Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 11 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.

The following came from Laurent Zahnd, a candidate for Maui Mayor. There are six other candidates, Don Guzman, Elle Cochran, Alec Hawley, Beau Hawkes, Mike Victorino and Ori Kopelman.

Go to Civil Beat’s Elections Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Candidate for Maui Mayor

Laurent Zahnd
Party Nonpartisan
Age 34
Occupation Management and marketing consultant
Residence Haiku


Community organizations/prior offices held

Maui outreach coordinator, ManKind Project USA; past volunteer firefighter, police officer.

1. Are changes needed in how the County Council is run, and if so what are they?

Did you ever have to deal with the county administration? If so you probably noticed that they are not exactly your friend and not exactly efficient. That will change under my leadership and it will save tens, if not hundreds, of millions of tax payer money that are wasted today due to mismanagement happening in every department.

2. The Legislature has authorized Maui County to implement a 0.5 percent GET surcharge. Should the county do it, and if so, what should the additional revenue be spent on?

I am not for raising taxes, but if it’s already done it should go to help the kids of homeless and poor families. That’s the best investment we can do for our future as a community!

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?

I am for stopping any new development and maximize what we already have.

We also need to start supporting small businesses with hands-on support so we can diversify our economy to create better jobs and secure our economy in case anything happens to the tourism industry.

There is no affordable housing crisis, we got plenty housing here! We just need to enforce the illegal vacation rentals and limit permits so that hundreds of units will come back on the long term market and naturally take prices down.

There are no traffic issues, we just need to implement a top-notch transit system and we can have door-to-door service every 30 minutes with 15 percent of the cost of that new rental car facility (nonsense) they just built at the airport. I actually designed that new bus system already and met the DOT and they love it! No need for very expensive bypasses that will only be an excuse for new development, let’s just take the tourists off the road by raising rental car taxes to finance classy fast buses and safe bus stops.

4. What would you do, if anything, to strengthen police accountability?

Oh my. Is that possible? Just kidding. I do respect our officers, and I expect them to respect me as a citizen and as a mayor. I know their job is very valuable, and I’d like them to feel valued. If they feel valued, they will be less tense. I think there’s a lot of work to de-escalate tensions in the community, and also we need better solutions to create restorative justice and put people back to work, because caging them costs us a lot of money and doesn’t solve the problem at all. The system we have now is not working and the only plan of my fellow mayoral candidates is to build more prisons. That will only aggravate the problem.

5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?

I think the respect of law starts with the respect of International Law. The UN is pretty clear and qualifies the State of Hawaii as a fraudulent annexation. The U.S. just had to pull out of the United Nationals Human Rights Council because of its violations here in Hawaii. I don’t know if you realize how bad it is for our country and our image in the world. It means that we don’t care about human rights! We need to address that century-long mess before we can expect to solve anything, and before we can look at ourselves in the mirror and teach respect and responsibility to our own kids.

6. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?

I am for transparency and efficiency, which are the keys to an accountable government. I think Blockchain technology is our best bet to achieve that and save billions of wasted taxpayer money in a very outdated administration, but first we need to get rid of that very strange policy forbidding Blockchain in Hawaii.

7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?

I feel them and I think the same! That is actually the reason why I am running for office. Our politicians aren’t public servants, even the ones that pretend to do it “for the people” and wear flowers in their hair, which is even more disgusting and alarming!

I will create programs that help young people get involved in politics, because today everything is set up to keep people away from getting involved.

Most importantly, I will create a policy for all officials in my administration to be obligated to respond to the public or go work somewhere else (at least one response if the inquiry is disrespectful). When the officials stop responding to the citizen, it’s the end of a democracy! We have to reverse that and remind officials that they are paid by the public and that they can’t withhold information for their personal power.

8. What more should Maui County be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?

We need to stop any poisoning of the environment, that’s the huge first step. Then we need to clean up our mess so that our kids can have a future here. For the sea level rise, we have to realize our responsibility in global warming and accelerate our transition out of fossil fuel. We can’t wait until 2045 to achieve that goal.

I’m for the respect of nature’s consequences, but as a firefighter myself, I will make sure that no one gets hurt and that emergency preparedness is at its best. Most of the oceanfront property owners chose that location knowing the risks and as they enjoy the benefits today, they’ll have to take responsibility for the risks and prepare themselves. As most of them today are not permanent members of our community, I can’t put them on top of my priorities.

I’m against any seawall construction, except in some special cases like the historic Lahaina, where we could help secure a certain neighborhood and also help locals switch land for a secure Upcountry parcel.

9. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?

Affordable housing.

I will enforce the law for illegal vacation rentals and limit future permits, so that hundreds, if not thousands, of units will go back on the long-term market in no time, therefore reducing demand and taking prices down.

I will be very aggressive with that, because it’s not fair nor ethical for our families to live under pressure for the sole benefit of illegal landlords!

I’m going to take that pressure off the families and put it back on the greedy landlords, because they are creating a lot of hurt with their disrespect from the law and their lack of consideration for our community. This is an unacceptable behavior and has to be treated as such.

I also want to set up a program to reward the good landlords that are supporting our community and respecting the rules. They deserve appreciation and we too often forget that!