J.Kalani English

Senate committee tours Maui County

The Maui News
Thursday, October 11, 2007

By EDWIN TANJI, City Editor

WAILUKU – It was an opportunity for their colleagues from other islands to see what the state is accomplishing in Maui County, Sen. J. Kalani English said Wednesday of a three-day site visit of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Led by Maui Sen. Roz Baker, Ways and Means chairwoman, members of the state Senate money committee had an extended tour of facilities on Maui and Lanai that have benefitted from the Legislature's support – or may need additional support.

English said that he planned the itinerary to Lanai specifically to include travel on the Expeditions Lanai-Maui ferry that carries the bulk of residents and visitors to the former Pineapple Isle.

"I wanted them to have that experience, where they have to get on the boat and go over, since 80 percent of the traffic to Lanai is through the ferry," he said.

At Manele Harbor, English added, the Senate panel was met by Harbormaster Sherry Menze, who explained the improvements that had been authorized by the Legislature.

"She met the ferry and provided a look at how the gateway to Lanai is coming along," English said. "She was able to show how it is a collaborative effort on which Lanai people worked very hard to come up with a plan, to come up with the design and then to win the state monies and the federal monies that made it happen."

Fellow Maui Sen. Shan Tsutsui, Ways and Means vice chairman, said the tour was an introduction to Maui County concerns especially for senators from Oahu, who are essential to winning approval for projects and programs.

"We wanted to get the most out of three days," Tsutsui said.

The tour began Monday with stops at King Kekaulike High School, the new University of Hawaii astronomy technology center in Pukalani, the Maui Research & Technology Park, Kihei Charter School, Hale Mahaolu Senior Living Center and Honolua Bay.

On Tuesday, the committee moved on to Lanai, to Lanai High and Elementary School, the Lanai Community Hospital and Manele Harbor.

Wednesday, the committee was back on Maui with stops at the Kaheawa Wind Farm, Maui Community College, Maui Memorial Medical Center and Ka Lima O Maui.

English, whose 6th District includes East Maui, Molokai and Lanai, said he intends to have the committee conduct a site visit to Molokai as well within a few weeks.

"It's just a logistical thing," he said.

It's already providing a little understanding on the difficulties that Molokai residents have with air travel since the site visit has been delayed because of the difficulty with scheduling flights to the island.

There were no specific problems addressed during this week's visit. If anything, Tsutsui and English said the tour provided insights on what has been accomplished and the potential of state-supported facilities such as the UH Institute for Astronomy's Maikalani Advanced Technology Research Center and Maui Memorial Medical Center.

At Maikalani, the new administrative and research center for the Institute for Astronomy on Maui, the senators were shown the development of new instruments for gathering data on the universe.

"Of course they were shown that astronomy has a potential to be a huge economic engine for Maui as a clean-technology industry. We were shown the development of instruments for getting faint amounts of light through technologies that have the same magnitude as the large observatories but with much smaller mirrors and polymers," he said. He said the Institute for Astronomy managers also explained their efforts to reach to the community to create support for the programs that require use of the Haleakala summit for research.

"They're going to make sure the cultural links are strong because the Hawaiians were great astronomers as well," English said.

At Maui Memorial Medical Center, he said, the committee was shown the new programs allowed with completion of the $42 million north wing funded by a state general obligation bond.

"They were telling us how Queen's sends its patients over from Oahu, and Hilo is flying its patients over because we have the best imaging system. . . . Now that was really good for Maui, and especially for our Oahu and other Neighbor Island senators to hear. It was very fulfilling," English said.

"It was to cover with a broad brush everything from infrastructure to operating needs," Tsutsui said. "The main object was to have some of our colleagues have a firsthand experience with some of the projects they have approved, some of the concerns and some of the trouble spots."

Committee members participating included Ron Menor, Jill Tokuda and Donna Mercado Kim of Oahu, and Gary Hooser of Kauai.

Edwin Tanji can be reached at editor@mauinews.com.

Copyright © 2005 The Maui News.

Original article URL: http://www.mauinews.com/news/2007/10/11/04Sena1011.html

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