The Maui County Council is wrestling with a plan to guide island development to 2030 and beyond. It's not an easy job because no matter where urban boundaries are drawn, some group of potential voters will object.
The Department of Water Supply has much the same hurdle to clear. The council has been asked to decide between three different approaches, two of which will require higher water rates. That's always a political tripwire come time to vote.
In light of planning for 2030, it's interesting to look back at how the island was in 1930, some quarter of a century after Maui County was created by an act of the Territorial Legislature.
This look is through the lens of "Maui, A Few Facts About the Valley Isle." The book says the sobriquet refers to Iao Valley. The indexed, 142-page hard-bound book was written by Alice Clare and Jack Morrow. Just who or what bankrolled the book is a mystery. A clue might be found in the introduction.
"In a word, we are presenting to our readers the story of a community dependent on industrial agriculture, with sidelights on its political, social, religious, educational and fraternal organization."
The introduction begins with arguments in favor of Maui's "great farm industries (being) splendidly organized as to finances and scientific conduct" and should be used by Mainland economists and farmers as a model. Of course, "industrial agriculture" are now dirty words in many quarters, and the only survivor of industrial agriculture on Maui is Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.
The book includes a recounting of Maui, the demigod who is known throughout Polynesia. "The Maui legends, indeed, form the strongest links in the mythological chain of evidence which binds the scattered inhabitants of the pacific into one nation."
A discussion of political reality notes the federal Organic Act required all voters to have been citizens of the Republic of Hawaii, which existed between the overthrow of island royalty in 1883 and annexation in 1888. Voters also had to be older than 21, reside in the islands for at least one year and speak and read either English or Hawaiian.
The qualifications meant about 7,000 of Maui's 50,000 inhabitants could vote for a limited number of officials, including a nonvoting delegate to Congress and three senators and six representatives in the Territorial Legislature. Other island officials were appointed by the governor, who was appointed by the U.S. president. Maui voters also decided the fate of the county Board of Supervisors, the predecessor of today's County Council. The supervisors were elected by a countywide vote, the same as they are today.
A breakdown by ethnicity showed Hawaiians held the local political whip hand - if they voted in a bloc. In the 1928 election,
there were 3,158 voters of Hawaiian descent. It was common up until World War II for the most successful politicians to deliver stump speeches in Hawaiian. Until the death of
Queen Lili'uokalani in 1917, Hawaiians had a majority in the Legislature, but with the death of their last royal ruler, Hawaiians seem to have lost interest in the foreign political process.
The next biggest voting bloc on Maui County in 1928 was made up of Portuguese (1,063), followed by Japanese (689), "American" (634), Chinese (280), and "others" (163).
Appeals of county clerk decisions on individual voter qualifications were decided by a board of registration in each legislative district. The board consisted of three members named by the governor.
A system of primary voting by party went into effect with the 1930 election. Until the 1954 revolution by Democrats, most successful politicians were members of the Republican Party, generally considered members of the ruling corporate elite and landed gentry.
According to another set of statistics contained in the book, Maui's biggest population areas were Puunene (10,572) and Paia (10,417), both home to dozens of plantation worker camps. Lahaina was a distant third at 6,921. Another 1,280 lived "outside" of the Pioneer Mill town.
The biggest ethnic group in the island's population was Japanese (17,320 individuals). There were 4,664 Hawaiians, 4,648 Portuguese and 3,004 Filipinos.
The total population was 53,889.
Next week, a look at the island's economic engines cited by "Maui, A Few Facts About the Valley Isle."
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.