As the Hawaii Center for Food Safety Action Fund employs phone canvassers, ads and even Patagonia to push its “True Food” slate of anti-GMO candidates in Maui County, it's raising eyebrows and questions.
Should a mainland-based and -funded group be heavily influencing local elections —especially when it's complained bitterly about others doing the same? Plus despite all its calls for transparency, CFS has not disclosed how much money it's pouring into the election, or the source of those funds.
There's also the question of whether voters are well-served by single-issue candidates. Because according to its website, the CFS action fund exists solely to support candidates “who will stand up to biotech and agrichemical companies and support local and sustainable farming practices in Hawaii.” Nothing about housing, economic development, shoreline protection, education, substance abuse or other issues.
The Huffington Post recently published an article by an anti-GMO activist that focused on the goal of the “True Food” slate to unseat the current Maui County Council solely on the basis of the GMO issue. It prominently featured Council candidate Alika Atay, who has no political experience other than working with SHAKA and Babes Against Biotech to push the Maui GMO moratorium that was struck down by the courts.
And then there's the questionable character and scant qualifications of the “True Food” candidates.
Among them are Rep. Kaniela Ing, who is awaiting trial on charges of driving without insurance and failing to respond to a court summons to appear.
Kawika Crivello took to Facebook to defend his mother against name-calling by “True Food” candidates Alika Atay and Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, captured on a CFS video:
Meanwhile, Alika and Trinette Furtado, along with their campaign manager, Brian Bardellini, have been involved in a bizarre battle with the folks who are trying to eradicate the little fire ants (LFA) on Maui. One of the workers sought a restraining order against Brian after he and Alika verbally abused eradicators, prompting Brian to respond with his own TRO claim.
The judge dismissed Brian's request, saying he had failed to prove harassment had occurred in the past or was likely in the future. During the TRO hearing, Trinette improperly provided information to Alika, who was sequestered outside the courtroom as a witness.
None of this speaks well to either the character or demeanor of these candidates.
The situation got so bad that Michael Kiyoshi Wailani Adachi, the lead invasive ant research associate at the Hilo Ant Lab, sent a letter to Alika bemoaning the “stressful and controversial” tone of their last two meetings, and explaining the need to eradicate the pest. “Our pilikia should be with LFA, and never with each other.”
Alika is quoted in the Huff-Po article as saying “We the people have the power. We the people are going to make this change.”
But Maui voters need to ask whether Alika and the other “True Food” candidates are truly about people power – or the power of nontransparent mainland nonprofits to influence elections and set policy for their community based solely on one issue.
These are the “True Food” candidates that Maui voters need to carefully scrutinize: Alika Atay, Napua Nakasone, Kelly King, Shane Sinenci, Elle Cochran, Don Guzman, Trinette Furtado, Keani Rawlins-Fernandez and Gabe Johnson.
And so you know, Tin Roof chef Sheldon Simeon has endorsed this single-issue crowd. Just something to keep in mind when choosing where to spend your dining dollars.