FY 2016 Budget Hearing Dates

The Budget and Finance Committee will hold evening meetings throughout Maui County next month to receive community input on the Fiscal Year 2016 budget.

I encourage you to participate and inform us how tax dollars should be spent, as after all, it is your money.

The meetings are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. except for the Molokai and Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu-Kahului district meeting, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. All meetings are open to the public.

The Budget and Finance Committee at the Paia Community Center hearing from members of the public on the FY 2014 Budget.

The Budget and Finance Committee at the Paia Community Center hearing from members of the public on the FY 2014 Budget.

District meetings are scheduled as follows:

  • Thursday, April 2, Kihei Community Center, Main Hall, 303 East Lipoa Street, Kihei, Maui – South Maui District.
  • Tuesday, April 7, at 6:30 p.m., Kaunakakai School, 30 Ailoa Street, Kaunakakai, Molokai – Molokai District.
  • Thursday, April 9, Haiku Community Center, Main Hall, Hana Highway at Pilialoha Street, Haiku – Makawao-Haiku-Paia District.
  • Monday, April 13, Hana Community Center, 5091 Uakea Road, Hana, Maui – East Maui District (Hana-Keanae-Kailua).
  • Wednesday, April 15, Lahaina Civic Center, Social Hall, 1840 Honoapiilani Highway, Lahaina, Maui – West Maui District
  • Friday, April 17, Lanai Senior Center, 309 7th Street, Lanai City, Lanai – Lanai District
  • Monday, April 20, at 6:30 p.m., Lihikai Elementary School, Dining Room, 335 South Papa Avenue, Kahului, Maui – Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu and Kahului Districts
  • Wednesday, April 22, Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center, Social Hall, 91 Pukalani Street, Pukalani, Maui – Upcountry District (Pukalani-Kula-Ulupalakua).

The agenda for the meetings will be officially published on the county website on March 25, the same day the council receives the mayor’s budget proposal. The committee will also conduct budget meetings in the Council Chamber in Wailuku on most days beginning March 31 through May 1.

The budget ordinance is the county’s financial plan for the fiscal year, which begins July 1. It determines how much money each department receives to carry out county services such as fire and police protection, public transportation, water supply and garbage collection, and how much is collected from the public through taxes and fees.

The budget also sets forth the amount of grant money offered to community organizations and establishes funding levels for capital improvements projects, such as road repaving, park improvements and water system upgrades.

For more information on meeting dates, you can visit www.mauicounty.gov/committees/bf.

As always, if you have any feedback on pending or future legislation, please don’t hesitate to contact me through e-mail at Mike.White@mauicounty.us or by phone at 270-5507.

With aloha,

Mike

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Openness, efficiency council goals

Published in The Maui News, Feb. 22, 2015
By MIKE WHITE, for The Maui News

As County Council chair, I’m committed to open government and civic engagement by supporting the community’s ability to obtain relevant information and documentation.

After presiding over the Feb. 6 council meeting when Patrick Wong was confirmed for another term as corporation counsel and reading the Feb. 11 Maui News editorial (“More sunshine please, not less”), it’s obvious more needs to be done.

I’ve requested a public meeting with Cheryl Kakazu Park, who administers the state’s open-government laws as director of the Office of Information Practices, or OIP. The meeting’s purpose will be to remind the public and county officials of the council’s obligations under the Uniform Information Practices Act (relating to public records) and the Sunshine Law (relating to public meetings).

I’m also supporting Council Vice Chair Don Guzman’s efforts, as chair of the Committee of the Whole, to better inform the public of legal matters by placing more court records on the council’s website and working with the corporation counsel to provide more litigation-related information in open session.

In the meantime, please allow me to try to clear up a few things, starting with some factual errors in the editorial.

The editorial falsely implies that the council and its committees go into executive session because of convenience and a preference for secrecy. In fact, it’s always done on the advice of counsel.

In addition, the editorial incorrectly claims the council sued the OIP. The corporation counsel filed the lawsuit – which seeks a ruling that the attorney-client privilege trumps the UIPA – on behalf of the County of Maui.

I welcomed and appreciated all of the public testimony – from more than 50 Maui County residents – on Wong’s appointment. I understand frustration by some that the vote followed a lengthy executive meeting and that issues raised in testimony were not directly addressed in open session.

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Council members are sometimes unable to correct statements made in testimony because their knowledge comes from confidential meetings with attorneys in executive meetings. Breaching confidentiality can be a violation of the Code of Ethics and result in penalties including impeachment.

Some testimony alleged that Wong’s representation had subjected the county to financial liability.

