Maui economy and GMOs rank as top concerns.

Katherine Kama‘ema‘e Smith


At the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce Business Fest on Thursday, Oct. 2, Mayor Alan Arakawa and Mayoral Candidate Tamara Paltin answered questions posed by Maui business people. It was no surprise that the Maui economy and the moratorium initiative on genetically modified food placed high on their list of questions. Agriculture is the oldest lasting economic sector, and small business provides the only other diversification from tourism—Maui’s biggest cash crop.

Forum Moderators Mahina Martin and Ron Vaught allowed both candidates seven minutes to talk about their platforms, and two minutes to address each of five questions.

The Native Hawaiian Chamber does not endorse candidates or issues, but hosts educational forums where the public can hear directly from the candidates. Maui Weekly reports to offer readers perspective on these candidates, and what they would like to accomplish in the next four years, if elected.


Opening Remarks

Paltin is a 2009 graduate of University of the Hawai‘i Maui Campus Business Department Fellowship. She was born on O‘ahu and raised on Hawai‘i Island. She has been and ocean safety officer at Honokahua Bay at Fleming Beach Park for 13 years. She is the executive director of the nonprofit Save Honolua, which, over the past seven years, created public awareness and facilitated the purchase of 270 acres of land at Honolua Bay from Maui Land and Pineapple Co. Ltd, with $20 million of state funds. The funds will be invested and the returned interest will supplement the pensions of MLP pension beneficiaries.

Paltin said that although the Maui community does not change, the direction of the administration changes every four years. She would look for the best people to fill the nearly 60 patronage jobs in county administration, open communications with the County Council and establish an open and transparent administrative process. She wants to create more win-win collaborations and get people to work together for the future generations and those who want to retire here. She wants to work with people and with nature.


Mayor Arakawa said it is very important for the mayor to know everything that is going on and to put people in touch with what is going on. He has been involved in Maui’s transition from its plantation days to today, such as redirecting water from plantations to all parts of the island’s growing community. Maui roads need constant repair and filling potholes is not enough—it means taking out old roads and building new roads. The mayor referred to photoelectric power that the county has installed to save electricity, using new technology to attack old problems. He said that in 1970, Maui was ahead of technology, recycling water. But now the county has to find ways to use the R1 (recycled) water for farms and irrigation at the hotels. He sees this being accomplished through cooperation between private partners and agencies.

Mayor Arakawa said that someone has to pay for new programs and studies such as global positioning system studies on traffic, and opportunities to go to electric vehicles, which call for centralization of some services and utilities. He also wants a task force on education to look at preschool education for keiki under 5 years of age. It’s a time, he said, when we learn 80 percent of all we are going to learn or ever know. He wants an educational plan for early childcare and preschool so Maui County will have education for all.

Mayor Arakawa also is concerned about helping the homeless, continuing healthcare for the mentally challenged and creating a long-term care facility for mental patients. These are huge challenges. As mayor he said he has to be thinking of all the areas that need to be addressed. He said his role is problem solver. When problems come up, the county turns to the mayor. The county legislators find problems, but his role is to find solutions.


Moderators Mahina Martin and Ron Vaught posed the following five questions:


Q: What will you do for Native Hawaiians continue to grow in Maui County in Maui?

Paltin: “First, get out information on current programs to all the community, find duplications and provide a safety net. I will encourage the development of Hawai‘i programs with the state Department of Economic Development, and take it a step further. It is a matter of bringing together private, state and federal funds.”

Arakawa: “I want to get infrastructure for Hawaiian Homesteads—sewer, water in joint partnerships with the county and developers—for the immersion program, which is one of the best early education educational programs we have now, so we more exposure in the DOE and early childhood education and continue support—for Na Wai Ehä, which I have been working with for 20 years and we have to increase water distribution is the county position.”


Q: How are you planning to raise the standard of living in Maui County?

Paltin: “There is no silver bullet. Reach out to people in the worst position and give them tools to get back on their feet and in a successful situation. There is no affordable housing. We need work with the council on affordable rentals and changes in zoning. Transitional villages for homeless will help. We need to work with Maui Economic Opportunity (MEO) and other nonprofits that can help with resources. Get developers to meet their commitments to affordable housing. I think just the basic needs are a strain on most families, and we need to do more with less.”

