Maui may be a small island, but what we lack in size, we more than make up for with dynamic individuals who shape the way we think of ourselves, our community, and our island home. Maui No Ka ‘Oi has decided to launch an annual look at some of Maui Nui’s most captivating people; this year, in honor of our 10th anniversary, we’re proud to present 10 profiles (of 11 people). They are the doers, the shakers, and the ones who remind us that life is fullest when we take a harder look at where we are and where we are going. They are the ones we love to talk about; sometimes because we are so proud of them, sometimes because they shake our version of reality. In short, they’re the ones we thought you’d like to know a little more about.
Since he arrived in late 2003 to lead a major restructuring of Maui Land & Pineapple Company (where he now serves as president and chief executive officer), David Cole’s actions have made him one of Maui’s most dynamic and controversial citizens.
At 53 years old, Cole brings to the helm of ML&P a history of leadership in conservation, organic farming, education, and philanthropy. He also brings a style charged with energy and ideas that shake the status quo and promise to affect the island for years to come.
From the plantation’s new emphasis on fresh pineapple, to plans to raze and replace Kapalua Bay Hotel; from the contentious sale (and surprise happy ending) of Kaluanui—Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center’s home—to the unprecedented gathering of 600-plus citizens to design Pulelehua, a new residential development for working families; Cole’s style and the rapid changes it’s wrought have brought both optimism and trepidation to a community used to a gentler plantation management.
Critics express concerns about Cole’s tendency to disregard longstanding practices and relationships, both in the company he manages and in its community ties. “He makes it hard for some people to deal with him, because you have to do it his way,” said a Virginia consultant who worked with him earlier.
Still, Cole’s big plans and assertive leadership may be what’s required to turn around a company that has seen better days. Not one to be timid, Cole remarks, “What I do takes courage and longterm perspective.”
“These Type-A personalities come with rough edges,” says Lois Reiswig, a Kapalua neighbor and IBM management retiree. “I’d work for him. He’s a guy that gets things done” who could perhaps use a “softer approach to implementation.”
“I think he’s a brilliant strategist who has a grasp of present and future problems of Maui and a unique ability to visualize the future,” says Tom Rosenquist, president of the new Maui Preparatory Academy. ML&P donated 15 acres and an 18,000-square-foot building to the school, one of several contributions and partnerships established under Cole’s leadership.
Cole says he sees progress toward turning around the struggling company that chief stockholder Steve Case tapped him to revitalize. “We have seen tremendous improvement. Our vision for a holistic and sustainable approach to community development will continue to challenge conventional wisdom, but we believe that Maui’s residents want to live in a community that thrives on cultural, environmental and economic diversity while remaining true to the unique heritage of this special place.”
“I can learn anything and I’ll work my butt off for you.” That’s how Gladys Coelho Baisa got a nursing job with Dr. Alfred Burden. And it’s pretty much been her mantra ever since. As a child in Skill Village, Pa‘ia, she dreamed of becoming a librarian. That hasn’t happened—yet. Newly retired from Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc., after 37 years of service—including 22 as executive director—she’s now eyeing the Upcountry seat on the County Council. It would be her fourth career, not counting marriage to Sherman Baisa and rearing three children.
“I love a challenge,” she explains. Case in point: fresh out of Maui High School, and two years into a nursing program on O‘ahu, she “got distracted” by a handsome marine in dress blues. So she dropped her scholarship and passed the exam for licensed practical nurse.
The marriage didn’t last. She returned to Maui with two small children, and went to work for Dr. Burden. Later she used her high-school bookkeeping skills to take a billing job at the hospital. In 1969, Mayor Elmer Cravalho called and asked, “Hey, Gladys, how are your bookkeeping skills?” An interview with Joe Souki, a longtime state representative who was then director of Maui Economic Opportunity, resulted in her becoming MEO’s first staff accountant.
