Candidates discuss pressing Lahaina issues at forum
Lahaina – The West Maui Taxpayers Association (WMTA) hosted a General Candidates’ Night at the Lahaina Senior Center last week, Wednesday (Oct. 24).
Nominees on the Nov. 6 ballot for state Senate District 6 (South and West Maui), House District 10 (Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua, Maalaea and Kihei), all nine Maui County Council seats, and one candidate for the Maui mayor’s position were present.
All were given five-minutes to respond to selected questions, including: 1) What specifically will you do to see that the north portion of the Lahaina Bypass is completed as soon as possible; 2) What specifically will you do to increase our inventory of affordable housing and rental projects in West Maui; 3) What specifically will you do to add inventory to address our homelessness and houseless crisis in West Maui; and 4) What are your plans to address shoreline erosion and sea level rise?
The Lahaina News opted to cover only those candidates seeking election to West Side positions.
Our community is fortunate to have some excellent choices, making the selection process challenging.
In all cases, it was a positive and enlightening evening; unfortunately, however, not all of each candidate’s campaign rhetoric could fit into this space; summaries in the end are just summaries.
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Rick Nava and Tamara Paltin are vying for the West Maui county council seat.
Both have impressive backgrounds and resumes of community service.
Nava, a Lahainaluna High School Graduate, is a 29-year veteran and successful small business owner for the past 25 years. He has served on many non-profits and community organizations including president of Rotary and WMTA, treasurer of the Maui Chamber of Commerce and a five-year term on the Maui Police Commission.
Important issues for the 59-year old father of two are emergency preparedness and homelessness.
He considered Kahauiki Village on Oahu a role model initiative to build affordable plantation-style housing for homeless families.
“This is the type of organization we need to take a look at to see what we can do. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel to help our homeless,” he advised.
Maintaining a community that is consistently engaged is a Nava priority. Communication is key, he said.
Paltin, a 41-year-old Napili mother of two, is an Ocean Safety lieutenant at DT Fleming Beach in Kapalua, with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics/education from Northern Arizona University.
She is president of the Save Honolua Coalition and the West Maui Preservation Association, director of the West Maui Community Association, steward of Hawaii Government Employee Association and Ka Ipu Kukui Leadership fellow.
Paltin was specific about her role on the West Maui Community Association board of directors.
“We been talking with the ERS (Employees Retirement System,) and we’re not in favor of anything that they’re offering (revitalization of the Kaanapali Golf Course), because we don’t feel that it’s a benefit to our community; it’s a big impact to our community.
“If they choose to move forward on the plans that they have,” Paltin cautioned, “they need to help us finish the northern terminus (of the Lahaina Bypass). They need to help us figure out the distribution of wastewater instead of getting it injected. That’s a benefit to our community. What they’re proposing is only impacts to our community.”
She pledged to “build coalitions in the community to create a variety of affordable housing solutions that are attainable for working families, including affordable rentals.”
Vacant retail space, “a blight on our community,” she suggested, “could be a possibility for the homeless,” with the infrastructure already “built-in.”
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Roz Baker (Democrat) and Melissah (Mish) Shishido (Green) are seeking to win the race for the Senate District 6 seat.
Both power contenders are highly qualified and focused on their goals.
Baker is the incumbent of Senate District 6, serving in that position since 2002.
She has championed many causes at the capitol for west and south Maui.
“As your State Senator, I’ve been constantly working on issues that are important to you and getting results, such as getting a second ambulance for each of our communities, a special response unit stationed in Maalaea as a backup, protecting our boarding program at Lahainaluna High School, new classroom buildings, roadway improvements, saving Front Street Apartments with the help of the community.”
“When governor Ige signed my bill to save Front Street Apartments,” Roz continued, “the bill also contained $30 million for 200 affordable rental units to be built near the Keawe Street intersection with the bypass.”
“This past session, along with Representative McKelvey and the rest of the Maui delegation, we sought and secured $40 million to construct the Lahaina Bypass going north,” she said.
“It’s imperative that we complete the realignment of Honoapi’ilani Highway and move it away from the shoreline,” she warned.
Improving education is another must for Baker. “I want to promote 21st century skill sets, especially science, technology, engineering and math.”
Baker’s opponent, Shishido, opened with a prepared statement.
“My love and passion for teaching is what led me to run for state Senate seat, District 6. I taught high school in Hawaii for the past 21 years. I am currently a full-time student at UH-Maui, working on my Masters Degree in Education.
