KOLOA — Hawaii Dairy Farms. Ordinance 960. Government spending.
These were some of the issues Kauai’s incumbent Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and his opponent Dustin Barca tackled Thursday during the first of several political forums hosted by the Kauai Chamber of Commerce at the Koloa Neighborhood Center.
Well over 100 people turned out for the three-hour event, which also featured House of Representa-tives District 16 candidates Daynette “Dee” Morikawa and Victoria “Vickie” Franks, and all 14 Kauai County Council candidates.
Aside from their support for expanding the Kauai Bus, Carvalho and Barca agreed on very little.
While he believes there are community concerns that need to be addressed in the process, Carvalho said Kauai was once home to many dairies and that he supports Hawaii Dairy Farm’s plans for one in Maha‘ulepu Valley. Instead of just saying “no,” he said everyone needs to take a step back.
“At the end of the day, a dairy is a good thing,” he said.
Barca supports the idea in theory, but said Maha‘ulepuis not where it should go — that Grove Farm has plenty of other land where HDF could develop a dairy sustainability.
“I just don’t think Poipu is the right place,” he said.
Things heated up when moderator Chris Gampon asked about Ordinance 960, a county law regulating pesticides and genetically modified crops, and whether each candidate supported the measure, which was recently struck down by a federal judge.
“What people need to realize is this isn’t about food,” Barca said. “This isn’t about what you should eat in your house and what you should buy. This is a way bigger picture. These are the largest chemical corporations in the history of Earth using our island as an experimental test sight.”
Barca said Kauai’s ecosystem is fragile and that the biotech industry is spraying six times more pesticides here than anywhere else. He considers it the “biggest issue we’re facing on our island.”
Carvalho, who vetoed the legislation after is was passed by the council, said it is a very emotional topic. While he supports buffer zones, disclosure and even labeling, he has not and does not support Ordinance 960 for a number of reasons.
“As a leader, you need to look at issues as critical as (these) kinds of issues in more of a global way, and understanding the main parts of every (aspect) of this particular issue, from regulation, enforcement, who’s responsible, legal issues, all of it,” he said. “And try to understand and stay, as much as possible, out of the court side of it, the legal battles.”
The way to address the issue, he said, is by bringing the right people to the table to “talk it through.” He said that is already happening, partnerships have been formed, and that it is important to support agriculture on Kauai.
A question also touched on the administration putting a heavy reliance on taxation to balance the county budget, and how each candidate would cut government spending.
Barca said Kauai is raising taxes on the wrong kind of people, the working class, while large landowners are getting tax incentives for agricultural use when the majority of their land is not being used for food production, but rather experimentation.
“While we’re in the position where our working class people are barely making it, trying to pay their bills, the richest people on the island are getting away and laughing in our faces. That’s how I feel,” he said. “And I think it’s time that we grow some and go after these entities … This is the way we’re going to get back on our feet.”
Carvalho said the county continues to look at opportunities to keep business and county services moving and make sure people’s needs are met — which often requires tough decisions be made.
“I believe that we’ve tried to manage as best we can. We’re looking at doing a strategic fiscal plan to better understand where we need to go, as far as budget operations, taxes and fees, and assuring we can manage our … operations for the better service to the people,” he said.
Carvalho said his administration has accomplished a great deal over the last six years, and has a solid, qualified team in place.
“We have a vision,” he said. “We know where we need to go.”
Barca said he brings a fresh perspective, cares deeply about the future of Kauai’s children and environment, and is ready to work for the people, not large corporations.
“We cannot change the past, but we can right the future,” he said.
Other forums leading up to the Nov. 4 general election include:
– Monday, Sept. 29: 6 to 8 p.m. Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall Exhibition Area — Governor and lieutenant governor candidates
w Tuesday, Sept. 30: 6-9 p.m., Historic Waimea Theatre — Kauai County Council and State House of Representatives Dist. 16 candidates
– Thursday, Oct. 2: 6-9 p.m., Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall — Kauai County Council and State House of Representatives Dist. 15 candidates
– Tuesday, Oct. 14: 6-9 p.m., Kapaa Neighborhood Center — Mayoral, Kauai County Council and state House of Representatives Dist. 14 candidates
– Monday, Oct. 27,:6-9 p.m., Princeville Community Association — Kauai County Council and state House of Representatives Dist. 14 candidates
– Wednesday, Oct. 29: 6:30-7:45 p.m., Wilcox Elementary School Cafeteria — United States Senate
Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.