It was right up her alley. A private, nonprofit agency, MEO was chartered in 1965 to help disadvantaged persons and to encourage the general public to become self-sufficient and enrich their own lives and their community. MEO manages this through an array of services that touch over 20,000 people every year. But she was looking even higher. “I want his job” was Baisa’s reaction to the interview. She took over as director in 1984.
Small in stature, Baisa has an easy smile that belies her determination. A ready talker (“I’m pure Portuguese!”), she loves to recall programs that made positive changes on Maui: 20,000 people a year, many of them elderly and disabled, now ride the MEO bus fleet, grown from 7 to 90 vehicles under her leadership.
It’s not the numbers that make her eyes light up. It’s the stories. It’s Kids’ Day at the Maui Community Correctional Center, uniting moms and children in a classroom outside of the jail. It’s Head Start centers, with specially credentialed teachers. It’s getting money for Mauians harmed financially by 9-11. Baisa is blessed, or cursed, with phenomenal energy. And, at 65, she’s still young enough to go for yet another career.
Dream Weaver of Lahaina
Like the remarkable fiber art she creates, woven from dissimilar materials into a densely textured but harmonious whole, Theo Morrison’s career as Lahaina Town Action Committee’s executive director combined robust support for Lahaina’s past with the creation of events to advance the town’s future.
Board member J.J. Elkin said of her departure last year: “Theo has innovated events that touch every person who visits or lives in Lahaina, from keiki (children) to kupuna (elders).” A Taste of Lahaina. Friday Night Is Art Night. The holiday lighting of the banyan tree. Above all, Lahaina’s Festival of Canoes, which, under Morrison’s direction, blossomed from a five-day craft exhibition into a two-week cultural festival that attracts delegations from all over Polynesia.
Nothing in Morrison’s background suggested she could mastermind a Maui cultural renaissance, except sheer creativity and can-do gumption. She left behind the life of a housewife and mother in California to sail to the Big Island, and wove and sold her baskets there for seven years before moving to Maui in 1986. She became Lahaina Town Action Committee’s first full-time executive director when her office was, in her words, “just a desk at the West Maui Taxpayers’ Association,” and transformed the LTAC into a stand-alone organization by 1992.
She had to endure a grinding bureaucracy to get the permits she needed in a historical district. “People did get upset with me,” she readily admits. “It didn’t matter who was in power; I came knocking.” A fierce advocate for local control, she complained in a Maui News article in 2001 about “being regulated from the other side of the island.” Meanwhile, she endured the process of “beg, borrow, steal and scrounge” and organized, raised funds, and built teams for the committee’s remarkable run of cultural events.
Morrison is now “off on a new adventure”: a mini-farm on her son’s Launiupoko agricultural property. An ebullient, voluble woman with a sense of humor about her frenetic energy–she calls tutoring at a local school “one of my little volunteer jobs”–she already has many plans that go beyond selling eggs and vegetables. She envisions a community-supported agriculture project, where locals commit fixed monthly payments to buying food from other locals, that could help revive West Side agriculture. She foresees compost drop-offs, local food systems, and a farmer’s market in Lahaina.
Morrison has stated “community-building is what I do.” And now that she’s set her mind on an agricultural community in West Maui, you could probably bet any number of small farms that it will happen.
Bringer of Aloha
When Kimokeo Kapahulehua was named a National Volunteer of the Year by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, he wore slippers (that’s flip-flops, in mainlander language) and a traditional kihei (cape) to the black-tie event, and modestly stated “There are so many incredible nominees who have done so much to protect the marine environment, probably more than I have done.”
Giving Kapahulehua all due credit for his humility, that would be about as easy a challenge as to join him on one of his longer canoe voyages. The restoration of the Ko‘ie‘ie Fishpond off the shores of Kihei, for which Kapahulehua was specifically honored, is only one example of the innumerable volunteer marine and near-shore restoration efforts he’s led on Maui for decades, from nursery-building in Kihei to wetlands repair near Makena to aiding the reforestation of former U.S. Navy bombing target Kaho‘olawe island—all the while holding regular jobs such as hotel limo driving.
