Incumbent Couch faces first-timers
As he seeks election to his third term, Maui County Council Member Don Couch says he is continuing efforts to provide more affordable housing for working-class residents.
“My top priority has always been affordable housing,” said Couch, who is the council’s Planning Committee chairman. “We’re working on it.”
Couch said he supports reform of the county workforce housing policy to encourage more residential development. He also supports renewal of funding for the county Affordable Housing Fund and an initiative to create a new water source for new homes.
Couch said he aims to focus on roads, after a recent survey by the county administration showed the condition of county roads was among residents’ top three concerns. “That opened my eyes a little bit,” he said.
Couch, 58, an information technology manager and Kihei resident, faces three challengers for the South Maui residency seat on the council.
The other candidates are John Fitzpatrick, 32, a Paragon Sailing Charters captain and instructor of oceanography, environmental ecology and human biology at the University of Hawaii Maui College; Robin Knox, 57, an environmental scientist and owner of Water Quality Consulting Inc.; and Jerry “Tiger” Metcalfe Jr., 55, a property manager.
The top two vote-getters in Saturday’s primary election advance to the Nov. 4 general election.
In information submitted for The Maui News voters’ guide, Fitzpatrick said he was running for political office for the first time “because it is time that our representatives look to the future and fight for policies that will make Maui better for our kids while protecting the environment and keeping Maui no ka oi.”
While Knox hasn’t held political office, she said that she has “30 years’ experience in government and business solving real-life environmental problems.”
“If we take care of our environment and get our infrastructure where it needs to be for our current population, we can have both a good, strong economy and a clean environment,” she said.
“I think I can provide leadership to the county from that perspective on some pretty crucial aspects of our lifestyle,” Knox said. “I’m also very concerned about issues such as homelessness and affordable housing and mental health in our society.”
Knox said she co-authored a 2010 paper published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin that led the Environmental Protection Agency to order the county to add disinfectant to effluent at its Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility and to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for the four Lahaina injection wells.
A federal lawsuit by citizens groups led to a court finding this year that the county’s use of the injection wells violates the federal Clean Water Act.
“There’s a lot of environmental candidates that say, ‘I’m for a clean environment.’ But they don’t know how to do it,” Knox said. “I’ve done it. I would be the person that implements and makes it happen.”
Because of a broken foot, the physical disability of fibromyalgia and a small-budget campaign, Knox said she has mainly campaigned through videos, Facebook and community events.
Metcalfe said he is running to help South Maui residents who are “downwind of pesticides.”
“Every day I have to wash down my table,” he said.
He said he hopes to lose 10 pounds by the primary election and deduct the percentage loss off his first year’s salary to be donated to charity or kept by the county.
While Metcalfe’s name appears on more than a dozen cases on the state Judiciary website Ho’ohiki, he said all criminal charges against him have been dismissed with prejudice. He attributed the cases to a dispute with his brother and said they have obtained temporary restraining orders against each other.
Metcalfe acknowledged he served time in jail for a 2002 conviction for forgery in Wisconsin. He said he was convicted after “some black people, after I moved out of my house, took my checkbook and wrote a bunch of stuff up.”
Metcalfe was sentenced to two years and six months of jail and was released on extended supervision in June 2004, according to a February 2008 decision from a Wisconsin appeals court. After he reported he had used cocaine, he was referred to a treatment center, according to the decision. But his participation in the program was “immediately terminated” after “he made sexually suggestive comments to a female staff member,” the court document says.
Metcalfe was ordered to be incarcerated for one year and one month, with the decision affirmed by the appeals court.
Metcalfe said his comments about his physical condition were misconstrued by the staff member. He said the conviction was overturned after he appealed. He also said he was granted “clemency” by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who took office in January 2011.
Metcalfe said he could provide documents proving he had been cleared of the charge but did not do so as of Wednesday afternoon.
He maintained he had been wrongly incarcerated.
“No one can write you a check for when you’re in jail for no reason,” he said. “I’m very vindictive, especially when you’re blamed for something you didn’t do. To me, it’s fun to take down people.”
Couch, who has been a council member since 2011, said that during his current term, the council completed the county General Plan and is nearing completion of a home-based business bill.
This year, after a Kihei resident’s flood insurance was to increase from $1,000 to $30,000 a year, legislators worked to fix the problem affecting people living in flood zones nationwide, Couch said. The Kihei resident’s insurance went down to $1,500.
“I’m getting the hang of things and now am able to really concentrate on really tough issues,” he said.
“I have always said my door’s always open,” Couch said. “None of my opponents have ever come to me. They’re just running. You would think they would come and talk story first.”
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.
**Editor’s note: This story is a continuation of Maui News coverage of contested election races for state and county political offices. The primary election is Saturday. Winners advance to the Nov. 4 general election.