By Wendy Osher
Members of the Maui County Council’s Policy Committee requested disapproval of two nominees–Karen Ashley and Amy Maeda–to the Molokai Planning Commission yesterday.
Members stated that they were uncomfortable with the individuals’ limited knowledge of the island, involvement in the community, and experience.
After being able to have a brief discussion with both nominees, Molokai Council Member Danny Mateo said, “I’m just not comfortable enough that both nominees are familiar enough with our community, involved enough, and understand the real process that they will be responsible in having to deal with.”
“That uncomfortableness,” he said, “leads me to request that these individuals be disapproved at this time.”
Nominee, Karen Ashley was born in Canada, grew up in England, and has lived on Molokai for 11 years. On Molokai, her first job was as a planter at the Beach Boy Ranch.
Ashley said her experience includes prior work as a draft person, as well as experience in city planning, landscape architecture, civil engineering, municipal engineering, land surveying, telephony, and hydro-electric power.
“I’m quite familiar with the safety aspects in terms of a city or county–what the codes should be. The whole thing revolves around the safety of the people. It’s (about) how we preserve humanity on the surface of the land we are responsible for, and still make it a nice place for the creatures and preserve the environment,” said Ashley.
Council Member Mateo described Molokai residents as “a boisterous people” who are not afraid to express their opinions, and asked Ashley if she can deal with that type of atmosphere.
Ashely responded saying, “I get a lot of sustenance from the internet and youtube.” She continued saying, “I find it’s better that you don’t jump down people’s throats anyway. If you can speak your truth quietly and coolly, people are more likely to follow your lead,” said Ashley.
Mateo asked both women for their opinion about the controversy surrounding the Safari ship visits to Molokai and a proposed wind project.
Ashley said she is opposed visits by large cruise ships carrying thousands of passengers, but voiced support for the Safari ship saying there’s only 35 people. As for big wind, Ashley said it’s a better alternative than nuclear, but suggested individual solar systems instead.
Fellow nominee, Amy Maeda, who has lived on Molokai for almost two years, said she is for the Safari Explorer and against big wind.
Maeda, who serves as the executive director for Molokai Occupational Center, and is a rehab specialist said she would like to see disabled adults get work, and see unemployed people have gainful employment.
She agreed with Council Member Mateo’s comment about Molokai being a boisterous community saying, “Holding your ground is really important.”
Maeda said her perception of what the Planning Commission does is document review and a lot of listening to testimony. “There’s a strong good-old-boy’s mentality there–who you know, who’s your neighbor, who you grew up with. Certainly that plays a very big part of every meeting that is part of Molokai.”
“I think also, there’s a lot of skipping steps there,” said Maeda who also has experience as a document specialist. “They like to go straight to the good stuff and skip all the paperwork, and all the tedium. That is where foundation is set with all of the things that need to be done… I’m all about compliance and ethical business,” she said.
Maeda’s comments drew a quick retort from Mateo who said, “The Molokai Planning Commission is an organization that does not skip processes. They follow the process because that’s their mandate and they are led by the Planning Department. I think a little more knowledge in our processes and our community might be more beneficial,” he said.
Maeda defended her position saying, “There tends to be a lot of step skipping in Molokai, and that is harmful for the end result. The end result is the foundation is not solid, so the end result does not last,” she said.
The recommendation for disapproval was supported with 7 votes in favor and two excused (Baisa and Cochran).
In the end, Council Member Mateo said, “The Planning Commission, for us, is a major responsibility that I think warrants a lot more knowledge in both community and direction that our community is leading towards, as well as the process that the commission has to adhere to.”
He thanked the women for putting their names forward but said, “There are other committees that they can be considered for, and I would strongly encourage them to look at those other committees.”
Council Member Joe Pontanilla said it takes a special person to work with the people of Molokai. “Knowing that they’re not too familiar with the process, makes it much harder for them,” he said.
Fellow Council Member Michael Victorino thanked the nominees for applying but said they needed more seasoning. “That commission really needs a lot of background, a lot of feel for your community, a lot of experience within your community; not to say that’s the only requirements, but it’s one of the major ones,” said Victorino.
“It’s really a feeling that we’re not comfortable yet in your abilities to handle such high profile, challenging, and somewhat controversial commission,” said Victorino who suggested that the Mayoral administration find an area for the nominees that they could help to develop their skills so that they would be better suited to potentially serve the commission at a future time.
By county charter, the Mayor will have the opportunity to recommend other nominees to the vacancies for committee consideration.
The council has until a March 31 deadline to approve or disapprove of nominees.