Maybe you’ve seen it on social media, on a car bumper, or stuck to some roadside guardrail, but wherever you saw it first, the words are everywhere this election season: huli. Huli means to turn or change, and who can blame citizens for wanting to flip course? Maui residents are facing monumental issues determining the future of our island, from high costs of living, to a diminishing quality of life; from young people leaving the island for better opportunities, to development and tourism – and that’s barely scratching the surface.
Nationally, things look even messier and the 24-hour news cycle, for all its access to information, does little to calm the chaos. The result becomes fatigue rather than civic engagement, and the fundamental issues become lost on the course to partisan bickering.
So I agree with the bumper sticker: We need to huli the direction we are headed in as a collective species – for our planet and for our keiki. But what does it mean to huli the system? Will voting in the right candidates be enough to flip the script? Is it enough to simply change the faces?
Obviously, different elected officials will lead to different policies (and that’s significant), but the true huli isn’t a fresh slate of figureheads – to huli the system requires people power. Only then, when the power is flipped so the voices of the people are at the top and elected officials serve citizens, will we truly have a system that wen’ huli and best reflects the interests of our community rather than rich donors or self-interested politicians.
So if the system isn’t working for you, here’s step one: vote. Or even better: Read this, then vote.
Early voting takes place on Maui at the Velma McWayne Santos (Wailuku) Community Center until Nov. 3 from 8am-4pm. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6, 7am-6pm. Same-day registration is available; if you aren’t registered you can bring your ID to your precinct on Nov. 6 and vote that day. Visit Elections.hawaii.gov to learn more.
Elle Cochran got her start in politics as an activist fighting for the preservation of Honolua Bay. Mike Victorino, on the other hand, supported a request by Maui Land & Pineapple Company to remove Lipoa Point from preservation. There’s your line in the sand.
Victorino, while certainly a nice guy, doesn’t embody the vision of Maui we would like to see. A constant theme of his campaign has been his success raising money, and Victorino is proud to say things like “I take money from everybody.” When running a business this might be great, but when it comes to our home, Maui, we question the kinds of deals he would make and the vision of balance he has for our community. His record shows significant campaign contributions from off-island, supporting removing land from preservation, and rezoning acres to accommodate luxury home developments. We didn’t want it then, and we do not need more of that now.
Cochran has shown herself to have the political courage and vision needed in times like these. While Elle is unproven as an executive, Cochran’s leadership as an activist reflects a concern for people and willingness to listen – whether on a picket line or at a demonstration outside the County Building. When it comes to issues she got wrong, such as the increase of park fees in the latest budget, Cochran has done the difficult thing that is the mark of a leader: She admitted her mistake and took steps to correct it. Obviously, we hope that Elle brings diligence, thoughtfulness, and research to the mayor’s office, but in a political environment where demagogues bully the truth in order to win, it is refreshing to see a politician do what is right for the community, ego aside.
Plus, vision goes a long way. Cochran has consistently kept the issues of affordable housing, environmental protection, and cost of living at the top of her platform. She has been vocal when it comes to addressing the the costs of tourism on our island, reallocating funds from tourism marketing to management, and supporting workers trying to make a living wage. These are conversations that we desperately need to have, and we think that with Elle as mayor the potential for discussion and progress on these fronts is bright.
For our few issues with Governor Ige which include his lackluster public relations, the false missile alert, and opposition to the legalization of cannabis, there are some areas where his leadership has caused marked progress. Most significantly, the state’s ambitious goal to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 has put Hawai‘i on the map as a leader in addressing the tremendous global issue of climate change and sustainability. Under Ige, Hawai‘i began the Sustainable Hawai‘i Initiative, which sets a number of other goals including a 100 percent increase in local agriculture production by 2020 and increased protection of watersheds and nearshore marine areas. Along with the chlorpyrifos ban signed earlier this year, we see an administration committed to to preserving the environment and public health.
Additionally, Ige has voiced support for increasing the minimum wage and finding dedicated revenue sources education, and through his attorney general challenged Trump’s travel ban. These are good choices for the state, and we’re not convinced that Tupola would continue the progress made by the Ige administration. Still, Tupola offers appealing traits. The possibility to elect a Native Hawaiian, female voice to the role of governor who is personable and committed to engaging rural communities is indeed tempting, but some of Tupola’s positions can’t be ignored.
