Every four years, we’re asked the same questions. And we’re presented with the same choice: Two candidates telling us we face dire, pressing issues, each saying that only by electing him can we ensure a safe and prosperous future. The names change but the song and dance, the hollow platitudes, stay comfortingly, sickeningly consistent.
This year has been no different—except that it has.
Our country stands at a perilous crossroads; that’s not hyperbole, it’s fact. We are engaged in two poorly planned, mismanaged foreign wars. Our economy is in a freefall. Vital infrastructure—schools, roads, hospitals—languishes in neglect. Our healthcare system is in shambles, the laughingstock of the Western world. Every day the national debt, the legacy of wanton greed and unfettered consumption that we’ll pass on to the next generation, swells like a bloated carcass.
In these tenuous times, our choices have magnified repercussions.
There are many things Barack Obama is not. He is not a savior. He isn’t the messiah, sent from above to fix all that is broken with a wave of his hand.
There are other things that he is. He is a politician. He’s calculating. He’s willing to do the dirty work required to get elected.
But he also represents a radical redirect, a break from the failures of the last eight years. He takes words like “change” and “hope” and endows them with an authenticity that’s unfamiliar, even revolutionary, in these bleak, cynical times.
His opponent, John McCain, has tried to seize on this prevailing spirit of change. He’s attempted to paint himself as a maverick, a shoot-from-the hip reformer who puts country first. Yet at every major turning point in this campaign McCain has revealed his true nature—conniving, erratic, manipulative and woefully out of touch. The towering example of this is his choice of running mate.
Sarah Palin is without question one of the most unqualified, dangerous figures ever to wobble onto the national stage. The fact that her handlers have almost totally sheltered her from unscripted media exposure—an unprecedented move—reveals how completely she is a creation of the right wing spin machine built by men like Lee Atwater and tuned to frighteningly effective precision by the likes of Karl Rove. Palin is a caricature, a scary glimpse into the souls of her creators—narcissistic, power hungry men who believe the American public is so stupid, so distracted that they’ll blindly, gleefully follow anyone who likes guns and beer, mistrusts science and intellectualism and willfully mispronounces the word “nuclear.”
This election is a chance to do two things: First, to prove Rove and his ilk wrong and to reject their destructive, misanthropic agenda. Second, and more important, it’s a chance to show the world, and ourselves, that we’re ready to turn the page, to put a positive stamp on history, to do something that will be remembered as a step forward rather than another stumble into the mistakes of the past.
Every four years, we’re asked the same questions. This year, we can give a different answer.
Maui Time Weekly endorses
☆ Maui County Council ☆
Incumbent Joe Pontanilla faces challenger Netra Halperin in one of several races that pits a longtime elected official against a fresh-faced newcomer. Halperin, who owns a psychotherapy center in Wailuku, has made vacation rentals a central issue in her campaign; she says she decided to run for the council after her bed-and-breakfast in Haiku was shut down. We like Halperin’s take on a number of issues including water use and stream flow restoration. We also question whether Pontanilla is motivated and dynamic enough to initiate the changes that are needed to move Maui toward environmental and economic stability.
Maui Time Weekly endorses Netra Halperin
Incumbent Gladys Baisa has placed the economy squarely at the center of her campaign. It’s hard to argue that’s not a pressing concern, but we feel it’s come at the expense of long-term environmental considerations. Enter Michael Howden, an acupuncturist and permaculturist who’s trumpeting widespread water use changes and agricultural sustainability. The controversial, much-maligned Wailea 670 development is a good illustration of the philosophical differences between the candidates: Howden adamantly opposes 670 and told The Maui News that it’s “more mindless development”; Baisa voted in favor of the project. There are things about Baisa we like, but we think it’s time for a new voice.
Maui Time Weekly endorses Michael Howden
The youth meets experience theme returns, with Kai Nishiki—a relative newcomer on the electoral scene but owner of a familiar last name—running against incumbent Mike Molina. Molina’s cozy ties to big business interests have been well documented in these pages. As a recent example, he voted—along with numerous other councilmembers—to pull back a bill that would have restricted water use after the big resorts cried foul. Nishiki, a small business owner who has trumpeted sustainability and affordable housing, looks like a breath of fresh air on a council in need of resuscitation.
Maui Time Weekly endorses Kai Nishiki
Lucienne de Naie isn’t a political newbie by any means—she’s run for office before and is involved with a number of advocacy groups including the Sierra Club—but she fits the change versus status quo paradigm that has come to define this election on all levels. Intelligent, motivated and feisty, de Naie isn’t afraid to rattle cages. “An activist cuts through the B.S.,” she told us in an interview last month. Some of that B.S. has come from her opponent, Bill Medeiros, another member of the developer-friendly good old boys club. The choice is clear.
Maui Time Weekly endorses Lucienne de Naie
No county-level race has generated as much heat as this one. After incumbent Michelle Anderson dropped out for personal reasons, former longtime Councilmember Wayne Nishiki tossed his hat back into the ring. He’s opposed by former Deputy Planning Director Don Couch. We gave the two men a dual endorsement in September and invited them in for interviews in the interim. The decision of who to support was not an easy one—there are things about both candidates we like and things that give us pause. In the end, the fact that Couch received campaign contributions from big business interests including Wailea 670 developer Charlie Jenks tipped the scales. Nishiki took no developer money and, though we have some questions about his ability to get things done given his reputation as a contrarian, we believe he’s more likely to be a strong independent voice.
