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Maui Politics-

Election season is upon us. A grassroots movement towards political change has been sparked by dissatisfaction with corporate influence on our public policy. This movement has gained strength though a growing sense of disconnect between the community and our elected officials. This election presents an important opportunity for Maui residents to have their voices heard in a number of important races at both the county and the state levels.

The State of Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout in the nation, and Maui County has the lowest turnout in our State. We face a highly transient population and an overall culture of apathy toward the political process as a whole. I used to count myself among the people who thought “Why even bother?” That is, until I started following the council meetings on Kaua’i relating to Bill 2491 that addressed the disclosure of pesticide usage by the GMO seed industry.

It became clear that the makeup of the Kaua’i council was going to determine whether or not an entire community would receive protection from the experiments of the biggest chemical companies in the world. In the end, the newest appointed council member’s vote determined the outcome and overturned Mayor Carvalho’s veto, making history. Bill 2491 was signed into law as ordinance 960.

This year we have the opportunity to re-elect or choose entirely new candidates for seven of nine districts of the Maui County council. (Molokai and Lanai are uncontested). Just like on Kaua’i, it is important to have people in positions that will represent the interests of their constituents over their corporate donors. The August 9th primary will determine the top two candidates in each district who will appear on the November ballot in the general election.

To vote in the primaries, you must be 18 by Election Day, a US citizen, resident of the state of Hawaii, and be registered to vote by July 10th. To find out how you can register go to http://hawaii.gov/elections/voters/registration.htm and remember that you have to re-register if you have changed your name or address.

The Primary Election will be on August 9th. It is important to know that wherever you live in Maui County, you vote for ALL the council seats. This means that as a resident of Lahaina, I have the same say in the council races for Hana and Pukalani seats as the residents of those districts. Equally, the voters of Kahului and Wailuku (who have historically determined the council races) have a say in the West Maui council seat.

From an environmental standpoint the West Maui council race is the one of most important in this election. Incumbent Elle Cochran’s seat is being contested, jeopardizing an important voice for the protection of Maui’s environment. Elle entered politics to help save Honolua Bay and has been fighting to preserve the precious natural resources of Maui since her election. This year, Cochran introduced a bill requiring that the county’s heaviest pesticide users disclose which poisons they are spraying near our schools, homes, and waterways. Despite passionate testimony that went on for two days and all her efforts, the council has failed to move forward on this issue. Hopefully the GMO moratorium, which gathered enough signatures to be put onto the November ballot, will let the people speak where the council would not.

When voting for a candidate it is revealing to know who they have accepted campaign donations from to help decipher how they may vote on different issues. I am personally looking forward to the next report from the Campaign Spending Commission, which will be released on July 10th. Using this resource, you will learn that the current senator of District 6 (South and West Maui), democratic candidate Roz Baker, has accepted $1000’s in contributions from chemical/GMO companies, their lobbyists and family members. Some say this influenced her position as Chair of Consumer Protection in the Senate when she helped prevent legislation that would mandate labeling of GM foods.

Senator Baker publicly denies accepting funds “…from Monsanto in a number of years…” This is a glaring example of political double-speak, as most people would consider taking money from the Vice President of Monsanto Hawaii, or a Monsanto registered lobbyist the same as taking money from Monsanto. If you live in South or West Maui, your vote in this Primary is one of the most important ways you can influence the battle for protection of our soil, water and air from these major polluters. Newcomer Terez Amato can win in the Primary if all the Maui mamas show up at the poll. Amato has vowed not to take money from corporations or corporate lobbyists, and is campaigning on a strong environmental platform endorsed by the Sierra Club.
I encourage you to take a little time to do your own research on the candidates. Your informed votes can make a big difference to the future of Maui. Stay tuned to www.vote4yourlife.com and www.facebook.com/BabesAgainstBiotech for a complete statewide voting guide shortly after July 10th. And another resource I trust and recommend to identify environmentally aware candidates is the Sierra Club’s Endorsement list at www.SierraClubHawaii.org/vote.

Image Credit: Gaia Photography

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Lauryn Rego, mother of a toddler, is a 20 year resident of Maui. Artist, activist, community advocate, she finds ways to use her creativity to advance the missions of multiple local non-profit organizations, with a focus on attachment parenting and bonding as well as protecting our keiki from pesticide exposure.