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Part I: State House Candidates Debate

Mixed and matched candidates debate due to last minute schedule changes at live Akaku broadcast.

August 2, 2012
Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez · Senior Contributing Writer , The Maui Weekly

If you tuned in the live broadcast of the primary election contested races candidate forum on Akaku: Maui Community Television a bit late on Tuesday evening, July 24, you might have wondered why former state Rep. Joe Bertram, running to reclaim the South Maui District 11 House seat, and Angus McKelvey, running for re-election to the West-South Maui District 10 seat, were in the TV studio being questioned as if they are running against each other--when they are not.

You would not have been the only person asking that question, including at least one South Maui candidate, Kaniela Ing, who was reportedly angry that at the last minute, the South Maui panel was moved up on the broadcast schedule, depriving viewers of the opportunity to hear all four candidates for the State House seat, including Bertram, who continues to be a wild card in the South Maui race.

Sources interviewed later said that the scheduling snafu happened when Kula Community Association member Dick Mayer moved the South Maui candidate forum panel up by 25 minutes because Edward Ka'ahui, McKelvey's opponent for the West Maui spot, had failed to show for the West Maui panel.

Article Photos

Candidates running to represent South Maui District 11 in the state Legislature share a lighter moment with panel moderators Kīhei Community Association (KCA) Vice President Mike Moran (seated with hat) and KCA President Jon Miller. The candidates are (left to right) Colin Hanlon, Netra Halperin and Kaniela Ing. Due to a last minute scheduling change, South Maui candidate Joe Bertram was included in a later panel with Rep. Angus McKelvey who is running for re-election to the West Maui District 10 State House seat.

Mayer was concerned about only having one candidate in the West Maui panel presentation and overruled Akaku production staff objections against making the scheduling change.

The result? When Bertram showed up at the time he had been told to be at the studio, his panel was already on the air. With that train having left the station, the only option available to give Bertram airtime was to match him up with McKelvey. While it made for some awkward questioning, it did provide Bertram with the opportunity to speak without having any of his opponents on the stage with him to challenge his views.

Responding to a panel question, McKelvey said that he had been "aggressive in getting highway projects in West Maui," citing the speedup in construction of the Lahaina Bypass as one example, and his proposal for building an intelligent traffic system to allow for traffic flow adjustment as road conditions change.

McKelvey also said he supported right-to-die legislation, giving individuals the right to end their lives with certain protections.

"It is the inherent right of any individual to make those decisions with safeguards," McKelvey said.

Questioned about the need for a new hospital in West Maui, McKelvey said that the role of the state Legislature is to support the private sector efforts of the West Maui community, and he cited approval for the West Maui facility by the state Certificate of Need (CON) process.

Bertram added that in South Maui, he had been a member of People United to Support a Second Hospital (PUSH), an advocacy group that had argued for a new hospital to be built in Kihei.

When asked about traffic congestion on Pi'ilani Highway, Bertram said that he supported increased bike trails, additional walking paths, greenways and a network of trails along the coast, which, when combined, would reduce the need for travel on the Pi'ilani Highway.

The candidates for the District 11 House seat, interviewed without Bertram, included Netra Halperin, Colin Hanlon and Ing.

The candidates differed on the Pi'ilani Promenade retail shopping center and Maui Outlets center being constructed mauka of the Pi'ilani Highway.

Ing challenged Hanlon for taking money from unions and being a supporter of the project. Both Halperin and Ing are opposed to the shopping center, objecting to the size of the development and potential problems caused by an increase in traffic.

In remarks made after the panel was off-air, Hanlon denied the charge that union contributions dictated his support, saying that he was concerned about how to mitigate any traffic concerns and ensure the safety of pedestrians crossing Pi'ilani Highway who want to go to the shopping centers.

When it came to the issue of crime, Halperin emphasized the need to move money from the incarceration of inmates and into community programs.

"Most crime is caused by drug and alcohol abuse," she said. "What Maui needs are more rehabilitation programs." She charged that the current justice system is wasting millions and millions of dollars.

Hanlon saw a shortfall of resources coming to South Maui from the state. He pointed to the lack of funding for the Department of Education (DOE) Kihei High School and said that if elected, the completion of the school would be number one on his agenda.

Ing said while knocking on 10,000 doors in his quest to be elected, he had heard that education was among the top priorities in the district. "I would stop disinvesting in education," he said, calling for more classrooms and more teachers in the classrooms.

Among the other races covered in the broadcast were the Molokai, Lana'i, East Maui, Upcountry State Senate District 7 seat with J. Kalani English, Barbara Haliniak and Kanohowailuka Helm; Kahului State Representative District 9 with Gil Keith-Agaran and Joe Pontanilla; the Wailuku-Waihe'e-Waikapu County Council race between Joseph Blackburn, Lisa Gapero and Mike Victorino; and the Kahului County Council race between Alan Fukuyama, Don Guzman and Erin McLaughlin.

Some of these races will be covered in the next issue of the Maui Weekly.

The forum was sponsored by Akaku, The Maui News, and the Kula and Kihei Community Associations.

To watch a replay of the candidate forum, go to for dates and times of the broadcast.



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