County Mayoral Candidates Tackle South Maui Issues | News, Sports, Jobs

Climate change, cesspools and ocean pollution, and homelessness in South Maui are among the issues Maui County mayoral candidates plan to tackle if elected.

The five candidates who have filed for mayor so far — Cullan Bell, Richard Bissen, Alana Kay, Mike Molina and incumbent Mayor Michael Victorino — offered their views on the county’s concerns during a a virtual candidate forum hosted by the Kihei Community Association on Tuesday evening. .

One such issue included the impacts of climate change, particularly in a region that has recently experienced “mud floods” during the December storm that damaged roads and homes from North Kihei to Maui Meadows.

As the frequency and intensity of these storms increase due to climate change, Bissen said the county needs to create local task forces. “of these regions” knowing the various environmental problems and able to establish solutions.

“The county’s role may be to provide some of the legal and policy tools to these groups to help facilitate the discussions that need to take place,” said the longtime Kihei resident and retired 2nd Circuit Court Chief Judge.

Through her personal experience living in Kihei, as well as her environmental activism and sustainability studies, Kay said coastal areas will continue to have flooding issues if infrastructure continues to be built in the above or above natural wetlands.

Government leaders, stakeholders and community members need to understand “island hydrology” in order to solve the problem, she added.

“Wetlands serve as a buffer between the ocean waves and the water coming down from the mountain and nature designed it that way,” says Kay. “I really insist on not blaming things on climate change when we are the ones who are neglecting and abusing our environment. . . . I really think we need to stop building along the Piilani highway.

Deforestation by cattle high up the mountain is another culprit for the mud floods, which eventually rush in and pollute streets, homes and the coastline, Victorino said. This can be mitigated through land management and the channeling of federal infrastructure funds.

“We need a system of dykes and maybe even dams, which we are currently working on. We also have the Kihei Drainage System Master Plan, which extends from northern Kihei to Kamaole III,” he said. “We know climate change is here and we need to do what we need to do now and make sure we protect the homes that are there and don’t build any more that are in the wetland area.”

the “the biggest problem” is that government leaders have been reactive to weather events instead of being proactive, said Bell, also a resident of Kihei. During dry seasons, he thinks standing on drainage clearances, which are often overlooked, and doing constant debris cleanups would reduce the impacts of flooding during periods of heavy rain.

Upon entering Kihei, he said: “you can see all the kiawe growing in the drainage ditch – it’s all packed.”

Other climate impacts such as sea level rise and erosion are “not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” said Molina, a Maui County Council member who holds the Makawao-Paia-Haiku residence seat. He suggested the county needs to consider a managed retirement plan and move away from shoreline development.

Establishing a County Facilities District to give tax responsibility to landowners who develop in flood-prone areas or on shorelines is another possible idea.


Homelessness is another issue in South Maui, which has no permanent shelter, unlike West Maui, which has one, and Central Maui, which has two.

Molina said he would support funding to establish structures, like small homes, and work with large landowners to enter into a lease, purchase land or potentially turn to unused county property to create “Communities for our homeless because we certainly can’t leave them behind.”

“And of course, working with nonprofits that could help solve this problem,” Molina said. “It’s going to take all of us working together to solve this serious problem, which continues to get worse.”

Bissen hopes to pursue a program with the state Department of Transportation to convert former rental car parking lots in Kahului into secure overnight parking spaces.

Workers who have cars but no homes could park there overnight, shower, wash clothes, charge electronics and “to have a place where they can regain their dignity”, Bite said.

“Hopefully we could have a similar program in South Maui if we could find an area where we could allow people to have a safe place to sleep at night,” he said. “I think it’s illegal to sleep in your cars, however, if we could make a change to that to allow in certain circumstances and situations by providing a safe place, I think that would be a start. . . . I think that we have to be creative and work together.

Victorino said he agrees with the creation of safe zones for unprotected people, but if re-elected he would continue to defend and expand the “Very important” and much-needed comprehensive services and programs for those in need, such as medical and mental health care.

Determining who makes up the homeless community is the first step to understanding and solving homelessness, Bell said.

“We first have to find out who these people are, if they have mental health problems, addictions, alcoholism; we need to bring them together first to figure out what we need to do to help them,” Bell said. “Some people are just comfortable being homeless and I don’t think it’s right either, to take taxpayers’ money away from us. . . . The last category I would establish would be those who just had a bad luck, you know, maybe they lost their job recently or they can’t pay their mortgage, so they’re on the street and maybe they just need a place to take a shower, rest your head at night, a hot meal.

A passionate topic for Kay, she was on board with the ideas of safe parking lots and current outreach efforts that provide food and wraparound services to the homeless; however, she stressed the need to help homeless people who often go unnoticed.

“We definitely need to do more and I think we need a better assessment of what’s really going on and what kind of numbers we’re really looking at, and to have better input, so we can determine what the people need, and not assume that everyone has a substance abuse problem or mental illness,” says Kay.

Sumps, ocean pollution

Candidates also addressed cesspools and septic tanks as they relate to ocean pollution and health effects to wildlife and humans. Molina said it is essential to “solve the problem now.”

“They say our environment is our economy, but as someone who grew up here, I remember when fish were plentiful and the ocean was much healthier. It really touches my heart to see this that happens to our oceans”, he said.

When it comes to converting cesspools to septic tanks in the backcountry, Molina said it’s important to help longtime homeowners and generational families subsidize their costs.

Although Kay is careful about government spending, she also hopes to find funds to help better dispose of waste.

“That would be one of my priorities and it would fall under integrated resource management, which sees all the connectivity of all the different waterways,” says Kay. “I’m not a big fan of government spending, but I know we can find money somewhere by disposing of waste elsewhere, but I would definitely support a grant or low-interest loan to help homeowners replacing sumps.”

Solving these problems will take some resolve, said Victorino, who is still looking for ways to interconnect sewer systems in South Maui, convert to resource water to supply hotels and agriculture, and create green areas to prevent bush fires.

“We have an action plan right now,” he said.

Bell noted that he doesn’t have all the answers on how to get sewer lines for the 2,000 residents of Maui Meadows and other residential areas in Kihei with lots of cesspools and septic tanks. remaining, but if he is elected, he will have a “good team around me” and go “I do my best” to come up with a game plan.

Bissen also agreed on the need to help landowners with transition and other infrastructure funding.

“The county has a responsibility to control pollution, you know, for the unique beauty of our island, including taking care of the coastline,” Bite said. “We are learning that there can be damage to the environment by (having sumps) and we are going to have to make the change. . . . I think everyone agrees that it’s time for us to use the best technology that exists.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at

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