I was urged in the final days before the filing deadline to run for Mayor by local residents who were seeking a proactive, "visionary" leader with a record of accomplishments. After considering the potential of being the first ‘āina-focused Mayor in recent history and utilizing my proven collaboration skills to transform county government, I decided to step up to the challenge. My Council office team and I have proven that professionalism can get things done, compassion will bring folks together to solve problems, and transparency breeds trust. While administering with a firm vision of strategic goal-setting, I will bring a kinder, gentler, more nurturing leadership to the 9th floor, and I believe my experience and accomplishments speak to my ability to get things done!
My campaign theme,"Cultivating Resilience," means attaining more affordable housing, diversifying our economy, promoting sustainable agriculture, increasing food and water security, protecting our precious environment and addressing climate change preparedness. Weaving all of these into a well-organized and dynamic administration calls for extraordinary skills and requires someone with a proven track record of finding solutions for complex problems in a collaborative manner. I invite all residents of Maui Nui to participate in a new, shared future, and I humbly ask for your support so that together we can create effective local solutions that will help our communities not only survive, but thrive.
– Kelly Takaya King
Housing is a human right and for many, is the basis of dignity. In my administration, I will work with new ideas and technology from across Hawaii, the nation, and the world to glean the ideas that can be tested and established here in Maui County. I will continue my approach as a Councilmember to foster the communication between developers and the communities for which they propose their projects, which has already resulted in long-term affordable housing, both rentals, and for-sale homes for very low-income and workforce residents, in my district of South Maui. Supporting truly affordable and appropriate housing projects, focusing on communication, and finding appropriate technologies and plans has already resulted in Kaiwahine Village with rents starting below $600/month and Hale Kaiola with sale prices starting below $400k, both in South Maui. The additional affordable housing projects currently under development in my district have shown that, working together, we can overcome obstacles and get the job done!
ACCESS TO WATER
One of the greatest issues of the 21st century is our access to water, and Maui County's watersheds are in dire need of more thoughtful, more inclusive management. Right now, our aging water infrastructure and mismanagement contribute to unacceptable amounts of wasted water, with major impacts to local ecosystems, watersheds, and communities.
We need to invest in watershed restoration and repairs and maintenance to old, inefficient infrastructure, and develop transparent, efficient, and culturally and environmentally responsible systems of management, provide local jobs in resource management, and ensure water security for all of Maui’s residents.
Maui County has had over 120 years of private, corporate control over public trust resources with no guarantee of good stewardship, equitable distribution of water or fair water rates. Upcountry has particular issues, with the long wait on the water meter list and the abundance of cesspools that need to be replaced. This will require a combination of water storage, gray water reuse, recycling, etc. The most feasible new technologies are mostly decentralized which should make them easier and faster to deploy, as is expected with the Maʻalaeʻa regional wastewater reclamation system funded in this year’s budget.
As Council Member, I strongly supported the community water authority charter amendment, which will be on the ballot in November. As Mayor, I will ensure that the County applies for the lease on the East Maui water system regardless of whether the charter amendment passes. Water is a public trust; we must do the right thing and take bold steps toward more sustainable, inclusive water management for all.
Ola I Ka Wai!
HUMAN RIGHTS & SOCIAL EQUITY
I will represent all human rights, including women (and our right to choose!), LGBTQ+ Maui County citizens, and residents experiencing homelessness, to the fullest in my mayoral administration. Having a strong advocate and protector of the rights of the under-represented is a deep and fundamental issue for everyone today. The decades-long struggle for hard-won rights has a deeper value than for just these communities alone; they are the values of protecting and championing equal rights for all people.
I have dedicated all that I have done in my professional and personal life to finding ways to ensure the deeply held values we all have of equality and protection. I will use every available tool at my disposal as your Mayor to ensure these rights are codified, protected, and advanced in my administration.
I also open my campaign, and my doors once elected, to everyone to give your input so we can work together to make our island home a true reflection of our equal rights.
CLIMATE CHANGE & ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
Climate change is an inevitable driver of our lives now and even more so in the future. As an island county, we must begin to face the very real costs, challenges, and solutions now. It is imperative we elect a climate mayor who understands these issues!
As the current chair of the Council’s Climate Action, Resilience and Environment Committee, the climate will continue to be on the front burner of my mayoral plans and preparations. Power, water, housing, transportation, sewer, and infrastructure - all are directly and substantially impacted by climate change. Which roads will be underwater in 30 years? How are our water and properties impacted by erosion and loss of buildings, infrastructure, and land? Tough questions that we will face together and for which I will continue to develop working solutions.
As can be seen by the problematic wastewater injection wells and the destruction of reef and fish habitats, we must address environmental protection as part of our own survival. Hawaiian culture incorporates the subtleties of wind, ocean, and mountain, fresh water, and the balance of these to thrive in the islands. We have much to learn about balance. The needs of our people must be balanced by the way the land and water flourish. If they flourish, we flourish. As my husband and I have done with farming the sunflowers according to the Hawaiian Moon calendar. This means listening more deeply, finding sustainable ways instead of destructive, wasteful ways of building - preserving while using. And we must rebuild our Recycling Program!
