The 2020 elections are like no other in Maui’s history—one that will be transformational. During this election, voters can change how and who will manage Maui’s governmental operations. The choice is between activist candidates and policies versus moderate and pragmatic candidates and policies. The ongoing pandemic and economic crises teach us elections matter and have consequences. While we are focused on doing what we can to stay safe, healthy and put food on the table for our families, we are also trying equally hard to make sure we help the people we love and those around us in our community to be safe and healthy.
This year’s local election highlights how our elected officials respond to these crises. More than ever, we are encouraged and inspired to exercise our civic duty and personal responsibility—first to register, then to vote. The results of this election will have a huge, direct impact on our daily lives. In times of crises, the actions of our leaders reveal what is more important to them, telling us things about their priorities, values and character that we may not notice otherwise.
The urgency of critical decisions facing our leaders gives us the best reasons to study the candidates, learn their platforms, review their history of public service, become familiar with their life experiences, evaluate evidence demonstrating their character and most of all, determine if their espoused values align with your own, and if your concerns are addressed in the solutions they propose. Because one-on-one contact and political rallies are not permitted during this public health crisis, it is important the information provided are seriously reviewed and discussed among family and friends to prepare for voting. Equally significant is Hawai‘i is now voting by mail. Due to the delays in mail service resulting from the pandemic and an expected increased volume of mail, voters are urged to immediately return their ballots to ensure their votes arrive in time to be counted.
Of special note on the ballot in this election are seven charter amendments which will impact the delivery of services to Maui County residents. It is extremely important to study these amendments, especially considering how each one will affect your life.
I believe three amendments will have the most impact on Maui’s Filipino community:
1. Establish a Department of Agriculture to develop a sustainable regional system for Maui County. When reviewing this amendment, consider whether this will help farmers or increase the cost and efficiency of government.
2. Establish stricter term limits for Council members by limiting the number of terms a person may serve as a council member to five two-year terms. When deciding how to vote on this amendment, think about whether this will encourage more participation in government or whether it leads to a loss of continuity in government.
3. Professional County Manager. This amendment proposes the executive branch be reorganized to have a professional managing director to be appointed as the County’s Chief Operating Officer, taking over most of the Mayor’s management functions. This charter amendment is likely to draw the most attention. But consider what does it mean to have an unelected official make most of the decisions about our government? Will it lead to an upgrade or result in more turnover with more non-residents hired and then leaving after not being able to function in our multi-ethnic society?
Mayor Victorino stated these three proposed amendments “lack public discussion and review during the current COVID-19 pandemic crisis.” He also said “We need to look closely at whether these proposals would accomplish what they set out to do. Our charter is our County bible, our foundational document. It is not something that should be changed on a whim or on the idea that if something sounds good it is the right thing to do.” Mayor Victorino prefers these proposed amendments be further reviewed by the new charter commission, scheduled to convene in 2021 and this process will allow more public participation and adequate vetting on any proposed charter amendments.
However you vote on these three charter amendments, I cannot stress enough how important this year’s election is for Maui’s future. But first, you must register to vote by Oct. 5 (or in person on election day). Voter registration information is available at the Office of the County Clerk, on the 7th floor of the County Building, or by phoning (808) 270-7749. Yes, the future of Maui is in your hands—the voters.
When we elect the right leaders and policies, your vote will take us closer to a more “perfect union.” Make a difference and make your voice heard. Vote and vote smart. Remember, your vote and every vote matters!