Message from Councilmember Kelly Takaya King
Happy New Year!

It is a new decade and time to face, head-on, significant changes as we tackle the challenges of the 21st Century. At the beginning of the year, I respectfully took on the leadership role as Maui County Council Chairperson with the goal to change the way government works. We worked diligently to change the status quo, provide more transparency, standardize internal processes to be fairer and more efficient, and better meet the wants, needs and desires of the people of Maui.

As Council Chair, I focused on implementing the Countywide Policy Plan to protect our environment; strengthen social services; expand housing opportunities; improve parks and public facilities; support education; diversify transportation; improve the infrastructure; preserve local cultures and traditions; support economic development; promote sustainable land use and growth management; and strive for good governance.

After three years on the Council, a clear look at the future of Maui County brings us back to the one issue that supersedes all others – stewardship of the planet. Our climate is changing, sea-level is rising and climate-activated disasters are more imminent every year. We live on an island with a finite land mass and it is essential we prepare for the inevitable changes that are affecting us all.

At the end of 2019, I agreed to step down as Chair of the Council to accept the Chairmanship of the newly-formed Climate Action and Resilience Committee. I have good working relationships throughout the Office of Council Services and am grateful for all the words of appreciation and encouragement expressed during this time of change. I will continue to look to other Council Members, OCS, the County Clerk's office, our administration and expert public and governmental leaders to identify specific projects and actionable items that will benefit all County residents.

In this newsletter, we will look back on 2019 and celebrate the communal effort that has gone into making our island healthy, safe, sustainable and economically viable while meeting the needs of its residents. I am humbled to have been elected to help steer the new CAR committee toward building a more sustainable, equitable and vibrant future.

I am looking forward to sharing my vision and goals going forward. This next year, I will continue to collaborate with stakeholders, residents and experts to create solutions and implement policies that will benefit our residents for generations to come. Hindsight may be 2020, but I sincerely hope we will not look back with regret, and only have good things to celebrate at the end of this term.
2019 Year in Review
Committees and Rules
As Maui County Council Chair, Kelly King ushered in the year with some nuts-and-bolts changes including the incorporation of new committees and installation of new Rules of the Council. The new standing committees were key in meeting the County’s vision and aligning with the objectives described in our County Policy Plan. 

The new committees implemented at the beginning of the year were Affordable Housing Committee, Tasha Kama, Chair; Economic Development and Budget Committee, Keani N.W. Rawlins-Fernandez, Chair; Environmental, Agricultural, and Cultural Preservation Committee, Shane M. Sinenci, Chair; Governance, Ethics, and Transparency Committee, Michael J. Molina, Chair; Healthy Families and Communities Committee, Riki Hokama, Chair; Multimodal Transportation Committee, Yuki Lei K. Sugimura, Chair; Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee, Tamara Paltin, Chair; and Water and Infrastructure Committee, Alice L. Lee, Chair.

The new Rules of the Council encompassed amendments detailing new conduct guidelines relating to professional behavior, public meetings, attendance, the incorporation of special committees and Temporary Investigative Groups (TIG); and a new disclosure rule for paid lobbyists who testify.

At the end of the year, the new Climate Action and Resilience Committee was formed with Kelly as Chair and Councilmember Shane Sinenci as Vice-Chair. The MMT and WAI were combined to form a new Water, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee, chaired by CM Sugimura.

Fiscal Year 2020 Budget
This year, Budget Committee Chair Keani Rawlins-Fernandez and Vice-Chair Kelly King met with experts in the state to develop a more efficient, transparent and inclusive budget process. The collaborative process began with each Councilmember submitting five top priorities and concerns. This led to a program-driven budget that resulted in meaningful support for many community challenges that previous Councils had been promising to tackle for years. By prioritizing our programs, rather than locking into a budget amount first, we are working to fulfill promises of expanded affordable housing, wastewater treatment, environmental protection and emergency response.

