MauiTime 2010 Endorsements
October 28, 2010 | 11:16 AM
The ancient Hawaiians were famous for their nautical prowess. From the construction of their craft to the crews that paddled them, foresight, teamwork and a keen understanding of the prevailing conditions were all key to successful voyages over sometimes treacherous waters.
During the last four years, Maui, along with the rest of the world, has weathered a serious storm. We're battered, listing, leaking from multiple sides—but thankfully still afloat.
This week's cover image is about one event—Halloween in Lahaina—that we think exemplifies the follies of the Tavares Administration, and County government in general. A popular, lucrative party began to erode for a variety of reasons. Businesses were hurting, visitors were being turned away. It was a moment when leadership was needed, to build bridges, broker compromise and balance economic, cultural and public safety concerns.
Instead, we got a familiar response that has been the hallmark of the Tavares years: excuses rather than solutions, finger-pointing rather than problem-solving. Don't take our word for it—ask the business owners and community groups that have tried to work with the County to get the event back on track and have mostly been stonewalled.
Of course, Halloween is merely one example; there are many others. But we've said all that, and had our papers confiscated from a public building by County employees in the process. This isn't about looking back; it's about moving forward.
Ironically, Tavares's challenger is himself a former Mayor and longtime County employee. So much for radical change. But we believe Maui Nui was better off under Alan Arakawa, and we hope that after four years on the sidelines he's learned some things, both from his own mistakes (and there were a few) and those of his successor. We're under no illusions that Arakawa will wave a magic wand and make our problems disappear, and we're quite certain that if he's elected we'll have cause to criticize his decisions. But as we push against the headwind of an uncertain future—and as our island tries to revive and diversify its economy, protect its environment and secure its food and energy future—we know one thing: it's time to chart a new course.
Six of the nine Council seats are contested this year—with only Kahului's Joe Pontanilla, Upcountry's Gladys Baisa and Molokai's Danny Mateo running unopposed—which means there's plenty of opportunity for the balance of power to shift. And balance is what we tried to keep in mind—in terms of both style and ideology—when weighing which candidates to endorse.
In West Maui, we like Elle Cochran for her environmental advocacy and the fact that she's backed by popular termed-out incumbent Jo Anne Johnson, who we feel has done good things for her district and Maui as a whole. We hope Cochran can rise to the challenge and enjoy a similar run of success. Cochran's opponent, Alan Fukuyama, has run for this seat before, but we've yet to see or hear anything from him to sway us in his direction.
The Makawao-Haiku-Paia race pits youth against experience, in the form of Kai Nishiki and Mike White, respectively. We appreciate White's knowledge of and reasoned approach to the issues, and as a former state legislator we believe he has the ability to work within the system to get things done. His background in the visitor industry is a double-edged sword: we're intrigued by the possibilities of a Councilmember with extensive knowledge of one of our island's most important economic pillars, but we wonder if his divided loyalties will make him less able to serve his constituents. Nishiki is the youngest Council candidate and has never held elected office, but, as the daughter of Councilmember Wayne Nishiki, has been involved in politics for most of her adult life and frequently attends and testifies at Council meetings. Like Cochran, we believe Nishiki has the potential to grow into the office. This is a tough choice—in a good way. We like both candidates, but we're going with Nishiki because we believe she brings a sensibility and perspective that's less represented on the Council.
We don't agree with every decision Mike Victorino has made. In fact, we've frequently used him as an example of a Councilmember who fails to ask tough questions or take the long view when it comes to development proposals. But his opponent for the Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu seat, Lisa Gapero, makes this an easy call. From her combative demeanor to her "government is the problem" platitudes to her evasive answers to direct questions, Gapero strikes us as not merely a poor choice, but a potentially dangerous one.
The East Maui and Lanai races both feature former Councilmembers trying to reclaim their old jobs. In East Maui, Bob Carroll is challenging incumbent Bill Medeiros, who won the seat in 2006 when term limits forced Carroll out. We're disappointed that a more progressive candidate didn't step forward to run for this seat and feel Carroll and Medeiros have done little to differentiate themselves. Hokama is also returning after a term-limit induced hiatus, and faces challenger Matt Mano. Hokama's record on the Council wasn't perfect, but he came down on the right side of some important issues. That, coupled with his experience, gives him an edge over Mano.
No race was more discussed during our editorial deliberations than the South Maui contest between incumbent Wayne Nishiki and challenger Don Couch. In 2008 we endorsed Nishiki because of his independence and willingness to ask tough questions. We still see those qualities in him. Yet the fact remains: two years ago, Nishiki walked into our office and lied to us. He told us he hadn't taken any money from developers, yet soon after the election, we broke the story that he had, in fact, accepted a $100,000 personal loan from developer Everett Dowling. Since then, Nishiki has tried to bury the issue, choosing to seal the results of a Board of Ethics investigation and dodging questions about how he secured the loan and how much, exactly, he still owes. It remains an issue, whether or not Nishiki wants to admit it—one that speaks to his character, his truthfulness and his oft-touted commitment to transparency. We didn't come to this decision lightly, but after two years of ducking (most recently pulling out of our live debate at the last minute), we simply cannot give Nishiki another pass. As for Couch, we're supporting him, with the caveat that we will be watching very closely to make sure he is the balanced, environmentally conscious public servant he's promised to be. Actions speak louder than words and—should he win—the votes Couch casts as a member of the Council and the questions he asks (or doesn't ask) on the floor will be the gauge by which we judge him.
