Letters to the Editor: Environmental Coverage & Affordable Housing

Environment and Sustainability: What Should Maui Times Cover?

Maui Times’ first community brainstorming discussion garnered dozens of  suggestions for important stories that our publication (and others) should research and report on in the coming year.

Illustration By Jeremy Acpal

The conversation kicked off with insights from Dick Mayer and Lucienne de Naie, two longtime environmental activists who have advocated to protect Maui’s ‘Aina for nearly 100 combined years.

de Naie is currently the chairperson of the Sierra Club Maui Group as well as being Vice President of Maui Tomorrow.

Meyers believes the most critical issues for future Maui Times coverage are “pollution of our air, water and land; overpopulation; exploitation of resources; and the polarization of the quality of life between those who have and those who have not.” He also pointed out that protecting our environment must also include protecting Maui’s many cultural elements.

De Naie narrowed her hopes for future Maui Times coverage down to a single concept, “there’s one word that sums up everything a good newspaper needs to cover, and that’s accountability. If our news organizations don’t hold institutions accountable, I don’t know who else is going to do it.” De Naie’s  list of issues deserving more “accountability” was extensive and included land use laws; water resources; the rights of those who are voiceless such as creatures in the sea and native plants and animals; affordable housing; the education system; and the Kuleana rights of native Hawaiians. 

Others attending the event offered a wide variety of topics for future coverage including watershed protection; sustainable versus corporate agriculture; the need to write about ecological issues from a scientific perspective; non-point source contamination; affordable housing; recycling solutions and many more. Suggestions ranged from a simple “problem and solution” format for tackling eco challenges to recommending an “Ask the County” column.

Maui Times appreciates your feedback and fresh ideas about the most important issues for our reporting. Over the coming months we will be hosting additional listening sessions on:

• How we should cover high school extra-curricular activities.

• How we should cover the Mind, Body, Spirit community.

• How we should cover small business.

• How we can make our already great print and digital calendar sections even more beneficial to our readers and the non-profit organizations that use our free listings to inform the community about their important and fun activities.

At the May 1, Earth Day event, more than 100 additional comments were received from community members about what environmental issues Maui Times should cover in the coming year. 

We are still taking additional input on environmental and sustainabilty issues until May 31, 2022. So let us know what you think. 

Everyone who fills out the survey will receive a synopsis of our results as well as a link to the video where you can hear directly from Dick Mayer, Lucienne de Naie and others. 

Please scan this QR code to participate.


Tommy Russo and J.  Sam Weiss

Affordable Housing or Developer Giveaway?

Maui Times ran an article in its May 2022 issue entitled “County Offers to Swap Infrastructure for Affordable Housing.” This is again another attempt by our Mayor and the County Council to solve a massive problem with a band-aid solution.

Let’s look at the math of the County’s offer. Our County officials are in essence buying 500 so-called, affordable homes for $87,000,000 (the cost to taxpayers) by putting in the sewer treatment plant for developer Mike Atherton. This essentially equates to a cost to the County of $174,000 per house. Now if we allow Mr. Atherton a reasonable 20 percent profit margin for building these homes, he should be selling them to people on the affordable housing waiting list for about $209,000. This would serve the people earning 80 percent of Maui median income—the group of people, according to my brother Stan Franco of Stand-up Maui, most in need of truly affordable housing. Will Mr. Atherton do this? I fear that he might not because he is in the business of making the most money possible. He could sell the houses for as much as $350,000 and still be meeting the requirements of the standards of affordable housing as defined by the County of Maui. If he does so, he could make a profit of about $70,500,000 ($350,000 minus $209,000 times 500). And with the gift the County of Maui is given him of $87,000,000 for the sewer treatment plant, Mr. Atherton could be smiling all the way to his bank with a gain of $157,500,000. Not too shabby. If this happens, I suspect other developers like Everett Dowling and Peter Martin would hope for the same kind of support from the County for their projects too. And that could well happen since the County is setting the precedent with Mr. Atherton’s project.

Questions remain as to who will get these homes. Will it be political insiders? Or, will the availability of getting one of these homes be on a lottery system? Will these homes be put in the pool of perpetual affordability or will the owners of these homes have the right to sell them on the open market after 10 years. We have seen that done before also.

The solution to truly affordable workforce housing was accomplished by Mayors Elmer Cravalho and Hannibal Tavares. They made the County the developer of affordable homes and they worked with Labor Unions to get these homes to the working families of Maui. I would like to see that idea go one step further and propose a Hawaiian-Homes -like program for people who don’t qualify for Hawaiian Homes. That way only the actual cost of the house will be paid by Maui’s working family, while the land, which amounts to more than 60% of the total price of a sale in today’s real estate market, will be held in leasehold by the County or the Maui Housing Authority. Creating a separate non-speculative market controlled by the cooperation of the private and public sectors is to me the only reasonable way we can solve our housing issues, and it must be done ASAP before our visitors have to start cooking their own hamburgers at McDonald’s.

—Norman C. Franco, President, Affordable Homes & Housing LLC

Maui Times