in 2019, no island is an island. Maui doesn’t exist in a void, and our local challenges are also state, national and global challenges.
It’s an intricate, ever-changing and messy world out there, but I take one thing for certain: West Maui is dearly beloved, to me, hopefully to you, and to millions of visitors.
This is one of the most special places on the planet, and we all have a role to play in protecting it.
Hopefully Green Room 2019 will be a force for good, in sharing stories, knowledge and perspectives on this precious place we all share. Hope you’ll join me for the ride.
Now, let’s drop in to the New Year.