First, we question any Republican’s willingness to identify with a party that is regularly exposed to have lost a principled platform, and complies with the most bankrupt person in politics, Donald Trump. We question Tupola’s will to challenge Trump when his choices reach extremes that require resistance. In a recent debate, Tupola fell short of a definitive condemnation of Trump’s attacks on the press. Instead of reaffirming the necessity of the free press, she shied from renouncing Trump and said that we all have to take responsibility for the divisive environment be accountable for our words and actions. Wrong answer.
Tupola also did not vote on a bill to require gun owners to register in a database, and voted against legislation that required pregnancy centers to disclose all options to women in crisis. Tupola has further opposed taxes with tired job creator and landlord-protection arguments, while questioning unfunded state liabilities. The untold consequence to this kind of rhetoric is either magic thinking that believes we can fund the state without looking at progressive forms of income, or the slashing of social programs in the name of needed austerity.
Yet, for all her “small government” talk, Tupola is on record opposing medical marijuana dispensaries and the legalization of recreational cannabis, justifying prohibition and the failed War on Drugs with stories about the damage drugs are doing to our communities. Enough of this 1970s-era rhetoric already.
For his part, Ige opposes legalization of recreational cannabis based on wanting consistency between federal and state laws, an argument that doesn’t hold up considering that under federal law, any use (including medical, excluding FDA-approved research) of cannabis should be prohibited. Maybe it’s a sign he’s willing to be swayed. We find this, the false missile alert, and weak public relations to be blemishes on Ige’s record, but we remain mostly hopeful that another four years in office will show that he has learned from shortcomings in his first term and is willing to build upon the progressive reforms we and his many voters endorse him for.
U.S. Representative (Dist. II)
We have reservations about Rep. Gabbard, including her political ambitions and unwillingness to debate primary opponents. But for her faults, which we will continue to watch closely, we recognize that she has been a consistent voice for progressive causes including criminal justice reform, ending U.S. interventionism, campaign finance reform, and the legalization of cannabis. In the future, we would like to see Tulsi unscripted – in town halls with live questions, debates with primary challengers, and, yeah, walking story with us down Market Street. Participating in these kinds of public debates and appearances is fundamental to democracy and her role as elected official, and we hope she steps up.
OHA Maui Trustee
We are making one endorsement for Office of Hawaiian Affairs elections, and it is for Ke‘eaumoku Kapu. Kapu has made himself known in the community and on the island for his constant support for issues concerning Native Hawaiians and the environment. Notably, Kapu was successful in a title dispute that lasted almost 17 years and resulted in the return of land to his family. In addition to showing he has the passion to pursue justice in drawn-out battles, Kapu has made this experience a key part of his platform to extend resources to Hawaiians so they can reclaim land that is rightfully theirs. He has also prioritized affordable housing for Hawaiians who don’t make the blood quantum level required by Hawaiian Home Lands, and has been articulate in explaining how Native Hawaiian issues affect all Maui residents. The idea of Ke‘eaumoku Kapu in a greater leadership role where he can continue his work is a good one, so we support his bid for Maui trustee.
County Councilmember (Kahului)
Kama is running against Alan Arakawa, and it’s time for a change. Plans like the Wailuku Civic Center, which Arakawa tried to insert into the latest budget at $80 million, are not the kinds of ideas we want to see more of. We’re also tired of his clumsy top-down management, like the countywide email purge, the demolition of the old Wailuku Post Office Building, the movement of “sacred rocks” in Iao Valley, and disastrous post-Hurricane Lane Lahaina Fire community forum. We want to see leaders in the community like Tasha Kama, who have been involved on the ground and shown a capacity to listen. Kama has a background in community organizing, fighting for Native Hawaiian rights and social justice, and we want to see what she’ll do on the council.
County Councilmember (Wailuku-Waihe‘e-Waikapu)
Atay has been the subject of a lot of bad press over the past year, from allegations of violent behavior from his assistant to recent challenges to the way his staff handled grant funds. At this point, however, we don’t think there’s enough evidence to say that his behavior could be qualified as malfeasance or criminal negligence. Atay has prioritized the values of aloha ‘aina with regards to his work as the chair of the Water Resource Committee, stressing the fundamental importance of water for the environment, cultural preservation, and the health and safety of Maui’s citizens. Atay also had the will to vote against an amendment to the latest budget which undid progressive tax rates proposed by Mayor Arakawa (the tiered taxes would have lowered rates for homes valued less than $500,000 and increased rates for properties over $1.5 million, maintaining rates for properties in between). Before we start resurrecting past councilmembers who have termed out of council seats, we think Atay deserves more time to see his work through.
