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Attorney, aide seek seat on Council

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Ernie Martin is an attorney and 23-year city official who says constituents have told him to fix basic services.

John White has city and federal legislative experience and is a proponent of renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.

The two will face off in the Nov. 2 election for the City Council’s 2nd District seat. It is the biggest and most agricultural of Oahu’s nine Council districts, encompassing Mililani Mauka, Wahiawa, the North Shore and parts of Windward Oahu down to Heeia.

The winner will succeed Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, who is term-limited and is running for state Senate.

Martin says he has the experience to hit the ground running on a Council that will have many first-time members.

White figures he has knocked on nearly 15,000 doors talking to residents in his district.

White was the leading vote-getter in the three-person Sept. 18 primary, getting 7,447 votes to Martin’s 6,010. But no candidate got a majority, triggering the Nov. 2 runoff.

Martin, 50, who lives in Mililani Mauka, was born in downtown Honolulu "in a neighborhood plagued with violence, drugs and prostitution," he says on his website. "Through strong family values and positive role models, I managed to beat the odds," he says.

Martin became an attorney and has worked for the city for 23 years. He is acting director of community services.

Martin said he is willing to step down from his city administrator job, which pays $112,000, to become a $52,000-a-year councilman.

White, 35, was born in Honolulu and moved with his family to Arkansas before high school. He returned to Hawaii in 2000 and lives in Ahuimanu.

White was a legislative aide to City Councilman Duke Bainum, executive director of the Atherton YMCA and chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii.

"My philosophy tends to be, government is there to help but we can’t do it all," White said. "We can’t continue to throw money at problems. We have to live within our means and cut wasteful spending."

Martin said his experience in city government has shown him that there is a lot of duplication that could be streamlined without jeopardizing services to the public.

Both candidates recognize the rural and agricultural nature of the 2nd District.

"There’s a strong sense that we need to keep out inappropriate development and preserve the open spaces that we have and promote agriculture," White said.

He said he would view proposed development on a case-by-case basis. "I think development that promotes the creation of more housing that residents can afford is something that we have to consider," he said.

Martin said the general consensus among area residents is "limited development."

"Preserving open space is a priority, and, of course, working toward stimulating agriculture, particularly diversified agriculture," Martin said.

Castle & Cooke’s planned Koa Ridge development would displace farmers in the 8th Council District, stimulating agricultural growth in the adjacent 2nd District, Martin said. "So I see a lot of potential growth (for agriculture)," he said.

White is a proponent of the city helping farmers obtain long-term land leases through tax incentives to big landowners, which would help farmers obtain financing to sustain their operations.

The city also should be supporting agriculture tourism, White said, with farmers telling him visitors could provide almost 25 percent of the total revenue they project to make on locally grown crops.

Neither candidate thinks developer D.G. "Andy" Anderson should be allowed to acquire city land in Haleiwa for an 80-room hotel that the city acquired for a park that was never built.

"Personally, for me, because those lands were acquired through condemnation and normally we only use condemnation to effect a public purpose, (so) selling that land to Andy in order for him to make the project a go is very difficult for me to support," Martin said.

However, it might be possible to work with adjacent landowners to pursue the project, he said.

White said, "I think the concept of a hotel in Haleiwa is a good thing" and consistent with its character.

"(But) I have a real concern about basically turning over city park land and not fulfilling the promise that we made to put a park there," White said.

The nine-member Council will have five new members as a result of the elections and Council Chairman Todd Apo’s announcement that he will leave office Nov. 8.

 

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