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Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Kelly King, a candidate for the Maui County Council’s South Maui District. There is one other candidate, Don Couch.
Name: Kelly Takaya King
Office seeking: Maui County Council, South Maui seat
Occupation: Vice president, Pacific Biodiesel Technologies
Community organizations/prior offices held: Hawaii State Board of Education, 1994-98; Hui Malama Learning Center Board of Directors; Girl Scout Leader; Kihei Neighborhood playgroup director; UH Maui College Sustainable Sciences Management Program Advisory Committee; Jayceettes; Decisions Maui; Maui High School Community-Based Council; PTA; AKAKU Board of Directors; Maui Farmers Union Board of Directors, Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance, Vice President; Hawaii Energy Policy Forum; High Tech Development Corporation Board of Directors
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 56
Place of residence: Kihei, Maui
Campaign website: www.kellyking.org
1: This year has seen an outsized influence from people who want big changes in how government is run. What would you do to change how the Council is run?
The Council is obligated to review other systems of government as required by the 2010 Countywide Policy Plan, which calls for examination of different forms of local governance. I support changing our current system to one similar to many others throughout our country with an elected governing body that hires and oversees a professional county manager. This would give citizens the accountability that is lacking in Maui’s current system where Council members have no control over administrative duties yet must decide on funding requested by the administration.
Currently department directors are hired by the mayor without due process and do not necessarily have the required qualifications and, in fact, most of the public has never even seen the job descriptions. I believe it would be more efficient and less costly in the long run to hire professionals who would be held accountable by the Council, which is more accessible and responsive to the public. I also believe the Council needs to be open to holding more meetings in the communities it serves.
2. Should your county implement a 0.5 percent GET surcharge? If so, for what purpose?
I would not support a GET surcharge unless there is a specific reason on Maui to do so. An example might be to raise funds to realign the Honoapiilani Highway that is currently at risk due to its proximity to the shoreline. I would like to have the community of Maui involved in a plan to address this and other potential imminent dangers of climate change.
3. There is a desire to grow the economy through new development yet also a need to protect our limited environmental resources. How would you balance these competing interests?
It is important to remember that we have community plans for Maui, Molokai and Lanai that were created with environmental protection as a shared value. The Council needs to use these plans, along with our Countywide Policy Plan, when making decisions about zoning changes and project approval. I believe following the community plans will result in the balance required for smart growth.
4. What would you do to strengthen police accountability?
I support the aforementioned professional county manager model as I believe this will lead to more accountability in all departments, including the police department. The current contentious relationship between the Maui County Council and the administration has even resulted in a “gag order” wherein the mayor has advised the Council members that they cannot have meetings with department directors or employees without going through a procurement process.
With a Council-managed county manager, Council members could easily request updates and in-person reports from the police chief and all other department directors.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
This starts with appointments to the Ethics Commissions, both at the county and state levels. As a Council member, I would push for a different appointment system for the Ethics Commission to make it less biased and more open to public review.
6. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes, I would support it, but I also think there should be safeguards against folks who have unusually burdensome requests for large hard copy files. This might be accomplished by partnering with non-profit agencies that have a mission that includes the public trust. The Council could also make sure that as much as possible (and legal), all records are on line. As a member of the Hawaii State Board of Education during the 1990s, I was part of the push to make computers available to the public at all public libraries!
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I would attend more community association meetings, and also try to hold regular “talk story” meetings in my district. I have good working relationships, as well as friendships, with our current state legislators and would love to join them in their talk story public meetings. Also, I have a record of accessibility in my previous work on the Board of Education, other boards and agencies, and in my business development activities as vice president of Pacific Biodiesel.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Lack of infrastructure and overdevelopment. I would create a South Maui Advisory Committee that would be ongoing for all issues, not just for community plan updating. Kihei has been growing at an alarming rate, and not in conjunction with our community plan. I believe a citizens advisory group could collaborate with all our South Maui community associations to get broader input on infrastructure needs and development issues, as well as other issues like homelessness, parks and water quality.