There was a character in a William Faulkner novel who learned early in life “that words go up in the air in a column of thin smoke, but doing goes along the ground.”
The Maui County Council’s old guard talks about issues affecting residents: affordable housing and “solving the workforce housing crisis”, homelessness, water quality and visitor safety. You hear some lofty rhetoric from our tourism friendly politicians about saving taxpayers money, but next year’s proposed budget (which can be reviewed here) continues to pad the usual accounts while skimping on critical community needs. So, forget what they say, watch where the money comes from and where it goes.
Indeed, budget chair Riki Hokama is famous for cutting fat from the Mayor’s budget. But look at what is NOT being funded in next year’s budget: a consultant to improve wastewater quality in Kihei, a lifeguard tower at Black Rock (the deadliest beach on Maui), a 3-can recycling plan, enforcement of short-term rental regulations, $3 million for affordable housing and funding a community housing advocate.
Then check out what has been approved: $325,000 for the Farm Bureau that has about 20 wealthy members (including Monsanto, a few big corporations and some ranches). Meanwhile, the fast-growing, sustainability-focused Hawai‘i Farmers’ Union United, with 500 Maui members is receiving just one-quarter of this amount, or $82,000.
But it’s the $4.2 million approved for the Maui County Visitor’s Association that has new council members shaking their heads. Maui’s stellar reputation is what keeps hotels filled, not wasteful new advertising. For twenty years Maui has been voted one of the world’s most popular island destinations, so it’s not like we’re some undiscovered secret. Meanwhile, traffic jams are normal, beaches are crowded, and neighborhoods have turned into visitor retreats (vacation rentals) while our workers keep begging for new housing.
Alika Atay and Kelly King both think that $3 million dollars could be trimmed from the Maui Visitor’s Bureau and the Farm Bureau budgets to pay for all the public interest items that have so far been denied in Mr. Hokama’s cruel cuts.
Do you or someone you know need housing? Do you think we need a public advocate for community housing? How about approving that $3,000,000 increase to the Affordable Housing Fund? We have severe infrastructure needs and a housing crisis. We must take care of our residents before we ratchet up tourism.
After you look at the expenditures, think about the income side of the budget. Property taxes on Maui are very low and could be raised in a way that has the visitors, who use our roads and beaches way more than residents, to pay more. Stirring testimony and valuable suggestions can be found on the Facebook site: Our Revolution-Maui, which is calling for citizens to testify at the County Council for its budget hearing dedicated to property tax rates at 6 pm on Wednesday, April 26.
It’s time to let Mr. Hokama and the council know how you feel about where they spend your tax dollars. Write to him at: email@example.com. Call his office at 270-7768.
You can also testify to the Budget Committee any day this week by showing up at council chambers by 9. a.m. Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org