During the campaign, Mike White made no secret of his deep ties to the tourism sector. How could he? He manages the Kaanapali Beach Hotel and has served on the board of directors of the Maui Visitors Bureau (MVB). But he also said—repeatedly, in the face of questioning by us, his opponent Kai Nishiki and others—that he’d represent the people of Maui and the Makawao-Haiku-Paia district first and foremost.
It’s still early, of course, but White raised some eyebrows at the January 21 Council meeting when, in one of his first acts as a Councilmember, he asked the Mayor to amend the budget and allocate more money for MVB.
Reached for comment, White said he did it to make up for funds MVB lost in previous rounds of cuts, and to give a vital part of the island’s economy a shot in the arm. As for how it serves the people of his district, he said he spoke with business owners in Makawao and Paia who confirmed that more than half their revenue comes from tourists. White added that “there is no conflict of interest” since he doesn’t stand to enjoy any “specific financial benefit.“
That may be true, but by choosing to immediately and forcefully go to bat for MVB, White did nothing to diminish the perception that he’s less a public servant and more a visitor industry shill.