Ideas for Improving Maui County

As we get ready for a new Administration and many new members of the County Council — bringing us to 6 out of 9 women/moms! — I am thinking about all the opportunities for improving the lives of working families.

For example, we need to figure out how to reduce commuting in this community — not only to begin to seriously address our role in climate change, but also so that parents have more time to be with their families and/or get work done.

Yet in addition to tele-commuting and flex-time — which can be isolating sometimes — we need a variety of options for parent workers like co-working spaces that provide childcare or co-housing and co-op situations where people who don’t have children live with people who do or parents live in housing that is built in such a way that it makes it easier to support each other.

When I was a kid, I lived in a development that was built by the ILWU in San Francisco, and designed specifically for young families so that parents could easily watch their kids play in a grassy area with other neighborhood kids from inside apartments, and with lots of common areas that encouraged community. But in order to make these options work, we need innovative municipal governments that provide zoning and other kinds of support for new ways of living and working.

The reality is that we used to have a system where there was one person who took care of all the family and home needs 24/7 for a good 18 years, and no matter how many laws we pass, we’re going to have a hard time making up for that person. So we do need to pass laws, but we also need other kinds of policies and programs that make it easier for families.

In Lean On and Lead, I talk about Family-Centered Design thinking, which seeks to reshape society and the economy to meet the needs of the family rather than the other way around. If local officials were to realize that thriving families are essential to a thriving economy, and utilized family design thinking in planning and zoning decisions, when looking at private-public partnerships, and integrated into the tax structure, we could start developing physical and logistical infrastructures that make family life easier.

There are so many opportunities right in front of us. We can do this, Maui County.