He has brought hundreds of Maui’s keiki (children) to join him in these activities while teaching them about Hawai‘i’s environment and culture, for, in his words, “the kids literally get lessons in character building from the ground up.” Kapahulehua brought groups of young Hawaiians to Kaho‘olawe, for example, to help in that island’s reclamation; while showing them the island’s shrines and teaching its history and spiritual heritage, he led efforts to clean drifting garbage from the island’s shores and plant native shrubs and grasses.
Born on a plantation camp in 1947, Kapahulehua has always been an island boy at one with the ocean, both as a surfer and a paddler. He has the muscles, the tattoos, but above all, the gentle and passionate devotion to the ‘aina (land) and kai (ocean) to show for it. Often his most invaluable teaching method, especially with children, has been time spent in a canoe, at the Kihei and other canoe clubs. And recently he has been leading a remarkable, visionary outrigger canoe rediscovery of Hawai‘i’s northwestern islands. Crew member Jamie Woodburn called Kapahulehua “a direct and caring captain” and described the crew’s initial voyage to Nihoa as an emotionally overwhelming reconnection with the island’s mana (spirit, power) that taught how important it is to preserve and protect it.
Kapahulehua accepted his award, stating, “I don’t think of my efforts as volunteerism. It is my kuleana (responsibility) as a kanaka maoli (native Hawaiian) to do the work my kupuna (ancestors) had laid out for me. It is the way of the Hawaiian to care for the land and care for the ocean.” And, as he also once said about the fishpond, “I have a daughter, several sons, and grandchildren, and I’d like them to say ‘My granddad helped build the pond.’” Many kama‘aina (children of the land) would agree that he also helps build a better Maui.
Bolstering Maui’s Medical Community
Dr. Ron Kwon knows what it is to face death, and that may have something to do with his serenity in the face of the challenge he has taken on: building a new state-of-the-art hospital on Maui, one worthy of a 21st-century community with a growing population and world-class resorts.
Kwon’s near-death experience took place while he was hiking through Haleakala nine years ago. He collapsed at Holua with massive blood clots in both lungs, and managed to make his way out of the crater only because he knew that was his only chance for survival. “It instantly made me a very sick patient, and I think it made me a better doctor,” he says.
One lasting result of the experience was Kwon’s determination to build a second hospital on Maui. He is the driving force behind the proposed Malulani Health and Medical Center. Kwon pursues this vision with what appears to be absolute certainty that it can become a reality, despite the challenges of finding a partner with deep pockets (Triad Hospitals of Texas signed on in October 2005) and obtaining the required Certificate of Need from the state (due for hearing this spring).
If the vision becomes reality, modern patients will have a choice of facilities, the way Kwon’s mother did when she decided, 59 years ago, to give birth to Ron at the old Malulani Hospital in Wailuku, rather than the Pu‘unene Hospital, near the family’s plantation camp home. Both hospitals have since been replaced by a single facility, Maui Memorial Medical Center.
Following his East Coast medical training, Kwon returned to Maui in 1985 and was dismayed at the state of Maui’s only hospital. After working from within for years trying to improve the facility’s functioning, he set out several years ago to establish a new hospital, founding Malulani Health Systems and pulling together a crew of heavy hitters to sit on the board.
In the process, Kwon has stirred up debate in the health-care community, where some believe a second hospital would skim off affluent patients and rob vital resources from Maui Memorial, seen as providing a medical safety net. Kwon says Malulani will provide emergency care to all comers, and by providing profitable services, will be able to support programs that require subsidization.
Others think the possibility of a rival institution has spurred the management of the state-related quasi-public corporation that manages the hospital to move ahead with plans to upgrade the aging facility.
“I think his impact has been dramatic,” says Dr. Howard Barbarosh, president of the Maui County Medical Society. “He has brought to light the needs of the health-care community in the present and in the future, and his project has been an impetus for everyone to seek solutions.
