A Kauai reader sent me an email:
I would enjoy seeing a column with your top choices for County Council. I would really love to see Gary [Hooser] lose this time around.
So I was interested in reading The Garden Island article today dismissing the notion of “plunking,” which Gary has been urging his supporters to do. It's really arrogant to think that people who can vote for seven candidates should limit themselves to just one — him.
But then, doesn't that pretty much sum up where Gary's head is at?
A friend who attended the candidate's forum sponsored by such Hooser-friendly groups as Surfrider, Apollo Kauai, Zero Waste Kauai, Kauai Young Democrats, Kauai Women's Caucus and AAUW Kauai Branch texted:
Of course Hooser gets seated center stage, as was Fern [Rosenstiel, 14th District House candidate] when her time came. JoAnn [Yukimura] was way off in the corner. I didn't stay for the Council part except the opening remarks. If that was any indication, then Derek [Kawakami] is going to walk away with this thing. Hooser came off as an angry old white man well past his prime.
Derek is going to walk away with this thing, and that's OK. He's smart, experienced, likeable and he cares about the community. I predict he'll be top vote-getter, and from there he'll continue to zip up the political ladder, en route to Mayor, Congressman, Senator, Governor — you name it.
His campaign funding reports — you can see them here and here — read like someone on a political trajectory who is already moving in a larger sphere than just Kauai. Unlike Hooser, Derek will use the experience and connections he made in the Legislature to help the island, rather than alienate people across the state and push his own agenda.
I don't really have top picks for Council, though I can easily identify who the top four will be: Derek, Mel Rapozo, Arryl Kaneshiro and Ross Kagawa.
I would like to put in a plug for Arthur Brun, and here's why: He changed himself, and thus his life, and that gives me some confidence that he might also be able to effect change on an island level.
It's so easy — for politicians, especially — to talk about changing the community, changing the world. But changing ourselves is the hardest thing to do. If we all did more to deal with our own personal issues, the world would be immediately improved.
Since changing himself and his life, Arthur has gone on to help others change theirs. He's gone into the schools to give anti-drug talks, and he and Mel counseled youth in Anahola following a spate of suicides there. Arthur also coaches youth sports.
He quite rightly identified substance abuse treatment as one of the most pressing issues on this island. It's the ugly backstory behind much of the homelessness, crime and domestic violence that destroys families, clogs the court system and irrevocably rends the social fabric.
Arthur has always been on the right side of the vacation rental issue, recognizing that TVRs are driving up the price of rentals and land, especially ag land, and squeezing out locals. My first encounter with him came at the July 21, 2010 Council hearing, when the Council was debating whether to amend the law to allow TVRs on ag land, which it ultimately voted to do. As I reported then:
Nearly all of the speakers were for the bill, and all who spoke in favor had financial interests in it being passed. But there were a few who spoke against it, including Mel Rapozo and westsider Arthur Brun, who said, “This bill is wrong. What about the local families that had farm land for generations and followed the law? You’re making our families that followed the law suffer. I don’t think you should be punishing the people who followed the law.”
And that’s a very good point. Because under the bill, only those who were already operating will have the chance to apply for the permits. Anyone who waited and followed the law is aced out.
Or as an observer noted: "Once again, the local people who follow the law get screwed while the rich haoles who know how to get around the law make out."
Brun concluded: “Do what is right for the 60,000 people of Kauai, not the 26 people of Kauai.”
Which is exactly the attitude that a Councilman should have.
Some people are opposed to Arthur simply because he works for Syngenta. They seem to be afraid that he'll somehow use his position on the Council to the company's advantage.
The same argument was made against Arryl, who works for Grove Farm, and it hasn't borne out. Arryl has proven to be a thoughtful and hard-working Council member who recuses himself when necessary.
Jobs come and go. Actions reveal so much more about a person's heart and values. And on that basis alone, Arthur's got it going on. He deserves your vote.
Finally, I did get a kick out of this meme, which is being distributed on Maui:
So say the mainland haole transplants who are busily buying up land on the Valley Isle and trying to tell others how to farm. No irony there.