Editor's note - This is the fifth in a series of stories covering contested legislative and County Council seats leading up to Saturday's primary election. The two top vote-getters in this County Council race for the Kahului residency seat will advance to the Nov. 6 general election. On Friday, the series will conclude with a look at the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the South Maui 11th House District race.
KAHULUI - A salesman, an attorney and a teacher are seeking the Maui County Council's Kahului residency seat, which is being vacated by Council Member Joe Pontanilla because of term limits.
Alan “Al” Fukuyama
They are Alan "Al" Fukuyama, 57, an office equipment salesman; Don Guzman, 42, a former Maui County deputy prosecutor now in private practice in Wailuku; and Erin McLaughlin, 37, a former special education instructor at Baldwin High School now working as a substitute teacher.
On Saturday, the two top vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 6 general election.
This marks the third campaign for Fukuyama, who has made two unsuccessful bids for the council's West Maui residency seat. In 2011, he moved to Kahului to help care for his 92-year-old mother, who needs to be close to medical facilities in Central Maui, he said.
Fukuyama said he didn't intend to run this year but still felt the desire to serve residents as a council member.
He said he has been campaigning door to door and has held meet-the-candidate events in Pukalani, Kihei, Lahaina and Kahului. Voters want better, more responsive county government, he said.
"They're looking for change," Fukuyama said. "They're kind of frustrated with what's happening."
The candidate has endorsements from the Hawaii Carpenters Union, the AFL-CIO, the mason's union and the Hawaii Operators and Engineers, he said.
Guzman, a first-time candidate, said that he has the backing of the Sierra Club, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers and the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association.
He said he had not intended to seek public office, but when the Kahului council seat opened up with Pontanilla's departure, Guzman was encouraged to run by community leaders.
Guzman said that it's been difficult to run a countywide campaign but he has done his best to meet with community leaders, attend community meetings and events, campaign in South and West Maui and spend some time on Molokai and Lanai.
"I'm trying to get myself out there as much as possible to learn what the issues are," he said. And, "wherever I go, one thing resonates, people just want to be treated fairly."
Guzman said that he believes voters want someone in office who will look at both sides of an issue, analyze alternatives, seek compromise and find solutions. He said his education and training as a lawyer will help him analyze issues and find solutions.
"Instead of being narrow, with tunnel-vision, I'm more broad-based," he said.
McLaughlin, a former Michigan resident, said he moved to Maui in 1999 to accept a special education teaching position at Baldwin High School after he graduated with his bachelor of science degree in special education from Central Michigan University. In the past couple of years, though, he has been working as a substitute teacher after he decided to launch a business offering rentals of personal watercraft, he said.
However, he ran into county and state roadblocks in attempting to open his business, and that has inspired him to run for the County Council seat, McLaughlin said.
He said he ran into "one obstacle after another" in trying to open his rental business and believes government should encourage businesses.
"I believe in free enterprise, the law of supply and demand," he said. "If there's no demand . . . businesses will go down on their own."
The candidates have varying opinions on how they would approach land-use decisions and the review and drafting of the county's annual budget.
McLaughlin said that if land-use issues are controversial, then the council should weigh the pros and cons and then put the issue to residents to decide.
"Let the people of Maui vote on it," he said.
A referendum would have been the best way to handle the Superferry controversy and is the best way to decide the Kihei mall issue, he said.
Fukuyama said that he would use the Maui Island Plan as his guide and see how proposed developments fit into the plan.
He said developers should be required to build their projects within a set time period, with five years being "pretty reasonable."
The time limit would get projects moving and not allow developers to sit on projects for 15 years or longer when conditions might change or land values go up, Fukuyama said.
Guzman said that he'd take a "balanced approach" to land development issues, recognizing on the one hand that people need affordable housing and jobs, but at the same time that "we need to make sure we protect our environment and our community."
He said the county needs to make sure developers abide by project conditions designed to mitigate impacts on the environment, cultural resources such as Native Hawaiian burials and the ability of neighboring communities to the "quiet enjoyment of their neighborhoods."
When taking up the county's annual budget, Guzman said he would first look at ways to streamline government operations to make them more efficient. He said that he supports what he understands is the current practice of freezing vacant positions until there's a sound justification to hire a replacement.
Guzman said that he would look at program funding to see if there's any duplicative services and advocate for a detailed five- to 10-year analysis of programs to see how many people they are serving and how effective they are.
"We need to go in and really examine how moneys are being spent," he said.
Guzman said nonprofit organizations have been "very effective" in providing services Maui County can't provide, but "we still have to make sure our nonprofits are collaboratively working together and not duplicating their services."
Fukuyama said that he supports the idea of a county auditor checking on county expenditures to make sure money is used properly. The auditing process might find "a lot of wasted moneys," he said.
The candidate said that he thinks Maui County spends too much on nonprofit grants.
The City and County of Honolulu, with a population of 1 million, provides $14 million to $15 million annually to nonprofits, Fukuyama said. But Maui County with about 150,000 residents contributes twice as much to nonprofits, he said.
Fukuyama said that he would not propose cutting funding completely to nonprofits, but that there should not be duplication of services. There should be a sound justification for funding the agencies, he added.
He said that he does not favor raising property tax rates, but instead would look at cutting spending. He said that he has heard a "big concern" in the community about county employees' personal use of government vehicles and would take a look at the issue if elected to the council.
McLaughlin said that the county can measure the effectiveness of is programs by determining if a program is doing what it is supposed to do and how much is being spent on it.
He said that he believes "the county gives way too much money to nonprofit organizations."
Nonprofits should do their own fundraising and not depend on county taxpayer funding, he said.
"You don't see any churches going before the council to ask for money for building churches," he said.
When asked how much money would be saved by eliminating funding for nonprofits, McLaughlin said it would be "a whole lot."
McLaughlin said he believes the county workforce could be significantly reduced because in looking at different departments he sees "three or four people doing one job."
"The county could be more efficient," he said.
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.
MAUI COUNTY COUNCIL
Alan "Al" Fukuyama
Born: April 7, 1955; Honolulu
Education: Kaimuki High School, Maui Community College
Community involvement: Big Brothers Big Sisters; Maui Community School for Adults, board chairman; Street & Park Naming Commission; Haleakala Lions
Family: Married, one child
Don S. Guzman
Born: Sept. 6, 1969; Manila
Education: Bachelor of arts and sciences, Creighton University, 1992; juris doctorate, Ohio Northern University College of Law, 1998
Community involvement: United Filipino Council of Hawaii, state president; Maui Young Business Roundtable, board of directors; Friends of Maui Drug Court, board of directors; Lahaina Junior Golf Association, board of directors; March of Dimes, Maui Division, board of directors
Family: Married, three children
Erin R. McLaughlin
Born: Feb. 7, 1975; Caro, Mich.
Education: Bachelor's degree, Central Michigan University, 1999
Community Involvement: Coached youth sports, including Pop Warner football, flag football and Little League baseball; church volunteer
Family: Divorced, two children