Candidate Q&A: Mayor of Maui County – Mike Molina

Editor’s note: For the August 13 Hawaii primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer a few questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities would be if elected.

The following came from Maui County mayoral candidate Mike Molina. The other contestants are Cullan Bell, Richard Bissen, Kim Brown, Alana Kay, Jonah Lion, Kelly King and Mike Victorino.

For general information, see the Civil Beat Election Guide and see other candidates on the primary ballot.

1. What is Maui County’s biggest problem and what would you do about it?

The two biggest problems are housing and the diversification of our economy. For housing, I would seek leases with developers to build low-cost units for rent or ownership on county-owned land. The district can pay for the infrastructure costs through the Affordable Housing Fund and in return receives cheaper units from the client.

I would also support funding community land trusts that keep homes affordable over the long term. I advocate working with property owners to rehabilitate existing structures that working families can move into.

While tourism is still an important part of our economy, we need to expand other industries like agriculture. As Mayor, I would work with our Office of Economic Development and the County Department of Agriculture to aggressively market local agriculture, provide grants and other funding assistance to expand agriculture to create viable jobs and make Maui County a major one Exporter of food becomes for other communities.

I also advocate partnering with educational and private organizations to develop training programs in the healthcare and high-tech industries to create high-paying jobs in Maui County. This would also save students and parents the expense of traveling off-island for training.

2. In the last two years alone, the average selling price of a Maui home has skyrocketed by nearly $400,000, driven by a surge in out-of-state buyers during the pandemic. What can the county do to ensure families aren’t overpriced?

I support raising property taxes on properties bought for investment or second homes. To help our residents, I support lowering property tax rates and providing subsidies to eligible families who need rental assistance.

To help families who need more down payment assistance, I support increasing the down payment amount for the Maui County First Time Homebuyers program.

3. Significant efforts have been made in recent years to reform law enforcement and strengthen police oversight. What specifically would you do to improve oversight of local law enforcement? Are you satisfied with the Maui Police Department and the Maui Police Commission?

I support the establishment of a municipal advisory review board that would provide an additional ‘sounding board’ for the public to raise concerns and solutions that could contribute to more effective policing.

Overall, I am pleased with the performance of our Maui Police Department and Maui Police Commission, however, there are morale and loyalty issues that need to be addressed, and as mayor, I want to contribute to finding solutions to these concerns.

4. Maui County Council recently passed a temporary moratorium on the construction of new hotels and other visitor accommodation and will decide within the next few months whether to make it permanent. Do you support limiting the number of hotels and visitor accommodations on Maui? Why or why not?

I support the temporary limitation of visitor accommodation. As mayor, I will work with Maui County Council to increase the housing stock.

It makes more sense to prioritize the development of housing for working families over the development of new hotels and other visitor accommodation. If there are no apartments, where are the workers? Limiting visitor accommodation also gives the community time to find solutions to over-tourism.

5. Do you think the governor and legislature appreciate Maui County’s problems, or are they too focused on Honolulu and Oahu? how would you change that

Our Maui County representatives in the House and Senate are doing a great job serving the needs of our community. On the other hand, I believe our current governor appears to be more Oahu-centric and, in some cases, has lost touch with neighboring island concerns.

The most important thing I’m looking for in our next governor is someone who is genuinely cooperative, has integrity, and genuinely cares about the causes of neighboring islands.

6. Do you think the county of Maui should do more to manage water resources that have long been controlled by plantations? Why or why not?

Yes, I believe Maui County should manage our water resources instead of leaving them in private hands. Water is a public good, and leaving it in private hands could result in less water for small farmers, generations of landowners, and the restoration of rivers.

I support a lease agreement between the County of Maui and the State of Hawaii (CWRM) for East Maui’s water system.

7. Climate change is real and will force us to make difficult choices. What should Maui County do first to counteract climate change instead of just reacting to it?

Regarding climate change, as mayor, I would work with government agencies, Maui County Council, and environmental groups to create a managed retreat plan and establish new boundaries for near-shore development. We should consider CFDs (Community Facilities Districts), which require property owners to collect additional taxes to pay for damage to their property due to sea level rise and shoreline erosion.

8. It’s estimated that up to a thousand people are homeless on Maui on any given day. What do you think needs to change to help people find and stay in housing?

As for the unprotected, I would seek to acquire, lease or use existing county-owned land to establish “safe zones” which could include “little houses” or shipping containers that can be used as temporary housing.

I am in favor of considering a class action lawsuit to seek compensation from communities that send their homeless to us, which places a greater financial burden on our taxpayers.

9. Traffic on the island of Maui is getting worse and different regions face different challenges. What would be your approach to improving Maui’s transportation problems?

Conditions may be placed on all housing projects to ensure traffic mitigations are in place before final subdivision approval is granted. The county government and council must continue to work with state officials to mobilize money to secure federal funding for highway improvements.

Given the high cost of fuel, the county can do more educational work to encourage carpooling and the use of public transit. When schools are ready, I would like them to consider different start and end times, which could reduce traffic congestion.

10 The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparities. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, build on what we’ve learned, and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share a great idea you have for Maui County. Be innovative but specific.

With our residents unable to afford their own homes and many displaced by the outrageously high cost of land and property induced by outside speculation, I would reinvent Hawaii to introduce stricter land acquisition requirements and higher taxes to encourage the purchase of Deterring property by non-residents and outside interests.

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