Starting with doubling the Affordable Housing Fund allotment from the minimum 2% of real property tax to 4% for a total of over $14 million, the Council also included more infrastructure and environmental projects, as well as more social services and economic development grants than ever before. We also expanded the First-Time Homebuyers Program to $2 million; added $1 million for the newly created Experimental and Demonstration Housing Projects Fund; and included $1.4 million towards affordable rental housing programs.

Maui County’s support of programs for the unsheltered increased from $1.6 million to $2.2 million, including $50,000 to assist homeless residents on Molokai, and $200,000 for a new Central Maui mobile hygiene unit.

Hawai’i State Association of Counties
Kelly Takaya King was unanimously voted in as treasurer of the Hawai`i State Association of Counties (HSAC) in 2019. In that role, she represented Maui County in Washington D.C. at the NACo Legislative Conference and facilitated the 2019 HSAC annual conference, which was held in Wailea in June. With a theme of “Hot Topics in Sustainability,” content at the conference included climate change and sea level rise, housing and homelessness, tourism management, invasive species control, water rights, and fiscal and leadership sustainability. The information-heavy conference was well received by all who attended, and we initiated legislation that could have a positive impact across the state.

HSAC bylaws include a provision for all four Hawaii County Councils to collaboratively submit an approved annual Legislative Package to the State Legislature. The legislative package this year included eight bills, two of which came directly out of Maui County Council Chambers. The first bill e xtends a homeowner’s tax credit to December 31, 2025 for transitioning from cesspools and removes geographical requirements, allowing tax credits for all cesspool owners in the county. The second bill aims to lower the blood alcohol concentration for driving while intoxicated from 0.08 to 0.05 as an attempt to reduce road fatalities. The HSAC Legislative Package will be presented to the State Legislature in mid-January.

West Maui Wastewater Injection Well Lawsuit
Chair King negotiated a new settlement agreement for the Hawai`i Wildlife Fund vs. County of Maui lawsuit which had been appealed by the County and scheduled to be heard at the U.S. Supreme Court. The new settlement included the waiver of lawyers’ fees ($1.5 million), the authorization to rewrite the OIC Permit rather than complete a new NPDES permit and the withdrawal of the County’s appeal. Overwhelming testimonials showed the public believes it is more important to focus on real-life solutions rather than pursue litigation. 

The County Council had the votes to pass the settlement, but that decision was not supported by the Mayor’s office and ultimately the case was heard at the Supreme Court in November. A decision is expected by June; however, there is currently a privately funded lawsuit that is calling for a declaratory ruling from the Second Circuit Court on whether the Council’s decision is binding on legal counsel as stated in county ordinance. Depending on the outcome of that case, the suit could still be removed from the Supreme Court before its ruling is made.

Climate Crisis
The Council was inspired in part by the Global Student Climate Strike to pass a resolution that approved the county’s participation in the County Climate Coalition, affirmed the County’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and encouraged the creation of a Climate Reality chapter in Maui County. The Hawaii Chapter of the Climate Reality Project was launched in June at the 2019 HSAC Conference in Wailea with Kelly and two of her staff amongst the co-founders.

Kelly and her staff also participated in a “Game of Extremes” exercise this year, hosted by the Urban Sustainability Directors Network. The “game” is based on a planning tool to assist stakeholders in better understanding and prioritizing adaptation strategies needed to respond to sea level rise and coastal flood hazards. One key takeaway from the exercise was that, in addition to fighting the climate crisis, it is essential for communities to increase our resilience, mitigate risk and adapt to inevitable changes and potential disasters.

In December, Kelly furthered her passion to protect the planet by proposing an important resolution acknowledging a climate emergency and committing to an immediate just transition and emergency mobilization effort to restore a safe climate.

Following the passage of the resolution, Kelly announced at a press conference she was stepping down as Council Chair to lead the Council’s most significant effort to address the climate crisis, the creation of the new Climate Action and Resilience Committee (CAR). With Councilmember Shane Sinenci as Vice-Chair, Kelly is enthusiastic about tackling the climate emergency head on and we expect great initiatives and policies to come out of this new committee.