Silent Partners No More
Peter Martin & Jim Riley
Nine years ago, Jim Riley, a former bartender, carpenter, and volunteer coach of his kids’ athletic teams, was a house-builder on Maui. He formed a managing partnership—the West Maui Land Company—with Peter Martin, a math and science teacher at Baldwin and Maui high schools with a passion for kayaking and triathlons. They somehow found the spare time to play the ups and (mostly then) downs of Maui’s real-estate market, and, putting together a cluster of separate land companies with different hui (groups) of investors, they created a genuine real-estate empire.
Starting with a 400-acre parcel above Launiupoko Beach Park, they acquired the fallow sugar-cane fields of the defunct Pioneer Mill from corporate owners Amfac/JMB. Landholding companies either owned by or affiliated with Martin and Riley now own a spread of land anyone would envy: thousands of acres from the pali tunnel to Lahaina and the mountains to the shoreline. It would be a great story of local guys made good, except that it’s not a story that these locals necessarily want made public of late. Martin and Riley have essentially become silent partners in their companies.
But their efforts to develop their incredibly valuable land have been anything but under the radar. West Maui projects backed by their landholding companies have sold in spectacularly successful fashion, yet not without problems. The developers have been accused by Kuleana Ku‘ikahi, a hui of local Hawaiian families, of selling lots zoned for agriculture to “gentleman farmers” with no intention of genuine farming, and of diverting water previously used for traditional taro farming. More recently, when Martin and Riley and developer Kent Smith tried to build what they called a 268-home affordable-housing development, Pu‘unoa, at the entrance to Lahaina, they met with equally fierce opposition from Kuleana Ku‘ikahi and other groups. Although the Hawai‘i Land Use Commission ruled in favor of the developers in February, the hui will reportedly appeal their case in the State Supreme Court.
For their Olowalu property—purchased by their company Olowalu Elua Associates, and including another partner, Glenn Tremble—Martin and Riley hired Bill Frampton and David Ward, knowledgeable developers devoted to Maui and its culture, and entrusted decision-making on the project to them. Working with world-renowned town planner Andres Duany, Frampton and Ward evolved a plan for a new Olowalu town based on smart growth principles and respect for Maui’s local and cultural traditions; it would even evoke the ancient ahupua‘a system with a central slice of agricultural land running from the mountain to the sea. But when the plan was presented to local residents during a weeklong “Olowalu Talk Story,” the first day’s speakers were shouted down by demonstrators. Even after Duany’s presentation and solicitation of community opinions calmed the crowd, some angry residents bore signs that stated “A Community Based on Theft” and “Aloha Also Means Goodbye” and claimed the land actually belonged to the Hawaiian kingdom. (Riley stated he and his investors “would have had to have gone blindfolded through the process” not to have clear title to the land.)
In response to all the controversy, Riley has begun to speak out for the partnership, and he’s not mincing words. He maintains that his companies develop lands in accordance with existing zoning and that “if we’re successful at all, it will be in creating a successful housing opportunity for people in West Maui.” But Riley predicts, based on the resistance he’s encountered, that “Maui will stay fifteen years behind with affordable housing.” Olowalu will be finished “after the grandkids have moved to Vegas.”
Martin and Riley are now attempting to work out with the County and interested parties such as the Maui Coastal Land Trust the nature and character of open space and parkland within the master planned community (both mauka and makai of the proposed road). Dale Bonar of the MCLT, who’s been steadily negotiating with the partnership, gave the process a qualified thumbs-up: †“people are still talking, we’re still trying to nudge people along to find a reasonable solutions.” When all the talking’s done, the only sure thing is that these two silent partners will have a lot to say about the future of West Maui.
Staying Cool in the Hot Seat
Many urban planners can afford to be faceless bureaucrats—but on this small, real-estate-obsessed island, Planning Director Mike Foley can only wish for such anonymity.
