Familiar Maui Faces Resurface on 2010 Campaign Trail

By Wendy Osher

Some familiar names have surfaced on the campaign trail as election season gets underway on Maui.  While as many as 20 people had pulled papers, only two had filed for candidacy so far, according to the last candidate report issued Thursday, February 11, 2010 by the State Office of Elections.

Board of Education Maui Representative Mary Cochran filed papers to run for the Makawao-Haiku-Paia Council seat that will be vacated by Councilmember Mike Molina, whose term limit expires this year.  Others pulling papers for the seat include: Kahekai Nishiki and Leona Nomura, both of Haiku.

Term limits for Councilmember Jo Anne Johnson also leaves the West Maui seat up for grabs this year.  Five people have already pulled papers for the seat, with Lahaina resident, Alan Fukuyama going one step further by filing papers for the post.  Those pulling papers are: Eve Clute, Eleanora Cochran, Jonah Kapu and Paul Laub.

Other Familiar faces include Former East Maui Councilman Robert Carroll who pulled papers for his old seat; and former candidate Don Couch who pulled papers for the South Maui seat he sought in 2008.

The only incumbent Councilmember to pull papers was Michael Victorino, who currently represents Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu on the County Council.  Those seeking office have until July 20 to file nomination papers.

In the race for Mayor, three people have pulled papers since the Office of Elections opened candidate filing on February 1, 2010.  Those pulling papers include:  Valarie Aquino of Lahaina, Orion Kopelman of Kula and Harold Miller of Kihei.

In the race for the 2nd District U.S. Congressional House seat currently held by Rep. Mazie Hirono, three Maui residents and one Honolulu man have pulled papers.  They are:  Patric Brock (L) of Kihei, Antonio Gimbernat (R) of Makawao, Andrew Von Sonn (N) of Paia, and John Willoughby (R) of Honolulu.

Three Maui residents have pulled papers for House Seats including: Natalie Kama (D) of Wailuku for District 8; Ramon Madden (R) of Lahaina for District 10; and George Fontaine (R) of Kihei for District 11.

The Primary Election is set for September 18 with the General Election on November 2, 2010.

MAUI COUNCIL PASSES 2010 BUDGET UNANIMOUSLY ON 2ND & FINAL READING

The Maui County Council unanimously passed the FY2010 budget on second and final reading this morning.  The budget is $8.8 million less than the Mayor’s $573 million proposal, which translates to a 1.5% difference.

Budget Chair Joe Pontanilla discusses the TAT impact on the county budget during a public hearing in Lahaina.  File photo by Wendy Osher

Budget Chair Joe Pontanilla discusses the TAT impact on the county budget during a public hearing in Lahaina. File photo by Wendy Osher

Budget Chair Joe Pontanilla described the budget as austere and tight for both county departments and nonprofits, but also noted the flexibility presented by the program budget.

“In a program budget, the departments have the option of using funds from vacancies to fund operational needs, including filling vacant positions in situations where the Council reduced the funding,” said Pontanilla.

With $12.5 million in vacancies throughout the county, and additional funding in fringe benefits, Pontanilla said the county already has $21 million in funds appropriated within departments for vacant positions.  Pontanilla noted that the council is not deleting any of the current equivalent personnel, but rather reducing funding for vacant positions.

With amendments already hammered out during first reading two weeks ago, the budget passed in less than an hour with all council members casing 9 ayes in support.

Although she supported the budget, Councilmember Gladys Baisa, was the only one to do so with reservations.   Baisa expressed concern over funding cuts to services within the Department of Parks & Recreation and the Department of Fire and Public Safety saying, “I’m afraid there’s only so much we can cut before it becomes diminishing returns.”  At the same time, she voted in support of the budget with a “margin of confidence” in the work and thought put into the budget by the committee chair.

The committee held 22 meetings in the council Chamber over a six week period to discuss the Mayor’s proposed budget.  The members also held eight district meetings to receive public testimony on the budget from residents throughout the county.

“Should the Administration find that it cannot operate with this budget,” Pontanilla said, “the Mayor has the option of proposing a budget amendment to recognize additional revenue or reallocate funds.”

“I feel we acted cautiously, judiciously and responsibly in bringing about a fiscally prudent budget,” said Councilmember Bill Medeiros who represents East Maui.

Similar remarks were made by fellow Councilmember Michael Victorino who described the budget as “fiscally prudent and lean.”

Lanai Councilmember Sol Kahoohalahala said despite the tough year, the circumstances gave the council the opportunity to look at ways of being innovative and creative.

Council Chair Danny Mateo meantime reflected upon the “sobering moment,” of being faced with the possibility of losing the county’s share of the Transient Accommodation Tax or TAT.  Although the state legislature failed to pass a measure relating the to the item, Mateo said, “The bottom line is we have made a change from business as usual.”

Councilmember Jo Anne Johnson of West Maui agreed that the 11th hour decision on the TAT complicated the budget process.  In cutting and then restoring $4 million in road resurfacing funds, Johnson said, the council was diligent in assuring that provisions were added to address issues of accountability.

Fellow Councilmember Mike Molina said he does not expect the TAT issue to go away next year, summing up the approach to the 2010 budget in a few words:  “We did a lot of belt tightening; I guess you could say we’re on a diet.”

(By Wendy OSHER © 2009; file image by Wendy OSHER ©2009)

Related stories posted earlier:

COUNCIL UNANIMOUSLY PASSES BUDGET ON FIRST READING:

DEPARTMENT HEADS FIGHT FOR RESTORATION OF FUNDS IN FINAL BUDGET DELIBERATIONS