Community Calls for County Funds
Community members had the chance to tell county officials and representatives Thursday that although Molokai is distinct from other islands in the county, they deserve the equal support in the next Fiscal Year 2015 Maui County budget.
“[Our islands] are not the same, but we are not divided,” said Ruth Ululani Manu to county officials at the budget hearing. “We are one ohana.”
Concerned residents, organizations and community leaders voiced which public services need continued and additional support from the county for the next fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014. Although Mayor Alan Arakawa could not attend the meeting due to a U.S. mayor’s conference in Virginia, Keith Regan, county managing director, stepped in on his behalf.
“We’re here to listen to you, to take back your feedback and…to try to do what we can to help out the community,” said Regan. “I look forward to hearing your comments and I look forward to putting some of those comments in our budget as we go forward in our fiscal year 15 process.”
Maui County Council Molokai representative Stacey Crivello also made an appearance at the meeting.
“I’m so proud to see so many of the Molokai people here to step forward and to share our needs and our thank you’s to our administration,” said Crivello. “I’m here to listen so when it comes down to [Molokai], I can make sure that we’re not left out.”
Business and Economic Development
The county has done well supporting business boosting services on the island such as the Maui Economic Opportunity (MEO) Business Development Center and the classes they provide, according to Suzette Kahana, owner and clothing designer of Kalapaki Girl Dezigns.
“I have been very lucky to be a participant in the Core Four program which teaches us about business,” she said. “I had no idea on the basics but…my business has been very successful and they are always available for questions I may have.”
In recent years, according to Molokai Chamber of Commerce President Robert Stephenson, the Office of Economic Development (OED) has shifted funding towards on-island programs with long-term benefits rather than individual events.
“That’s an important change because supporting just events–although it fuses momentary funds into the community–those funds stop at that point,” said Stephenson. “But putting money and funding behind revenue-generating programs helps the organizations continue to thrive and build on their previous successes.”
However, because the island’s economic base is largely made up of small businesses and mom-and-pop shops, others believe the county has been giving Molokai monetary crumbs.
“The Office of Economic Development budget for Molokai is insufficient, we all know this,” said Molokai businesswoman Barbara Haliniak. “One cannot compare the economic impact of Molokai events to Maui events.”
Haliniak said that last year, out of 18 businesses OED gave funding to in order to attend the Made in Hawaii Festival on Oahu, only three came from Molokai. She said 15 businesses came from Maui.
To support bigger projects in the future, Haliniak requested the OED’s budget for Molokai to increase from $100,000 to $200,000 for fiscal year 2015.
“More planning and support is needed for our community and until Molokai can secure bigger funding from OED’s budget, this small dent will remain small for Molokai’s economic development,” she said.
MEO Bus Service
Many of the speakers expressed that the MEO bus is an integral service for the community. This year, Molokai residents called to keep bus funding strong.
“The MEO bus keeps our people moving and that’s very important because in the 1970s, when I first came here, there was nothing like that,” said east end resident Mililani Hanapi.
Elizabeth Colman, a Molokai Middle School UPLINK instructor, said students in her afterschool homework program heavily rely on the bus, as well as those involved in many other extracurricular activities. In addition to the students utilizing the bus, the service also affects her personally.
“My daughter attends Kilohana School on the east end and she utilizes MEO in the morning as well as in the afternoon,” she said. “I have three girls and they all went to Kilohana School. I couldn’t afford to go back and forth every day because we live in town.”
Stephenson argues the bus is one of the most important services on Molokai.
“I can personally see people all the way from the west end to the east end utilize that transportation,” he said. “Not only to get back and forth from social programs and to the hospital, but for work as well, so that bus is part of the economic sustainability of this island.”
Substance Abuse Recovery and Mental Health
Shari Lynn told county officials she works at the best job in Maui County and perhaps the state–substance abuse treatment, recovery, support and housing on Molokai.
She thanked the county for their continued support, which has been used to pay for utilities and an organic farm, which feeds clients and their families.
“Persons with addictions and who struggle with poverty or mental illnesses may not have the best or healthiest eating habits,” said Lynn. “Our farm teaches how to grow, harvest, and consume fresh produce to boost nutrition while in recovery.”
Lynn requested more funding because she said Molokai had been overlooked for funding in a 2013 state request for proposal (RFP) for substance abuse treatment and those with pro-occurring mental health issues.
“It seems they thought that maybe people on Molokai didn’t struggle with the same needs that addicts struggle with everywhere,” she said. “I don’t think it’s fair or appropriate that our state didn’t include us in that package…and I think our county has a special kuleana to take care of people on Molokai as well.”
Other services that received vocal support at the budget meeting included the 4H Livestock Club, the Red Cross, domestic violence programs, Molokai’s water utilities, and the Molokai Humane Society.
“I’m a mom with three dogs and thank god we have a vet on the island,” said resident and owner of Kalele Bookstore Teri Waros. “It’s really scary if you’re over here and you have to make it to Maui in an emergency, so it’s a huge program for all of us.”
After each county department submits their budget proposals and after all public comment is collected, the county will analyze their projected revenues and compile a budget, which will be presented to the County Council in March 2014, said Maui County Budget Director Sandy Baz.
The community can continue to provide input about the budget by filling out the 2013 Community Survey at mauicounty.gov. Surveys will be accepted until Thursday, Oct. 31.