When Foley began his job three years ago, the sleepy real-estate scene was just beginning to perk up. Initially, he was targeted by critics who felt he was being a little too phlegmatic, trying to go with the flow without realizing it was about to become a torrent.
But the 62-year-old Foley’s slow-talking, thick-skinned demeanor had developed over 41 years of planning experience, and he was used to dealing with prickly real-estate transactions amid environmental treasures. While he was serving as the first executive director of the California Lake Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, his group denied projects already approved by cities and counties, in order to protect the lake’s environment. Such experiences taught Foley how “to keep my temper in check and listen to both sides.”
Foley has both built up support and raised hackles as he’s become far quicker to disapprove projects he feels are not in Maui’s best interest. He’s happy that the economy is strong and employment is high, but points out that “this is an extremely important and challenging time in Maui’s history. We’re processing a phenomenal number of development applications. Ka‘anapali 2020 is 2,800 units, Wailea 670 is 1,400, and Pulelehua is 1,000.” Foley is not pleased that much of that housing is going to Mainlanders, and foresees a housing and community crisis. “The real problem is that the middle class is being priced out of ability to buy houses—teachers, police, firemen, and engineers. We can’t even fill jobs on Maui once the applicants find out how high housing prices are.”
To combat such an “Aspenization” of Maui, Foley has advocated affordable housing. Foley doesn’t support the new Olowalu Town, for example, because he thinks the Ma’alaea-to-Lahaina area has inadequate infrastructure and services for sewer and water, and if the developers build the infrastructure themselves, the cost of such construction will inevitably drive the housing out of the affordable range.
Foley has also taught himself about so-called “smart growth” questions. “Each year I’ve learned more about the strong economy and hot construction market and am trying to protect Maui’s environment. We’re not reviewing projects one at a time, but more globally and comprehensively, for example, in terms of the traffic impact of all 10 projects.” Developers can expect tougher questions about issues such as sustainable growth, ag subdivisions, harmony of their project with the County’s general plan, schools, and environmental impacts.
His most startlingly ambitious plan is for the County to acquire all of the coastal land that would lie makai (ocean-side) of a realigned Honoapi‘ilani Highway, evidence of an aggressive reinterpretation of his job description over the years. “My responsibility is to make recommendations to the mayor, council, and planning commission.” As he dryly told me, “I make strong recommendations and try not to be upset when my recommendations are ignored.”
On both good and bad days, especially when he’s tangling with what he considers the toughest issue—affordable housing—he derives great satisfaction from “the talented and dedicated people who work for the county, not just in housing, but schools and highways and all kinds of land use.” And there’s always just blowing off steam by sitting on the beach with his wife and watching the ocean. “That’s my therapy,” Foley states, and it’s a remedy he’s determined to preserve for Maui’s future generations.
Cast of Characters
Whether rocking the radio, storytelling on stage, or emceeing for senior citizens, Kathy Collins has left indelible slipper prints on Maui’s entertainment scene.
The diminutive comedienne with the basso voice and hula-girl hair is perhaps best known locally as the doyenne of island deejays. For nearly 30 years, the Maui-born entertainer has kept superb music, zany comedy, and lively commentary crackling over isle airwaves.
As cohost of a bygone and much-lamented drive-time radio show, Collins created a cast of delightful island character “voices.” Over the years, the snappiest and sassiest of these imaginary Mauians morphed into her current stage persona, the tap-dancing, wise-cracking, spooky-storytelling “Tita.”
Hips cocked, forefinger wagging, her long black hair swinging, Tita has alternately convulsed and terrified audiences with her repertoire of hilarious pidgin-English comedy sketches and “real-kine” authentic island ghost stories. The best are now out on CD and DVD.
As manager of Maui’s Mana‘o-FM public radio station, Collins has what musicians call “big ears” for interesting new sounds, but she also has a keen appreciation for a well-seasoned story. Some of her tales come from the clients of Maui’s Kaunoa Senior Center, where Collins administers an impressive agenda of daily activities for appreciative elders.
