BY MAUI COUNTY MAYOR ALAN ARAKAWA – Thank you for that introduction Mr. Luna.
Good morning and aloha to all of you.
At this time I’d like to recognize Council Chairman Danny Mateo, State Senate President Shan Tsutsui, as well as all of our honorable council members, friends from the state legislature, county directors and deputies and other distinguished guests.
You know, when this County building, the Kalana O Maui, was built in 1972 it was considered a monstrosity.
People asked, why would anyone want to build a nine story building in the middle of sleepy Wailuku town?
It seemed like a ridiculous idea at the time and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
And yet, four decades later, here we are.
Every floor is in use, every office space filled.
The point is, the people who built this building were thinking of their future, and ours.
They knew what needed to be done, and they weren’t afraid to do it.
People like Mayor Elmer Cravalho, Council Chairman Goro Hokama, Councilmembers Richard Cladito, Joseph Bulgo, E. Loy Cluney, Harry Kobayashi, Marco Meyer, Lanny Morisaki, Bernard Tokunaga and Yoneto Yamaguchi.
We need to think like they did, otherwise we are wasting the resources of our taxpayers.
And these days – as our property values continue to decrease and our unemployment numbers remain stagnant – we can’t afford to waste anything.
That’s why for the past year we’ve been working toward making Maui County more efficient.
We started by installing PV solar panels on what will be two dozen County buildings.
Once the County Solar Rooftop project is complete it is projected to save us up to half a million dollars a year in energy costs.
We are trying to consolidate our resources, by acquiring more than 100 acres to create a new Central Maui County Baseyard.
This baseyard will enable the County to safely store a majority of our vehicles in the same area and save money by sharing garage space, tools and maintenance staff.
It will also enable us to move at least one baseyard out of a tsunami zone and allow departments to share other resources.
We also need to get away from the silo mentality.
We also need to rent less . . . and own more of our office space.
Currently the County spends about three million dollars a year in renting office properties for various departments scattered throughout our community.
We need to consolidate our personnel and create an asset instead of a continued liability.
We hope that the County Council shares our vision of a more efficient County, because we will need their cooperation to make it all possible.
Already we have done much for this community by working together.
You have helped us push forward important projects such as the Kaunakakai Fire Station, the Lanai Senior Center and the Kihei Police Station.
More importantly you have given preliminary approval for the funds needed to replace the Waikamoi Flume.
For years we have been losing thousands of gallons a week because the flume is old and leaks.
This is Upcountry’s most reliable and least expensive water source and we need to conserve every drop of it.
Please continue to support this project as well as others for our Department of Water Supply.
We will also need the Council’s help in making this County more business friendly when it comes to building permit applications.
The Department of Public Works has introduced some key amendments that would require departments to review and return or approve building permits within 30 days.
We met with more than a hundred consultants, engineers and architects in our permitting workshop last year, which was coordinated by our Department of Management, and we know these changes will make a difference.
We want to help business, not hinder it. The County should not be an obstacle when it comes to putting people back to work.
But we can’t do it alone. Besides the Council’s help we will need our state delegation assisting us as well.
Senator Tsutsui, you have been a partner, an ally and friend to Maui County. And we must ask for your help once again this year as we try to create a new industry.
There are several bills currently in the state legislature that call for an increase in the State’s film production tax credits.
However without the addition of infrastructure credits, companies will not have the necessary incentives to build a studio or sound stage here.
The State’s own numbers tell the tale.
Oahu, where the State built the Diamond Head Film Studio in the 90’s, generated more than 100 million dollars in film production spending last year.
In comparison Maui and the other counties combined generated five million dollars in film production spending.
Without the required facilities Maui, and the rest of the neighbor islands, are mostly used for shooting commercials.
Production companies that are actively producing a television series, like Hawaii 5-0, will never seriously consider Maui as a viable location until such facilities exist.
We need these facilities.
Please President Tsutsui, we need your continued help to pass a bill that addresses infrastructure tax credits as well as production credits for the sake of this new potential industry in our community.
Finally, I must address our congressional delegation and anyone else wishing to running for office in Washington D.C.
While you’re in town if you have a chance, catch a ride on one of our Maui Buses and check out the lines to get onboard.
The Maui Bus is one of the fastest growing public transit systems in the nation right now. Our residents trying to get to work have to compete for seats with visitors going sightseeing.
We have more passengers than we can handle, and we could use more federal money for buses and bus shelters.
We have been doing our best to prepare Maui County for the future but again, we can not do it alone.
Help us help ourselves.
You’ll find that we are very good partners. This administration has a good track record of doing what we said we would do.
