It was standing room only on the eighth floor of the Kalana O Maui Building on the morning of Friday, Feb. 24, as hundreds gathered in the chambers of the Maui County Council to hear Mayor Alan Arakawa deliver his 2012 State of the County Address.
Speaking before an audience of lawmakers and constituents, the mayor touched on a host of issues, including the budget, economy and proposed infrastructure improvements.
While the county has made impressive strides in its efforts to spur economic growth over the last year, Mayor Arakawa vowed to increase efficiencies across the board.
During his 2012 State of the County Address, Mayor Alan Arakawa listed a number of the county’s achievements over the last year, including opening the Pa‘ia mini-bypass 24-7, abolishing Furlough Fridays, pushing for more renewable energy projects and more electrical permits for solar projects.
"We can't afford to waste anything," he said. "That's why for the past year we've been working toward making Maui County more efficient."
The impending County Solar Rooftop project is an example of such an endeavor, he said, as installing photovoltaic solar panels on nearly two-dozen county buildings will save an estimated $500,000 in energy costs each year.
Mayor Arakawa also unveiled initiatives that would consolidate resources and stimulate the local economy.
"We are trying to consolidate our resources by acquiring more than 100 acres to create a new Central Maui County Baseyard."
It may not sound glamorous, but the new and improved baseyard will allow the county to safely house a majority of its vehicles in one area, significantly shrinking the overhead costs of sharing garage space, tools and maintenance staff. "It will also enable us to move at least one baseyard out of a tsunami zone and allow departments to share other resources," he said.
However, to truly streamline the county's resources, the mayor offered a bold proposal: "We need to rent less and own more of our office space." This is a critical cost-cutting measure, he said, as the County of Maui currently shells out nearly $3 million each year to rent office properties for its various departments.
The mayor also repeated his call for the expansion of Maui County's film industry. Appealing to Hawai'i State Senate President Sen. Shan Tsutsui, who was seated in the front row, the mayor said, "Sen. Tsutsui, you have been a partner, an ally and friend to Maui County and we must ask for your help once again this year as we try to create a new industry."
The fate of Maui County's film industry hangs in the balance, as state legislators will soon consider several proposed bills that would increase the state's film production tax credits. The administration has long contended that the television and film industry would be an economic boon to Maui County, evidenced by the success enjoyed by other counties in the state.
"Without the addition of infrastructure credits, companies will not have the necessary incentives to build a studio or sound stage here," said Mayor Arakawa. "Without the required facilities, production companies that are actively producing a television series, like Hawaii 5-0, will never seriously consider Maui as a viable location we need these facilities."
The mayor's speech also emphasized the important role of collaboration in forging a path to a more efficient future for Maui County and its residents. "We hope that the Maui County Council shares our vision of a more efficient county, because we will need their cooperation to make it all possible."
The camaraderie that exists between the county's executive and legislative branches has been beneficial to the entire community, he said. "We may not always agree, but we talk. And, more importantly, we listen to each other [and] I hope we continue to listen to each other for years to come."
We are in the Year of the Dragon, said Mayor Arakawa, the year the ancient Mayans predicted would bring about a new age. The last year has been one of significant change and progress, but there's still work to do.
"We have been doing our best to prepare Maui County for the future," the mayor said, "but we cannot do it alone--help us help ourselves."
And if recent history is any indication, the mayor's office has put its money where its mouth is. "You'll find that we are very good partners this administration has a good track record of doing what we said we would do."
The mayor listed a number of the county's achievements over the last year, including opening the Pa'ia mini-bypass 24-7, abolishing Furlough Fridays, pushing for more renewable energy projects and more electrical permits for solar projects.
"We said we would improve our infrastructure and we are doing that constantly," he said. "But in order to succeed we must do one more thing: we must be bold."
By adopting bolder strategies, Mayor Arakawa said he believes Maui County can work toward achieving its most ambitious goals.
"Be bold, work together and plan for the future," he said. "We can do this."