County Councilmember (East Maui)
Shane Sinenci and his opponent Claire Kamalu Carroll are both political newcomers from the East Side. Carroll has spoken in conciliatory and economic terms with regard to Maui’s bloated tourism industry. Based on our talk with her, we’re not convinced that she’ll be able to address the problems of visitor carrying capacity, lodging, and housing in the significant way that it must. Sinenci, on the other hand, has worked with the ‘Aha Moku Council, a cultural resource management entity within DLNR, and is a longtime public school teacher. Sinenci has been unafraid to talk about the bigger picture and future of Maui County, even when it comes to the scary realities of population growth and carrying capacity. We need more discussion on these big issues so we can plan for the people that call this place home and their keiki.
County Councilmember (West Maui)
Paltin’s passion for the environment and a place she loved, Honolua Bay, took her from an average county worker, to someone who questioned how decisions were made, to a community member actively participating and testifying in County Council meetings. Now she’s running to promote the cause of “preserving the land and making it healthy.” We like to see passionate, everyday people step up to represent the interests of their community and stand or the environment and social justice, and for that reason Paltin is a candidate we are excited to endorse.
County Councilmember (Lana‘i)
Johnson is running against Riki Hokama, an establishment politician and veteran of the system. Still, for all that experience, Hokama had one of the worst attendance records of all councilmembers in 2018 and only $200 of his $28,200 of his campaign contributions in the primary reporting period came from Maui County – the rest were from off-island or mainland sources. I guess that’s what establishment will get you.
Johnson is a self-described working class guy: a single dad who works on Lana‘i as an invasive species technician for Pulama Lana‘i. His priorities align with a vision of Maui that works for all, from infrastructure that serves residents rather than tourists, to reallocating visitor-industry marketing funds. He also talks passionately about education and expanding opportunities for youth to find diverse education and employment. That’s a future we can endorse.
County Councilmember (South Maui)
King has been a level-headed member of the council advocating for slow growth and environmental concerns. Along with Atay and Cochran, King voted against the budget amendment that removed progressive tiered tax rates, something we give her credit for despite the fact that the amendment passed with a majority of votes. With pressing concerns in the county including how to address sea level rise and development, we are grateful to have a thoughtful voice on the council to advocate for sensible environmentalism and governance.
County Councilmember (Makawao-Ha‘iku-Pa‘ia)
In this debate over whether to recycle an old councilmember or inject new blood into the system, we take the latter option. But it’s not just for change itself: In his time as councilmember, Mike Molina has been a friend to luxury developments. On the other hand, Trinette Furtado has expressed an understanding that Maui is more than a playground for the wealthy. Whether through targeted taxes, boldly addressing the growing burdens of tourism, or using county incentives to subsidize housing to level the playing field for Maui’s working class, Furtado represents an alternative to the kinds of pro-luxury development choices that have landed Maui’s residents in the crises faced today. We want more representatives who are willing to boldly shift the priorities of the county from tourism to community.
County Councilmember (Upcountry)
Yuki Lei Sugimura, Starbuck’s opponent, is nice and active in the community. However, we take issue with aspects of her record. Her first move as councilmember was to side with the pro-development and establishment wing of the county council and support Mike White as chair of the council. Later, she voted against the moratorium on the mining of inland sand in Central Maui twice (the original bill and its extension).
Hannibal Starbuck is a well-educated, longtime teacher who has been a lifelong resident of Maui. While we would like to see more of an effort from him on the mic and in the community, we believe that his political priorities of infrastructure, quality of life, integrating science into decision making, and addressing sea level rise are sincere. With Central Maui sand mining likely to be a future issue along with a number of development projects, we would like to see Starbuck on the council to make the decisions that Sugimura would not.
County Councilmember (Moloka‘i)
Aside from aligning herself with the pro-development members of the council and supporting the reign of council chair Mike White, Crivello hasn’t done much to shake the boat and draw our criticism. However, it’s this lack of clear vision that makes us curious about the potential for a new voice in the Moloka‘i seat. Indeed, when Crivello told us the county budget was balanced “awesomely,” we found it indicative of a lack of the conviction that we like to see in a candidate.
Keani Rawlins-Fernandez has these qualities. A young, smart, experienced, and active candidate, Keani has a background that makes us confident in both her beliefs and abilities to find solutions to the problems facing the community. In her Walk Story, Keani talked about bringing video chat to working, isolated, and immobile people to encourage their engagement in local government. She also brought attention to the need to preserve the subsistence economy on Moloka‘i. These are both conversations we’d love to have, and Keani is a candidate that we’d love to hear more from.
