Aila’s Grassroots Run For Governor

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - June 21, 2006

William Aila wants to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor. Never mind that he has never previously held a political office. Never mind that in 2002 he endorsed Republican Linda Lingle for the position. Aila figures he can get the nomination.

“I think people want someone who can reach beyond just the loyal Democrats, someone who would come into the job with fresh ideas,” says Aila. “The voters want someone who seeks solutions outside the normal infrastructure.”

That’s how Aila explains his support for the Republican in 2002 - as someone new and fresh.

“She sounded good,” he says. Then why is he now running against Lingle?

“She thinks President Bush is the greatest president we’ve ever had,” he says.

“And her argument that a state-run educational system in and of itself is bad. There are benefits and liabilities to a central system. Our harbors and airports also developed that way. The Democrats of the ‘50s adopted the state-run system in order to float everyone’s boat -what was best for all, not just Oahu or the wealthier neighborhoods.”

Aila knows something about floating boats. Since 1987, he’s been the harbor master for the state’s 146-berth Waianae Boat Harbor. Prior to taking a state job, he worked for the City and County, for Liberty House, for himself as a commercial fisherman, and for Castle and Cooke as a researcher.

Aila is very much a citizen of Waianae. He was born and reared on the coast, one of 10 children of a Portuguese-Hawaiian-Japanese family.

Aila attended Maili Elementary School and Waianae Intermediate and High Schools. In 1980 he received a bachelor of science degree in tropical agriculture from the University of Hawaii.

“I worked my way through and accumulated 128 credits in four years, but I was so on the go trying to make ends meet that I can’t remember much of what I learned.”

Aila is a prodigious community activist, serving on everything from the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board to the State Shark Task Force to the board of Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawaii Nei - a group that attempts to repatriate iwi kupuna and their possessions -and everything in between.

“I’m not a traditional politician,” says Aila. “I don’t carry a politician’s baggage. But I’ve been doing grassroots work out here in Waianae for 30 years. I believe that people should be treated fairly. I feel that development should be done responsibly. And I am very concerned with Hawaiian issues.”

Homelessness has grown exponentially on the Waianae Coast, and Aila puts affordable housing and affordable rentals at the top of his campaign issues.

“There’s no inventory of housing or rentals at the lower income ranges,” says Aila. “I define affordable rentals as what someone working at 7/11 can pay after they’ve bought food and clothing for his family.

“The market takes care of people with lots of money, the people who can pay $1 million a pop for housing; but the market’s not serving the rest of us. That’s when the government must step in.

“We’re not calculating the total cost of homelessness - to the state, the federal government, and the city and county - the cost in broken families, health, and social problems. If we did, and applied that money to settle the homeless, we’d solve a lot of those problems.

“A warehouse in Kakaako is not the solution to homelessness. We need a systemic solution. It’s the difference between public relations and doing something to solve the problem.”

Aila feels that solving problems is his strength. He cites his work in 1994 to help clean-up Keehi Lagoon.

“Keehi was the wild, wild west,” Aila remembers. “We had to bring together homeless service providers, social workers, harbor personnel.

“It’s all how you approach people. Show people respect, and they give you respect.”

Aila’s work on the Keehi Lagoon clean-up earned him a place in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin‘s “Ten Who Made a Difference” feature for 1994.

The 48-year-old Aila and wife Melva have two sons: one employed at Ko Olina Resort and the other active with Searider Productions at Waianae High School.

“I hope I’m providing an example for Waianae young people,” says Aila, “that they can do anything, even run for governor.”

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