House incumbent and challenger spar on issues
WEST MAUI – Republican Chayne Marten will challenge Democrat Rep. Angus McKelvey for the Tenth District seat in the State House in Tuesday’s General Election.
The Lahaina News interviewed the candidates to reveal their goals and insights on the district covering Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua, Maalaea and North Kihei.
McKelvey, 44, seeks reelection to continue working on vital projects.
“I’m running to continue our success, not only keeping critical projects for roads, schools and harbors going, but also continuing to pursue new and innovative ideas to transform our economy, increase our ag sustainability and free our dependence on foreign oil while creating jobs with our ongoing renewable energy programs,” said McKelvey, who has held the seat since 2006.
Marten, 59, a green energy consultant and founder of The Maui Green Team, said he is running “to give the people a voice.
“It is clear to me that our current legislator, Mr. McKelvey, is listening to Oahu and not Maui. A legislator should represent the will of the people and not show favoritism to special interest groups or corporations,” he said.
“Supporting Act 55 along with his colleagues was a mistake, and not just a little one. Act 55 exempts the Public Land Development Corporation from state statutes, city ordinances, building codes and standards to develop in partnership with private developers,” he added.
State and county lands, ceded lands, open space, culturally sensitive areas, shorelines, harbors and conservation and agriculture lands may be taken and no longer called “public lands” through the bill, he said.
Marten also cited Senate Bills 755HDC and 2927, which “call to eliminate environmental review and allow transit construction to ignore land use and height restrictions,” as mistakes.
“Some people have implied I am not revealing Mr. McKelvey’s voting record correctly. That is not true – I am. But so that there is no question, you may call the Legislative Referral Bureau at (808) 587-0478. I have been nothing but honest,” he said.
McKelvey responded, “My legislative accomplishments clearly show that my focus has been putting West Maui first. Last time I checked, creating an ocean management recreation advisory committee for water safety at Canoe Beach, dredging Lahaina Harbor after the tsunami, securing funds for our school facilities and getting the Lahaina Bypass rolling again wasn’t exactly at the top of any of the agendas of any special interests.
“I’m proud that the majority of individual contributors to my campaign this General Election are from Lahaina and are integral members of our community. If these are the special interests Mr. Marten is referring to, then I guess I am pursuing their agenda,” he continued.
“As to the groups that have supported our campaign, they are not faceless entities but our friends and neighbors in the community, who have banded together in their professional capacities to have a say in the way government affects their lives and their livelihood.”
To gain an endorsement, candidates must meet with representatives of the organizations and discuss the issues.
“I have always been one to listen to both sides of an issue and to reach compromise… which is why I am proud of the support I received from groups like the Maui Chamber of Commerce, the ILWU, the Sierra Club and many other groups that, ironically, my opponent applied to receive support from and now labels them special interests.”
Marten also said he is running because Hawaii families and kupuna are struggling to pay bills, keep food on the table and pay rent or a mortgage.
“Food is going up, taxes are going up, and those on fixed incomes suffer the most. All this, and McKelvey is supporting tax hikes at the Department of Motor Vehicles, gas and even voting to tax employee retirement pensions.”
“We should eliminate taxes on food and medication for Hawaii residents. The typical taxpayer must work 116 days a year to pay their taxes. High taxes have a profoundly negative effect on the economic growth,” Marten argued.
“Rep. McKelvey supported raising taxes nine times this last session, including raising taxes and lowering benefits for employee retirement pensions, and he wants to tax Internet purchases. I support lowering taxes on earnings and investments and reducing worker’s compensation costs and unemployment insurance costs for small business.”
McKelvey countered that the State of Hawaii faces budget challenges amid the ongoing recession.
“Unlike my opponent, who uses simple clichs to address complex problems, the reality of the severe deficit caused by the worldwide recession forced us to look at both cuts, suspension of exemptions and other incentives as well as revenue bills…,” said McKelvey, adding that closing the deficit and trying to address unfunded liability were key concerns.