Collins credits her own elders—her parents, as well as legendary Baldwin High School drama teacher Sue Loudon—for what she terms a “live aloha” philosophy of life.
“As far back as I can remember, my parents taught me that I was special, but not better than anyone else, for everyone is special,” Collins reflects. “They constantly reminded me that compassion and humility are the qualities they most wanted to instill in me. And when I got to Baldwin, Miss Loudon taught the same lessons in the drama room. It didn’t matter if you were the lead actor or the curtain-puller (in fact, you could be both); everyone had equal status as a member of the team.
“I believe my parents were right,” she continues. “Everyone is gifted in some way. My gift is the ability to entertain—to touch people from the stage and help them laugh, cry, think. Performing is my passion.”
So, does Tita ever get a big head?
Collins laughs her deep chuckle. “I guess the difference between me and the proverbial prima donna is that I learned long ago that the stage is big enough for every one of us to be stars.”
Singing from the Center
When Keali‘i Reichel’s first CD, “Kawaipunahele”, was released in 1994, the lead song seemed to be playing everywhere, and everyone was dancing to it. Reichel’s voice, with its unique timbre and soul-haunting quality, had captivated the entire state.
Since then, Reichel has not only become widely known in his native Maui, but throughout the world, having garnered 24 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards (the prized Hawaiian Grammy-equivalents). He has toured widely with his halau (school), Ke‘alaokamaile (named in honor of his grandmother), and performed in Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and with the Tokyo Philharmonic—the first such honor for a Hawaiian musician. He has worked extensively to bring hula to a wider international audience, and his influence on the international hula community is immeasurable. This master musician, dancer, and chanter, has dedicated his entire life to the practice of Hawaiian culture and the nourishment of the spirit.
Before meeting Reichel, I envisioned him in malo (loincloth), long hair flowing, arms outstretched, in the characteristic pose on the cover of his now-famous CD. Instead, he dressed simply in jeans and black T-shirt, a shimmering black pearl on a cord around his neck. The flowing hair was confined in a baseball cap, but nothing could conceal the clarity and intelligence of his gaze, which was perfectly focused and clear.
Reichel maintains a broad focus, however, when it comes to his worldview. “I don’t use the word ‘I,’” he told me. “Everything is we. It’s a collective, and we share this wonderful challenge with many others.” The challenge is to keep traditional Hawaiian culture alive in the 21st century and ensure the continuation of the language, hula, chant, and cultural practices. He depends on the inspiration provided by his ancestors. “They help me,” he says, “and I continually ask them for guidance and to tap into their thought processes. They are not gone. There is no separation; their love continues.”
Born into a hapa (mixed) family, with a German-born father and a Hawaiian mother, Reichel was raised in the best of both traditions. From his father, Erich, he got discipline, order, and the belief that doing something required doing it well and thoroughly. He spent weekends in Pa‘ia with his mother’s mother, Kamaile Puhi Kane, who instilled in him Hawaiians’ love of beauty and song. But it was at Lahainaluna High School, in a Hawaiian cultural club, that something “clicked and never turned off,” he says. “I think it’s an ancestral memory, because you know things you don’t know you know.” He joined a halau hula at 16; when his kumu (teacher) left three years later, Reichel started his own halau.
The arrival of revered Big Island kumu hula Pualani Kanahele as a teacher at MauiCommunity College was like the call of the conch shell, a beckoning he could not ignore. Reichel quit his job, “flung myself into poverty,” and took classes in chant, composition, and poetry from Kanahele. “When I do an ancient prayer chant,” he says, “I believe in that prayer. Because of my training I understand the layers of the poetry. That song or chant is a snapshot of somebody’s emotion and point of view. You have to get rid of yourself as a chanter to do justice to that composition by becoming
Hokulani Holt-Padilla, director of cultural programs for the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, believes that Reichel is special because “he draws from an understanding of tradition to inform him of how he expresses his music. When you hear him sing,” she says, “you are touched because you know it comes from a deep place. He is, above all, a Hawaiian man who has found this venue to share his love of Maui, of Hawai‘i, and of music.”
