Trio running for West Maui seat on the County Council
WEST MAUI – Three West Side residents – Kanamu Balinbin, Rick Nava and Tamara Paltin – are running for the West Maui seat on the Maui County Council.
The two with the highest vote totals after Saturday’s Primary Election will advance to the Nov. 6 General Election. All county voters elect councilors for two-year seats in the nonpartisan election.
Current West Maui Councilwoman Elle Cochran is running for mayor.
Balinbin, 50, said he’s running because he feels he can make a difference.
“By building bridges with proven community leaders, we CAN find solutions to problems that affect us all. For over 30 years, we have been hearing the same promises being made by politicians with little or no results,” he noted.
“It’s time for a shift in government. Because I am part of the ‘working class,’ I will do what MUST be done so that the gap between the ‘haves and the have-nots’ doesn’t get wider.”
Talking to people during his campaign, the most discussed issues are affordable/workforce housing, traffic and the Honokowai wastewater plant.
Balinbin said that House Bill 2748, recently approved in the State Legislature, will provide $570 million to generate more than 25,000 affordable housing units by 2030. It also provides financing and tax incentives to proposed developers.
According to Balinbin, “With these factors in play, affordable housing should be a reality for the working class. Also, I strongly feel that the hotels can do a bigger role in providing affordable housing for its employees. It was common practice under Mayor Elmer Cravalho for hotels to provide some housing for its employees. Seeing hotel after hotel being developed here on the West Side – yes, the hotels need to have a role in helping with Maui County’s housing crisis.”
While most roads and highways are under the state’s jurisdiction, the county can help address traffic by creating a more efficient public transit system and collaborating with hotels to create a transit system for their workers, he said.
“By creating a transit system that is geared towards hotel employees’ working hours, we will remove thousands of vehicles from being on the roadways,” Balinbin argued.
He said he has been working with Bella Kai and the YDro process that features proven methods to eliminate odors from the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility in Honokowai and help with the current cesspool situation.
There are also solutions to eliminate the plant’s injection wells.
When Balinbin presented information on this environmentally friendly, cost-efficient process to the county, “all I got was the runaround,” he said.
“It is very frustrating. Things need to change, now!”
If elected, Balinbin wants to help facilitate affordable/workforce housing and rentals, ensure public safety, create diversified agriculture and seek real government accountability.
Balinbin, 50, is the chef/owner of Nalu Grindz and Coconut Grove Catering. After graduating from Lahainaluna High School, he served as a U.S. Army Food Service Specialist (Honor Graduate) in Fort Lee, Virginia.
His community resume includes serving as chair of the Sacred Hearts Bazaar and food booth coordinator, event organizer of the Hui O Pohaku Keiki Surf Contest and fundraiser coordinator for Lahainaluna girls softball. He has also been involved with Lahainaluna football, West Maui Youth Basketball, Lahaina Chiefs Football, Napili Wrestling, Maui High School HOSA/Family Fun Night, Maui High Surfing, Maui High Voyaging and Young Life Kumulani.
He has been endorsed by ILWU, Local 142; Hawaii Carpenters Union, Local 745; Hawaii State AFL-CIO; Maui Hotel and Lodging Association; Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1186; and Hawaii Laborers’ Union, Local 386.
We asked Balinbin why voters should pick him.
“The voter should pick me, because I am in the same boat as most people. I know the struggles that people have, because I live it,” he said.
“Helping people in the community is a value that has been instilled in me at a young age by my parents and grandparents. So many Kanaka Maoli don’t vote because they feel that their vote doesn’t count, and I don’t blame them. Being Kanaka Maoli myself, I need to do what is right by my ancestors. It’s time for government to serve the people. I am here to serve. I come from the Balinbin Family of Mala Camp, Lahaina, and the Hoopai ‘Ohana of Ulaino, Hana. A vote for me is a vote for you!”
Nava is running to put himself “in a better position to make a difference to help improve our way of life.
“I consider myself a leader, and I have proven that by running a very successful business and serving effectively in several community organizations as its president or one of the directors.”
Residents have told Nava that the top county issues this year are the lack of workforce housing and affordable rentals, and our infrastructure.
He said, “As a small business owner who is having a lot of challenge looking for employees, I am very familiar with these issues, and I look forward to taking on the responsibility to address and improve on these challenges.
