The SHAKA Movement’s anti-GMO voter initiative worked so well that the group’s organizers are now cooking up two new bills. If you’ll recall your recent history, SHAKA got a bill pledging to stop Monsanto from growing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on Maui approved for the 2014 ballot (a historic first!), then inspired thousands of residents who don’t seem to have previously shown any political interest to vote for the measure (quite possibly by convincing them that the bill would ban pesticides on Maui, even though the actual initiative did no such thing. The measure passed, but court challenges soon rendered it moot, then threw it out
entirely, ruling that it wrongfully preempted state and federal law. Measure supporters appealed the ruling, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear the appeal.*
The two new measures, which come courtesy of a new organization called the Community Farmland Council (which includes SHAKA organizers Bruce Douglas and Dr. Lorrin Pang), are not GMO-related. But if they pass (and are held up by the courts, of course), they will radically change Maui’s political and economic landscape.
The first measure, called the Community Organic Farmland Initiative, seeks to convert the island’s acreage currently dedicated to sugarcane (read: Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar lands) into “public agricultural parks.” The measure would call on the county to use eminent domain to buy the lands “at fair market value” (which would just about be the first time eminent domain has ever paid anything more than pennies on the dollar to property owners).
“[O]f coarse [sic] these sugarcane lands should be owned just as the beaches, for the good of everyone, and taken care of and preserved for the health of future generations,” Pang is quoted as saying in a Mar. 18 Community Farmland Council email.
Given that HC&S has already announced that they’re ceasing all sugarcane production by the end of this year and will embark on “diversified agriculture,” it’s hard to how this measure will inspire residents. Perhaps the second measure will be that catalyst.
Called The District Voting Charter Amendment, that measure institutes “district-voting” to the Maui County Council. “This would amend the Maui County Charter to change the way county council members are voted into office from the current at-large voting system to a 9 individual district voting system,” states the Mar. 18 press release. “The law sets up a commission to divide Maui County into 9 district[s] of equal population with public input.
Given that the county’s current council districts had widely disparate populations, countywide voting made sense. But while redrawing the nine districts so their resident populations are about equal looks great on paper, but may make for some pretty funky looking borders.
In any case, the organization will have to gather tens of thousands of signatures over the next couple of months if they want to get the measures on the November 2016 ballot. For more information, check out Mauicommunityfarmland.org.
* This story originally neglected to mention that the GMO ruling is under appeal. I regret the error