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South Maui Challengers Align on Environmental Issues

Kihei Community Association membership gives new candidates the floor.

July 23, 2014
Katherine Kama‘ema‘e Smith , Maui Weekly

Kihei Community Association (KCA) at its July 15 meeting gave primary candidates for South Maui offices a chance to present themselves to voters. It followed last month's meeting where incumbents presented results of their legislative year. Jim Fitzpatrick, Robin Knox and Jerome Metcalf will face South Maui County Councilman Don Couch in the Aug. 9 primary. In the Democratic Primary, Terez Amato is challenging incumbent Roz Baker for the State Senate District 6 seat, and Dr. Marie Minichino will oppose District 11 Rep. Kaniela Ing.

Candidates focused on environmental issues, corporate campaign contributions and the long-awaited Kihei High School project. Audience questions expanded the discussion to education, taxes, spending, a state lottery, marijuana legalization, and Kihei sidewalks.

KCA President Mike Moran opened the meeting by thanking Kihei Charter School, MW Group Ltd. Commercial Real Estate, and KCA volunteer directors and committee members who support the association's mission. Each candidate was allowed eight minutes of uninterrupted presentation, followed by five minutes of public Q&A. Moran said KCA invited only South Maui County Council seat contenders, but Kihei voters should vote for all districts.

Article Photos

County Council Primary Election hopefuls (from left) Jerry Metcalf, Robin Knox and John Fitzpatrick presented their platforms to the Kīhei Community Association on July 15.
Photos: Katherine Kama’ema’e Smith

Amato led out with her platform: improved communication and collaboration between state and county levels of government, "our environment is our economy," and a pledge not to accept any corporate or lobbyist campaign donations; then she went directly to questions from the audience.

Maui County Land Use Planner Livit Callentine asked how Amato would protect ocean views from public roadways, as provided in HS205A of the Coastal Zone Management Act. Amato said she would collaborate with Maui County on this issue. She identified education and support for small business innovation as ways to create and maintain Maui jobs. When Robbie Dein asked about local school boards and air conditioning for public schools, Amato said she supports both. At one point, the audience applauded when Amato said she is not anti-business; however, corporations should not have "undue influence over government."

University of Hawai'i Maui College teacher John Fitzpatrick said he is running for County Council to save Olowalu reef, adding that "the environment is our economy." He also wants to empower kids through education, reduce Maui's carbon footprint and make our island a leader in sustainability. Fitzpatrick is from Makawao and attended St. Anthony Junior and High School, Maui Community College and UH Manoa for his bachelor's and master's degrees. He favors public early learning programs, saying, "Our kids deserve to compete." Fitzpatrick said he thinks government assistance programs should provide safety nets for people "when they need them." Fitzpatrick's parents were instrumental in starting Ronald MacDonald House for critically ill children.

Fitzpatrick also said he supports Maui energy independence, local food farming and food security; he personally eats local produce and food products.

Vying for the same council seat is Knox, an environmental scientist with 30 years of experience as a consultant to government and corporations on water resource management and environmental protection. A LSU graduate in environmental engineering, Knox moved to Maui in 2006 and worked on a UH study about Maui algae blooms caused by injection well leakage into the ocean. This paper was the basis for a recent successful Earth Justice lawsuit forcing Maui County to comply with an EPA mandate to comply with the Clean Water Act and remedy the situation.

Also repeating the mantra, "the environment is our economy," Knox said she wants to establish clean air, water and soil standards at the county level and apply present resources to restore the environment and create green infrastruction for the future. She also supports development of smaller affordable homes and public regulated campgrounds for the homeless.

Entrepreneur and former Maui restauranteur Jerome "Jerry" Metcalf is also running for County Council. He said his strong points are vitality, vibrance and showmanship. He said he supports SHAKA with restraint, low-cost energy, sustainability, controlled growth, home rule and goverment accountability. He joked about genetically modified organism (GMO) company executives and pointed to his business qualifications as a licensed realtor and securities expert. Metcalf noted that his negotiating skills would be useful when the county has an opportunity to negotiate with Alexander and Baldwin Inc. or Monsanto Company. He said he favors all sources of alternative energy.

In a final round of audience questions, candidates were asked if they would raise Maui taxes. Metcalf said "yes." Fitzpatrick said he would not increase taxes for the middle class--only for those who could afford to pay more. Knox said infrastructure she proposes would be funded by bond issues and user fees, not real estate tax.

On decriminalization of recreational marijuana, all are for it. Fitzpatrick said current resources should be reapplied to fighting crystal metamphetamine hydrochloride ("ice"). On the GMO issue, Fitzpatrick said he thinks Monsanto can be more transparent. Knox said Monsanto should comply with current laws and "go beyond the laws to protect human life." Metcalf said, "GMOs are completely wrong."

Patricia McGrath asked the candidates which County Councilor they relate to most and why. All three said West Maui Councilwoman Elle Cochran. Metcalf said he wants to be a voice "and put on some gloves, if I have to." Knox added she relates well to Mike Victorino, Gladys Baisa on social issues, and Mike White on finance. Fitzpatrick said he admires Cochran, as well as Don Guzman --who "is even-keeled and does his research"-- and Baisa's involvement with MEO.

Kihei resident Tom Craig asked for strategies to stop sugar cane burning. Metcalf said he would fight burning. Knox has a plan for public collaboration with EPA to record problems and work with the sugar industry to increase use of cutting instead of burning--in increments they can afford. Fitzpatrick agreed that the problem can be solved with cooperation between government and industry.

Last up was Minichino, candidate for Rep. Ing's seat. A doctor of pharmacy and mortgage broker on Maui for 12 years, she supports raising private funds to build a charter school in Kihei to teach children entrepreneurial skills. She also supports affordable housing for seniors and veterans. Minichino commented that she would introduce a "Right to Die" bill for terminally ill patients who wish come to Maui to live out their days.

Patricia McGrath asked if Minichino thinks Maui is ready for a lottery. Minichino replied that she is not opposed to a lottery, if the money goes to good causes and is not lost in administration. When asked if Minichino had any plans to cut state spending, Minichino said she would need to study the budget before answering.

Karen Michaud, a physically challenged Kihei resident, asked candidates twice for a sidewalk remedy for Kihei, especially on Kalani Road, where she must take her wheelchair in the street because there are no sidewalks. Where sidewalks begin, there are no curb cuts. There were no answers for Michaud, but all candidates expressed concern.

Next month's meeting will feature Mark Hyde and Lucienne De Naie discussing the history of Kihei's Kaonoulu area and a KCA update on the Pi'ilani Promenade Project.



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