Staying in Balance
When it comes to the real estate market, there hasn’t been as much heat on Maui since Haleakala erupted—and not just in the buying and selling, but in the debate generated by the construction boom. On the front line is prolific developer Everett Dowling, who’s won high marks for enlightened environmentalism and support for the Hawaiian community, yet has faced opposition regarding his pro-development philosophy.
Since moving to Hawai‘i from Los Angeles in 1988, Dowling, an MBA graduate of the prestigious Babson College in Boston, has implemented a philosophy of Building In Balance.
Dowling is a strong-willed entrepreneur whose desire is to “provide the whole spectrum of housing, from local and workforce to resort and second-home market developments.” He’s made his mark in projects that span the community with Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, school development, mixed-use/new-urbanism town projects such as Kulamalu, and his award-winning luxury home project, One Palauea Bay (designed by noted Singapore architect Tan Hock Beng), whose residents are surrounded by a Balinese vision of water features and gardens. But Palauea abuts culturally and archeologically significant sites—Dowling and his partner Steve Goodfellow have pledged to transfer 20 acres of adjacent land to become a permanent cultural preserve.
This donation is one of countless examples of Dowling Community Improvement Foundation’s support of the Hawaiian cultural renaissance and of groups that stress education and youth development. Dowling Company built and continues to support Kamali‘i School. In 1996, the company built Kamehameha Schools’ temporary Maui Campus in a four-month period; during the four years it took to construct the permanent campus on Dowling’s Kulamalu development lands, he leased the property to Kamehameha at the rate of one dollar a year. His development of the Waiehu Kou 2, 3, and 4 projects for the Department of Hawaiian Homelands and the Villages of Leali‘i in Lahaina has provided a reliable stream of affordable housing for native Hawaiians. The total of these projects provided 400 affordable homes.
Dowling Company also has undisputed bona fides in environmental awareness. Dowling has set up his own “Green Team” within his company, is embracing green building through the criteria of LEED—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—established by the U.S. Green Building Council, and has registered two structures to be built in his new Kulamalu Town Center for LEED certification; another 4 are in the process of being registered. To support Montessori School’s efforts to integrate Green Building philosophy and education, Dowling has donated $50,000 toward its LEED certification as well. In 2005, Dowling Company donated a total of $827,000 to nonprofit organizations, including $387,000 to schools—almost entirely on Maui.
But after many years of giving back, last year Dowling became embroiled in a battle with Akaku Maui Community Television when he testified on behalf of two bills in the state Senate that would have reallocated two-thirds of Akaku funding to educational and government programming, rather than public-affairs programming. Akaku charged that Dowling’s real motive was to try to stifle the station’s community coverage opposing development—including projects sponsored by Dowling himself. The controversy ripped through the laid-back, clubby world of Akaku to the point where the president was fired by the board chairman, and the chairman and another member got into a fistfight outside
Dowling has said repeatedly that he joined forces with Maui Community College (whose funding had been suspended by Akaku) and the Department of Education, as part of his general advocacy of education and his desire that educational programs should get their fair share of cable funds. To demonstrate his support for education, he pointed to his past service on the Seabury Hall Board of Trustees, the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents, and his present position as a trustee for Babson College. Dowling was satisfied when ultimately Akaku compromised and resumed payments of 25% of its funds to Maui Community College.
In the newly politicized, highly charged world of Maui real estate, his balanced approach is certain to become a trickier tightrope walk. But he insists that there can be enlightened development instead of “a posture of ‘no growth’ that’s synonymous with ‘poor growth.’” As he once stated after discovering a 400-year-old petroglyph on his Kula property, respect for tradition demands that “every project we undertake must be done with care, patience, humility, and aloha.”