Of the seven Maui seats up for grabs this year, four feature candidates we can support. We'll begin with those. During his time in the legislature, District 4 Sen. Shan Tsutsui has shown an ability to get things done without compromising his core principles (no easy feat in the deal-cutting sausage factory that is the state Capitol). His dustup with Gov. Lingle over the proposed Puunene jail was a good example—he wasn't afraid to go toe-to-toe with her, but also tried to find common ground. His opponent, Eric Seibert, has distinguished himself by sign-waving on top of his van and little else.
In the state House, we're backing three Democratic incumbents, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. District 9 Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran served almost a full term after being appointed to replace the late Bob Nakasone, and by all accounts has established himself as a popular and effective legislator. District 13 Rep. Mele Carroll remains popular among her far-flung, often overlooked East Maui, Lanai and Molokai constituents, particularly on agricultural and Native Hawaiian issues. District 11 Rep. Joe Bertram, as we've noted, has made some head-scratching blunders, particularly in his personal life, but has also taken bold stands on hot-button issues like gay rights and Hawaii's voter-approved medical marijuana law. Keith-Agaran, Carroll and Bertram are opposed by GOP candidates Jeff Hoylman, Meiling Akuna and George Fontaine. All repeat the small-government mantra so popular among the Tea Party crowd, with Fonatine, a former MPD captain, adding a law and order angle.
The remaining three Democratic incumbents are District 8 Rep. Joe Souki, District 10 Rep. Angus McKelvey and District 12 Rep. Kyle Yamashita. We've made our distaste for Souki and Yamashia, two old-guard legislators who take most of their campaign cash from Oahu and Mainland interests, known. We tepidly endorsed McKelvey in 2008, but have been disappointed to see him fall more and more in lockstep with his party's good old boy base and come down on the wrong side of a number of issues, including civil union bill HB444, which he voted against. Souki, Yamashita and McKelvey are opposed by Dean Schmucker, Laurie Rinaldi and Ramon Madden, another collection of Tea Party favorites. It's worth noting here that we don't dismiss the Tea Party's central thesis: there is indeed waste and corruption in government. But we doubt whether this movement—which has been co-opted, especially at the national level, by the same Republican Party machine that drove our country into the ditch—offers any real solutions.
Sen. Dan Inouye, the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate, and District 2 Rep. Mazie Hirono each face an eclectic collection of challengers, none of whom have shown the acumen or qualifications to deserve consideration. Both Inouye and Hirono have spent years in Washington, and carry the baggage that entails. But both have also displayed a commitment to their constituents and have avoided big scandals or major missteps—something that sets them apart from many of their colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
We backed Neil Abercrombie and Brian Schatz in the primary, and nothing has changed. Well, one thing has—their opponents are now Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona and former state Rep. Lynn Finnegan. From the worn-on-his-sleeve religious views that, despite his assurances to the contrary, we believe would guide much of Aiona's decision-making to his ties to the failures of the Lingle Administration, we can think of many reasons why the election of Duke Aiona would be bad for Hawaii. And Finnegan—a rising star in the state GOP who parrots most of Aiona's social and fiscal positions—does nothing to buoy the ticket. As with every race, we're not sold on Abercrombie/Schatz as any kind of savior, and we have reservations about their ability to act as a check on the Democratic-controlled legislature, but we think they're the clear choice here.
★AMENDMENTS TO STATE CONSTITUTION AND COUNTY CHARTER★
State Constitution - Board of Education
Amends the Hawaii Constitution to change the Board of Education to a board appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, as provided by law.
We agree that public education in Hawaii needs an overhaul. But allowing the Governor to appoint the BOE doesn't address the inefficiencies in the system, it only grants more power to the Governor.
MauiTime recommends a "No" vote
State Constitution -
Tax Rebate Requirement
Allows the legislature to determine whether excess funds should be used as tax refunds or tax credits or diverted to one or more funds to serve as temporary supplemental sources of funding for the state in times of an emergency, economic downturn or unforeseen reduction in revenue.
We all like a tax refund, but, as we've seen in recent years, if we don't stash money for a rainy day essential services will be cut. This change doesn't mean tax refunds can never be given, only that the legislature will have a choice.
MauiTime recommends a "Yes" vote
County Charter - Affordable Housing Fund
Places a minimum of two percent of the certified real property tax revenues for fiscal years 2008 through 2015 into an affordable housing fund.
Maui's need for affordable housing is well-documented. Two percent of real property tax revenues won't solve the problem, but it'll help.
MauiTime recommends a "Yes" vote
County Charter - Financial Disclosure Statements
Requires candidates for County office to file financial disclosure statements concurrently with the filing of nomination papers, instead of allowing financial disclosures to be filed within 15 days of filing nomination papers.
Financial disclosure statements aren't merely a formality; in some cases they contain revealing or even damning information. Requiring them to be filed right away allows more time for public scrutiny, which is a good thing.
MauiTime recommends a "Yes" vote
County Charter - Budget and Capital Program Deadlines
Reduces by ten days the amount of time the Mayor has to veto budget and capital program ordinances, extend by ten days the deadline for the Mayor to submit budget and capital program ordinance proposals to the Council and extend by ten days the date by which the Council must pass annual budget and capital program ordinances.
Basically, this gives the Council and Mayor more time to hammer out the budget, and lets them factor in state funding, which can make priorities clearer.
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