On the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 23, just two weeks before the election, students and staff of UHMC gathered to learn about their state and county candidates. With so much hanging in the balance in Maui County, it was very important to find out what exactly these candidates stand for.
The candidates in attendance were Hawai’i gubernatorial candidate Andria Tupola; Mayor Alan Arakawa and Tasha Kama, candidates for the Kahului residency seat on the Maui County Council; Shane Sinenci and Claire Carroll, candidates for the East Maui residency seat; Keani Rawlins-Fernandez and Stacy Crivello, candidates for the Moloka’i residency seat; Trinette Furtado and Mike Molina, candidates for the Makawao-Ha’iku-Pa’ia residency seat; Hannibal Starbuck and Yuki Lei Sugimura, candidates for the Upcountry residency seat; Zandra Crouse, candidate for the South Maui residency seat; and Alika Atay, candidate for the Wailuku residency seat.
The emcees of the event were the Phi Theta Kappa Pacific Region President Lorraine Osako and UHMC students Camri Brown and Danika Bense. Many pressing topics were discussed, including rising sea levels, Hawaiian Homelands, affordable housing, development of agricultural lands, reducing plastic waste, the drug epidemic and the mental health crisis. Certain topics created heated discussions and many emotions were displayed, as these topics directly impact our community. However, many of the candidates were in agreement regarding what can be done to manage these issues.
Andria Tupola spoke about creating natural solutions to combat rising sea levels as other Pacific islands have done. She also spoke about lowering taxes and brought up the fact that Hawai’i has the most expensive loaf of bread in the nation.
While discussing the topic of affordable housing, Trinette Furtado referred to it as “attainable housing.” Tupola agreed this was a better term for it. Keani Rawlins- Fernandez voiced her opinion that the county needs to be building affordable housing. Tasha Kama and Trinette Furtado agreed about this and spoke about not wanting the younger generations to be forced to the mainland due to rising costs.
A lack of affordable rentals is not the only housing issue in Hawai‘i. Candidates also discussed the Hawaiian Homelands and the blood quantum required to reside on these lands. As of 2016, there were 44,429 applications of the waitlist for the Hawaiian Homelands. Native Hawaiians have died while waiting for the land that was promised to them and everyone seemed to agree that this is a major issue that needs to be resolved.
Regarding broadening the economy, many ideas were discussed. Many of the candidates agreed that relying solely on tourism in not the answer. Shane Sinenci, Alika Atay and Trinette Furtado spoke about agriculture being a clear answer. In Hawai’i, there are diverse options for agriculture, and the three candidates said we are far from reaching our full agricultural potential.
Another problem facing Hawai‘i is the drug epidemic. In 1980, crystal meth was introduced to the islands, and in 2012, Hawai’i had the highest meth use per capita in the country. Not everyone agreed about the possible resolutions to this issue; some claimed this was not a county issue, while many others said it was a county issue, as well as a community issue. Claire Carroll, Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, Tasha Kama, and Trinette Furtado were among those who agreed that drug use stems from much deeper issues. They said more mental health services need to be made available and the community must come together and support those affected by substance abuse.
Overall, the forum went smoothly and it was very eye-opening. It is so important to know exactly who and what we are voting for during this election.