The Council passed an ordinance in 2019 to amend Maui County Code to prohibit commercial ocean recreational activity (CORA) at Hanakao’o Beach Park (Canoe Beach) and Wahikuli Wayside Park in Lahaina as a step towards protecting and preserving the local culture.

The Council’s dedication to improving housing in Maui County manifested this year in several ways including an increase in the affordable housing budget and the passing of an ordinance to increase fines for illegal short-term rentals (STRs). The ordinance to increase fines for illegal STRs (up to $20,000) aligns the County Code with a Charter Amendment passed by Maui voters in the 2018 election.

In 2019, the Council also approved the community plan and zoning changes that will allow the Waikapu Country Town project to proceed. The project, located near the Maui Tropical Plantation and heavily supported by the local community, includes 1,433 single-family, multifamily and rural units, and 146 ‘ohana units

Following on the previous term’s approval of Ikaika Ohana’s affordable rental project in north Kihei, a lottery was held last year for 118 units that will accommodate our lowest income residents. While it was hoped that Phase I would be open for occupants by Christmas 2019, fire damage caused a setback that pushed the first move-in date to April 2020. A similar project in West Maui by the same developer has received preliminary approval for Affordable Housing funds by the Council.

Tax Reform
Bills to establish a new, tiered property tax structure and slightly different property tax classifications were passed by the Maui County Council during the fourth quarter of 2019. The tax reform bill establishes potential tiers in several tax classifications based on value ranges.

Another bill revises the organization and description of property classifications. Actual property tax rates will be set by the Council during its budget review in the spring during which the public has repeated opportunities for input.
Public Safety
During the last regularly-scheduled Council meeting of the year, a bill was passed providing police with additional tools to help reduce intoxicated-related deaths on County’s roads. Nearly two-thirds of traffic fatalities on Maui County roadways are due to the harmful effects of alcohol and drug use by motorists. The new ordinance authorizes police officers to order the towing of a vehicle when the driver has been arrested for illegal operation under one or more of six listed State laws, including driving while under the influence of an intoxicant.

This ordinance will save lives and advance existing County policy objectives for safer roadways, as expressed, for example, in Resolution 19-111 ("the fundamental message of Vision Zero is that all traffic deaths are preventable and unacceptable") and the Countywide Policy Plan ("Ensure that roadway systems are safe").

The bill was posted in December to coincide with the passage of Ceremonial Resolution 19-205, “Recognizing the month of December as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month in Maui County.” ad link

The bill and the ceremonial resolution -- along with our HSAC legislative package, which supports the proposed state legislation to decrease the legal blood alcohol limit from .08 to .05 percent -- strengthen Maui County’s commitment to preventing deaths from impaired driving. We also felt it was important to ceremonially remember the victims of impaired driving, support the grieving families of those whose lives have been taken, and acknowledge our law enforcement professionals who diligently work to keep our roads safe.
Celebrating Halloween with staffers from the Office of Council Services was a great bonding experience.
Snorkeling during the Ridge to Reef Rendezvous at Kahekili Beach Park provided Kelly a first-hand look at the dying reefs.
South Maui Year-End Updates

As South Maui’s representative, Kelly King dedicated herself to making positive changes for our residents, business owners, and our ‘aina in 2019. In an environment when it is sometimes difficult to mesh the needs of many differing interests, Kelly persisted. She supported moves to expand the affordable housing options on the island, helped secure improvements for South Maui’s beaches, parks and roadways, worked for environmental resilience, supported the native culture and helped spearhead much-needed resources for the homeless.

Affordable Housing
The most significant move toward providing more affordable housing rentals in South Maui during 2019 was the progress made on the Kaiwahine Village project. Following delays due to last summer’s fires, we are looking forward to the opening of Phase I, which is expected to have first occupancy 2020.
Parks and recreation
The new South Maui Community Park Gymnasium celebrated its grand opening in early December. The 31,858 square foot gym features two full-sized basketball/volleyball courts, seating to accommodate approximately 1,000 people, two offices for Parks Department staff members and three public meeting rooms. The new gym, which also features a roof mounted photovoltaic system, a recycled water irrigation system and has a category 3 hurricane shelter rating, is a welcome addition to South Maui.

