LAHAINA - State Rep. Angus L. McKelvey seeks reelection to continue working on vital projects.
"I'm running to continue our success, not only keeping critical projects for roads, schools and harbors going, but also continuing to pursue new and innovative ideas to transform our economy, increase our ag sustainability and free our dependence on foreign oil while creating jobs with our ongoing renewable energy programs," said McKelvey, who has held the Tenth District seat since 2006.
McKelvey, 44, of Lahaina faces Edward H. Kaahui in the Democratic Primary on Saturday, Aug. 11. The winner will battle Republican Chayne Marten in the Nov. 6 General Election.
Talking to residents, McKelvey said the three biggest issues in the 2012 elections are "keeping the infrastructure projects going," the economy ("what have we done in the short-term, as well as our plans for the long-term to improve prospects for employment and job security") and food security and sustainability.
In light of recent highway erosion and boating accidents, Rep. McKelvey believes that infrastructure and water safety are key concerns of the Tenth District (Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua, Maalaea, Kihei).
"As to infrastructure, I'm proud of the accomplishments we've achieved the last six years, especially given the competition for these limited dollars and the fact that the state has been in the throes of a recession for a good part of those years," he commented.
"Besides ensuring that the widening for the Honoapiilani Highway took place, working with my counterpart in the Senate, we were able to secure the funding to bring the Lahaina Bypass project back from the dead, as well as to fund the work to keep the erosion from continuing to claim the Honoapiilani Highway down by Ukumehame and Launiupoko.
"After the March 2011 tsunami, we worked with our governor to finally get a state of emergency declaration and funding to help speed up the work so that our vital lifeline could stay open."
He cited securing funding for future stages of the bypass, the ongoing Lahaina Harbor renovation project, dredging Lahaina Harbor and Mala Wharf, and removing the sailboat wreck near Lahaina Harbor as additional accomplishments, working with U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and Gov. Neil Abercrombie on these efforts.
"As to schools, as your state representative, we've been able to secure the funding and work to get the completion of the whole school renovation project at King Kamehameha III done, as well as additional classroom space and repairs for Princess Nahienaena and Lahaina Intermediate," he said.
"With the addition of a new girls softball field, outdoor lighting, a brand new state-of-the-art football stadium and the recently completed dining room and performing arts facility that rivals many college campuses, I'm proud of the work we've done to not only keep (Lahainaluna High School) going, but to beautify and modernize our 150-year-old school for the 21st century."
McKelvey was asked to give the state a grade for education and discuss how the Department of Education can do a better job supporting public schools.
He said the principals, teachers, staff and parents of Lahaina Complex schools "deserve an A-plus for all the hard work they do each and every day going the extra mile for our kids. They struggle daily with the deficiencies in the system and are the biggest reason for the success that we had at our schools, both individually and as a state, in so far as securing the Race to the Top funding and the improvement of scores of students."
He gave Hawaii's education system as a whole a C-minus due to issues like the procurement code, which doesn't give teachers a flexible way to purchase teaching materials and supplies, and for failing to have incentive-based contracting for new schools.
McKelvey added that the DOE doesn't have a funding formula that takes into account the additional needs of English as a Second Language or Special Education students, and "failing to meet key scores in math and science still bedevils us we have to try and still address these issues, hence the grade."
A small businessman, Rep. McKelvey said the state can support Maui's economy by helping to ensure that the business climate doesn't worsen during the recession and by investing in the state's Innovation Economy initiative to create sustainable, high-paying jobs for the future.
"As the chair of your House Committee on Economic Revitalization and Business, I used my position to help fast-track bills that stopped two drastic increases in the unemployment insurance rate, which would have undoubtedly led to many small businesses having to lay people off or even close here on Maui. By suspending special interest tax breaks and making other prudent restrictions, we were able to balance the budget and generate a $300 million surplus at a time when most states are still running red," he explained.
"Next year, I'm hopeful that we can build on this through our tax compliance initiatives, which will allow us to net over $1.4 billion in underpaid and nonpayment of state taxes. By looking at innovative ideas such as this to recapture lost revenue, by being judicious with tax credits and other exemptions and by looking at ways to speed up currently funded projects, I am hopeful we will be able to restore more of our needed services and obligations, as well as begin to pay down our other post-employment benefits obligations."
For Hawaii's economic future, McKelvey said it's imperative that the legislature continues to work on the Innovation Economy initiative launched last session. The effort includes the Venture Accelerator program that directs funding and resources to start-ups in aerospace, broadband, high-technology, renewable energy and film/digital media.
The initiative will help Maui develop projects and a film-ready workforce. McKelvey also supports raising the film tax credit for the Neighbor Islands from 20 to 25 percent to attract current and future productions to Maui, which will not only pay the credit, he said, but grow revenue and jobs.
After three terms in the Hawaii House of Representatives, McKelvey said he has earned a reputation as someone who can advocate successfully for his constituents, build bridges with other communities "and use these common needs to secure the resources that we all need for our economy and our quality of life.
"I am also someone who is able to forge compromises on many contentious issues of statewide concern, which I think is evident by the endorsements I have received from many groups that usually have been diametrically opposed to each other, like labor and business."
He said his friendships with colleagues in the State House is another advantage he offers constituents.
McKelvey graduated from Hawaii Preparatory Academy in 1986 and earned a Bachelor's Degree from Whittier College in 1992.
He is a former member of Lahaina Rotary Club and Lahaina Restoration Foundation and a volunteer for Lahaina Arts Society.
McKelvey feels voters should choose him in Saturday's primary due to his track record in the House.
"I humbly ask the voters to look around them and see the progress we have made, not only catching up on projects that were promised long ago, but also trying to update and modernize our roads, schools and harbors. From funding the work and state of emergency on the Honoapiiliani Highway, to the dredging of Lahaina Harbor and Mala Wharf, to the opening of the new Lahainaluna Hale Pa'ina dining hall and performing arts facility to the Lahainaluna football field, we have been successful in securing the funding to move ahead, even in times of the worst recession in history," he said.
"I ask the voters to look at what all the candidates have promised and look at what has actually been done, and who has laid out the most specific plans for not only dealing with the problems of today, but laying out a roadmap for the future to be able to develop our economy, become more sustainable and much more, so we can have the West Maui that we deserve, and we pay for, through our taxes on our hard-earned money."