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Mayor tells Lahaina crowd he supports ‘Taste’ and Halloween

By Staff | Feb 10, 2011

Mayor Alan Arakawa addresses the crowd of 75 at the LahainaTown Action Committee’s annual meeting at the Pioneer Inn. Photo by Norm Bezane.

LAHAINA — Mayor Alan Arakawa, in a first public appearance in Lahaina since his election, told 75 members and residents at a crowded annual meeting of the LahainaTown Action Committee (LAC) that he wants to help bring back “A Taste of Lahaina” and a revitalized Halloween celebration.

Arakawa also outlined initiatives to create jobs, restructure county departments and improve the relationship between residents and local government.

Prompted by lively questioning from an audience that included seven candidates elected to LAC’s board, Arakawa noted that well-attended events that appeal to visitors and residents have traditionally played an important role in bolstering the economy.

At the meeting last week Monday at the Pioneer Inn, the mayor said he would try to support revival of the “Taste” food and music festival, discontinued in 2008, with both money and personnel.

A newly appointed event specialist in county government will take an early lead in facilitating any permit requests received for Halloween, he added.

“This community really has to take hold of its future,” said newly elected board member Kathy Clark during the meeting.

“If merchants do not prosper, we will not prosper. It is very important that we have the events back that we had in ’05 and ’06 before the economy turned.”

Rather than raise taxes, Arakawa said he’d like to create whole new industries. A new indoor movie studio Arakawa is advocating would create thousands of jobs, he said.

“There are a lot of reasons why movie people would prefer to come here, where they can go swimming and picnic year-round after work. We have people who want to invest, and we believe this is an area we can truly develop into a unique business,” he explained.

The mayor indicated he is “looking strongly” at alternative energy programs and is trying to push very hard for a higher percentage of homes contributing to the electric grid.

“If we are trying to bring down our electric bills and our gas consumption, we need to be able to build on this industry,” he said.

Even the wedding industry — reportedly hurt due to a new permitting process that has curtailed ceremonies on the beach — should get a look, the mayor added.

“It makes little sense for the visitor industry to be promoting weddings” while another one of the state’s departments discourages them, he said. “Many government rules are illogical.”

Discussing concerns rarely addressed in print media, Arakawa reviewed five other topics he is working on or will address.

COUNTY EMPLOYEES — “We literally sent out a directive to all of our employees that everyone will behave in a professional manner. If not, they will be disciplined. You will be seeing a lot of differences in the attitude of county employees. We want them to be community-friendly.”

COUNTY SPENDING — “Within a year, we should be able to cut county government somewhere between 8 to 10 percent.”

FEWER COUNTY EMPLOYEES — Some 10 percent of county employees leave each year. To fill vacancies, Arakawa plans to transfer workers from departments based on needs. “Doing it this way, there will be no need to cut people,” he commented.

NEW CONSTRUCTION, MAINTENANCE PROCEDURES — “Policemen and firefighters do not make good construction managers. We have firemen assigned to watching over projects. We want project managers who, at the very least, understand how to read a blueprint… We literally have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on a single project, because we have had to do change orders. We won’t be making all those mistakes.”

ODOR PROBLEMS — The mayor said he will look into complaints of sewage odors at four points along Honoapiilani Highway, including the entrance to Kaanapali Resort.

COUNTY COUNCIL — Arakawa said he is building bridges with the new County Council and plans to meet with members once a month. West Maui County Councilwoman Elle Cochran, invited by Arakawa to join him near meeting’s end, said she agrees that there is a new spirit of cooperation.

“Be a little tolerant,” Arakawa concluded. “Give us time to change things.”