KAHULUI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - In his annual 'State of the County' address on Thursday, Mayor Alan Arakawa called Maui's housing crisis his "most immediate priority," vowing to find new ways to make it affordable to live in the county — and to find new ways to make the islands sustainable for future generations.
Arakawa proposed the creation of an "Affordable Housing Fund," diverting three percent of the county's property tax revenue into a pool which would help create new housing opportunities. $9 million dollars of this year's budget, the mayor says, will go toward purchasing land for housing projects.
Land acquisition was a popular topic during the half-hour speech; Arakawa says the county remains committed to purchasing miles of coastline, along the Hana Highway and on the North Shore, to help prevent unwanted development.
"This journey to keep our shorelines safe from development through acquisition has taken almost twenty years, but the end is finally in sight," Arakawa said. "Our Maui beaches are for Maui families, and will stay that way for our keiki, for generations to come."
To do so, Arakawa says the county is planning several environmentally-friendly ventures, including one proposal that would end the practice of placing treated wastewater into the ocean in parts of Central and South Maui, instead opting to use the water to irrigate parks across the island.
Arakawa's administration also intends to continue reduce energy consumption within government — by replacing county vehicles with electric models, for example.
"Renewable energy is needed to run a more efficient government, because as always each year, we are being asked to do more with less," said Arakawa.
Hours before the mayor's address, more than 100 protestors lined Wahinepio Avenue fronting the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, asking the mayor to do more to address recent comments regarding the sanctity of rocks in Iao Valley.
In an interview with Hawaii News Now last month, Arakawa said there was "no such thing as sacred rocks" in response to criticism over the destruction of boulders removed from the valley as part of repair efforts. The valley was damaged during a massive flood last September.