Alika Atay is one of five candidates for the Maui County Council seat representing Wailuku, Waihee and Waikapu. As a measure of the competitiveness of the race, all five candidates filled out and returned MauiTime’s election questionnaires (the others are Joe Blackburn, Keith Regan, Dain Kane and Hana Steel; click here to read their questionnaires).
Atay is a political activist, through and through. He’s a core member of the Shaka Movement, and has been a plaintiff in their biggest lawsuit, regarding their GMO Moratorium ballot measure (it’s still tied up in the courts). He’s also a big Bernie Sanders fan, which should count for a few votes…
MAUITIME: What is your top priority if elected?
ALIKA ATAY: My top priority is community and people first before corporate gains. I believe that the health and welfare of the people in this island community should always be a priority when making community decisions. I usually incorporate good aloha aina values in my decision making process. In other words, what is the affects and effects of the decision on to the ‘aina, the water, air, ocean and most especially, our keiki and our kupuna.
MT: What event in your life best prepared you for public office?
AA: There wasn’t one event, rather it is a combination of eclectic experiences. When I completed college, I considered staying on the mainland to pursue coaching college football. My mother scolded me, saying she didn’t send me away to boarding school and college for 10 years, only to have me stay away from my island home. This combination of leaving Maui at a very young age (7th grade Kamehameha through graduation and then college in Nebraska) and gaining an education away from home, allowed me to see the value in Maui and a deeper understanding of my kuleana. Upon my return, I jumped right into community activism and started working in non-profits for the people of Maui, in particularly the youth of Maui, for well over 30 years..
MT: Who should be the next President of the United States?
AA: I was hoping for Bernie Sanders.
MT: Which person who previously held the office you’re seeking do you hold up as a model? Why?
AA: Wayne Nishiki in his earlier younger days as a politician. He carried a lot of passion, drive, and brought a lot of creativity to the council.
MT: What’s your opinion on changing the County Charter to a county manager form of government? Why?
AA: I’m open towards it because we’ve evolved as a county government and also as a corporate business. We have evolved to now being a $650+ million corporation. We need to hire the best business manager for this corporation. This will take the politics and political favors out of running the county.
MT: Do you support changing the County Charter to allow the mayor, as opposed to the Liquor Commission, to appoint the Liquor Control Director?
AA: I do not support this change. I think it is best if the Liquor commission makes their recommendation, the county council approves or disapproves and then it goes to the mayor to approve or disapprove until the process is complete and until everyone agrees.
MT: What should the county do that it isn’t already doing to alleviate homelessness?
AA: The county administration and county council need to just stop talking about addressing homelessness, and actually do something about addressing homelessness. Currently there is not a lot of action with regards to homelessness. There is money set aside that’s taken from our property tax, but not much real effective movement to alleviate the problem has occurred. All parties need to come together to tackle the situation.
MT: HC&S is closing at the end of this year–what do you think A&B should do with the 37,000 acres that were used for growing sugar?
AA: Of those 37,000 acres, 90 percent are zoned IAL (Important Agricultural Lands). It needs to stay ag. I believe that the land needs to continue to be used to farm to feed our people. Why are we importing 90 percent of our food, when we could grow it year ‘round? Why are we paying more to ship in fruits, vegetables and meats that could easily be grown and processed here. Our strong tourist industry has been based on the beauty of this island and it’s vast open space. Rezoning to enable developing on ag lands is an irresponsible practice that only lines the pockets of developers, and it needs to stop. The focus should be on the economic development opportunities that the agriculture food industry can create. There are many “green collared” jobs, careers, and value added businesses that can come from this. This could be a great time for Maui.
Photo courtesy Alika Atay