Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 Primary Election, 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 Carol Lee Kamekona, candidate for Maui County Council Kahului District. The other candidates are Cara Flores, Tasha Kama, Buddy Nobriga, Tina Pedro, Jason Schwartz and Keoni Watanabe.

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

Candidate for Maui County Council Kahului District

Carol Lee Kamekona
Party Nonpartisan
Age 64
Residence Kahului, Maui


Community organizations/prior offices held

Pelekikena ʻAhahui Kaʻahumanu Chapter IV Wailuku; board of directors, Malama Kakanilua; board of directors, Hoʻoponopono o Makena; board member, Maui Tomorrow; board member ʻAina Kukoʻa o Waiohuli Kai; member, ʻAha Moku o Wailuku; advocate, Kūʻē Petition Continues.

1. What is the biggest issue facing Maui County, and what would you do about it?

There are many issues affecting Maui County that are all intertwined within each other. The biggest issue I would like to address is our houseless community. Iʻve seen the lack of readily available wrap-around services from shelter, to mental health kokua, applying for identification, social security, job, etc.

My first task would be to see what county land is available with infrastructure and partner with nonprofits who work with our houseless and create a puʻuhonua, a safe place of refuge that includes transitional housing as the members of that Community get back on their feet.

2. In the last two years alone, the median sales price of a Maui home has shot up almost $400,000, driven by a surge of out-of-state buyers during the pandemic. What can the county do to ensure that families aren’t priced out?

Check with legal advisors on the feasibility of incorporating a job residency clause. Or charging some type of conveyance tax to homebuyers with out-of-state identification or residency.

Continue the work of our current council on affordable housing and push for more county-subsidized infrastructure and require developers to build their allotment of affordable homes before market rate homes.

3. In recent years, there has been a significant push to reform law enforcement and beef up oversight of police. What would you do specifically to increase oversight of local law enforcement? Are you satisfied with the Maui Police Department and the Maui Police Commission?

There has been significant interest in law enforcement reform lately. For starters, I would commit to having a staff member attend all Police Commission meetings and read through all documents to keep me apprised of all police activities. Then information could be disseminated through the proper channels to any necessary decision-makers.

Should a concern be brought to my office, I would listen, evaluate the situation and address all concerned parties.

I’m not completely satisfied with how our police officers handle issues dealing with our houseless community or our kuleana landowners. I would like to see more trauma-informed workshops be offered to all levels of law enforcement inclusive of administration personnel. I would also like to have Cultural sensitivity awareness courses be included in the academy curriculum.

4. The Maui County Council recently passed a temporary moratorium on the construction of new hotels and other visitor accommodations and will over the next several months decide whether to make it permanent. Do you support capping the number of hotels and visitor lodgings on Maui? Why or why not?

I support the capping of visitor lodgings on Maui as it relates to illegal Airbnb and vacation rentals. Also keeping the inventory of hotels at its current level and room capacity allows a bit of regulation as to the numbers of visitors coming in.

We donʻt have the unlimited availability of resources like those on the continent. Especially water, which is treated as an endless commodity.

5. Do you feel the governor and Legislature appreciate the issues of Maui County, or are they too focused on Honolulu and Oahu? How would you change that?

The pandemic has proven the need for diversification in our economy and food sustainability. It is a statewide issue that the legislature should have been concentrating on. Government is very Oahu-centric.

Every island has its own obstacles and challenges. Therefore I truly believe home rule is the way to go. However, we do need to ensure our fair share of TAT taxes are returned to the counties.

6. Do you think the county of Maui should do more to manage water resources that were long controlled by plantations? Why or why not?

Most definitely! Management of our water resources do not belong in the control of private entities or big corporations.

The usage of water is prioritized in the Kanawai. Kuleana landowners have first right. So why then are our kalo farmers not being able to water their loʻi?

Maui County needs to acquire the water system to ensure equitable dispersion to its residents. Rather than private entities or corporations capitalizing for profit and greed.

7. Climate change is real and will force us to make tough decisions. What is the first thing Maui County should do to get in front of climate change rather than just reacting to it?

Our shorelines are eroding as is evident in the amount of iwi kupuna being unearthed. A managed retreat plan addressing crucial areas needs to be implemented and the process expedited.

A comprehensive plan is necessary in determining those crucial areas and a cost analysis done to collaborate on how and whom funding comes from.

8. It’s estimated that up to a thousand people might be homeless on Maui on any given day. What do you think needs to be changed to help people get into housing, and stay housed?

Part of this is addressed in question No. 1. However, a livable wage commensurate with our cost of living would be a great start.

9. Traffic is getting worse on the island of Maui, and different regions face different challenges. What would be your approach to improve Maui’s transportation problems?

There are so many challenges with Maui’s infrastructure and public transportation. Many roads need surface repaving. Some areas along certain roadways need to have more lighting. Crosswalks need to be more visible. There needs to be handicap-accessible sidewalks in residential areas.

The bus system could use some improvement. There should be more stops at areas where public offices and places of business are for residents who ride the bus. Also, frequency needs to be increased. There should be seating available while riders wait, especially kupuna.

10. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Maui County. Be innovative, but be specific.

Clearly the pandemic has exposed so much of what we took for granted and accepted as the norm.  The dependency of our products imported. Especially our fruits and vegetables when we have an abundance of land zoned agriculture. The amount of ranches and ranchers that could provide our meat. We could literally be sustainable if we had the proper equipment.

I refer to building a manufacturing plant where our beef and produce could be processed locally and distributed statewide to sustain our people. Hawaii, Maui in particular, could become a huge exporter of these items. The jobs it would create, not having to depend on ship arrivals for supplies, improved economy. These are but a few of the benefits we would reap.

Here’s to being a progressive, out-of-the-box thinker! For a better Maui nui!

Support Civil Beat during the season of giving.

As a small nonprofit newsroom, our mission is powered by readers like you. But did you know that less than 1% of readers donate to Civil Beat?

Give today and support local journalism that helps to inform, empower and connect.