Charlie Jencks took a deep breath and started pacing around. “There’s plenty of water on Maui,” he said, his voice beginning to rise. He repeated the statement a few times. He was almost agitated as he spoke of the county Department of Water Supply’s “responsibility” to find and secure water for big developments.
As the developer seeking to put another 1,400 homes and 18-hole golf course into Wailea paced around a large set of presentation notes clipped to an easel, realtor and slow-growth advocate Lance Holter sat quietly, watching him. When Jencks was finally through and sat down, Holter began talking of how luxurious South Maui homes need 2,000 gallons of water every day, and how much of that water goes toward frills like watering lawns.
“The county will need 25 million gallons of water every day when it reaches build-out,” Holter said. “I don’t believe we have that.”
As many of the 50 or so audience members applauded, Jencks just looked on. So went the Nov. 9, 2005 debate “The Morality of Development.” Held at Seabury Hall in Makawao and sponsored by the school’s Philosophy Club, the debate matched Jencks, the current president of the Maui Contractors Association and former Maui County public works director against Holter, a Hawai’i Sierra Club activist, perennial local candidate and former Peace Corps volunteer.
Polite and well organized, about the only problems with the debate stemmed from it being too polite and well organized. It opened with five questions submitted by the Philosophy Club to both Holter and Jencks. That they each got eight days to prepare answers to those questions was made obvious right off the bat. When asked the first question, “How do you control growth on Maui?” Jencks immediately stood and referred to his easel, which displayed a giant sheet of notes labeled “Controlling Growth on Maui.”
After a 15-minute recess following the Philosophy Club questions, seven questions from the audience were picked at random and given to both participants. People asked questions concerning the homeless people camped out on the breakwater in Kahului, how building permits could be easier to get and where all these new planned developments were going to get water.
But the high point was at the end—a lightening round in which Holter and Jencks each had seven minutes to ask seven questions of the other. This was real debating—Holter eating up half his allotted time asking a rambling question about Jenck’s proposed Wailea 670 project, followed by Jencks equally long-winded questioning about where Holter was going to put the multitudes of people moving to Maui.
This was true debating—not a nice exchange of ideas, but real criticism and argument. Instead of rushing through it right at the end—neither participant ended up asking seven questions—the participant interrogations should have dominated the debate itself.
Instead of hearing Jencks talk platitudes like “You have to carefully balance the high end with the low end” or Holter insisting that “Market forces will destroy us,” the mostly high school audience would have gotten a back and forth, bruising and exhausting treat where gazes narrow and brows furrow.
Given the stakes—dwindling land combined with rapidly increasing population—ratcheting up the terms of debate can’t hurt. MTW