* EDITOR'S NOTE - This is the first in a series of stories covering contested legislative and County Council seats and County Charter and state constitutional amendments leading up to the Nov. 6 general election.
WAILUKU - Maui County Council hopeful Don Guzman says his education and legal background
ALAN FUKUYAMA, Maui County Council candidate
give him an advantage over his opponent, Alan "Al" Fukuyama, in the race to fill the council's Kahului residency seat.
"Because of my background as having a legal education . . . I can bring a different perspective when analyzing issues and making laws; I've had that formal training," said Guzman, 43, an attorney in private practice in Wailuku.
"I worked as a legislative aide at the state House, I went on to become a deputy prosecutor here in the county for five years," he said. "Just by that alone, those factors, I think that I've distinguished myself."
MAUI COUNTY COUNCIL
(Kahului residency seat)
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, Philippines
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
Fukuyama counters that his longevity on Maui and experience as a businessman help set him apart.
"I've been here for 33 years and I know the communities, I've been in the communities. I've lived all over this island," said Fukuyama, 57, an independent sales representative.
"Granted, yes, he has the education, but like they say, experience sometimes supersedes education. Having longtime relationships and being in the community is sometimes far greater than having the best education in the world," he said. "And with my business background, I understand the way the private sector operates and can help bring about partnerships between the private sector and government."
Guzman, a first-time candidate, and Fukuyama, making his third bid for the council, advanced from the August primary as the top two vote-getters in the race. They are vying to fill the seat vacated by longtime Council Member Joe Pontanilla, who cannot seek re-election because of term limits.
Guzman secured 46 percent of the vote in the primary, or 11,916 votes, to Fukuyama's 30 percent, or 7,596 votes.
Both candidates say the economy and improving basic infrastructure would be top priorities if elected.
"Infrastructure - such as our sewer treatment plants being located in a flood zone, improving our water delivery system and our roads - those are issues that need to be addressed right away," Fukuyama said. "It seems like other issues have been a priority, and I think we need to expedite things that concern our communities. The public pays taxes, and they need to get services that are due to them."
Guzman said the county's connectivity - referencing roadways, bikeways and walkways - need to be "improved and repaired and enhanced."
He said he'd also like to find ways to expand the local economy.
"I think the county of Maui, basically we're a tourism industry as well as an agricultural industry, so we need to protect those two," Guzman said. "But in the same breath, we need to seek out new industries for our next generation, such as high technology and medical development."
Both candidates also agree that the county could be more business-friendly.
"What I'm hearing from the end-users is a lot of it is the permitting process that needs to be improved and streamlined so businesses don't have to go through headaches," Fukuyama said. "We need to entice more businesses here because the more jobs we get, the more economically stable we become."
Guzman said he, too, would like to encourage more small-business activities.
"I would like to see that we encourage small businesses maybe with some tax incentives for them," he said. "I believe that by creating spending power in the community, it will rejuvenate our economy."
The candidates say they want more community interaction and input at the council level and have different approaches to address that.
Guzman said Maui County could perhaps learn from the neighborhood boards that are in place within the City and County of Honolulu.
Oahu's neighborhood boards play an advisory role in local government there, with oversight from a neighborhood commission.
"I like the fact that they have neighborhood boards on Oahu even if it might be seen as something that would cost more tax money or create more red tape," Guzman said. "I think . . . that dialogue is so important versus just hearing from special interest groups or having to backtrack to get community input."
Fukuyama envisions quarterly meetings to help keep a pulse on communities.
"I would like to really have good community involvement. The local people, they kind of quiet, they don't want to shake the trees," he said. "But we need to hear what they think. We need to hold more community meetings, town halls, and it shouldn't just be in election years. Maybe quarterly. Once you get people accustomed, you'll get their feedback."
County Council members are elected on an at-large basis to represent the county as a whole, which means all county voters can cast votes for all seats on the council.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at email@example.com.