If their first meeting of the year is any indication, the Kihei Community Association (KCA) will find 2013 packed with good news for South Maui residents and more unsettling reports of legislative actions at the state level that could have troubling impact here at home.
Starting on a positive note, Gene Zarro drew hearty applause when he announced that the Kihei Charter School (KCS) acquired a 2.78-acre site for a new campus in the Kihei Research & Technology Park in December 2012. Zarro credited the generosity and good will of landowner Michael Hankal for making the acquisition possible. The next step, he said, will be the design-build phase, which he estimated would take several years.
Zarro, who is a KCS founder, also heads the South Maui Learning 'Ohana, a nonprofit organization that holds the leases to the space presently occupied by the school. KCS is one of 32 public charter schools statewide and the only public charter school on the island of Maui. It is now in its 12th year. The school offers instruction in grades K-12 and has an enrollment of 575--250 of whom are in the high school grades.
KCA officers for 2013 are (left to right) President Mike Moran, Treasurer Patricia Stillwell, Secretary Jeanne Duberstein and Vice President Mark Hyde.
"We're one of Maui's best kept secrets," Zarro said, pointing out that "Kihei does have a high school." And soon, he added, KCS will be able to put the estimated $500,000 per year it now spends on leasing space toward the acquisition and building of its own facilities "instead of putting that money into the pockets of landlords."
Following Zarro to the platform was Gail Weaver, one of the KCS's two directors. Weaver highlighted some of the school's programs and achievements, including top scores in reading and math. She emphasized that KCS is "a school of choice" and does not serve a specific geographic region. Though a majority of students do come from South Maui, there are also those who attend from as far away as West Maui and Upcountry. The curriculum is based on fieldwork with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Also on the agenda was Maui resident Mahina Martin's report on the Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC), a new public agency set up by Act 55 passed by the 2011 session of the Hawai'i Legislature. Though she acknowledged that the intent of the law may have been good--to find additional revenue sources for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources--the actual measure exempts the PLDC from virtually all existing zoning regulations and waives county permit requirements, too.
Act 55, she said, allows the PLDC to enter into agreements to develop state land for a wide variety of commercial purposes with virtually no public input, and it has no representation from the Neighbor Islands, where most of the public lands are located.
Martin said that problems with the PLDC first came to light last year in a round of statewide hearings where residents expressed outrage at what they saw as a power grab and a thinly veiled attempt to privatize public assets. Though at the time, critics of the new agency and the law setting it up were urged by Gov. Abercrombie to "give it a chance," as time passed, many like Martin came to believe that the right action would be to repeal the controversial legislation and "not make patchwork attempts to fix it."
Martin is the founder of PLDC Watch, a local action group urging repeal of the law. She has started a Facebook page of the same name to keep residents advised of developments in the repeal movement. She also urged those present to bookmark www.GrandTheftAina.com, a site hosted by the Sierra Club, which also advocates repeal.
Martin said that the most important thing that residents can do now is to make their views known to Hawai'i's elected officials.
She distributed a handout that listed Maui lawmakers already in favor of repeal as Sen. Roz Baker and House Speaker Rep. Joe Souki, Rep. Kaniela Ing and Rep. Mele Carroll. The notice said that the remainder of the Maui state legislators were either undecided or did not respond to recent inquiries on their position on the measure.
Shan Tsutsui, she said, who had been very responsive and in his former position as president of the state Senate, announced plans to introduce measures to repeal or radically revise the measure. It was not clear what role he will now play in his new position as lieutenant governor.
About 30 residents attended the KCA meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15, in the KCS's Middle School meeting room in the Lipoa Center. In addition about a dozen Boy Scouts from Kihei Troop 32 were present, working on their citizenship merit badge.
Also speaking briefly was Bonnie Herbert, a longtime local resident who introduced a monthly feature to encourage "a sense of place." Herbert told the audience that the word "Lipoa," (the name of both the street and the center where the meeting took place) means "a type of seaweed" in Hawaiian. "Just follow the road to the beach and you'll find it right there," she said.
Royce Fukuroku of the Hawai'i USA Federal Credit Union (FCU) briefly addressed the meeting, as well. He said the credit union recently added a branch in Kihei near Times Supermarket, which is open seven days a week. He described a number of benefits of membership, including free checking for both business and personal accounts, and favorable interest rates on deposits and loans. Fukuroku said that membership in the KCA meets the eligibility requirement for joining the credit union. Hawai'i USA FCU also has an office at the Ka'ahumanu Center Office Building, which is open six days a week.
Also present at the event were new KCA officers for 2013. They are President Mike Moran, Vice President Mark Hyde, Treasurer Patricia Stillwell and Secretary Jeanne Duberstein.
President Moran urged those present to follow KCA's activities at www.gokihei.org.
The KCA meets regularly at KCS's Middle School meeting room in the Lipoa Center beginning at 6 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month.
(Visit "A School of Choice" at www.mauiweekly.com/page/content.detail/id/510638/A-School-of-Choice.html and "Gene's Schemes" at www.mauiweekly.com/page/content.detail/id/510663/-Gene-s-Schemes-.html for more information about the school.)