On Jan. 2, I took office as an elected County Council member representing all of Maui County in the West Maui residency seat.
I am one of three council members on the Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board.
The Maui MPO is an agency formed in accord with federal regulations in 2016 by the State of Hawaii and County of Maui to facilitate comprehensive planning for federally funded or regionally significant transportation systems on the island of Maui.
The Maui MPO and its partner agencies develop plans and programs for a multimodal transportation system that facilitates the movement of people and goods. The Maui MPO does not construct projects or implement these programs directly.
Starting in July, I will also serve as the Maui County alternate to the executive committee of the Hawaii State Association of Counties, or HSAC. HSAC is the professional association for the council members and mayors of each county.
HSAC is also the Hawaii chapter of the National Association of Counties. The National Association of Counties will be hosting a conference in mid-July, which I will attend.
Being a new council member, the learning curve is steep. I am deeply grateful to the new administration, my colleagues and all of our staff, who have helped me learn the ropes and adjust to this new role.
We have recently completed our first county budget, and I am proud of the resources we have allocated toward affordable housing and optimistic our new director of Housing and Human Concerns will be able to hit the ground running.
I also advocated for adding more Ocean Safety officer positions to “right-size” Ocean Safety, funding for much-needed maintenance to the Kahana Nui retention basin, safety improvements for various county roads, and pursuing the purchase of 50 acres of agricultural lands for a park in West Maui, which was originally a condition of the change in zoning for the Kapalua Mauka project.
On Tuesday, one of my first pieces of introduced legislation was heard in the Environmental, Agricultural and Cultural Preservation Committee. The legislation adds Hanakao’o Beach Park to the list of county beach parks at which commercial ocean recreational activity is prohibited.
The bill passed out of committee unanimously and will be heading to the full council for first reading in the near future.
One of the council’s primary functions is to establish land use policy. This is done through community plan updates, granting of land use entitlements and amendments to the county’s zoning code.
The committee assigned to vet and deliberate on land use policy is the Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee, which I chair.
The committee has significant pending items, such as the West Maui Community Plan update and an application proposal for the urbanization of approximately 500 acres to allow for the creation of the Waikapu Country Town. I believe for the committee members to successfully and respectfully carry out our duties, Hawaii’s history and status must be discussed.
To that end, at the committee’s past couple of meetings, I invited David Keanu Sai, Ph.D., to present to the committee on Hawaii’s status under international law. Sai earned a doctorate in political science from the University of Hawaii and specializes in international relations, state sovereignty, international laws of occupation, United States constitutional law and Hawaiian land titles.
The purpose of the training is to provide the facts and truthful history of this place we all call home to decision-makers and the public at large — and to use this truth as a foundational basis for everyone’s decision-making and to raise our quality of life as residents of Hawaii Nei.
As a council member, my goal is to help move the county’s land use policy forward in a way that balances the future needs of Maui County with Hawaii’s past and current international status. Achieving that middle ground may be difficult, but as it is with all things in life, it is more important to do what is right than to do what is easy.
* Tamara Paltin is chairwoman of the council’s Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee. She holds the council seat for the West Maui residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.