Maui Moratorium Veto
Yesterday, the Maui County Council took up a vote to override Mayor Victorino's veto of Bill 60 (2021) which would have placed a moratorium on the issuance of building permits for visitor accommodations in West and South Maui for the next two years. In a surprising turn of events, joining the steadfast opposition of Council Chair Alice Lee and Councilmember Yuki Lei Sugimura were council members Paltin and Rawlings-Fernandez, who switched their positions citing potential legal challenges to the measure. The final votes were cast at 4 noes to 4 ayes with one councilmember absent. The verdict: The Mayor's veto stands.
We opposed this targeted legislation from the onset and supported the Mayor's veto. I pointed to the fact that not only is this measure being proposed at a time that the industry is trying to recover from a global pandemic, but by restricting the number of brick-and-mortar lodging options available for visitors, which has actually decreased in recent years, it will drive visitors to book more short-term vacation rentals.
I would like to give kudos to all our industry partners that weighed in on this matter and to the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association led by Chair Michael Pye, Executive Director Rod Antone, and Membership Coordinator Christine Christensen for staying on top of this issue and for vocalizing the industry's stance before the Maui Council.
With the successful veto of Bill 60, the council now shifts their attention to an island-wide moratorium proposal that was sent to the Maui Planning Commission in June. The Commission has till September 7 to schedule a public hearing on the measure.
This past Thursday, Governor Ige held a news conference to outline the details in his latest Emergency Proclamation. He announced, in concert with the county mayors, that state and county workers will now be required to get the COVID-19 vaccination. If for personal reasons they choose not to get inoculated, they will need to provide weekly COVID-19 tests. His announcement came on the same day that Hawai'i recorded its highest number of new positive coronavirus cases since the onset of the pandemic with a staggering count of 655, and the number of daily cases since then continues to exceed 600. Per Governor Ige's remarks, government workers under the state and county executive branches must show proof of vaccination by August 16th or they will be subject to regular testing at their own cost.
During his press conference, it was gratifying to hear Governor's response to a question posed by the media on what kind of message he would send to tourists in light of his announcements. The Governor responded by stating that tourists have the option to visit our islands and that we continue to see strong demand. While we do see an increase in travel related COVID-19 cases, the vast majority of these are coming from return residents, and that those tied to visitors to our islands continues to be a very low percentage. More often than not, our industry finds itself at the opposite end of pointed fingers, so it is appreciated when government officials help us dispel the notion that tourism is to blame.
In addition to the new vaccination policy for government workers, induced in the Governor's latest Emergency Proclamation is the end of the State's eviction moratorium, and the continuation of the mandatory mask mandate for indoor public areas and the Safe Travels program.
This past Wednesday, we joined the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Star-Events for their annual Career Expo at the Neal Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. Twenty-two of our members displayed booths alongside businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government entities from across the island. Throughout the course of the day vendors had the opportunity to meet with nearly 1,000 prospective employees as they look to fill much needed positions. In addition to the many impressive employers present, the expo also showcased a high level of health and safety protocols with a vaccination, mask, and temperature check, extra wide walkways, sanitation stations, and more than ample social distancing.
Mahalo to the Star-Advertiser for their ongoing partnership and for allowing us the opportunity to place a special emphasis on the hospitality industry at their expo.
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