WAILUKU - The County Council Policy Committee on Monday recommended approval of two nominees for the Lanai Planning Commission, praising one nominee's public service, but questioning whether his role with the ILWU would place him too far to one side of a divisive issue on the island.
Garrett Hera said that he believed he could be open-minded and help bridge the gap.
"It's not about fighting each other, but it's about how we can come together in unity and harmony, how we can resolve issues on Lanai together," he said.
The committee voted 8-0 to recommend Hera and Michael Lopez for the Lanai commission; and Bernard Despins for the Liquor Control Adjudication Board. Council Member Joe Pontanilla was excused from the vote. The nominations now head to the full council for approval.
The appointments by Mayor Alan Arakawa replace earlier nominees who had been rejected by the council. Council members had said the previous nominees for the planning commission did not have enough experience on Lanai, while the previous liquor nominee was already serving on another county board.
Hera said Monday that he was born in Honolulu but has lived on Lanai since he was a child. He previously worked as a youth outreach counselor on Lanai and is currently employed in Castle & Cooke Resorts' landscaping operation.
He is vice chairman of his ILWU unit, volunteers his home as a foster and emergency shelter and is active in his church, according to his application.
Council Member Elle Cochran noted that the ILWU and Castle & Cooke have taken a strong stance in favor of developing a massive wind farm that is proposed for the island. Noting that the issue has deeply divided the island, she questioned whether Hera's role with the union and the company would allow him to be open-minded and to bring people together on the issue.
"I kinda see a difficulty in how you can do that," she said.
But Hera said that he believed he could balance the community's needs. He said that he supported projects that would lead to economic growth but also agreed with critics of the project who have said that historic sites, ocean access and hunting lands should be preserved.
"I work for the union. I care about the people who lost their jobs. As a Lanaian, I care about the land, the hunting, the values of the island," he said. "I want to see us work together, and I see myself on both sides."
Cochran also asked Hera to comment on an email that council members had received from a Lanai resident who accused Hera of verbally and physically attacking him in a dispute over the windmills.
Hera's only comment was to note that he had no police record and had never been arrested or charged for any incident.
Lopez, who did not appear Monday, said in his application that he was born and raised on Lanai and currently works as general manager of Trilogy Ocean Sports and Trilogy Excursions Lanai.
He previously served on the Lanai Planning Commission and is on the board of directors of the Lanai Visitors Bureau, is a pastor for River of Life Ministries on Lanai and serves on the Manele Small Boat Harbor Advisory Board.
For the Liquor Control Adjudication Board, Council Member Mike Victorino called Despins' background "very impressive."
Despins serves as vice president of Despins General Construction, is the former president of the Maui Contractors Association, is vice president of Maui Mediation Services, and previously served on the Permit Processing Committee under former Mayor Hannibal Tavares, as well as the Board of Code Appeals.
Despins said that he had a personal reason for wanting to serve on the liquor board, noting that his family had experienced "some tragedies with drunken drivers," including accidents that resulted in injuries to his parents and wife.
"I have a strong feeling with the dispensing of alcohol," he said. "I'm not against alcohol. I'll have a glass of wine at home, but I'm very concerned with dispensing alcohol to minors, particularly people who are going to get into the car and drive."
Also Monday, the Policy Committee began its review of proposals by the Charter Commission. The committee is expected to continue its discussion of charter amendments, including some of its own proposals, when the meeting continues at 9 a.m. Friday in Council Chambers of the Kalana O Maui building.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at email@example.com.