Diversifying Revenue Streams

By Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, Maui County Council Vice Chair, Molokai

Getting through 2020 took a united effort, and I am continually impressed by our community’s resilience and ability to support one another, especially in our more isolated communities like Molokai, Lanai and Hana.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us in a myriad of ways, but we were steadfast in our commitment to creating a safer, more resilient and culturally aligned community. I remain optimistic that 2021 offers hope through innovative ideas and opportunities fostered through our shared hardships.

There are three focal areas that remain paramount in helping our community through this critical time: diversifying our revenue streams, investing in ourselves and building a better system.
Last year, Hawaii ended the year with a 75 percent decline in visitor arrivals, which had a crippling effect on our state. Consequently, we are facing unprecedented challenges, including a 15 percent unemployment rate, ongoing temporary and permanent business closures and, now, potential furloughs of our teachers and government workers.

We must consider innovative ways to diversify our revenue stream and reimagine a more sustainable and regenerative economy, while seeking solutions that not only address our current challenges, but how we intend to position ourselves for a better tomorrow.

Last week, the council unanimously adopted Resolution 21-19, making Maui County the first local jurisdiction statewide to offer support for legalizing, regulating and taxing responsible, adult-use cannabis. It’s important to note that this resolution also supports granting clemency to anyone incarcerated on a cannabis conviction and expunging those convictions.

Last year, California’s two-year legalized cannabis industry surpassed a billion dollars in tax revenue for the state, providing support for childcare, public safety and research. Recently, State Rep. Tina Wildberger proposed a cannabis-legalization bill at the legislature, which could offer similar benefits to Hawaii.

I am honored my fellow councilmembers entrusted me as vice-chair of the council and chair of the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee for a second term. I embrace the opportunity to work with my constituents and fellow lawmakers to continue enduring through the pandemic.

Over the next two years, I plan to focus intently on building capacity within our community by cultivating mentorship opportunities for our next generation of leaders and strengthening their interest and involvement in decision-making.

Our council continues to lead in accessibility to the county’s decision-making process, allowing people the opportunity to safely provide oral and video testimony online.

We will continue ensuring transparency and visibility for the public by integrating software to make the county’s finances more user-friendly and accessible during the budget session and throughout the year.

For more information on ways to get involved, please visit keanirawlinsfernandez.com. I hope you will join me in answering the kahea to serve and elevate Maui County for a brighter future.