Every so often in the tedium of election year politicking, a candidate comes along who is capable of re-instilling in the voters a sense of hope in the political process.
On the national scene, the youthful exuberance and vision of Barack Obama seems to have generated that sort of optimism. Locally, it appears that Upcountry Maui voters may have a bright new choice to represent them in the state legislature.
Summer Starr is the youngest of four children of Hugh and Erin Starr of Olinda. She earned a self-designed Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Hawaii in Protecting Hawaii’s Environment and is now enrolled in graduate school, focusing on sustainable development and indigenous politics. Her goal is to create a template of the traditional ahupua`a system in the context of the modern urban backdrop.
After moving home to Maui two years ago, Starr worked with the Hawaii PV (photovoltaic) Coalition to promote renewable energy awareness. She worked on a successful campaign that resulted this year in the Public Utilities Commission upping the percentage of PV energy accepted into the utility grid from o.5 percent to 1 percent.
Now, Starr is campaigning for the District 12 (Upcountry Maui) State House seat currently held by Kyle Yamashita. The incumbent is perhaps best known for his energetic roadside waving to morning commuters heading into town along the Hana Highway in the weeks leading up to the election. Only the politically astute may have followed his voting record.
Awarded chairmanship of the House Economic Development and Business Concerns Committee at the beginning of his second two-year term, Oahu-born Yamashita appears to have quickly aligned himself with the house leadership.
In this year’s legislative session, Yamashita refused to hear Senate Bill 1789, regarding community access channels such as Akaku, even though it had passed the Senate unanimously and he received dozens of messages from constituents urging that he pass the bill. He also failed to advance the revised bottle bill legislation that would have required large retailers to take back redemption items, as is the case in every other state with a bottle bill.
Yamashita also drew criticism from political pundits concerned about legislation aimed at allowing large landowners to designate 80 percent of their Important Ag Lands, which many believe could open the door to urbanization or non-ag uses on the remaining 20 percent.
In an open-air courtyard café in Makawao, I asked Starr a few questions about her campaign platform.
Maui Time Weekly: What prompted you to run for State House, District 12 this year?
Summer Starr: I moved back to Maui two years ago after five years on Oahu. I saw that the Maui I had known all my life here was changing very quickly.
MTW: How do we revamp the Hawaii education system?
SS: Did you know that studies show that just 30-40 hours of one-to-one attention between student and teacher can raise a child’s performance by a full grade? We need more teachers, more teacher’s training, smaller classrooms and a cost of living increase.
MTW: What do you see as the vital issues in your district?
SS: Agriculture, water and affordable housing are very inter-related. We face an aging population, and we’ll need to address senior care. We also need to be certain we choose the right path to replace lost jobs in a sagging economy.
MTW: What is your vision for a Maui your children may someday inherit?
SS: I envision self-sufficiency in feeding ourselves with food grown here. I believe our vital need to shift to renewable energy will open the door for a myriad of good paying jobs. Renewable energy equals jobs, technology, better education and a healthy local economy. We really can be a model for the entire planet. Our task is to illustrate how to retrofit an increasingly urban model to bring it back to a sustainable model.
MTW: How would your style differ from that of the incumbent?
SS: I will be a voice for the community I serve, not just follow house leadership.
MTW: What else would you like voters to know?
SS: That it’s very important to vote in the Primary Election! And that I am eager to represent the community where I grew up. MTW
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