LIHUE — Tense moments, punctuated by sometimes combative exchanges, stood out in the debate between current mayoral incumbent Bernard Carvalho, Jr. and his challenger, Dustin Barca, during Thursday night’s political forum at the Kauai Memorial Convention Hall.
Perhaps the most tense moment during the 32-minute debate occurred when Carvalho was asked about his position on Ordinance 960, formerly Bill 2491.
Carvalho said he supported the recent federal court decision in which U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren ruled that the county law regulating pesticides and genetically modified organisms by large-scale, commercial agriculture companies on Kauai was invalid because it was pre-empted by state law. The law, he said, also presents major legal, management and compliance issues.
“In this particular discussion, I believe, and I’ve said it before, that we can work together and we can find solutions,” Carvalho said. “This is a very critical issue for our island, and when you get critical issues coming our way, you do not, and knowing that it may divide our people, you need to be a leader who can bring people together, bring the resources together, make good decisions based on good, sound data, and then you move forward. By taking this into legal hands, it causes so much dissension and we’re not moving forward. The seed corn companies are here, they are part of our island, and I think we need to become more proactive.”
When asked the same question, Barca replied, “I think anyone who knows me knows that I’m for 960.”
“I think that putting the well-being and the health of our people is the most important thing in the world,” Barca said. “What people need to understand is what’s happening on this island isn’t about food — it’s about chemicals, poison being sprayed next to our houses, rivers, hospitals and schools. This is not about a bunch of hippies complaining about what you’re eating.”
When asked if he had a question for Carvalho, Barca said, “When you took into consideration making your decision, did you respect every kind of person’s input or just the 30-year friends you have from being in politics?”
“I’m a leader who was born and raised here,” Carvalho replied. “I’m a leader who is always looking for solutions. I’m a leader who is always looking for results. I look at every single issue that comes before me and I try my very best to look at all the different facts that are before me.
I look at all people who are before me, and before I make a decision, I’m going to make sure that each one of those concerns are addressed one step at a time with the right people at the table to make that decision.”
In a similar fashion, Carvalho posed this question to Barca, “Mr. Barca, this particular discussion involves over 600 employees who work in this industry. How would you address their plea for what they do?”
“Let me ask you,” Barca quipped. “Is a job worth a life? We’re dealing with the largest chemical corporations in the history of Earth. Anywhere they’ve been in the world, they’ve left nothing but death and destruction.
For me, I have no personal gain from going after these companies except for the health and well-being of the future of our people and our natural resources. So, 500 jobs is not worth 70,000 people’s health and well-being.”