Name on ballot:
Michael P Victorino
No answer submitted
Mayor of Maui County
Previous job history:
Entrepreneur, business management and sales
Previous elected office, if any:
10 years on Maui County Council 4 years as Maui County Mayor
Please describe your qualifications to represent the voters of your county.
I was born and raised in Hawaii and I’ve lived on Maui for more than 50 years. I witnessed Maui County’s transition from a sleepy plantation economy to become one of the worlds top travel destinations. I have devoted more than 40 years to community service including coaching youth sports, volunteering for several nonprofit organizations, service on governmental boards and commissions and 14 years as an elected official . I understand and honor the values of Maui County and I have always worked to perpetuate those values in everything I do. I can represent the voters of Maui County effectively and fairly because I know this community very well and I have a heart for its people. We are just now emerging from the worst public health and economic crisis of our lifetime and world affairs are still uncertain. Maui County needs tested, proven leadership to continue the post-pandemic progress we are making.
What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent, and what will you do to address that need?
The shortage of affordable housing is the biggest issue facing our community. Maui County’s working families are struggling to find homes they can afford to rent or purchase. Even before the pandemic, local families were being displaced by offshore investors and wealthy people moving from the mainland. The US Constitution guarantees the right of citizens to move freely between states, so our legislative options are limited.
Under my leadership, Maui County is returning to its role in developing infrastructure needed for housing construction. For example, my administration initiated a public-private partnership with the developer of Waikapu Country Town to add 213 additional workforce housing units (bringing the total to 500) in exchange for Maui County’s commitment to build the new Central Maui Wastewater Reclamation plant and make road improvements. The County is planning to build 500 more affordable rentals and attainable homes for purchase on County-owned land across the road from Waikapu Country Town.
At the same time. we are actively seeking Federal funds to help pay for needed infrastructure. This will help to expedite construction of nearly 2,000 approved affordable housing units currently in the pipeline.
We are simultaneously trying to reduce regulatory barriers and delays that impede home construction. We recently launched, MAPPS, a new system for moving permitting applications to be processed entirely online. We’ve started a new internal review process called AHMN (Attainable Housing Maui Nui), in which departments meet with home-builders early in the permitting process to identify and overcome obstacles that could delay construction.
Finally, Maui County’s Title 19 zoning code was adopted in 1960 and has not undergone a comprehensive update in 62 years. Amendments made over he years sometimes conflict with other code sections. It takes time to reconcile the differences which delays the permitting process. I have asked the Department of Planning to begin the lengthy process of rewriting Title 19. We look forward to working with the Maui County Council on codifying these needed changes.
Rising inflation has significantly worsened Hawaii’s already high cost of living. What can be done at the county level to help residents cope with high consumer prices?
The primary drivers of inflation–pandemic-related worker shortages, supply chain problems and the war in Ukraine’s impact on fuel prices are far outside of Hawaii’s scope of influence. However, Maui County recently adjusted its real property tax rates to lower taxes on owner-occupied units that is providing some financial relief to our residents. Maui County has numerous social service programs that act as “safety nets” for those most hurt by inflation and our high cost of living.
What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness and to make housing more affordable to residents?
Chronic homelessness is a multi-faceted complex problem that defies one-size-fits-all solutions. Some homeless individuals are coping with temporary financial hardship, but several social programs can help them get back on their feet. Many chronically homeless people have untreated health conditions, such as mental illness, substance abuse disorders, physical disabilities or other medical conditions. Others have escaped an abusive home while some simply choose to live outdoors.To break the cycle of homelessness, those agree to seek help have access to shelter programs that can help them to get into permanent, subsidized housing supported by wrap-around services. We are powerless to help anyone who refuses assistance. Maui County works in alignment with Federal and State plans to end homelessness; both are crucial funding sources.
We are already in the process of making housing more attainable by increasing supply through expediting construction of affordable housing that residents can afford to rent or buy. Maui County crruently has nearly 2,000 approved affordable units in the pipeline. My response to the first question details what my administration is doing right now to clear barriers to building more homes.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, what more should county government do to protect residents’ health?
The health and well-being of Maui County residents has always been my top priority and pandemic or not, that will never change. Our smart public health rules, widespread free testing, and promoting free vaccinations through the Hawaii DOH kept Maui’s positivity rates and mortality rates among the lowest in the nation.
