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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Mayor's address outlines diverse vision for Maui

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau

KAHULUI, Maui — Mayor James "Kimo" Apana said last night that he wants to expand the areas protected from development in the Maui County while diversifying the economy with new opportunities in the high technology, film and sports industries.

Apana also pledged no increase in property taxes during his State of the County address, held at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater.

Apana, who is up for re-election this year, delivered the speech in front of more than 600 friends and supporters who interrupted him with applause dozens of times.

The annual speech is usually delivered in the Maui County Council Chambers, but Apana moved the event to a venue with ample parking and seating and scheduled it at night to allow more people to attend.

As part of the evening, he honored 25 "unsung heroes" of Maui County, such as a physician who led the dengue fever battle on Maui and a man who distributed Christmas trees to people who couldn't afford them, and offered free stew and rice and entertainment afterward.

Council member Dain Kane said he was impressed by the show and felt the speech offered substance, although it had few details regarding costs.

"When the budget and the specifics come, then we'll get to work," Kane said.

Council member Alan Arakawa, who will be Apana's likely opponent in the next election, said Apana painted a rosy picture of his administration's accomplishments.

"The discussion and the reality are not the same. I'm not seeing what he's saying," Arakawa said.

Apana, who received a standing ovation as he entered the posh theater, described a "planned diversification" of the county as he proposed a new office in his administration to develop the sports industry. The mayor also said he wants to buy land on which to build more venues for sporting events.

"Better facilities attract quality sporting events," he said. "However, the benefits to our residents must be foremost in our endeavors. Our children will be the greatest beneficiaries. They will develop skills at the best facilities in the state."

Apana reiterated his support for the Hula Bowl college football all-star game, which has been played on Maui the past five years.

"Let me make one thing absolutely clear: The Hula Bowl belongs on Maui. I am committed. We will always be the home team."

Hula Bowl officials have said they've been approached about moving the game back to O'ahu or to the Mainland. A proposed five-year contract was to be considered this morning by a Maui County Council committee.

On the issue of open space, Apana said he would propose a bill that would implement land use policies to protect and preserve natural resources and to promote better urban design and land use planning. Apana noted that he's asked the Maui County Charter Commission to propose a charter amendment that would designate 1 percent of real property tax collections to the county's newly established open space fund.

The budget, he said, would include a proposal to join with Maui Electric Co. in providing solar water heating to residents who cannot afford it. The program would establish loans for solar energy systems that could be repaid with the savings realized on electric bills.

On affordable housing, Apana said he has directed his department heads to give top priority in reviewing plans of affordable housing projects submitted by the private sector.

He said he also has directed the Department of Housing and Human Concerns to "redouble" its efforts in pursuing affordable housing and rental assistance.