Maui Election

VIDEO: Gil Keith-Agaran – Candidate Profile 2012

July 19, 2012, 2:20 PM HST
* Updated July 23, 12:59 PM
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Gil Keith-Agaran, 2012 photo by Wendy Osher.

[flashvideo file= /] Interview and transcription by Wendy Osher

INTRO: Tell us about yourself and your campaign.

Aloha.  I’m Representative Gil Keith-Agaran, and I’m running for re-election to the Central Maui House seat. 

I’ve been your representative now for four years, since 2009.  I’ve served on all three of the major committees in the House–Finance, Consumer Protection, and Judiciary; and for the last two years, I’ve been the Judiciary Chair.

I hope that you’ll vote for me on August 11th.

Question 1:  Both you and your opponent have prior experience in elective government. Can you speak to your experience and any accomplishments that make you well suited for the District 9 seat?

Besides just being in elective office, I think we all bring our life experience to whatever office we’re holding.  I’ve lived in Central Maui most of my life.  After seeing America, working on O’ahu, the easiest decision I’ve ever made was to move back to Maui.

I think I’ve used my experience as a lawyer, and my insights that I’ve gained over a decade of working for state and county, for the benefit of the community while serving in the state House.

In four years, I’ve served on all the major committees and I’ve chaired the Judiciary Committee for the last two years–a tough assignment because we handle a lot of the tough, hot button issues.  But, whatever position we hold, in the end, it needs to reflect and build our community.

I voted in favor of kupuna care because I understand that home based care giving is important to long-term care on Maui.  I passed OHA’s settlement because I believe that you need to resolve long-standing disputes–it’s simple justice.  Knowing that Kahului is host to the major infrastructure that the entire county needs, I fought hard to make sure that we do the repair and maintenance and improvements to our harbors, our airports, UH Maui College, our only acute care hospital, and especially for our schools.  In fact, we included a half-a-million dollars this year to start planning and land acquisition for a new Central Maui Intermediate school.

This was all done in a 60 day session.  We don’t meet all year round, and we vote every day that I’m away on O’ahu.  So, I hope that I think my experience shows that I’ve been on the job, and I’ve been the state representative now for the last four years. 

Question 2:  What are your thoughts on affordable housing and what can you do as a legislator to ensure that home ownership is attainable for those who live and work on Maui?

Beyond trying to make sure that people have the opportunities to have good jobs, and especially good paying jobs, I think that housing is a big challenge for everybody, and it’s a community problem.

It starts with good planing and cooperation between the state and the county; and because infrastructure going to be needed, the federal government who funds a large portion of it–we can talk about reducing the regulatory burdens on home builders, but we have to balance changing state policies with local decision making, and local decision makers.

For example, we already have a state law that streamlines the process for county approval affordable housing; but the county councils have repeatedly asked for more, not less time to review projects, and to have more discretion to impose conditions rather than waiving them.

You can’t blame council members.  For example, Kahului now has been in development for over half a century.  My parents bought a new house in the 12th increment right across from the new Maui High School back in the 1970s.  Lono Avenue was freshly paved, and except for some patching and some raised sidewalks, it’s never been repaved.

In our community we have sidewalks and curbs and gutters, drainage, and underground utilities.  Other parts of Kahului, were built at a different time with different subdivision standards.  So we know that waiving urban infrastructure to help with the cost of development have consequences.  We see the ponding when we see the big rains in the Lihikai School area. 

So you need some political will to move these projects forward; but maybe the best thing that we can do is make sure state and county resources are used to provide the infrastructure–and perhaps provide land so that housing can be built a lot cheaper. 

Question 3:  What are your thoughts on the proposed Advanced Technology Solar Telescope atop Haleakala. Do you support or oppose the project.

That’s a tough question.  It’s a $300 million project.  It would be the largest optical solar telescope in the world.  $80 million is promised in local construction, along with 35 full time jobs; and $2 million annually for UH Maui College and our students for internships and workforce training.  They say $18 million (goes) to the Maui economy.  Haleakala beat out 70 other sites.

Its supporters actually describe the potential of a marriage between Hawaiian culture and science.  So, conceptually it sounds great–(there’s) federal money, a boost for construction, (and) good paying jobs–the kind of jobs that we keep talking about in the knowledge industry. 

That’s only if you assume that the impacts, including the impact on the sacredness of the mountain can be mitigated in some way.  In the past, obviously, it’s been at Science City we’ve allowed a lot of construction.  Without a management plan, the expense is the sacredness of the mountaintop. 

So unfortunately, in this instance, I think supporters seem to have been given a little short (inaudible) to the concerns about the mountain’s sacredness and natural resource concerns; and apparently, if you believe some of the things that have been said about it, have been over zealous in trying to get the project approvals done.

When it comes down to any project, the general public has to trust the decision makers are moving forward with a project like the telescope after having considered all the facts, the benefits, and impacts in a fair and unbiased process. 

I’m concerned about any decision to move forward without making sure that there is broad public support in the community, and without taking a real hard look at the cultural concerns.

So, it’s now in court, and I think we’ll see what happens.  Generally, if these concerns can be mitigated, it’s a good project for Maui.


Closing Thoughts:

Aloha, I’m Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran, and I’m running for re-election to the Central Maui House seat.  Thank you for listening and watching.  You can reach us on Facebook, and you can email us at [email protected]

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