State Senate (District 6)
In the race for State Senate District 6, which includes South and West Maui, we make no endorsement. Baker, for her long political experience and groundbreaking of the much-needed Kihei High School, has shown to be cozy with big business. This is concerning, considering her votes to continue A&B water diversion from East Maui streams and the fact that a number agrochemical regulations have been weakened when passing through her Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health.
Mish Shishido, her Green Party opponent, brings a platform to answer these concerns, but we haven’t seen enough of her to endorse her for this position. We predict that Baker will win, but hope Roz knows that Maui County has put her on notice for her ties to big business. Her margin of victory in the primary over Terez Amato was 106 votes – less than half of the amount of blank votes for her race. If Baker hopes to stay in politics, she should listen to the people who voted for her opponent and place greater consideration on items that concern her constituents.
State Representative (District 10)
Jen Mather, McKelvey’s Green Party opponent, made a compelling argument in her Walk Story. “We’re polar opposites at our core. I’m a woman, a kanaka maoli, a mother, and a low income earner with a degree,” she said. “At our core we’re very different, and that frames how we look at the world, it frames our paradigm. It frames access as well, of who we’re able to to encounter, who we share our struggles with, who’s actually gonna talk to us.”
This is meaningful, especially at a time when including marginalized people in the political process is essential to progress. However, this is not enough of an argument for us to endorse unseating Angus McKelvey. McKelvey has worked on the preservation of Lipoa Point, has worked and is working on progressing the state’s cannabis laws, and has steadily supported finding revenue sources to fund education. He has talked about solutions to make life more affordable to residents, and prioritizes managed shoreline retreat. These are all issues we would like to see him continue to advance at the state capitol.
State Representative (District 13)
After endorsing Lynn DeCoite in the primary election, we received feedback from readers who were disappointed in the fact that we endorsed a “GMO farmer.” Well, here’s the thing: DeCoite is the only farmer serving as a state legislator. So, while it would be nice to endorse an organic farmer, we recognize the unique opportunity to have a farmer represent the largely rural areas of Moloka‘i, Lana‘i, and East Maui. Nikhilananda, her Green Party opponent, is known in pockets of the community and for having run for office many times, but has little actual experience to show for it. Instead, the Green Party Maui, which he has been a longtime member of, continues to lack an organized presence on Maui.
Recently, DeCoite made the news by calling for increased funds for the Department of Agriculture and suggesting money be diverted from tourism to agriculture. We agree that there is a serious need for locally grown food, sustainability, and food sovereignty, and we hope that DeCoite, as a farmer, will continue to be a strong voice to promote this initiative.
Relating to a Constitutional Convention
The best argument for a constitutional convention is that, with the election of numerous delegates, more people are drawn into the political process. However, the ‘70s were a different time, and at this point I’m not sure we’d make it alive through the extended election season that a con-con would turn into. Plus, given our divisive environment, low political engagement, and influence of wealth, the potential for harm outweighs any good.
County Charter Amendment Relating to Claims
This charter amendment would require personal injury or property damage claims against the county to be filed directly with corporation counsel, rather than with the county clerk. Although the ballot question was supported on the grounds of eliminating bureaucratic inefficiencies, the office of the county clerk is uniquely positioned to process these claims as a body serving the council, county departments, and the public. Corporation counsel supports the county government, period. Sometimes redundancy helps to ensure integrity, so we’re going to be cynics about this one even if it means a few extra emails get bounced around in the county system.
County Charter Amendment Relating to Penalties
While we still await the results of the third-party analysis of the number of illegal short-term rentals on the island, it’s clear that we’re in a housing crisis. A recent study found that one in three homes in Lahaina is a vacation rental, and most of them are owned by people from the mainland. Our concern with this proposed increase in penalties for illegal transient accommodations to a severe $20,000 plus $10,000 a day is that it would hurt local families trying to make some money by renting extra space. But, at this point, research shows that this narrative of aunty renting out her spare bedroom to backpackers is not the norm, and most vacation rentals are whole-home rentals. What’s more, it’s hard to plead ignorance on this issue which has become at the forefront of state debates on affordable housing. Higher penalties give enforcement some teeth, and ensures renters pay appropriate licensing fees and taxes while regulations on land use are followed.
County Charter Amendment Relating to Open Space Fund
This amendment would allow the Open Space Fund, which is dedicated to land acquisition, to be used for safety and security improvements on land acquired through the fund. These improvements are important, but so are land acquisitions for the preservation of significant sites. Opening this fund to be used for improvements has the potential to drain the money reserved for this purpose, and councilmembers should budget appropriately to pay for needed costs from the general fund.
Cover design by Darris Hurst