Mahina piha nearly derailed thoughts about the County Council. You are going to vote Tuesday, aren't you? Mahina, in all of her glory, hung in a silky sky. It was still. Downcountry lights were steady. They twinkle when there is junk in the air.
The full moon demanded tasting the unique flavors of a Maui night. The landscape was clothed in silver. The cats were lying in wait, dark lumps in the yard. Nearby, axis deer barked. In the distance, a dog's howl was ended abruptly.
The next day was an echo of the night before. Just a hint of breeze. A scatter of clouds dampened the sun's heat. The mystic glory of the night before and the clarity of the morning could be a metaphor for a political process born but soon orphaned in 1903.
The Territorial Legislature, dominated by members of the Home Rule and Democratic parties, decided to set up county governments, each with the voters picking a five-member Board of Supervisors, a county clerk, a treasurer, a tax assessor, an auditor, an attorney, a sheriff and a surveyor.
The new rulers of Maui, two haole and three keiki o ka 'aina supervisors, took office on Jan. 4, 1904. They served for 12 days before the Territorial Supreme Court said the Legislature had goofed. The technical mistake was corrected that year and another election was held. Only one of the original supervisors, William H. Cornwell, survived the second vote.
The new Board of Supervisors took office July 1, 1905. They would serve a two-year term. Chairman of the board was picked by the five members representing Lahaina (including Lanai), Wailuku, Hana, Makawao and Molokai.
According to "Kalai 'Aina" by Antonio V. Ramil, the first county budget totaled $22,375. The second budget totaled $113,050. The supervisors were paid $600 a year, about half what each of the other elected officials earned.
The supervisors were elected at large. Everyone, except women, voted for everyone. The 1900 census counted 27,920 residents. Women wouldn't get to vote until 1920. Two from Maui were elected that year to the Legislature - Helen M. Sniffen for senator and Mrs. William F. Kaae for representative.
Each of the supervisors was the de facto director of a county department. The chairman was unofficially referred to as the mayor. The first nine-member Board of Supervisors was elected in 1954. The idea of supervisors actually running county departments would persist even after a charter was adopted to set up a mayor as chief executive in 1969.
In 1973 or so, Council Member Manuel Molina, a former supervisor, ended a dispute with another council member by saying "I pulled more votes than you did." Three years later, Molina resigned as chairman of the council's Parks & Recreation Committee. He was still thinking like the head of the department and said, "No one tells me what is going on."
The current election season included a flashback. Until the council and mayor were made nonpartisan, the Democratic and Republican parties would run full-page ads in The Maui News touting their candidates. The Democrats revived the tradition a few weeks ago. For the most part, nonpartisan candidates have been on their own for the last couple of decades.
One mainstay of campaigning before World War II was a series of rallies. All the candidates would appear to make speeches in and around entertainment and food - a political ho'olaule'a, if you will. Speeches were often made in fluent Hawaiian. The rallies were moved around the islands. Communities looked forward to having a good time at the expense of the political parties.
Until the advent of the Internet and computer vote counting, election night was often another kind of good-time party with candidates hosting supporters at their headquarters. The voting went well into the night as paper ballots in locked boxes were transported in from Lanai, Molokai and Hana. At one point during the 1950s, election results were posted on a chalkboard erected on High Street.
It wasn't that long ago that the media held vote vigils in the County Clerk's Office. It was all pretty exciting, what with all the nail-biting now eliminated by instant results.
Still . . .
The election next Tuesday will be a dark night with no moon followed by a cloudy day if more voters don't cast ballots for council members and state legislators.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.