Maui Time Weekly endorses Wayne Nishiki
We endorsed incumbent Jo Anne Johnson in the primary and nothing has changed since. She’s still a widely popular figure who has earned the respect and admiration of her constituents, stood up to developers when it counted and, incidentally, was named “Best Politician” by Maui Time readers in our annual Best of Maui issue. There aren’t any huge knocks on the challenger, Alan Fukayama, but there’s no need for a change here.
Maui Time Weekly endorses Jo Anne Johnson
After earning our endorsement and finishing first in the primary, Sol Kaho‘ohalahala has been hit with a series of residency challenges. While he doesn’t currently live on Lanai full-time, Kaho‘ohalahala has said he intends to return to a family home there after the election; he was also born on Lanai and has previously served the island at both the county and state level. At this point, his opponent, John Ornellas, seems to be running a one-note campaign, charging Kaho‘ohalahala with being an out-of-touch outsider. We don’t buy it.
Maui Time Weekly Sol Kaho‘ohalahala
☆ STATE SENATE ☆
After fending off a primary challenge from realtor Bart Mulvihill, incumbent Roz Baker (D) is facing Republican Jan Shields. While we haven’t agreed with Baker on every issue, we do agree with the numerous organizations—including the Sierra Club and the Ohana Coalition—that have already endorsed her. Shields, whose reputation has been tarnished by evidence that she failed for a time to pay taxes on her small business, does not appear to be a better choice.
Maui Time Weekly endorses Roz Baker
Incumbent J. Kalani English (D) is a respected public figure who appears to genuinely care about the people he serves and seems destined to win in a landslide. His opponent, John Blumer-Buell, is running the classic independent “issue campaign”; he’s in the race to keep English honest and to promote environmental causes. We applaud Blumer-Buell for his effort and are ideologically in line with him. But we feel English has done enough in his legislative career to earn our continued support.
Maui Time Weekly endorses J. Kalani English
☆ STATE HOUSE ☆
From the outset of the campaign, there were concerns over the health of incumbent Bob Nakasone (D), who is battling cancer. Though he decided to run, those concerns have not abated. We don’t support Nakasone’s opponent, Republican Henry Kahula, but we also have serious reservations about Nakasone’s ability to serve out his term if elected. Which begs the question: if he’s forced to step down, who would be appointed to replace him? While we wish Nakasone good health, we are withholding our endorsement.
Maui Time Weekly withholds its endorsement
Incumbent Angus McKelvey (D) is facing a challenge from political newcomer Ramon Madden (R). In a recent phone interview, Madden, who works in the hospitality industry and calls himself a “new kind of Republican,” told us he got involved in politics because he felt the core values of the party were being undermined. We admire his enthusiasm, but feel that he isn’t ready to serve at the state level. There are concerns that McKelvey may be aligning himself with old guard pro-development Democrats like Joe Souki, but we think he deserves another term to prove himself.
Maui Time Weekly endorses Angus McKelvey
Like McKelvey, we hope incumbent Joe Bertram III (D) can grow into the office if given another term. We think he’s a better choice than challenger George Fontaine (R), but now that he’s gotten his feet wet on Oahu, we’re challenging Bertram to step up his game over the next two years and fight for some of the issues, like greenways, that he touted when first running for office.
Maui Time Weekly endorses Joe Bertram III
After winning a close race with Summer Starr in the primary, incumbent Kyle Yamashita (D) faces Republican Mickey Verra. During his time in office, Yamashita has made a number of decisions that seem at odds with the needs and desires of the people he serves, including squashing SB 1789, a bill designed to protect community access stations like Akaku that got unanimous approval in the Senate and was widely popular on Maui. Much of Yamashita’s campaign cash also comes from big business interests outside his district. We cannot in good conscience endorse either candidate.
Maui Time Weekly withholds its endorsement
☆ U.S. HOUSE ☆
2nd Congressional District
Incumbent Mazie Hirono (D), former Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii and 2002 gubernatorial candidate, faces three challengers: Republican Roger Evans, Libertarian Lloyd J. Mallan and Independent Party candidate Shaun Stenshol. While we appreciate the environmental awareness Stenshol brings to the table and hope his voice will influence Hirono’s platform, we don’t feel any of these candidates represent a significant enough upgrade to warrant a changing of the guard.
Maui Time Weekly endorses Mazie Hirono
☆ Hawaii State Constitution Questions ☆
Shall the age qualification for the office of governor and lieutenant governor be reduced from thirty years of age to twenty-five years of age?
Proponents point out that 25-year-olds can serve in the military and go to war or serve in the United States Congress. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to seek Hawaii’s highest office? Groups like Youth Outreach! Hawaii have also argued that lowering the minimum age would foster more civic involvement among young people. We agree with both points; this change seems like it could only enhance, not harm, the political process.
Maui Time Weekly recommends a vote of “yes”
Shall there be a convention to propose a revision of or amendments to the constitution?
Con Con supporters—mostly Republicans plus a few disillusioned Democrats—say our state’s governing document is broken, or at least corrupted by amendments, and needs to be fixed. We’re not arguing the Constitution is perfect, but with the state facing a projected $900 million deficit over the next two years, staging a Con Con at an estimated cost of $10-$40 million seems like a fiscally irresponsible move (making the fact that it’s supported by so many so-called “conservatives” rather ironic). Also, there is legitimate concern that a convention could turn into a special interest free-for-all, with various groups lobbying for pet causes without an eye on the big picture. In the end, the potential rewards don’t outweigh the cost or the risks. The time may come when it’s a good idea to hold another Con Con (the last one was 30 years ago). But that time isn’t now.
Maui Time Weekly recommends a vote of “no”