Kelly King is one of four candidates running for the Maui County Council seat representing South Maui (which is currently held by Don Couch, who is running for reelection). King and her husband Robert founded Pacific Biodiesel back in 1995 or so, and since then she’s made a name for herself as an environmental advocate.
MAUITIME: What is your top priority if elected (or reelected)?
KELLY KING: My top priority is making sure the Countywide Policy Plan is implemented as a guide for decision-making at the Council and that Community Plan updates are done with respect to the many hours already invested in them. South Maui’s infrastructure does not support the amount of development currently in the works and we need to revisit the requests for zoning changes. Traffic, water, parks and ocean pollution are all issues for South Maui as well as most other Maui communities. Development will happen as we cannot stop change, but it needs to be right for our community.
MT: What event in your life best prepared you for public office?
KK: My first stint in public office was as Maui’s representative on the Hawaii State Board of Education. I learned how to be accessible to the public while protecting my family life. As the only member with a published phone number, I spent many hours talking to parents, teachers and community leaders. I’m able to process information quickly, know how to identify and network with experts on various issues, and am skilled at communicating important points with a collaborative approach. Working with other board/council members with differing opinions can be challenging, but finding common ground is not impossible if we all care about Maui. I have always found that people are willing to help if you listen with intent to include them in solutions.
MT: Who should be the next President of the United States?
KK: Hillary Clinton. With Donald Trump the only alternative and climate change being the number one international issue, it is imperative that our American President be intelligent, understand the ramifications of climate change and be able to comprehend the science that has attributed it to human activity.
MT: Which person who previously held the office you’re seeking do you hold up as a model? Why?
KK: Michelle Anderson, because she is intelligent and knowledgeable, and she did her homework so that she came to meetings fully prepared. Also, Michelle made decisions for the well being of Maui County rather than special interest groups.
MT: What’s your opinion on changing the County Charter to a county manager form of government? Why?
KK: I support changing our current system to one similar to many others throughout our country with an elected governing body that hires and oversees a professional county manager. This would give citizens the accountability that is lacking in Maui’s current system where councilmembers have no control over administrative duties yet must decide on funding requested by the administration. Currently department directors are hired by the mayor without due process and do not necessarily have the required qualifications and, in fact, most of the public has never even seen the job descriptions. I believe it would be more efficient and less costly in the long run to hire professionals who would be held accountable by the Council which is more accessible and responsive to the public. The Special Committee’s recommendation is a major improvement and most importantly Mauians should have the opportunity to vote on the change.
MT: Do you support changing the County Charter to allow the mayor, as opposed to the Liquor Commission, to appoint the Liquor Control Director?
KK: No, there is already too much cronyism in the Administration. The Liquor Control Director should be appointed by a board of qualified citizens in an open public meeting.
MT: What should the county do that it isn’t already doing to alleviate homelessness?
KK: As the Council considers funding for the homeless problem on Maui, we need to make sure we are addressing the root causes of homelessness and understand how many folks are intentionally homeless, how many have mental health and/or drug addiction problems, and how many folks are in unfortunate circumstances that they need assistance to resolve. Each of these root causes needs a different approach when creating solutions. The County Council can lead the way by focusing on Human Concerns issues, making it a separate committee or a Working Group of the Housing, Human Concerns and Transportation Committee, regularly reviewing data and/or funding comprehensive assessments in the absence of information, and appropriately funding the County departments and community non-profits that are truly assisting in solving these problems.
We can also create public/private partnerships, which I used to spearhead the installation of two Maui playgrounds (Kalama Park in Kihei and Kula Park upcountry), to expedite the efforts as I believe there is compassion in our community and the desire to help.
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?
KK: There’s an immediate need to focus on keeping Central Maui in agriculture and utilizing remediation practices for healthy soil for food and fuel crops. Now that hemp cultivation has been officially authorized by the State, it would be a great crop to replace sugar, and certainly as a soil remediation, but I would caution against putting the entire acreage in any one crop. I would like to see land leased to local farmers for food crop cultivation in the form of a Food Hub. At Pacific Biodiesel I was able to get a biofuel crop demonstration project funded by the federal government to explore how to grow more feedstock for cleaner fuel. On the Big Island we’re focusing on non-GMO crops that we can grow without pesticides. We also need this kind of initiative in Maui County. We have an opportunity to address our food and fuel security needs in a big way and we need A&B to step up now!
Photo courtesy Kelly King