Last year, the Council approved renovations to the South Maui Skate Park and the installation of shades for the playground at Kalama Park. The work on the concrete structures in the skate park is complete and the opening is pending the addition of a safety railing between the concrete structures and the wood ramps. At the request of the community, a meeting with the Planning Department is being scheduled to discuss permitting requirements for reconstructing the wood ramps as well as a structural assessment.

Construction on the Kalama Park playground shade structure will begin in February. The playground is expected to be closed from Feb. 3 to April 3 to accommodate work. The project includes the installation of a 60-foot by 80-foot tensioned fabric shade structure over the existing playground.

The $250,000 appropriation for Kamaole Point Pavilion in the FY20 budget was earmarked to complete the design and permitting of a new pavilion with restrooms, parking and landscaping. The Special Management Area Assessment application is scheduled to be submitted to the Planning Department in March 2020. It is anticipated that funds for construction will be requested in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, once all permits have been approved.

The Council also approved a proviso last year that will provide $25,000 to hire an additional Parks Security Officer I position at Kalama Park and $40,000 for a security system at the park. The Parks Department is working with Risk Management and the Maui Police Department on the design and construction of the system. Installation is anticipated for February 2020.

The Parks Department is currently in continuous recruitment for the position of Parks Security Officer I. Once a list is established, department officials will interview, hire and train the new Officer. “We continue to seek out team members that are able to deal with the challenges of the job with the utmost integrity, and possessing the required skill sets of data retention, code application, situational awareness, and report writing,” said Karla Peters of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

During last year’s budget session, funds were allocated for construction, entry, fencing, and a water fountain for a Dog Park at the Kenolio Recreational facility; construction of tennis court fencing and other improvements at Kalama Park; improvements at Waipuilani Park; and construction of a playground at Hale Piilani Park. Bids on the Dog Park project are anticipated to be opened in March 2020 with construction to follow shortly. A Special Management Area Assessment application will be submitted in January 2020 for Waipuilani Park improvements. Once the dog park at Kenolio and the Waipuilani Park improvements have been contracted, the remaining funds will be used for additional projects including construction of a playground at Hale Piilani Park.

Unsheltered in South Maui
Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Center launched its Ka La Hiki Ola Mobile Hygiene Unit in November, a project supported by our Volunteer Working Group created to help with solutions. The facility-on-wheels is equipped with toilets, showers, a washer/dryer and two workstations. It also provides cell phone charging and Wi-Fi to help people with job and housing searches. In addition, the facility will function as a hub where donations of toiletries, clothing, food and other supplies can be accepted and distributed. The goal for Ka La Hiki Ola’s first year is to assist at least 100 unsheltered residents of South Maui. For more information visit
Cultural Programs
During the 2019 budget session, Kelly helped secure funding for the Aha Moku O Kula Makai Council to develop and install Ahupua'a identification signs on South Kihei Road that demarcate the historical Hawaiian mauka to makai communities. The Ahupua`a signs encourage cultural awareness and respect for the ancient land division system and natural resources in the Kula Makai moku (Kihei district). The installation of the signs is a collaborative effort between the Aha Moku O Kula Makai, Kihei Community Association, Maui County Council, Maui County Public Works Department and State Department of Transportation.

Roads and sidewalks
Several road work projects got underway or were completed in South Maui in 2019, while some older planning projects changed form or came back to life.

Of note is the plan for a Grade Separated Pedestrian Crossing to provide safe access over the highway for students of the new Kihei High School . The pedestrian crossing is the fourth phase of the initial building plans which start with irrigating wells, infrastructure, initial and additional buildings.