To the contrary, the county’s representation by Wong and his staff during the past four years has saved taxpayers millions of dollars by zealous advocacy and astute negotiation.

Some testifiers stated Wong’s actions have already cost the county “$100 million” in a lawsuit contending the county’s use of wastewater injection wells in Lahaina violates the Clean Water Act. That statement is not true.

Along with expert special counsel, Wong is defending the county in Hawaii Wildlife Fund vs. the County of Maui. To date, no penalties have been assessed, and no money has changed hands between the parties.

While the county is threatened with serious penalties in the case, Wong’s legal team is seeking a solution that’s fair to county taxpayers and consistent with the law.

There was also substantial testimony about the 2014 initiative calling for a moratorium on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops, as reported by The Maui News (“Corporation counsel criticized for role in high-profile cases,” Feb. 7). I note the County Charter prohibits the council from amending any voter-approved ordinance for a 12-month period, and litigation on the moratorium is pending in federal court.

Wong has stated his representation in the case is based on his reading of the County Charter, which is appropriate.

The council and its committees occasionally hold executive meetings to consult with county’s attorneys on pending litigation and to discuss sensitive personnel issues.

Executive meetings are closed to the public pursuant to Section 92-5(a) of the Hawaii Revised Statues, which is part of the Sunshine Law.

When an executive session is convened, it’s only because there’s a necessity.

I applaud those who invest the time and effort to be civically engaged, and I welcome scrutiny of the council’s work. Those who watch the council and its committees work can attest that public testimony is always carefully considered and frequently results in revisions to legislation and other responsive action.

The council will continue to work on making more information available for public review, while also protecting the county treasury and upholding ethical standards. I know we all seek a stronger collaboration between the council and the public for Maui County’s greater good.

Mahalo.

* Mike White is the chair of the Maui County Council and holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area.

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Counties continue to seek fair share of TAT

Last week, I submitted several pieces of testimony to the state legislature on bills relating to the counties’ share of revenue from the transient accommodations tax, or TAT.

In 2011, the counties’ share of the TAT was capped as a temporary measure to assist the state with a budget shortfall because of a 9.8 percent drop in overall tax revenue. During that time, county property values dropped significantly, which resulted in declining property tax collections.

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Beginning in 2010, the state’s revenue collections began to recover. It is critical for the state to revisit the distribution ratios to address the negative impacts to counties.

The state has increased its share of the TAT distribution by $179 million since 2007 – more than 2000 percent – while TAT collections have increased by only $170 million during the same period. In contrast, the counties’ share was increased by a meager 2.2 percent.

These are some of the reasons why I am supporting House Bills 373 and 197 and Senate Bill 408, all of which would generally return more TAT revenue to the counties where it is earned.

Some state officials erroneously view the measures as a potential loss. But the state and the counties serve the same constituents of Hawaii, which is why I urge legislators to view these proposals as reflecting shared investments.

The increase in the cap last year was appreciated, but fairness dictates that more should be done. It is simply not right for the state to disproportionately help itself to tax revenue earned by the counties’ investments that support the visitor industry.

Review submitted testimonies at MauiCounty.us/2015StateLeg.

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Maui High School Band Visits Council

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This afternoon, the Maui High School Band stopped by our Maui County Council meeting to thank the members for their support in helping them to represent Maui County and the State of Hawaii at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California on New Years Day. I would like to congratulate each band member on their hard work, hours of practice and dedication. Job well done!

 

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Prosecuting attorney’s nomination to be decided next month

For immediate release: Feb. 18, 2015

Press release by:
Council Chair Mike White
Maui County Council 

Prosecuting attorney’s nomination to be decided next month

WAILUKU, Hawaii – John D. Kim’s nomination for another four-year term as prosecuting attorney for Maui County was not approved or disapproved at today’s council meeting, Council Chair Mike White announced after the meeting this afternoon.

White said the decision on the nomination will be made at a council meeting next month. The council has until March 6 to make a decision.

White offered the following statement this evening:

“A motion to approve the nomination of John D. Kim as the county’s prosecuting attorney today failed by a 2-5 vote.

The concerns raised by some employees in the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney about alleged favoritism and mismanagement are serious. The council is obligated to take them into account.

The Chamber is the public’s home, and everyone is encouraged to attend council meetings, either to testify or just to watch. But it is concerning that what appeared to be dozens of prosecutors and other staff were summoned to the Chamber during the council’s deliberations, with the obvious goal of influencing the county’s policy makers through a show of physical presence.

I welcome testimony from all members of the community, including county staff. But employees today from the Department of Prosecuting Attorney, who came out as a group, must know they are paid by taxpayers to prosecute, not to campaign for a council decision during official time.”