“Though it is not often mentioned, another issue that voters talk to me about is trust in government and elected officials. Because of this issue, some do not vote, because they believe that their vote does not matter because elected officials make promises and never do anything about it once they are elected.”
Nava said the county must look at what is best for the people of Maui County and the environment when supporting affordable housing, and that there should be a balance between open space and any type of development.
In addition, the county can improve its infrastructure to prepare for more housing, assist homebuilders to construct workforce housing that is truly affordable for families, helping with impact fees and expediting permit fees.
“When we make the homes affordable, our investment to these homes will come back to the county through property taxes,” Nava noted.
If elected, Nava pledged to work with the mayor and council to find solutions to what he considers Maui County’s number one issue: creating workforce housing and affordable rentals. This has been a problem for years, he said, and the County Council has been ineffective in addressing it.
“In my first two years as a councilmember, it is my goal to help increase the number of workforce housing not only on West Maui but in the entire Maui County. Our children want to return home to Maui, but not having a place they can afford to live makes it very difficult. I want to help make this a reality for our families,” he added.
Nava, 59, is a small business owner who graduated from Lahainaluna High School. A veteran of 29 years, while still in high school, Nava joined the U.S. Army under the Delayed Entry Program.
He has been involved with the Rotary Club of Lahaina since 1993 and served in every officer’s and director’s position, including president in 2003-04, 2009-10 and 2017-18. Nava is also the past president of the West Maui Taxpayers Association, current treasurer of the Maui Chamber of Commerce, a former Police Commissioner and a tutor in the Lahaina Complex After School Tutor Project.
Nava feels the council can benefit from his leadership and creative thinking.
“I am very passionate at everything that I do. I am a community leader who likes to think out of the box to find solutions to challenges. I am a public servant who not only works very hard to help others, but also who works very smart to ensure that things are done properly and in a timely manner,” he said.
Paltin said she is running for the West Side seat because she loves Maui County and West Maui is her home.
“I will focus on county-level solutions that can help our residents. I am community-driven, community-based, and I believe this is the best way I can improve our residents’ quality of life,” she commented.
County-related issues in West Maui that residents have brought to her attention include affordable housing, infrastructure (traffic, water, wastewater), the environment, disaster preparedness, sea level rise and coastal erosion, illegal short-term rentals and protecting the Honolua Bay area.
She hopes residents will provide comprehensive input on these priorities during the West Maui Community Plan process.
“For affordable housing, we are at a critical need, and the council can review existing entitled projects with affordable components that have stalled and see if the county can do anything to get these projects moving, provide no interest loans to developers of affordable projects for their offsite infrastructure or onsite construction costs (unlike banks, the county does not need to make a profit). If a project has an affordable component, require developers to develop their affordable units – do not accept cash in lieu, as the amount of cash is much less,” Paltin explained.
“We must also ensure that affordable is attainable for local families, and that affordable homes stay affordable for a minimum of 30 years. I would also like to partner more with community land trust organizations like Na Hale o Maui by identifying parcels that are appropriate to build and working towards getting those parcels for affordable housing in perpetuity through community land trusts.”
If elected, Paltin said she will work to ensure residents’ needs and priorities are reflected in the county budget. Countywide policy plans, Maui Island plans and community plans will guide her decision-making process.
She would meet regularly with residents of all districts to gain feedback on what the county is doing right, and what areas need focused county-level solutions.
Paltin, 40, works for the County of Maui Department of Fire and Public Safety/Ocean Safety Section as an Ocean Safety Officer III, Lieutenant.
She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Education from Northern Arizona University. Paltin is also a Ka Ipu Kukui Fellow, having graduated from the prestigious program for young leaders.
She has been involved with the Save Honolua Coalition, West Maui Community Association, West Maui Preservation Association, Na Papa’i Wawae ‘Ula’ula, Hawaii Lifeguards Association and E Alu Pu.
Paltin ran for Maui County mayor in 2014, garnering 39.5 percent of the votes in the General Election. She has been endorsed by the HGEA; Unite Here, Local 5; Sierra Club; Pono Hawaii Initiative; ‘Ohana SAFE Coalition; and Maui Pono Network.
Paltin wants to serve as an advocate for the West Side and the county.
“I want to leverage my knowledge and experience in working on a wide array of community, county and state issues from the vantage point of the County Council. I am solutions-focused and persistent in the face of complex problems facing our community. I will be West Maui and Maui County’s best advocate,” she concluded.