Arakawa: “First, create more jobs, and create jobs that pay more, like high tech and the film industry. We are developing Päʻia and Makawao to help them regenerate themselves and bring back small towns. We are developing the agricultural industry on Maui. We are trying to bring back ocean activities and events like Halloween that bring people to Maui. There are a lot of things that need development, like agriculture. We need to take the lower cane lands into agriculture, where we can bring volumes of water at low cost to grow crops, and develop the higher slopes for housing, not the other way around.”


Q: What is your stance on the Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) Ballot Initiative?

Arakawa: “I have a copy here and see the bill itself as poorly written and difficult to administer. The county has to be able to identify all GMO plants and inspect for them on thousands of acres. Then we have to somehow control them. We have to create a complete department to do this work. Finding the personnel with expertise in this to do elaborate testing involved is a nightmare. From an administrator’s position, not taking a stand on good or bad, I think it is impractical and impossible at this time.

Paltin: I agree that people should actually read the bill. I support the people’s ballot initiative, for a moratorium on open-air experimental tests, which employ large amounts of insecticide combinations, until these procedures can be proven safe. Large agricultural interests in the past have contaminated our ground water, like Upcountry’s wells. We need to assure that our natural resources and public health will not be adversely affected by the chemicals and insecticides used with GMO crops. I also believe that we have a right to know what is in the food we are eating. GMO engineered foods fundamentally differ from non-GMO foods. I believe GMO products are labeled. Just like the smoking ban on our beaches, we don’t have a good way to enforce it, but I think communities look at laws as where we want to see things to go. This is the only Maui Nui we have. I think we have to have a balance between pests and agriculture, and we need to know what is being used. Monitoring is not a problem if you know what they are doing.”


Q: Political signs are overwhelming the island. Do you think we should ban these signs? 

Arakawa: “Political signs are the most inexpensive way for new candidates to make their name known to 160,000 people on three islands. I would say no to a ban. I believe the size of the signs is part of the problem. To some extent, a large number of signs is counterproductive, because people also want to hear what the candidates have to say.”

Paltin: I am against a ban. I would not want to tell people what they can or cannot put in their yards. I have less than 155 signs on recycled signs from past candidates that I painted over. I try to keep the signs to a minimum. I encourage all the candidates to keep their signs to a minimum.”


Q: Please tell us your plans to improve Maui County infrastructure for the next four years?

Paltin: “I want to develop infrastructure and avoid federal fines for injection well fines in the future. I want to see if we can redirect the water. Other infrastructure in old neighborhoods needs improvement, like sidewalks for central Kahului and King Kekaulike High School. I also want to work with Maui Electric Company [MECO] on power and electricity to make it sustainable for everybody in the coming years, and make sure that everyone has access to photovoltaic alternatives.”

Arakawa: I want to continue programs like the 25-year recycle program for county roads to expand useful life; centralized purchasing of equipment for the county to reduce costs. I want to keep improving our water ancient system, and continue systematic maintenance. It is so costly, we have to move for ward systematically—it cannot be done all at one time. I want to continue to work on recycling water and our sewer system. I want finalize plans and purchase of 100 acres for restructuring county baseyards, and replacement of heavy equipment.


Q: Maui has grown considerably. How do you plan to manage the growth so that it supports the economy without harming our natural and cultural resources?

Paltin: We need growth, and our economic development is community based. The people who live here have to be the leaders of economic growth, more so than those from outside the county. We need the people who grew up here need to be the leaders of economic growth—the guiding force. Outsiders have to help us with our vision of what we think Maui should be. Community economic development has to enhance the environment. We need to promote the local people and their talents. It’s not that you have to go away anymore to get education exposure or experience. We have to work within our own resources to support community development as much as possible.”

Arakawa: “You can look at the current plan and see that to grow the economy you have to stimulate small businesses, and help people start businesses. Small business provides 80 percent of Maui jobs. We have to be able to provide resources. The county has to be proactive and buy lands and create preservation districts like Mokuhinia Launiupoko, ‘Ukumehame and Päʻia. We need to be able to look at all the various parts of our economy. Unless you are doing something physically, you can talk about philosophy all you want. As an administration, we are actively preserving our history. We are actively going after the water issue. Water issues have to be resolved. A community divided is a community in trouble. As long as everyone understands the goals, we can attain them.”


Additional questions that were not addressed due to time constraints will be answered by both candidates in writing and posted on www.mnhcoc.org.

The forum was taped live by Akaku: Maui Community Media. Visit www.akaku.org for broadcast times.


Photo (Maui Total Visual): Mayor Alan Arakawa and Mayoral Candidate Tamara Paltin answer questions posed by Maui business people at the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce Business Fest on Thursday, Oct. 2.