We said we would open up the Paia mini-bypass 24-7 and we did.
We said we would get rid of Furlough Fridays and we did.
We said we would push renewable energy projects and we did. We approved more electrical permits for solar projects last year than any other time in the last 10 years.
We said we would start the County’s first curbside recycling pilot project and we submitted the funds for it last year.
You will see those funds again in this year’s budget.
We said we would improve our infrastructure and we are doing that constantly.
So far we’ve fixed bridges and upgraded sewer lines and improved pump stations.
When it comes to roads we almost doubled the amount that we repaved last year when compared to the year before.
We said we would work more closely with our Maui County Council members and we have.
They’re in my office, I’m in their offices and we talk to each other.
We may not always agree but we talk. And more importantly we LISTEN to each other.
I hope we continue to listen to each other for years to come.
We said we would help promote tourism and we are.
We went to APEC to meet with delegates from South Korea, Japan, China and other countries to find out how to entice their people to visit our islands.
What we learned there we are putting into action.
For example we want to develop a historical tour for Chinese visitors, one that explains the life of Sun Yat Sen on Maui, the man who become the Father of Modern China.
We’re also helping to put the events together that are bringing back visitors to Maui County year round.
Already we’ve brought Halloween back to Front Street and championship windsurfing back to Hookipa.
Now we’re looking at bringing championship kite surfing here as well, along with more University of Hawaii sporting events.
Want to meet Norm Chow? He’ll be here in April for the UH Green and White scrimmage.
We expanded the First Friday Wailuku parties to include Lahaina, Makawao and Paia, and might be looking at Molokai and Lanai next.
We’re looking at much more, we are looking at everything.
We’re supporting our visitor industry by also preserving Maui County’s natural beauty and cultural resources.
That’s why we’re using a million dollars of Open Space funds to preserve 64 acres of oceanfront property known as the Paukukalo Coastal Wetlands. We thank you council members for recommending this purchase.
This area once saw native Hawaiian fishponds, shrines, burial grounds and agricultural terraces, all right there between the mouths of Waiehu and Iao streams.
Besides being culturally significant the area is environmentally important as it provides a natural filter for runoff before it reaches the ocean.
We have lost too many of these lands already, and we must protect those we have left.
Speaking of land, we have to do something about our County parks.
Our parks are so popular they are being used every day by teams playing sports, families having parties, friends going diving and fishing and everything else under the sun.
That’s a good thing, in fact it’s great thing.
But these parks are so well utilized that our parks department is having a hard time maintaining them.
Some of them are in terrible shape.
For example, did you know that down at Keopolani Park we have 500 broken sprinkler heads?
We can’t fix that problem overnight and we can’t do it while kids play on the field all day.
Our staff is working on the problem but they need time.
More importantly we need uninterrupted access to our fields.
We need to plug, top dress, aerate and fertilize each field, then let the grounds recover before anyone can practice and play again.
So we need the community’s help, the help of soccer organizations, baseball teams and anyone else that uses our parks.
Please kokua when it comes to your team’s schedule and know that we may have to reschedule your sporting event just so we can take care of our fields.
This lack of park space will continue to be a problem until we can get our Central Maui Regional Park system up and running.
To all of the families, coaches and youth sports organizations, please come down and testify before your Council as to why we need 242 acres of parkland in Waikapu.
Once again we thank Senate President Tsutsui, who is working to acquire another 70 plus acres for a regional park in the same area.
That’s more than 300 acres of Central Maui parks for families that we hope to start building by 2013.
As we said before, we must plan for the future by working together.
But in order to succeed we must do one more thing:
We must be bold.
Because only by being bold can you take advantage of hope.
And only by being bold can you affect change.
Otherwise, the words hope and change are just that. Words.
Be bold, and let us work towards the goal of having our islands run on 100 percent renewable energy.
Be bold, and let’s stop renting and paying someone else’s mortgage and build our own facilities.
Be bold, and let’s build an economic engine by having a true film industry in Maui County.
Be bold. Work together. Plan for the future.
We can do this.
This is the Year of the Dragon, the year that the ancient Mayans predicted would bring about a new age.
Maui County is in better shape today than it was last year and the work must continue.
Let’s be bold together and build for the future.
Forty years ago our predecessors built this building.
Forty years from now what will future generations say about Arakawa, Mateo, Hokama, Pontanilla, Baisa, Carroll, Couch, Cochran, Victorino and White?
Hopefully they say, “They understood what needed to be done.
And they weren’t afraid to do it.”
Once again, thank you for allowing me to serve you.
And thank you for helping to make Maui County one of the best communities in the world.
Aloha and God bless.