EDITOR'S NOTE - This is the final story in a series covering contested legislative and County Council seats leading up to Saturday's primary election. The winner of the Democratic nomination for South Maui's 11th House seat will face incumbent Republican Rep. George Fontaine in the Nov. 6 general election. Fontaine is unopposed for his party's nomination.
While agreeing on many issues, including the need for a high school in Kihei, the four Democratic candidates for South Maui's 11th House District differ on who would be best positioned to challenge incumbent Republican George Fontaine in the general election.
Joe Bertram III (D)
"I was there for two terms, and I learned a lot - not only how to pass legislation but when to keep your mouth shut, too," said Joe Bertram III, 55, who is hoping to reclaim the seat that he lost to Fontaine two years ago. "I think what I have is a breadth of experience and concern for Kihei."
"I am the only candidate who's actively involved and working for the South Maui community," said Netra Halperin, 53, making a second run for the seat. "Because of my community involvement and support, I am the only Democratic candidate that can unseat the ineffective Republican incumbent."
"I think the voters have a clear choice," said Colin Hanlon, 44. "I have lived and worked in South Maui for over 20 years. I married my wife here, and we have three children in Maui's public schools. I have a strong record of service to the community through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Maui, and as the head of that organization I have over 15 years' experience working with state and local government, as well as business and community leaders, to get things done for our kids. I have the skills, the experience, and relationships it will take to be a strong voice for South Maui in the state House."
"No matter how you spin it, young people coming back home after being educated, returning to Maui, is not a bad thing, especially at a time when all our best and brightest are moving away, especially in a district where we haven't had someone from Maui, let alone Hawaii, run for this seat in decades," said Kaniela Ing, 23. "I have seen the Kihei side change more than anywhere else. We really need to decide where this place is going to go. We need a fresh vision and a focus on Maui's future so my kids and my grandchildren will be able to experience the place like I did. I'm listening to what everybody has to say as opposed to being part of the machine. I want to make sure I'll be able to vote my conscience and really fight for the public interest."
All four candidates support funding for a Kihei high school, with Halperin and Hanlon saying it would be their top priority.
After spending two sessions as a legislative aide for Rep. Rita Cabanilla of Ewa Beach, Oahu, Halperin said, "I have working relationships and know how the system works."
"The Legislature's not going to give a Republican that money," she said, referring to funding for a Kihei high school. "South Maui needs an effective legislator. In this case, it needs to be a Democrat. I'm a very go-getter person, a very resourceful person. If I set my mind to getting something for my district, I can accomplish that."
Ing said that through his work at the state Legislature, "I really know the process."
"We need to work as a Maui delegation to not get bullied by Honolulu interests," he said. "If I get elected, we can get that Kihei high school."
The candidates have some differing views on Eclipse Development's planned Maui Outlets and Piilani Promenade shopping centers, which opponents have labeled "mega-malls." Maui Outlets is a planned 300,000-square-foot shopping center on a 30-acre site, and Piilani Promenade, a planned 400,000-square-foot retail complex on 68 acres. The malls would be mauka of the Piilani Highway-Kaonoulu Street intersection.
The nonprofit Maui Tomorrow Foundation, South Maui Citizens for Responsible Growth and Kihei resident Daniel Kanahele have been battling the development at county and state levels. They claim Eclipse was not developing the property consistent with the conditions placed on the property by the state Land Use Commission in 1995. At that time, the LUC imposed conditions on former landowner Kaonoulu Ranch in granting a zoning change from agricultural to urban.
Project opponents and the state Office of Planning say the project has shifted from the light industrial subdivision approved in 1995 to the two malls. The developer disagrees, contending that plans for the property have always included the possibility of retail.
Halperin and Ing oppose the malls.
Halperin said 90 percent of residents that she has talked to oppose the development.
"My biggest concern is the small local businesses, as opposed to Mainland corporations," she said. "It's the underlying economics that are the biggest impact for me. I want local people to be making the money."
Ing said that he also opposes the way the development obtained approvals for light industrial zoning years ago.
"When the public was given time to testify, that was over 10 years ago," he said. "They weren't aware it was going to be the type of project it is now, which is a large commercial project. I don't think that's transparent enough, in terms of process. I'm opposed to the scale of it. At a time when we have record retail vacancy rates on Maui, that doesn't seem to be responsible growth."
Bertram said he supports the malls but wants to see them reconfigured so that instead of having "acres and acres of parking," including the adjacent high school site along Piilani Highway, the malls will become a mixed-use project incorporating housing, greenways and trails as well as shops.
