A Call to Take Back Ranch Lands

Community meeting takes the first step for eminent domain.

From left to right: Alton Arakaki, Mahina Martin, Danny Mateo, Steve Morgan, Mahealani Davis, and DeGray Vanderbilt.

A Show of Support

Of the many who attended the meeting, a vast majority expressed overwhelming support for the plan by a show of hands.

Walter Ritte, homesteader and one of the night’s organizers, stressed that the community coming out and supporting eminent domain was an important first step. He said the purpose of gathering the community together was to educate and fight back.

“These state agencies do not work; they have failed us,” he said. “They have abandoned us because they have been threatened by big business, and they have put the burden on us.”

Concern was raised, however, over getting the whole county of Maui behind an issue that only affects Molokai.

In response, Martin reiterated what has become a catchphrase for the county – that if the Ranch is allowed to walk away, it will set a bad precedent for other private companies providing essential services, which is something that should be a concern for all.

To questions about who will control the Ranch lands if acquired, Davis stressed that starting eminent domain proceedings are just a way to force the Ranch to the table, and open the door to discussing options.

Residents also flocked to sign two petitions circulating that night.

While one urged the county to begin eminent domain proceedings, the second called the rate increases approved by the PUC “arbitrary and unjustified,” and petitioned the PUC to order the two water utilities to continue operating if its customers cannot pay the higher water bills, and to fine the utilities the maximum amount for any violation of the law, including non-compliance.

Vanderbilt acknowledged the difficulty facing West End residents with the significantly higher water rates. The recommendation to “pay what you can,” was given, while stressing that not paying at all will result in a termination of water service.

Next Steps

In order to initiate eminent domain proceedings, the Maui County Council will have to introduce a resolution that would require five votes to pass. Mateo said the resolution would have to be deferred to the council’s Policy Committee, which he chairs.

Molokai residents, however, are urged to become active in the process. A meeting was held at Kulana O`iwi this week Wednesday to discuss the details and questions surrounding the issues of eminent domain and the increased water rates in the West End.

Residents were able to ask questions about either of these issues, including the status of funds pledged earlier this year to the MCSC in support of purchasing the Ranch lands


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