HONOLULU (KHON2) – Maui County voters have decided to have Michael Victorino and Richard Bissen face off on Nov. 8 in Hawaii’s Maui County mayor election.
Victorino and Bissen were asked 10 questions — a mix of serious and less serious ones — that both reflect their stance on issues as well as their personalities.
Below are Victorino’s answers. Click here to see Bissen’s responses.
1. What are your top three priorities?
My top three priorities are:
- Expediting construction of housing that Maui County residents can afford to rent or buy
- Diversifying our economy to become more self-reliant in food, fuel and less dependent on outside economic forces
- Preparing for the inevitable problems that climate change will continue to bring to Hawaii
2. What policies are you looking to change?
One major policy I’ve already changed is recommitting Maui County to build infrastructure needed to build homes instead of requiring developers to build it. Another policy change is seeking public/private partnerships to reduce the price of workforce units in exchange for the County’s infrastructure support, various exemptions, subsidies and/or incentives. We’re also investing some of our Affordable Housing Funds into acquiring long-term rental apartment buildings before they can be converted into short-term vacation rentals allowed by zoning. Maui needs affordable rentals much more than additional visitor accommodations.
3. What feedback have you heard from the community that you plan on tackling?
I hear often that “over-tourism” is hurting the community’s quality of life. Maui County is a community first, a visitor destination second and we’re working to restore that balance. When I became mayor, I forbid all commercial activities at our beach parks on Sundays and holidays so families can enjoy a peaceful weekend together. My administration has also acquired two new beach parks, additional parks in Kahului and Makawao, and shorefront land to establish a North Shore Preservation Zone. Plus, we are working with the State DLNR to assume management of Keawakapu Beach in South Maui to expand and upgrade parking and other amenities. We are also preparing to launch ParkMAUI–a program that charges visitors for parking while offering free reserved parking for residents at popular County sites.
4. Are you a dog or cat person?
I’m much too busy to take care of any pet, but if I had the time, I would love to have a dog.
5. What do you plan on getting done within your first 100 days in office?
As the incumbent mayor, I will continue working on the agenda I had when I took office in 2019. The pandemic disrupted that work. While the emergency phase of COVID-19 seems to be over, its longer term impacts like supply chain problems, rising inflation, and shortage of workers are still with us. It will take more time for conditions to improve and normalize here, and around the world.
6. What advice would you give yourself at age 16?
I would tell myself to always put God and family first. And to work diligently, always do your best, be honest, be hopeful, and never give up.
7. How do you plan on combating the housing crisis in your county?
My administration has a three-pronged approach to expedite the supply of housing throughout Maui County.
1) As mentioned, I recommitted the County to building needed infrastructure (upgrading to green infrastructure whenever possible) and entering into public-private partnerships that exchange additional housing units and/or lower sales price for the County’s support.
2) To expedite permitting, we launched MAPPS, an online system that eliminates the need to move paperwork between offices. We also have a new system that brings developers and permitting staff together early in the process to identify potential problems and solutions to prevent costly delays. Finally, I’ve directed our Planning Department to review the County building codes for consistency to identify and resolve conflicts. This hasn’t been done since 1960 and inconsistencies in the code often delay permit approvals.
3) With the new county Transient Accommodations Tax surcharge, we’re helping with emergency rent and mortgage relief. For first-time home buyers, we deliver financial education and down payment assistance programs. The County also supports development of affordable rental options for residents who aren’t quite ready for home ownership.
8. What sets you apart from your opponent?
I come from a working-class family, and I got married and had my sons at a young age. I know what it’s like to work multiple jobs and still struggle to make ends meet. I have compassion for local families who love Maui County and want to be able to raise their families here. Many obstacles are outside the control of local government, but it’s important to do whatever we can for the people who built this community with generations of hard work. I devoted the past 40 years to volunteer community service and 16 years in elected office. I learned that leadership requires much more than offering up good ideas–that’s the easy part. It gets hard when it’s time to execute your ideas. What sets me apart is my years of practical experience and network of relationships at the county, state and federal level.
9. What do you think will be your biggest obstacle in achieving your goals as mayor, and how do you plan to address it?
Mayors achieve their goals with community consensus but building consensus isn’t always simple or easy. I address this by bringing all stakeholders together to find common ground and move on from there. This is how I’ve been able to change disagreements into agreements. Partnerships and relationships built on trust are necessary for any mayor to achieve important goals.
10. Favorite local spot to eat at?
I love Tasty Crust in Wailuku. It’s an old school diner that opened in 1957. Back in the day, I took my wife Joycelyn there when we were dating. I even took Governor Ige there for breakfast because Tasty Crust makes the best pancakes in the Pacific.
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Voters will receive their ballots in the mail by Oct. 21.