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Council reviews wide range of committee reports

Published in The Maui News, Feb. 15, 2015
By MIKE WHITE, for The Maui News

Following a full round of deliberations by its nine standing committees earlier this month, the County Council will consider a wide range of committee reports on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

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The Budget and Finance Committee, chaired by Council Member Riki Hokama, recommended approval of a budget amendment to reflect a donation from Banfield Charitable Trust to the Meals on Wheels Program. The donation will allow for delivery of pet food to homebound seniors.

The committee also endorsed a budget amendment from the State of Hawaii to the “KALO” program – the Police Department’s cultural-based initiative for at-risk youth on Maui. Members of the committee also discussed the desirability of the department expanding the program to Lanai and Molokai.

The Housing, Human Concerns and Transportation Committee, chaired by Council Member Stacy Crivello, issued a report on use of the county-owned Pioneer Mill office building in Lahaina. Tri-Isle Resource Conservation and Development Council was granted a 25-year license for the property in 2007, but has decided to terminate the grant agreement.

Tri-Isle RC&D attempted to work with Na Kupuna O Maui to improve the building, but was unable to obtain financing. The Department of Housing and Human Concerns will seek to identify other potential licensees to restore and use the building.

Council Member Elle Cochran’s Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee submitted a resolution to the council to recognize the importance of protecting and enhancing the county’s reef ecosystems. Before acting on the resolution, the committee received updates from members of the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council on implementation of the Maui Coral Reef Recovery Plan.

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The Land Use Committee, chaired by Council Member Bob Carroll, recommended approval of a change in zoning for the site of the Old Lanai Police Station and Courthouse to allow commercial, office and retail use on the property. Located at the corner of Eighth Street and Fraser Avenue in Lanai City, the property includes four buildings – all of which are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The council will consider the recommendation of the Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Council Member Mike Victorino, to confirm John Kim as prosecuting attorney for another term.

In addition, the council will likely refer to committee a proposed budget amendment to appropriate $130,000 to construct a new parking facility for county employees on property owned by Wailuku Union Church.

Last Monday, I traveled to Honolulu to confer with my counterparts from the other counties, Hawaii County Council Chairman Dru Kanaha, Honolulu City Council Chairman Ernie Martin and Kauai County Council Chairman Mel Rapozo. We discussed the importance of the counties presenting a unified message to the state government, particularly on matters of revenue distribution and met with key legislators.

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The Hawaii State Association of Counties, led by Rapozo, is the primary vehicle for advocacy by municipal governments at the state Capitol. Maui County will host the annual HSAC conference June 25-26, providing an opportunity for reflection shortly after the legislative session concludes in May.

I am also advocating for county residents at the federal level. Later this month, I travel to Washington for the National Association of Counties’ legislative conference, which will be presided over by Hokama, the organization’s president.

Mahalo.

* Mike White is the chairman of the Maui County Council and holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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Council seeks to make wise investments in future

Published in The Maui News, Feb. 8, 2015
By MIKE WHITE, for The Maui News

Along with other county officials, I had the honor of hosting this year’s Ka Ipu Kukui fellows at the county building last week for a day of discussing long-term issues facing local government.Ka Ipu Kukui

Ka Ipu Kukui is a leadership-development program led by Dr. Lori Teragawachi that counts many current leaders of Maui County among its alumni. It’s always inspiring to interact with the fellows and experience their commitment to working for our community’s future.

I’m proud the County Council has provided funding to the fellowship program. It’s an investment in our future.

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But it’s important to remember county grant funding is a competitive annual process.

The council is required to approve a balanced budget each fiscal year, according to the Maui County Charter. Discretionary grants, and all other appropriations, are scrutinized in the council’s annual budget session.

The budget session starts with the delivery of the mayor’s budget proposal, no later than March 25. Council members will then spend the next several weeks receiving public testimony and engaging in colloquies with department directors, under the leadership of Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Riki Hokama.

The budget committee will venture to all parts of the community to receive testimony during the budget session this spring. You can also testify on the budget by sending an email, referencing BF-1, to bf.committee@mauicounty.us.

As part of the charter’s system of checks and balances, the council responds to the mayor’s budget proposals. The council doesn’t have the ability to propose budget amendments during the fiscal year.

That’s why it was surprising to recently read that the mayor criticized the council for not providing funding to “support” the 2014 ordinance that bans tobacco use in county beaches and parks (“Ask the Mayor,” The Maui News, Jan. 26). I assume his fiscal year 2016 budget proposal will include funding for the signage and enforcement that he implies are currently lacking.

Meanwhile, I’m keeping tabs on bills introduced in the state Legislature that could have an impact on county authority and, most important, on the lives of Lanai, Maui and Molokai residents.