New sidewalks are being designed for both South Kihei Road and Ohukai Road. On Ohukai, Public Works will be completing the sidewalk route between South Kihei Road and the state’s right-of-way on Piilani Highway. There are also plans to provide a continuous sidewalk route on South Kihei Road from Piikea Avenue to Kulanihakoi Street thanks to the Mayor’s campaign promise! Bidding for the latter project is anticipated to start in the summer of 2020.
Congratulating Maui Little League coaches for a stellar showing at the 2019 Little League World Series.
Spreading a little holiday cheer, announcing winners of the tree decorating contest.
Showing support for social causes at the 2019 Women's March. We will see you there again this year.
In Our Community
One of many groups of high school students we met with in 2019. Engaging young people is key to a brighter future.
Talking story with media about County issues including housing, infrastructure, social services, climate change and sea level rise.
Congratulating the 88th Recruit Class Graduates of the Maui Police Department. We are proud to say two of the recruits are from Kihei!
Looking forward
We are truly proud of the work we have done in 2019. In addition to numerous legislative changes that affect our island, we believe we stood on the right side of history in the Lahaina wastewater case. We did what was best for our Country and our planet, which was what an overwhelming majority of Mauians wanted.
When we left the Chair's office at the beginning of this month, many supporters felt the lights had dimmed. Change is difficult, but to grow as a society we must evolve, and there will be challenges. We are all learning that it isn’t so easy to change politics as usual!
As Council Chair, Kelly initiated some sweeping changes, always with her eye on what was best for the community. That eye, that focus, has not changed. Our office is now on the eighth floor, but our course has remained intact – continuing to represent the vision of our constituents while working to further the tenets of the Countywide Policy Plan.
One goal to increase civic engagement, especially among the youth – continues to be strong in this New Year. We are working on several projects to further this goal and are looking forward to collaborating with teens, educators and community members to create programs that will have positive impacts for decades ahead.
Activity within the new Climate Action and Resilience Committee is underway. Kelly has jumped in head first, exploring progressive and effective strategies that can be implemented to address the challenges of sea level rise, shoreline erosion and the vast array of factors related to the climate emergency. We are implementing the General Plan objective to protect the natural environment, while looking for concrete ways to decrease risk, adapt to unavoidable changes and become more resilient.
Our staff is dedicated to identifying what is working in communities around the globe and assessing what would be beneficial to our unique County. We are also identifying the stakeholders, non-profit organizations and experts we need to partner with to get this work done efficiently and with the best level of certainty we can attain.
We encourage you to continue voicing your ideas and concerns with emails, phone calls and letters to our office, and activity on our social media accounts. Our ears and doors are open.
We see a bright future ahead, both personally and for Maui County. As we continue with our work, asking the tough questions and collaborating with the private sector, we are excited and energized.
We want to express our deepest gratitude to all of you who came forward with messages of support during our recent transition. The outpouring is greatly appreciated, and it shows that we are all on the same path. By standing together for the greater good, we strive to be voices that help create a healthy and vibrant future.
Happy New Year, friends.
Kelly, Michelle, Kate and Suzanne
Office of Kelly Takaya King
Our office can be found on the 8th floor of the County Building, suites 819 and 820.
To learn more about becoming a member of KCA click here
Kelly Takaya King serves on state and national organizations including:
  • NACo’s Environmental Energy and Land Use Steering Committee
  • Hawaii State Association of Counties (HSAC) - Treasurer
  • Hui Malama Learning Center - Emeritus
  • Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance - Founder and immediate past-president
Michelle Del Rosario,
Executive Assistant/Chief-of Staff
Michelle has a strong background in real estate, sustainability, energy, public policy research and advocacy.  
Kate Griffiths,
Executive Assistant/Legislative Research & Policy Analyst
With an honors degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Kate has always had a keen interest in how governance shapes our world. With her career in publishing and community advocacy, she continues her mission to support Maui, a place she has called home for over 20 years.
Suzanne Kayian,
Executive Assistant/Communications
Suzanne is a journalist with a passion for media and communications. With a dual degree in Sociology and Journalism, her interests in social issues range from environmental concerns to human rights.
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NEWSLETTER - Fourth Quarter 2019