LAHAINA - More than 100 people turned out on a Monday night to meet with Mayor Alan Arakawa and members of his administration as the annual process of developing the next Maui County budget rolled into Lahaina on Oct. 24.
Since the administration of former Mayor Linda Lingle, mayors have gone out to the community to hear views, complaints and suggestions from interested citizens who have ideas about what the county should fund in the coming fiscal year that begins July 1.
Often a forum for controversial items in the community, the budget hearings can be an early indicator of what may eventually show up on the floor of the County Council.
Stacey Moniz, executive director of Women Helping Women, describes the impact of state budget cuts on her organization’s ability to serve victims of domestic violence. With domestic violence on the rise, she asked Mayor Alan Arakawa to continue county support for the group. Photo by Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez.
This year was no different except for Halloween on Front Street. One might have expected to hear more discussion, but only one testifier spoke briefly about the controversy over the reestablishment of Halloween on Front Street and voiced her support.
Despite extensive press coverage over competing views on the subject, it was the dog that didn't bark at the hearings on Monday night.
Instead, the big issue was about buses. Specifically, the bus transit stop established by Roberts Transportation that is located on Luakini Street behind The Wharf Cinema Center.
With audience members sitting with handmade signs that supported their position, Blackie and Sara Gadarian testified that "the quality of life stinks with all the buses."
Calling the stop a "bus terminal," they said that the increase in passengers from the bus is making the quiet street a thoroughfare and asked that the bus stop be moved.
Along with several other speakers who raised the similar issue, Marybud Sylva Kobatake said that the first bus arrives at 6:15 in the morning and the last one at 11 at night.
"There is rubbish on the road," Kobatake said. "They smoke in front of my house and drop cigarette butts in the yard.
Frank Silva said he does not like the bus stop on Luakini. While he does not live there, his mother does, and he told the panel that she cannot sit on her porch any longer because of the traffic congestion that has grown over time.
Silva suggested moving the stop to Wharf Street across from the Banyan Tree. "There are tables, benches, bathrooms and plenty of room for bus parking there," he said.
In addition to the concerns over the bus stop location, there was testimony on a variety of other topics.
Claudette Fraser asked for continued support of the Boys and Girls Club. "The staff is wonderful and loving, and as a parent with five children, it helps me out a lot," she said.
DJ Haia, age 14, told the mayor: "Without the club I would be surrounded by negative elements."
Francisco Campos thanked the county for keeping the Head Start program of Maui Economic Opportunity (MEO) open after 12 noon. "It helped my daughter get ready for kindergarten, and my wife and I are able to work and have our children in a safe place," he said.
May Fujiwara, president of the 200-member Lahaina Honolua Senior Citizens Club, testified on behalf of senior programs, including MEO Transportation.
"Transportation is one of our biggest concerns. Since many of us cannot drive or walk to the bus stop, we rely on MEO transportation," she said.
"It also provides transportation for dialysis and Maui Adult Day Care Centers, transportation to the low-income for job searches and to youth for after school programs," she added.
Fujiwara also said the club supports MEO's Infant and Toddler Center, Head Start program, youth services, Enlace Hispano with services to the Latino community and the Business Development program.
She asked for continued support for "Boat Day," where club members greet cruise passengers at Lahaina Harbor.
Rebecca Telliard spoke as a graduate of the MEO Business Development classes and asked that similar classes be held on the West Side.
U.S. citizen Alejandro Olivas testified in Spanish in support of the MEO Enlace Hispano program.
"Eight years ago, my first child was born with disability problems," he said. "MEO's Enlace Hispano program was able to help us, and every day since then they have been helping us with paperwork and translations."
Testifying in support of continued funding for the MEO "Being Empowered and Safe Together" (BEST) reintegration program, that helps former inmates reenter society successfully, was Nicholas Burns.
"Based on my choices and decisions of the past, I wound up incarcerated for a long period of time. I am a changed man today based on decisions I've made. It is not easy to swallow my pride and talk in front of people. MEO helped me get a job at Bubba Gump's shrimp restaurant. I no longer violate the laws. Today I am a man of my word," he said.
Peggy Robertson spoke of the urgent need for Wahikuli Beach Park improvements. She pointed to the need for work on the bathrooms, the lack of railings, the need for painting and the repair of corroded pipes.
Winding up the night was Steven Ashfield, who asked for $50,000 for the Maui Invitational basketball tournament. This investment generates $8 million to $10 million in economic activity to West Maui, he said.