Last week, in my first testimony of the 2015 state legislative session, I supported House Bill 730, which would require a public hearing in any county directly impacted by a proposed administrative rule. Introduced by Reps. Angus McKelvey, Joseph Souki and Kyle Yamashita of Maui, this bill stems from last year’s negative experience with a proposed new rule on cesspools.

The Department of Health’s rule would have disproportionately impacted Maui County, but the only public hearing was on Oahu. My testimony is available at mauicounty.us/2015stateleg.

Mahalo.

* Mike White is the chairman of the Maui County Council and holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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Committees are in full swing, taking up key issues

Published in The Maui News, Feb. 1, 2015
By MIKE WHITE, for The Maui News

The Maui County Council’s standing committees are working hard to review an array of legislation and other policy issues before the council’s annual budget review begins at the end of next month.

The Committee of the Whole last Tuesday reviewed the status of the federal case brought by the Hawaii Wildlife Fund and other organizations relating to the county’s waste-management practices. There is a lot at stake in this litigation for both county taxpayers and Maui’s environment.

COW Feb. 6 agenda: MauiCounty.us/meeting/150206cow

The Planning Committee conducted a meeting and site inspections on Lanai on Wednesday, continuing its work on the island’s community plan. The Land Use Committee met on Lanai the same day to consider Pulama Lana’i’s request to rezone the old police station in Lanai City for mixed uses.

Committee meetings full schedule

The Land Use Committee returns to the Council Chambers Monday for a 9 a.m. meeting on the proposed 86-acre Puunene Heavy Industrial Subdivision. At 1:30 p.m. Monday, the Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee will discuss restoration of Maui’s coral reefs and the definition of “sustainability” under the Maui County Charter.

On Thursday at 1:30 p.m., the Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee will conduct a meeting on the Maui Bus and other transit options. Representatives from the county Department of Transportation and Maui Economic Opportunity will provide updates.

The council meeting on Friday at 9 a.m. will feature the first committee reports issued in the new council term. The Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee is recommending Corporation Counsel Patrick Wong and Water Director David Taylor each be confirmed for another four-year term. Various nominations to boards and commissions will also be covered.

Review committee meetings: MauiCounty.us/calendar

The first ordinances enacted in 2015 amend the county’s list of trees entitled to special protection, known as “exceptional trees.” By ordinances 4180 through 4186, the council has added four trees to the list and deleted three others that are either diseased or pose safety hazards.

At the end of this month, I will join several council members in Washington, D.C., for the National Association of Counties’ legislative conference. Council Member Riki Hokama, NACo’s president, will preside over the conference, which will provide opportunities for professional development and networking with other county officials.

I look forward to meeting with Hawaii’s congressional delegation and other federal officials to advocate for Maui County’s interests.

I represented the council at the state Capitol on Jan. 26 for Gov. David Ige’s State of the State address and a legislative briefing on county finances. I’ve been meeting with officials in both state and county government throughout Hawaii to ensure counties’ interests are given due consideration during the state legislative session, which began Jan. 21 and is scheduled to run until May 7.

Track bills: MauiCounty.us/2015stateleg

We are working on updating the council’s news site, mauicounty.us, to include helpful resources for the public to track bills before the council. Other resources such as the 2015 council calendar, tips on providing written and oral testimony to the council and information on testimony I submit to the state Legislature are also available.

If you have any questions while you’re on the site, a live chat window connects you with council staff during office hours. In addition, you can always reach the council on Facebook at fb.com/mauicountycouncil and on Twitter at @mauicounty.

Mahalo.

* Mike White is the chairman of the Maui County Council and holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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Council submits bills to Legislature: Sunshine Law change; hemp study

Published in The Maui News, Jan. 18, 2015
By MIKE WHITE for, The Maui News

The opening day of this year’s state legislative session is on Wednesday.

As a former member of the state House of Representatives, I know how important the Legislature’s work is to the people of Maui County. Aside from working with our state legislators, I will make my office available to make sure the voices of Lanai, Maui and Molokai residents are heard during the session.

The Maui County Council has submitted a legislative package containing two state bills. One bill would allow the University of Hawaii Maui College to research industrial hemp, while the other bill would make council members more accessible to constituents.

A state law enacted last year approved a two-year industrial hemp research program, but only at a single testing site on Oahu. The council has noted the potential economic development benefits of this crop, and believes allowing demonstration projects in each county may yield better research results.

The council also seeks to amend a section in the state Sunshine Law to allow members of a county council to jointly attend and speak at community meetings where informational presentations are made. Under current interpretations of the law, Maui County council members – elected officials who represent all Maui County residents – can’t freely attend such gatherings.