At this stage in the pandemic, residents have been fully informed and have decided what, if anything, they are willing to do to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. I continue to actively monitor healthcare capacity in Maui County as well as transmission rates. However, if another variant like the Delta variant arises and poses a danger to public health, I will not hesitate to issue needed public health mandates to protect the community. It is much more important to do what is right than working about what is popular.
What should county government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?
Maui County has offered and administered multiple programs during the pandemic to help households and businesses that were affected by the pandemic. This included grants and business loans as well as direct rental, food and utility assistance to households.
Our efforts are now directed at improving and strengthening our local economy so more people can get back to work for the long term. That said, Maui County has multiple social programs available to residents who are still economically distressed by the pandemic. Our Department of Housing & Human Concerns provides grants to nonprofit providers and work with them to help our more vulnerable populations get the assistance they need.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make county government more transparent to the public?
I believe Maui County government has ample regulations and guidelines in place to ensure transparency, in addition to offering multiple opportunities for community consultation through written or oral testimony. I do not believe additional reforms are needed.
Do you think more needs to be done at the county level to manage tourism? If so, what would you propose?
Maui County is a community first and a visitor destination second. Over the years, we lost that balance and it’s time restore it. Maui is consistently in the world’s top five travel destinations so we must act now. My administration has some initiatives underway such as PARKMaui that would set aside free parking for residents and change visitors to park at County-provided attractions and beach parks. We are working with the hospitality industry to help with their Destination Management Action Plan and with the Maui Visitors Bureau to educate our visitors on local values and customs. One of Hawaii’s last remaining Hawaiian communities–Hana–gets a disproportionate share of visitors on a daily bases. Hana Highway, the famous “Road to Hana” has gone from a leisurely scenic drive to a crowded road where visitor stop anyplace to take selfies or visit sites recommended on social media that may or may not be available to the public. It is a growing public safety concern because there is only one road in an out of Hana for emergency vehicles. To manage this situation, the County of Maui must work with the State of Hawaii and the Federal government to design a reservation program that preserves visitor access while respecting the residents of Hana. I prefer to manage tourism through collaboration with all stakeholders than through edicts and regulations.
What would you propose to help diversify the county’s economy beyond tourism?
My major focus areas for economic diversification include boosting Maui-grown food and related value-added prepared products; encouraging the health and wellness sector, advancing e-commerce for Maui-made items, and developing the creative economy including film, television, digital arts as well as traditional arts and culture. We also see opportunity for STEM sectors with a focus on ecosystem research and environmental restoration, and a heavy emphasis on job and career training to prepare our workforce for careers beyond service jobs.
What can county government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise?
I recently spoke at the non-partisan Climate Mayor’s Leadership Summit in Reno, NV. Mayors are on the front lines of every crisis, so we know that climate change is real, it’s here and it’s very expensive.
Sea level rise and coastal erosion are threatening a crucial portion of Honoapiilani Highway on Maui, so it must be moved inland to prevent a major washout. The Hawaii State Department of Transportation estimates the realignment will cost approximately $94 million in design and construction costs. At nearly $57,000 per Maui County resident, we couldn’t fix this without serious assistance from state and federal funding. Our local communities should not shoulder the financial burden caused by decisions made in boardrooms far away from Hawaii. This is why I decided to file suit against 20 fossil fuel companies for damages caused by their products. Our climate attorneys, working on contingency, say it’s worth pursuing even if litigation takes several years.
I believe Maui County has a responsibility to develop and execute a plan for managed retreat of public assets located near shoreline areas. However, the County is not in a position to prevent or mitigate damage to privately-owned shoreline properties.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
Yes, I have a heart for the people of Maui County and this passion drives me to work very hard on their behalf. I am the first to arrive at the office at dawn and the last to leave at night. During the pandemic, my staff and I worked seven days a week doing whatever was needed to support the people of our community. I personally helped with drive-through food distributions, ensuring our kupuna in assisted living had proper care when the pandemic hit their staff, and visiting the rural communities of Hana, Lanai and Molokai to oversee sanitation and other mitigation efforts. My decisions are always based on what I believe to be the best for the people of Maui County–I always strive to achieve the right balance between the needs of our residents, our environment and our economy. My leadership has been tested by wildfires, floods, droughts and even a global pandemic. Maui County has emerged from all of these things with healthy citizens, a rebounding economy, and a low unemployment rate. Now it’s time to expedite housing construction, diversify the economy, rebuild our infrastructure and prepare for climate change. Maui County needs the continuity of experienced, respected leadership. Serving as the mayor of Maui County has been my greatest professional honor and I respectfully request voters to allow me to finish the job I began in 2019.
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