Quality, not quantity. Tourism is here to support our local economy. The local economy is not here to support tourism. Temporary guests, whether people who buy housing as investments or for occasional occupancy, and regular tourists are all the better off when they understand the ways they can support this extraordinary place and people of our island home. It’s best when they understand that their time here is an investment in Maui County’s ability to survive and thrive. Our Council has funded the education of tourists as the first step, to make them aware of the environment, the people, and our home. Now we need to move beyond tourism as the main driver of our economy.
As an employer myself who provides local family wage-earning jobs with full benefits, I believe diversifying the economy will create higher-level job and career opportunities so folks don’t have to work 2, 3, or even 4 low-wage jobs just to make ends meet. Besides housing, one of the reasons our youth leave the island is the lack of opportunity to find career work on Maui. An important budget item I proposed for fiscal year 2023 will create an implementable plan to diversify Maui’s economy. As Mayor, I will work with the contractor who receives this funding to ensure community input as we identify the top industry sectors to expand and invest in!
It is often said Maui County has only a few days of food on our shelves, and we will be in dire straits when a disaster hits our ports. As a member of the Steering Committee for the Maui Nui Food Alliance, I know there are sources of food we have yet to quantify. The fishing and hunting potential, backyard gardens, and small farms have much to offer in the way of the healthy food systems MNFA is committed to creating, and we have committed to starting with this kind of baseline data as we create solutions. In addition to the Council’s current investment in micro-grants for local farmers, solutions for local hunting and fishing include working with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to find ways our hunters and fishermen can get their catches to market legally. We also need to continue to invest in food processing to help small farmers develop healthy food products and have access to distribution.
Part of sustainable agriculture is sustainable water resources. Maui must spend the funds necessary to repair and upgrade catchment and water storage facilities - and we must work to gain control of our local water delivery systems. Sustainable agriculture is a wide spectrum program. From backyard gardens to large agribusiness, the ability to have long-term sustainable agriculture is a vital part of Maui County’s resiliency.
With our new Maui County Department of Agriculture, the focus on sustainability will be one of my primary goals - how to foster a long-term ability for us to feed ourselves with local community-based solutions for healthy soil and food systems. I am pleased with the overwhelming support of the voters to put in place the new department. As your Mayor, and with my personal experience in regenerative (sunflower) farming, I will fulfill this mandate by supplying our Department of Agriculture with all the resources it needs to set up a sustainable agricultural economy.
A simple structure and a safe place to sleep can transform a person from being unsheltered to having dignity and a hopeful future. These do not have to be expensive homes - instead, a place to habituate. We have many working unsheltered folks in Maui County, and there are also those who need mental health, medical, or substance abuse assistance. I will continue to work with local, state, and federal experts to find cost-effective and compassionate ways to help with this challenge, building on my Council efforts which have brought a mobile hygiene unit to South Maui as well as funding for a pilot project to create a Safe Zone for those living in their vehicles to sleep overnight. Working with local, knowledgeable organizations, we can develop more meaningful, creative solutions that recognize dignity as the bedrock of how we see ourselves and others in our society here in Hawai‘i. Compassion, resources, and ensuring we continue moving forward with affordable housing are the key.
LOCAL RENEWABLE ENERGY
We are blessed with abundant wind and sun resources in Maui County. The decrease in the cost of solar installations and battery systems speaks to the possibilities of our land to give us a very high level of sustainable and renewable energy. We have the ability to include agricultural solutions for community-based biofuels and create hundreds of local green jobs. The skill to harness Federal funds, work with stakeholders and find value for our islands is an area that needs the attention of a focused Mayoral administration. My experience and extensive background in this arena has already brought much positive attention to Maui County, and I look forward to creating a neutral, science-based, non-special interest entity to work with the Climate Action office and Council committee to develop a realistic, community-based renewable energy portfolio in line with the State mandate to stop importing fossil fuel for utility power by 2045.
Maui County is in great need of a Mayor who is ready to tackle the very real challenges of global warming, worldwide shortages, major shipping increases, and the fragility of our everyday lives in an island community. My focus on creating a Circular Economy - turning local resources into businesses and jobs that feed our economic needs first - is vital to our survival and our ability to thrive in the decades to come.
We are going through massive changes worldwide. Maui needs a Mayor who is aware of these changes and has a global view, with local solutions, to fulfill our vision stated in our Countywide Policy Plan. I will also continue to fully support and expand our resiliency hubs to prepare our communities for potential climate disasters, including building a robust communication system to inform the public in the aftermath of such disasters.
In my 6 years on the Maui County Council as well as my work in the private sector with Pacific Biodiesel, partnering with solar and wind companies on projects, and participating in global climate conferences, I have faced climate change head-on. I look forward to leading Maui County’s climate solution efforts with all stakeholder input and full transparency!