Mayor Alan Arakawa held the first in his series of planned budget hearings at the Kihei Community Center on Monday, Oct. 3. The goal was to hear from the South Maui community about what they wanted to include in the upcoming 2012-13 Maui County budget.
It was also an opportunity for the mayor to deliver a subtle reminder to those attending that there was less money in the county coffers and that any proposals had to be submitted with numbers and costs attached.
"If you want something, we need specific numbers so we can budget properly," the mayor told testifiers at the meeting.
Members of Mayor Alan Arakawa’s (fourth from left) administration gathered at the Kihei Community Center on Monday, Oct. 3, for a budget hearing to gather information from South Maui residents about what they identified as needs in the upcoming administration budget.
The community budget hearings are an annual exercise-one that was started by former Mayor Linda Lingle and continued by every mayor since her tenure ended.
Once the Arakawa administration completes its round of meetings, the Maui County Council will complete a similar exercise and use the information gained from them during budget deliberations.
At the onset of the meeting, Budget Director Sandy Baz unveiled a "Countywide Vision," which is being implemented as guiding principles for the Arakawa administration.
That vision includes five major sections: "Suitable Public Infrastructure," "Strong, Diversified Economy," "Efficient and Responsive Government," "Prepared, Safe and Livable Community," and a "Healthy and Sustainable Community."
To help flesh out that vision and include more than the suggestions of administration personnel, the county has initiated an eight-page "2011 County of Maui Community Survey" to identify and respond to resident concerns.
Baz believes that if sufficiently utilized by the public, the survey has the opportunity to help underwrite polices governing Maui County, at least throughout Arakawa's service as mayor, and possibly beyond.
South Maui is Maui Economic Opportunity (MEO) territory, and Monday was no exception.
Twenty-one people signed up to testify from an audience of approximately 50 people. Of those, about half testified in support of an MEO program or service. This ranged from Head Start childhood education and family strengthening to the BEST program's support for inmates returning home, and housing services and transportation, among others.
Nicole Poppino testified in support of MEO's housing assistance programs. "Last year, I lost my job, and MEO prevented my children and my kids from being on the streets Especially today, there are so many people that need help, and they are working to help us, too, so we do not have to need this help anymore, " she said.
Sylvia Bedolla, reading from a hand printed script on a piece of letterhead bordered by pictures of roses, spoke in support of MEO's award-winning Head Start program.
"I like this program because they (the children) can play, learn and have responsibilities at the same time," she said, later adding, "This is a good program for parents, too. We can spend time and share time in the classroom as volunteers."
Those addressing other major subjects included Maui Food Bank Director Rich Yust, who asked the mayor to continue a line item in the county budget to help fund the food bank.
The Maui Food Bank serves 10,000 people each month through 100 agencies and has experienced a 4 percent increase in food assistance requests this year, said Yust.
"Our inventories are extremely low," he said. "We have about two weeks' worth of food supply, and we have containers coming in in the past, we did not have to rely on containers."
He added that now that the retail sector was heavily in to just-in-time delivery, the Maui Food Bank has seen reductions in retail food donations that were once a mainstay for the organization.
Speaking on behalf of the Kihei Youth Center, Leslie R. Garcia thanked the mayor for his past support.
"We serve 10,000 youth and provide a safe, comfortable place for the children to be," she said. "Please continue to support the Kihei Youth Center."
Garcia also mentioned MEO. "Without MEO transportation services, most of our kids would not be able to come to the center," she said, Cindy Kern advocated for funding of supplies for volunteers who organize themselves and work for dune restoration and beach cleaning. KCA Vice President Mike Moran spoke in favor of "Pump Don't Dump" efforts to keep sewage out of Maui's near-shore waters, the need for more bike paths and for more tree planting in Kihei to begin the development of an urban forest.
For more information on how to participate in the "2011 County of Maui Community Survey," go online to Mauicounty.gov; on the left hand side, click "2011 Community Survey."
Go to Maui Breakfast Club on Facebook to learn when Budget Director Baz will be interviewed live on the show.