Primary Political Forum Recap

The first of two KCA events concerning the 9/18/10 Primary election received an enthusisatic response from the community and the candidates at the Community Center, as all but three of the invited candidates participated in the speed dating format, providing everyone with a one on one opportunity with every candidate for mayor, County Council, Dist 11 State Rep and the Board of Education. Media participation was also heightened, as beyond our faithful Maui Weekly coverage, Maui News reporter and photographer were busy, as was the video of Maui TV News.

From the Maui Weekly..

Candidates Vie for South Maui Votes

Contenders quick to address concerns in their race to the primaries. “Overall, I believe we’ve got to get the county out of the way of small businesses.”

Trisha Smith, Maui Weekly

Nothing resonates campaign season quite like colorful political swag and bustling candidates working a room of potential constituents.

Among the festive fliers, personal notepads, gummy bears and supportive campaign team members decorating the Kihei Community Center (KCC) on Tuesday, Aug. 17, were nearly 100 concerned Maui voters looking for answers at the Kihei Community Association (KCA) meeting.

Eleven mayoral candidates and several Maui County Council contenders attended the “speed-dating” event, where they were divided into groups by seat race—with the prospective mayors divvied up in three sections. Each had a chance to answer questions posed by eight groups of voters and moderated by KCA members.

Several seasoned politicians and long-time community leaders showed up with their “homework” done, while some less-experienced individuals stumbled during the rapid-fire question-and-answer sessions.

One candidate—who chose to remain anonymous—revealed to me later their “utter disgust” with this year’s voter options and disliked how the fast-paced meeting was set up. “I’m tired of sitting around, listening to these people next to me lie, lie, lie,” the candidate said. “This is monkey business… people deserve the truth and not one-line ‘answers.’”

An array of topics were brought forth by concerned citizens, with several questions posed regarding water, agricultural viability, Jesse Spencer’s ‘Ohana Kai Village project in Ma‘alaea, home-based small businesses, the “antiquated” permitting and zoning process, and the controversial Honua‘ula—the Wailea 670 project in the Kihei-Makena Community Plan.

A group of mayoral hopefuls, which included Randy Plitz, Marc Hodges, Jonathan Olson and Harold “Hap” Miller, provided a persuasive mix throughout the night.

“As your next mayor, I will work hard on developing reliable water storage, housing and growing system,” said Plitz. “But water is definitely the No. 1 issue we need to deal with.”

“I think we need to reinvent the visitor industry,” said Hodges. The fresh-faced candidate—who sports the “New Blood” slogan—shared his long list of occupations including police officer, “published scientist” with expertise in Hawaiian natural resource protection, “successful” small business entrepreneur, carpenter and cabinetmaker.

“And we have got to change the current permitting and zoning systems,” Hodges said, suggesting in his platform that applicants should require the county to issue building permits in 10 days for single-family projects under $150,000.

“All-in-all, I’ve been through four recessions, and this one isn’t any worse,” said Miller, sporting a festive America Flag tie and an ardent attitude.

Political newcomer and mayoral candidate Sally Chow Hammond of Moloka‘i added interesting flare to the meeting, providing confident rebuttals among long-time Maui leaders, but also becoming so emotional at one point that she left the KCC.

After the meeting, former mayor and current candidate Alan Arakawa continued to sound-off about his opponents. He revealed his frustrations with Mayor Charmaine Tavares’ administration, asserting “she continues to lie” about budget figures, and that her policies are “harmful” to the county’s small business community.

“We’re going to do it from experience,” said Arakawa, confident that his “people” will soon be back in office to “fix” the county. And according to Arakawa, he’s going to do this with “around 15 or so” less staff members than Mayor Tavares’ current 48.

“Overall, I believe we’ve got to get the county out of the way of small businesses,” said South Maui council candidate Don Couch during one group, referencing the “sign issue” brought forth recently. “These sign ordinances are really old, and there’s such a grey area… it needs to be more specific so owners can comply and still be successful.”

The community has another opportunity to talk with the candidates this Saturday, Aug. 28, after the Tour de Kihei bicycle ride. The ride begins at 9 a.m. at Kama‘ole III Beach Park and continues north along South Kihei Road to Lipoa Avenue, then riders travel back after a hydration break. The South Maui candidates will be available for a meet-and-greet with the community after the ride as they attempt to secure your votes for the Primary Election on Saturday, Sept. 18.

For more information, call 879-5390 or visit www.gokihei.org.

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