Maui Mayor Richard Bissen addresses axis deer, housing fund in annual address
Before 200 attendees, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen addressed the county's needs in his first State of the County address since election.
"With just 12 weeks in, our team is focused on common sense priorities of water, housing, infrastructure, economic diversification and the protection of our environment," Bissen said.
During the speech, he highlighted the need to develop water systems, increase housing investments and address long-standing county problems.
Bissen said he's been working with state and county officials to open the Kūlanihākoʻi High School in Kihei, as well as with the Kihei Community Association Kihei Parents Hui.
The high school’s opening has been on hold for the last decade, and students have been temporarily located at Lokelani Intermediate School.
"For many years, the opening of Kūlanihākoʻi High School in Kihei by the state Department of Education has been affected by paperwork, planning and permit issues," Bissen said. "For the past two months, my team and I have been working with the involved state agencies, the Department of Education, the Department of Transportation, the state Land Use Commission and the governor's office."
"I'm pleased to announce that last week we submitted to Gov. Green our terms for an agreement that would indemnify the county from the conditions imposed by the Land Use Commission," he said, adding that Green is expected to sign the indemnification this week.
This movement would allow the county to issue a temporary certificate of occupancy, and would prohibit pedestrian crossing at the Kihei roundabout.
Additionally, the county is still in the midst of addressing axis deer migration caused by severe droughts last year. Bissen said the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has discovered 100,000 deer among the three islands.
"These animals continue to destroy crops, remove critical vegetation causing our lands to be barren, acutely contributing the dangerous flooding and water runoff and hazardous mud conditions from mauka to makai," Bissen said.
He proposed developing a "market incentive."
"We will provide an economic stream of venison products, making use of an existing certified processing plant on Maui and bringing to fruition a plan to manage and mitigate thousands of axis deer that have started to invade our precious watersheds, valuable grazing and farmlands, backyards and gardens, roadway and public parks," he said.
Under Bissen's proposal, the county will increase its Affordable Housing Fund by more than $40 million, upping revenue streams.
Bissen said there are currently 13 housing projects in different stages of completion that will create more than 2,660 affordable housing units.
"A mayor’s job is to set not only the priorities, but the tone of how we choose to interact and treat each other, especially in times of legitimate and passionate disagreement," Bissen said.
"In our county, our state, and our country, over the last several years, we have witnessed and experienced a division not seen in a very long time. We do not have to accept this. We can, and must do better by working together, side by side."
Bissen will address other county budget proposals on Friday, before the Maui County Council.