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Rural life versus growth


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POSTED: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Defining the differences between the Big Island's two mayoral candidates, Billy Kenoi from East Hawaii and Angel Pilago from the west side, can be difficult.

Former state employment specialist Pilago, 63, is known for leading an effort during the 1990s to block a resort at Kohanaiki in Kona. The effort led to a court case that reasserted traditional Hawaiian rights on undeveloped private land.

Similarly, lawyer Kenoi, 39, wrote a legal challenge in the 1990s that blocked development of a "space port" in Kau.

On the whole, Pilago has an image of preserving local culture and rural lifestyle. Kenoi is seen as fostering advancement.

Pilago is opposed to developing a $1 billion Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.

Kenoi has said he wants to see an environmental study on the project.

As a county councilman, Pilago cast a deciding vote to let voters choose, in a Nov. 4 initiative question, whether to reduce police enforcement of marijuana laws to the lowest priority. (See Page 14 for more on this issue.)

Working with police, Kenoi obtained federal funds to combat drugs and provide treatment.

Pilago sponsored a pending County Charter amendment to give West Hawaii its own separate Planning Commission, seen as a means of decreasing approval of new developments in the region.

Kenoi opposes creating the second Planning Commission.

Both men are vying for the job currently held by Mayor Harry Kim, who is completing his two-term limit.

They won the right to compete in the Nov. 4 general election by emerging as the top vote-getters in the primary election, beating state Sen. Lorraine Inouye, a former Big Island mayor, and Hawaii County Councilman Stacy Higa.

In County Council races, former Lower Puna Councilman Gary Safarik is trying to make a comeback against Emily Naeole, who ousted him two years ago.

Other races are Dennis Onishi against Andy Baclig in Hilo and Kelly Greenwell against Debbie Hecht in Kona, with no incumbent in either race.