Consequently, opportunities to educate ourselves on important issues are limited. Some of you may have even seen council members reluctantly leave important community meetings because of Sunshine Law concerns.

Hawaii State Capitol

I will also track state bills that may affect the county’s revenue and taxing authority.

During the last session, the counties fought for a fair share of the hotel room tax, also known as transient accommodations tax, or TAT. After extensive lobbying efforts, a meager $10 million out of the potential $72 million was returned to the counties.

This year, the TAT will continue to be a priority. Restoring the counties’ share of the TAT is a vote in support of much-needed county assistance to maintain a healthy visitor industry across the state.

I will also monitor bills with a direct impact on county operations and home rule, capital improvement projects in Maui County and other issues of special concern, such as legislation on the hospital system.

On behalf of county residents, I will submit testimony to explain my position on select items. To read the bills being tracked and testimony I submit, please go to mauicounty.us/2015stateleg. The 2015 Hawaii State Association of Counties’ legislative package is also available on the website.

Meanwhile, the work of the council (which is in session throughout the year) continues with committee meetings.

On Thursday, the Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee is expected to consider nominations to boards and commissions, as well as the reappointment of Corporation Counsel Patrick Wong, Prosecuting Attorney John Kim and Water Director David Taylor.

Check the council schedule at mauicounty.us/calendar for confirmation of meetings and background on agenda items.
Citizen participation in the council’s work is imperative. I placed two pahu niu (coconut drums) in the Council Chambers to symbolize the calling together of members of the community, and I look forward to working with you.

Mahalo.

* Mike White is the chairman of the Maui County Council and holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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County service center design to receive final OK

Published in The Maui News, Jan. 11, 2015
By Mike White, for The Maui News

The proposed new county service center in Kahului is moving forward.

As recommended by the County Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, Bills 95 and 96 (2014), providing funding for the service center’s design and construction, will be considered for second and final reading at the first regular council meeting of the new term on Friday at 9 a.m.

County Service Center

The bills include budget amendments for architectural and engineering design fees of $1.6 million for the project at Maui Business Park Phase II.

The county pays more than $3 million annually to rent office space at the Maui Mall and other locations in Central Maui. With the new county service center in Kahului and the Kalana O Maui expansion in Wailuku’s civic center, the need to rent costly office space will be reduced.

While I support expansion to address employees’ constricted working environments, I urge the administration to always work within the county’s means and exercise fiscal prudence. I look forward to keeping tabs on construction plans to ensure these projects are developed efficiently.

The council will also consider referring to the appropriate committees various matters that were originally submitted near the end of the prior term. Among these items are:

  • Land use entitlements for expansion of the Maui Research & Technology Park in Kihei.
  • Updating the comprehensive zoning ordinance to incorporate changes to the parks districts recommended by the Lanai, Maui and Molokai planning commissions.
  • A bill introduced by Council Member Elle Cochran to facilitate composting at appropriate locations throughout Maui County.
  • A communication from Council Member Robert Carroll about health and safety concerns at the Lower Nahiku Bridge in East Maui.
  • A request to grant a license to install more electric-vehicle charging stations for the JUMPSmartMaui program.

Review Friday’s agenda at MauiCounty.us/calendar.

Council committees also return to work this week.

The Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Council Member Mike Victorino, will meet Monday at 9 a.m. to review Resolution 15-4, relating to the Rules of the Council. The rules were referred for further review after being adopted at the Jan. 2 organizational meeting.

The rules establish how the council conducts its business and cover topics such as executive meetings, testimony, attendance and even travel. Review the current rules at MauiCounty.us/rules.

A discussion on open data will be considered Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. by the Economic Development, Energy, Agriculture and Recreation Committee, chaired by Council Member Don Guzman. He is working on a pilot project to make government information more readily accessible in collaboration with Maui’s high-tech community.

Correction: Committee discussion on open data that had been planned for Tuesday afternoon and referenced in Sunday’s Chair’s 3 Minutes column has been postponed. Written testimony on the matter can be sent to ear.committee@mauicounty.us, referencing EAR-39. Please call 270-7665 for any questions.

The Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee, chaired by Cochran, will meet Monday at 1:30 p.m. to get updates from the departments of Public Works and Environmental Management. Each department’s director will provide an overview of current operations and highlight opportunities where the council and administration can work together on new solutions.

Finally, the opening day of the 28th state legislature is Jan. 21. We’ll keep you in the loop on the County Council’s lobbying efforts.

Mahalo.

* Mike White is the chairman of the Maui County Council and holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to MauiCounty.us for more information.

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