March 15, 2024

Mayor Richard T. Bissen, Jr. delivers 2024 State of the County Address

In his 2024 State of the County Address this evening, Mayor Richard T. Bissen, Jr. reflected on the worst fire tragedy in the modern history of the United States – the August 2023 Maui wildfires – while vowing to tackle the long-existing housing crisis through a new rent stabilization proposal and a measure to crack down on illegal short-term rentals.

Mayor Bissen announced during the speech that he will submit to the Maui County Council proposed legislation to help stabilize rent in Maui County.

“My proposal is intended to bring relief to thousands of our residents who face growing insecurity of having a roof over their head for themselves and their families, and to help bring stability to our community’s great need for housing while fairly balancing the needs of rental property owners,” he said.

Mayor Bissen also announced that he will be reversing a 2011 internal County policy of not taking anonymous complaints regarding illegal short-term rentals. Soon, the Planning Director will begin taking all complaints over illegal short-term rentals and will pursue them to the fullest extent. Additionally, the Minatoya units that are classified as exempt will undergo a policy and legal review, as the Mayor and his administration seek more options for housing.

Mayor Bissen’s State of the County Address on Friday night drew hundreds of dignitaries, officials and community members to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater in Kahului.

Much of the evening reflected on the August 2023 tragedy and offered mahalo for the many who supported Maui in one of its greatest times of need. When the August wildfires hit Lahaina and Kula, 101 lives were lost, two people remain unaccounted for and hundreds of properties were destroyed or damaged.

“I am here to report that the state of our County is heartbroken,” Mayor Bissen said.

“Out of this tragedy, we will rise together, stronger, more resilient, and committed as a community united in not only our rebuilding, but our regrowth,” he added

Mayor Bissen was only seven months into office when devastating wildfires simultaneously swept through Kula, Kihei and Lahaina. His team immediately responded once the fires began, helping with evacuations, dispatching critical communications and launching food hubs. Local teams were soon assisted by state and federal partners, along with key nonprofits and non-government organizations. While police, fire and other emergency responders put their lives on the line, heroes were rising from those in uniform – and from those in everyday places.

Most of all, the mayor lauded the community of Maui Nui for its unparalleled response to care for family, friends, neighbors and even strangers.  

“There are countless acts of kindness and courage that tell the story of a community in action, doing whatever it took to help friends as well as strangers,” Mayor Bissen said.

During the address, Mayor Bissen announced that despite the fires, the County retained its excellent bond rating. After extensive review of the County’s financial management and condition, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s rating agencies reported the financial outlook for the County is “stable.”

Deemed the worst wildfire disaster in modern U.S. history, the August blazes exacerbated already complex crises in Maui County, including the lack of affordable housing, water shortages and infrastructure needs.

Mayor Bissen, in establishing a Lahaina Advisory Team of six volunteers who have deep roots in Lahaina, along with the County’s Office of Recovery, is responding to recovery and rebuilding. Meanwhile, his departments are continuing to work on important daily operations such as housing solutions, sustainable water sources and repairing and upgrading critical infrastructure.

To view or download a copy of Mayor Bissen’s 2024 State of the County Address, visit www.mauicounty.gov/mayor. A video of the address can be found on the County of Maui Facebook page; a separate video will be uploaded on the County of Maui website in the future.

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