"I would love to see it redesigned along the town guidelines instead of two shopping centers and a high school," he said. "It makes for a better quality of life for everybody. It gets back to smart growth. You put all the stuff you need to survive in a community."
Hanlon said he is "neither pro-mall nor anti-mall," noting that as a state representative, he wouldn't be given an opportunity to vote on the development because it's a county issue.
"In my view, this is how things should remain," he said. "Local development should be controlled by our local government, elected from members of our community. I don't think we here in South Maui need people from Oahu to dictate how our community grows.
"As the discussion around this development has grown in the past few months, my focus has been on making sure that the community's concerns about traffic and public safety are properly addressed, should construction begin. The developer claims that it will create the busiest intersection in the county. I think that our community needs to come together and work to ensure that this doesn't create a roadblock for people commuting to other parts of the island, and especially to ensure that kids and families going to and from the shopping center can do so safely."
Halperin and Ing said that they believe a state legislator could have an effect on the development.
"Obviously, as a legislator you can always talk to the county officials, but in this case their mind is pretty strongly made up," she said.
Said Ing: "We can give pressure to the developers."
While Halperin, Hanlon and Ing say they have gone door to door in the district of nearly 5,000 voting households, Bertram unabashedly reports receiving no contributions, spending no money and doing virtually no campaigning. He was absent from two of the three debates among the candidates.
"It is so low-key," Bertram said. "I'm here. People can just remember that two years ago, I was their representative. The other part is that people do vote for who they know."
Regarding questions raised about his health, Bertram said: "I was down for a little bit, no doubt about it. But luckily I'm still alive. I started feeling so much better when I went swimming. Every morning, I walk down to the water and take my swim. The rest of my day is great."
Along with promoting greenways, Bertram said another important issue for him is "supporting more regulated and rational use of cannabis."
Bertram, who is a caregiver for a medical marijuana patient, said he would like to see a legal way for people to grow their own marijuana, possibly through state-run dispensaries proposed in a bill introduced last session.
Halperin, who has highlighted South Maui groups and issues through her "Netra's News" program on cable television, said she wants to see more attention paid to damage to the reef - and the economy - caused by runoff from development.
"You don't come here for the nice hotels. You come here for natural beauty, and a lot of that is the reef," she said.
Hanlon said his work as chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs "has given me a lot of experience helping working families face the challenges of substance abuse, unemployment, domestic violence and homelessness, so I will fight to ensure that the state continues to fund the critical services that address these issues in our community."
Ing said he returned to Maui about a year ago and decided to enter the highly contested race instead of pursuing more lucrative jobs.
"I'm a Maui boy," he said. "You can't take that away from me. I caught my first fish at Keawakapu, my first wave at the Cove. I spent most of my time in South Maui and all of Maui."
At a Democratic Party convention, Ing said that he opposed construction of an undersea transmission cable to send power from the Neighbor Islands to Oahu. He said he also spoke against a proposed ban on music and entertainment after 10 p.m. at Kihei Kalama Village, also known as the Triangle.
"I knew it was bad policy to make such a Draconian ban," he said. "I'm trying to get involved in every way I can now that I'm back home."
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
House District 11
Joe Bertram III (D)
Born: April 29, 1957; Boulder, Colo.
Education: High school
Community involvement: Maui Planning Commission, 1996-2001; Kihei Community Association; Kihei Youth Center; South Maui Sustainability; Na Ala Hele
Netra Halperin (D)
Born: May 26, 1959; Redwood City, Calif.
Education: Bachelor's degree, political science, San Francisco State University, 1985; master's degree, psychology, Antioch University, 1989
Community involvement: Commissioner, Maui Committee on the Status of Women; member, Southwest Maui Watersheds Advisory Group; member, Communities Putting Prevention to Work; executive producer, Netra's News T.V.
Colin E. Hanlon (D)
Born: May 26, 1968; Boston
Education: Bachelor of science, K-12 Teacher's Certification, Plymouth State College, 1993
Community involvement: Big Brothers & Big Sisters; Rotary Club of Kahului; Advisory Board for Human Services at University of Hawaii - Maui Campus; Maui Non-Profit Directors Association
Family: Married, three children
Kaniela Ing (D)
Born: Dec. 24, 1988; Wailuku
Education: Master's degree in public administration, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2012; government courses at American University, Washington, D.C.; bachelor's degree in psychology and political science, U.H. Manoa, 2010; Maui Community College, 2006-2007; Kamehameha Schools Maui, Arts and Communications Academy, 2006
Community involvement: Co-founder/director - Roots Rhythm Foundation; three-time Relay for Life team leader