Winding down a primary mayoral time period that’s been mired within the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Michael Victorino stated his priorities transferring ahead heart on diversifying the financial system, higher managing tourism, constructing extra housing and upgrading to inexperienced infrastructure.
“There was no scarcity of challenges. With the present world occasions, we don’t know what the longer term could carry,” Victorino stated throughout his annual State of the County deal with on Wednesday night. “However I do know my most essential job is to maintain Maui County residents protected and nicely.”
Victorino, whose speech was broadcast in a prerecorded video message final yr because of the pandemic, delivered this yr’s deal with earlier than a restricted crowd on the Maui Arts & Cultural Middle’s McCoy Studio Theater.
Pandemic situations have modified vastly since Victorino’s final State of the County deal with. COVID-19 restrictions within the county have been lifted. Circumstances and hospitalizations have declined. Unemployment has improved, although many companies are nonetheless reeling from the monetary losses.
Because the financial system improves, the mayor stated he’s trying towards diversification. Whereas Hawaii’s customer trade has been described because the golden goose — and “we love golden eggs, so let’s maintain an enormous basket filled with them,” Victorino stated — Maui County additionally has loads of different aggressive benefits, together with a year-round rising local weather for quite a lot of crops, film-friendly landscapes and marine sanctuaries excellent for analysis.
“With a couple of new baskets like these, we are able to fill them with many extra eggs so we at all times have loads to eat,” Victorino stated, including that the Workplace of Financial Improvement is working with native nonprofits and the school to advance schooling and workforce growth for a few of these sectors.
As Maui County strikes towards new industries, it additionally should reexamine the hospitality sector, which has just lately “change into an excessive amount of of a superb factor,” Victorino stated.
The mayor identified that the trade has been working to develop the Maui Nui Vacation spot Administration Motion Plan, which outlines methods to extra responsibly handle tourism. He additionally stated that “the county’s agreements with Airbnb and Expedia are working.” Not too long ago Airbnb eliminated greater than 1,300 ineligible short-term rental listings in Maui County from its platform.
The Maui County Council can be working by itself plan to higher deal with tourism that requires capping trip leases, making a tourism administration fee, regulating the peer-to-peer automobile sharing trade and different reforms.
Victorino, nonetheless, added that “I’ve one phrase of warning — beware.”
“Our hospitality trade will at all times be the inspiration of our financial system, in order we develop these new sectors, we should guard our hard-earned status because the world’s greatest island to go to,” he stated.
A longtime situation for native residents, overtourism grew to become much more of a flashpoint in the course of the pandemic as guests flooded Maui after months of journey restrictions. Residents have lengthy complained concerning the progress of tourism and proliferation of customer lodging whereas tasks like reasonably priced housing have stalled.
On Wednesday night, Victorino pointed to “excessive demand, low provide, zoning restrictions, inadequate infrastructure and dear constructing supplies” because the elements behind the scarcity of reasonably priced properties nationwide.
He stated that since he’s taken workplace, 1,394 new residential items have been constructed all through the county, together with 364 new reasonably priced leases and 574 attainable-priced properties, which is “good, nevertheless it’s not adequate,” Victorino stated.
An extra 2,500 workforce properties for hire or buy are at the moment within the pipeline.
“My administration is dedicated to working with the County Council to expedite development of those properties,” Victorino stated. “It’s time for county authorities to reassume its kuleana of constructing infrastructure.”
Hundreds of thousands of federal funds headed the county’s means may assist to hurry up the development of infrastructure and home-building, and likewise assist the county be extra resilient within the face of local weather change.
“Island folks contribute the least to local weather change, but we pay the very best worth for it,” Victorino stated.
Hawaii expects to obtain $2.8 billion from the federal bipartisan infrastructure invoice, which is able to assist replace water infrastructure and highways, together with transferring parts of Honoapiilani Freeway away from rising seas.
Division administrators additionally supplied updates on tasks slated for this yr and the close to future, together with:
• In search of funding for everlasting repairs to the Higher Kula water system, growing further backup groundwater sources to reinforce the Makawao water system (with completion anticipated by June 30) and changing the Kula 200 subdivision water tank to extend storage capability from 60,000 to 260,000 gallons.
• Putting in DC quick chargers for electrical automobiles at two further county websites.
• Including six new hybrid electrical vary transit buses to the Maui Bus fleet, step one in the direction of transitioning to electrical buses.
• Beginning development on the Conflict Memorial Health club enhancements mission and upgrading the Velma McWayne Santos Group Middle in Wailuku.
• Engaged on plans for a brand new wastewater remedy facility in Central Maui that’s anticipated to value $86 million (the county will search federal funds to assist offset prices) and be accomplished in 2028.
* Colleen Uechi might be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.