“I am actively volunteering in restoring Kahoolawe, a volunteer for Kihei Town Party for many years, assisted with board meetings for Hokule’a’s inaugural Mahalo Sail last summer here in Honolua, which included planting over 3,000 native Hawaiian plants and continue to tutor students here on Maui and on Oahu.”
Her message was well-rounded: “I believe in the health and safety of our people, and I helped to urge the passage of Senate Bill 3095 banning chlorpyrifos due to their harmful effects on our community members.”
Her focus is on diverse ends, including “increasing our truly affordable home inventory addressing the homeless and houseless population addressing the issues regarding shoreline erosion and sea level rise.”
Shishido knows the “struggles of being a teacher and living below the level of poverty; it’s not uncommon for teachers to work an additional part time job to make ends meet.”
Malama Honua is the valuable lesson from the Hokule’a worldwide voyage, she observed.
“We are at risk,” she warned, “of leaving our children the deplorable legacy of a debilitated and degraded environment. We need to make sure that our soil, air and waters are not dumping grounds for toxic chemicals and waste. We can set real targets with measurable objectives and deliver on those goals.”
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The three candidates for House seat District 10 – Chayne Marten (Republican), Jen Kamao’hi Mather (Green) and Angus McKelvey (Democrat) – provided a myriad of information in their messages to attendees.
Mather graduated from University of California at Santa Barbara, with a degree in anthropology. She earned her Masters in Pacific Island Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
The married mother of two is the president and co-founder of the PTO (parent-teachers organization) of King Kamehameha III Elementary School, a Girl Scout leader and office administrator and facilities manager for Waiola Church.
“Our affordable housing crisis and parts of our houseless crisis are intertwined. We can talk about the two of them together,” she advised.
But Mather would prefer to stop talking and start doing, with some out-of-the-box thinking. “This isn’t a platform item, this is real life,” she said with intended force.
“There are a few things we can do on the state level,” she offered. “One of them is to pass some legislation that mandates that VRBO and Airbnb and others like them only list licensed and legal short term rentals. What that does is that after all of those illegals go away, because the county can enforce that now, they will open up for our people to move into.”
She recommended that affordable housing projects be built by the state, owned by the state, and, with regard to affordable rents, operated by the state in perpetuity.
Addressing sea level rise, erosion and climate is a must-do for Mather – sooner rather than later.
“When you talk about seawalls, revetments, groins, beach nourishment, it’s all well and good for short term prospects. It really needs to be about managed retreat,” she advocated.
Incumbent Angus McKelvey has served in the House since 2007. He earned his BA in political science from Whittier College and his JD (Juris Doctor degree) from Concord Law School.
With his experience, he offered some strong advice, “Affordable housing is going to require the political will of us all, and that’s why our community plan is so important. That process is key because it’s where the community says, ‘Yes, we want to have affordable development here, and no, not here.’ “
“It will be in perpetuity and won’t be a profit margin game,” he added.
“Managed retreat,” McKelvey noted pointedly, as well, “is a critical issue. We don’t need a weatherman to tell us which way the wind blows, the wind’s blowing right now. We have just a simple storm surge, south swell throwing rocks and water over the road every day. It is an emergency situation. That is my number one priority — what I’ve been lobbying my colleagues about all year long.”
Chayne Marten has an uphill battle with unresolved criminal charges filed against him.
“One of the reasons that I came tonight,” he explained, “was I wanted to make it clear to people here that know that I have been accused of a crime, that I am innocent I am running for office, because I love this community.”
He advocates in favor of eliminating the “tax on food for Hawaii residents,” increasing the minimum wage to $18 an hour and a rent freeze.
“Education is important,” he continued, “but unless we pay teachers more, we’re not going to have the teachers that we want.
He recommended a Lotto jackpot game be initiated to fund these lofty goals.
“I am not talking about casino gambling, I’m against casino gambling, but Lotto will bring in money to make sure that our schools are financed, to make sure that our hospital is built, to make sure our kids are fed and to make sure our seniors don’t have to shop around to find the cheapest food that they can.”
In any and all cases, West Siders are encouraged to exercise their right vote on or before Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The president of the WMTA, Joe Pluta, rightfully recognized the candidates: “I think it takes a tremendous amount of courage to run for public office. I congratulate and thank them.”