“We have been consistent in our approach to revenue generation in only including measures that either raised taxes on the top one percent of income in the state, or, because of the funding mechanism, provide a disproportionate benefit to the Neighbor Islands.”
He cited the special highway fund, in which 80 percent of the fees are paid by Oahu residents, but 80 percent of the projects being funded are here on Maui, including the Lahaina Bypass and other road projects.
Marten said he opposes any new taxes or fees. He wants to improve public education in Hawaii, hold the state Department of Education accountable and create jobs. The highest teen unemployment rate since World War II and growing homeless population are repercussions of the poor job market, he said.
“We have asked state workers, teachers, jailers, first responders… to take pay cuts, usually around 13 percent, while the cost of living continues to climb. These are not easy jobs. I think legislators should be required to take the same pay cuts they advocate for others,” Marten commented.
He named pursuing idle infrastructure projects, preventing overdevelopment of West Maui and Olowalu, and pursuing another elementary school and critical care facility in West Maui as additional reasons he is running for office.
Talking to residents, McKelvey said the top issues in the 2012 elections are “keeping the infrastructure projects going,” the economy (“what have we done in the short-term, as well as our plans for the long-term to improve prospects for employment and job security”), food security and sustainability, and infrastructure and water safety.
According to Marten, the biggest issues in the community include supporting a West Maui hospital, preserving Honolua Bay and Lipoa Point, promoting sustainability, creating jobs and lowering taxes.
Legalizing gambling in Hawaii is a big issue, and Marten said it’s “not wise to go down this path.
“I have been asking this question to my community, and they say ‘no.’ It is difficult to understand why Mr. McKelvey is trying to bring casino gambling to Hawaii. He has sponsored 13 gambling bills. Whose agenda is he supporting? Certainly not the people’s.”
McKelvey said the legislature investigated potential revenue sources, “because of the economic crash and the immediate economic impact of the March 2011 tsunami.” Lawmakers faced making cuts, enacting tax/fee increases or investigating new revenue sources.
“When the tourism numbers rebounded faster than expected and became much stronger, it became apparent that we did not need to look at these options for a revenue situation. As chair of the committee which had lead jurisdiction over these bills that I introduced, I chose not to hear a single one of them last legislative session,” he said.
Asked to give the state a grade on education, Marten responded with an “F,” citing the 30 percent high school dropout rate, low rankings for schools in the Lahaina Complex and the fact that Lahaina public schools didn’t reach Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks.
“I will work with the DOE to restructure the way we educate our keiki. We must reengage them and personalize education. Students learn differently and at different paces. All keiki must be challenged, and we should find what motivates each child. A broader curriculum offers more choices and opportunities. Local control is more personal. Teachers need the tools and support of the community,” Marten said.
He feels teachers should be rewarded for their students’ achievement, and tax dollars should be available to parents who have children enrolled in private schools.
McKelvey praised the principals, teachers, staff and parents of Lahaina Complex schools but gave Hawaii’s education system as a whole a “C-minus” due to issues like the procurement code, which doesn’t give teachers a flexible way to purchase teaching materials and supplies, and for failing to have incentive-based contracting for new schools.
Rep. McKelvey added that the DOE doesn’t have a funding formula that takes into account the additional needs of English as a Second Language or Special Education students, and “failing to meet key scores in math and science still bedevils us we have to try and still address these issues, hence the grade.”
Marten graduated from Sequoia High School and studied at Canada College, College of San Mateo, Stanford University, University of Hawaii Maui College, Screen Actors Conservatory and ACT San Francisco.
He is involved in the West Maui Taxpayers Association, Odd Fellows and the Angel Network, and he has volunteered to help punters on the Lahainaluna High School football team.
McKelvey graduated from Hawaii Preparatory Academy in 1986 and earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Whittier College in 1992.
He is a former member of Lahaina Rotary Club and Lahaina Restoration Foundation and a volunteer for Lahaina Arts Society.