SAVE LA`AU CANDIDATES VOTED IN
Silent no more; Molokai voters send a clear message not to develop.
Mowat and Stone win EC election decisively as Molokai voters send a clear message: No to the development of La`au Point.
The Results Are In:
In the largest voter turnout in Molokai Enterprise Community (EC) history, challengers Bridget Ann Mowat and Leila Stone upset recumbent board members Colette Machado and Claud Sutcliffe on Wednesday, January 31. Together, Mowat and Stone garnered roughly 66% of votes on the nearly 1,300 ballots cast- a landslide considering there were six candidates on the bill.
Sutcliffe had dubbed the election a “community referendum,” because of the ideological split between the incumbents and the eventual winners over the EC decision to support the development of La’au Point. Mowat and Stone campaigned on a clear ‘No to La’au development’ platform, making the answer in this unofficial referendum a resounding NO; a favorable result for supporters of Hui Ho’opakele ‘Aina and others who voted for the Mowat-Stone bloc and clearly believe La’au is worth saving.
The Hawaiian League of Women Voters acted as enumerators and started accepting votes at 7:30am, but because of the unexpectedly high turnout, had to remain in the voting room in Mitchell Puoule Center until just after midnight counting ballots. Several anxious onlookers stayed for the entire count and endured roughly five hours of “four, five…four, five…”, as enumerators read voter cards of the alphabetically-listed candidates. A power outage put a halt to the vote counting with roughly 20 ballots left to go but winners were announced anyway; Mowat and Stone were ahead of first runner up Machado by nearly 450 votes.
This result is an important one to the community involvement process; MPL has always maintained that there is a ‘silent majority’ of Molokai residents who are in favor of the Master Land Use Plan. This election was pivotal in proving what anti-development supporters have maintained all along – that there is no silent majority, and in fact most people do not support the development of La`au.
While 1,284 people officially turning out to vote out of roughly 5,000 eligible voters may not seem like a high percentage, consider that there were fewer than 200 votes cast in the 2006 EC election at this time last year.
Numbers aside, the war of words leading up to this election was furious; media coverage and local attendance at community meetings was widespread enough that even visitors of the island knew the issues. Certainly, those who missed the media coverage and ignored the word-of-mouth buzz could not have missed the hand-painted signs on every roadway on the island. It is safe to say that everyone on Molokai knew of either the Master Land Use Plan or the push to stop La`au development.
In voting out Machado and Sutcliffe, the community has unseated two very well-known, hardworking individuals who have each donated years worth of time on various boards and committees, and who have diligently served Molokai in many facets of public life. In their place, two inexperienced candidates step in to a very contentious arena.
Both Mowat and Stone have admitted they didn’t want to be in politics in the past but felt their hands were forced by an EC board that had stopped listening to the people of Molokai.
Indeed, several attempts were made to put the Master Land Use plan, along with its most controversial aspect – the development of La`au Point, to an official community vote. But the idea was dismissed by a majority of the EC board on November 21 because of “vague wording”.
The November 21 rejection of a public vote was not the only instance whereby the EC board quashed a project capable of decelerating the La`au development. Just two weeks ago, EC board members voted to defer a request to reinstate the Water Moratorium Project (EC project #7). The conservation project would have restricted water use from new west-side developments such as the La`au development, until a water management plan could be created.
In addition to these roadblocks, several members of the community have accused Ke Aupuni Lokahi (KAL), the organization which administers the EC, of not honoring the spirit of public input it purports to strive for. In creating the Molokai Land Trust to work on the Master Land Use Plan, for example, several KAL board members, including Machado, were appointed to that committee. The resulting planning body was one so similar to the EC board that people began confusing the two entities.
When the USDA awarded Molokai with an Enterprise Community grant in 1998, the timeline for funding was capped at 10 years, potentially making this vote the second-to-last chance that the community will have to involve itself at this level. As of now, KAL executive director Abbey Mayer says that the organization doesn’t know what the state of public input will be when EC funding sunsets in 2008. Mowat and Stone have secured their places on the EC board until that timeline runs out, and have been empowered with the community’s confidence to channel both government funding and the wishes of the people of Molokai in appropriate directions.
Given the uncertainty of public input and the finite timeline for the influx of public funding, it is as important as ever for Molokai citizens to stay involved in the process. The huge majority of voters who placed their Anti-La`au candidates in power should not shy away from attending EC meetings and lending constructive criticism to new and returning KAL board members.