Hokama’s $76 Million Wailuku Parking Boondoggle Council Member Squanders Taxpayer Money for Unnecessary Structure While Homelessness Soars

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For a politician supposedly serving the island of Lanai, Maui County Council Member Riki Hokama seems overly interested in the development of Wailuku. As head of the Budget and Finance Committee, Hokama yields enormous power to shape Maui’s future, and his latest project, a multi-story parking structure and civic center complex boondoggle, would dramatically alter and supersize the character and nature of historic Wailuku.

At a time when our island has a desperate need for affordable housing it is almost criminal that millions of dollars are being allocated to a parking structure that would only facilitate space for around 160 more cars than can currently park in Wailuku.

Who does this really serve? Our residents or developers?

Currently $44.2 million has been allocated by the County for this extravagant project. But this is only a portion of funds needed as the total cost is estimated at $76 million – all for a net gain in 162 parking spaces, as many existing street parking spaces will be eliminated according to a lengthy environmental assessment document released earlier this week by PBR Hawaii and Associates, a planning firm retained by the county.

The proposed complex is being referred to as a “campus,” which would require a minimum of 44 employees to maintain the garage and center area, adding ongoing expenses to the enormous capital cost.

Also mentioned in the report for future phases of Wailuku redevelopment is a new 207-room hotel estimated at 210,000 square feet. Another 340,000 square feet of new commercial retail and office space for the Wailuku core areas is also projected.  Construction on this scale would accelerate and supersize gentrification and destroy what so many of us love about Wailuku.

Hokama inserted $44.2 million earmarked for the project into the county’s 2019 budget. It is the largest single capital expenditure to be approved in Maui’s budget.

The $44 million of Maui taxpayer funding  for this unwanted overpriced parking lot will be  44 times more money than the county will allocate for affordable rental housing programs and is 22 times more money than what will be spent for first time home buyers program.

It is more than 3 times larger than all the Upcountry water improvements, and 7 times larger than the budget allocated for road resurfacing throughout the entire county.

All for a few parking spaces that no one has asked for.

An earlier prospectus developed by the Maui Redevelopment Agency (MRA) for the proposed Wailuku Civic Center included a number of artists’ renderings of folks milling around the behemoth structure – all smiling white faces, presumably tourists.

Since the release of the environmental assessment the plan is getting some pushback. Susan Halas, a Wailuku resident who lives near the proposed site wrote: “The residents of Wailuku have not asked for this project. This is a plan cooked up to gentrify the last affordable and comfortable small town on Maui and it has few if any benefits for local residents.”

During his 2018 election campaign Hokama has benefitted from donations by family members associated with Honolulu’s H2O Process Systems, which was awarded contracts for $93,000 by our county in January and $98,000 in April. He also received money from engineering firm SSFM International, which was awarded contracts for $25,000 by the county in March, $34,000 in April, and $169,000 in July.

It’s time to let politicians like Hokama who waste taxpayer dollars on needless projects that enough is enough. We need new candidates who will actually serve the greater good.

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Jon Woodhouse

Jon Woodhouse is the Managing Editor of The Maui Independent, which is owned by Progressive Source Communications. Moving to Maui 42 years ago, he feels blessed to live here. He writes about music for The Maui News and worked for the Hawaii Department of Education up until late 2019. Jon is the author of Music Legends on Maui: Conversations with Icons of Rock, Country, Jazz, Blues, Hawaiian, Soul & Reggae in Paradise

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