Mayor Arakawa calls for vendor concessions at county parks
LAHAINA — He was listed at just about the midpoint on the agenda of the 32nd Annual Meeting of the West Maui Taxpayers Association (WMTA), but Mayor Alan Arakawa captured the attention of the 140 people in attendance with his no-nonsense remarks centered on a theme of accepting real world situations and dealing with them realistically.
Calling for the institution of vendor concessions at county parks, the mayor dismissed what he called “purists” that might disagree with his approach to raising revenue.
The mayor sees concessions as a necessity “to increase the revenue stream, to pay for park improvements and repairs,” and to ensure the parks are “well taken care of.”
According to Arakawa, sewer and water costs will go up as well. “Those of us that are using the system have to pay the cost. You’re going to see it in your sewer bill, not hidden in property taxes; the same for water improvements,” he said.
When it comes to road repairs, the mayor proposes doubling the $3.2 million appropriated by the County Council last year.
“Ultimately, this is a cost to the community,” the mayor said. “We’re not going to play games with the community. We will outline the costs and the community will decide if we do it or don’t do it. We will make honest decisions,” he said.
Arakawa also expressed strong support for a film industry studio on Maui. “This will create hundreds and hundreds of jobs,” he said.
The mayor, serving his second term after four years out of office, also called for a reduction in the number of county employees by attrition, partly due to the need to reduce the county’s supplemental employee benefits, which he said would cost the county $20 million this year.
If no action is taken, the mayor said that benefit costs would continue to rise and lead to increases in taxes. “We can do this over several years without union problems,” he said.
Joe Pluta, WMTA treasurer and past president emeritus, commented on the revenue and funding challenges facing the county and their potential impacts on West Maui.
“Everybody is concerned. Anybody who is not concerned is living in a false reality. Everybody has to be concerned. We know we have to do more with less. We’re fine with that. We’ve got to prioritize. The West Maui community has always been supportive of pulling together and working together,” he commented.
Pluta said the 2011 objectives for WMTA are: “health and safety, traffic and roadways infrastructure, affordable housing and sewer odors that seem to be getting worse.”
According to information provided by the WMTA, health and safety means, “To promote the development and construction of a critical access medical facility in West Maui with associated facilities.”
A West Maui goal for over ten years, the WMTA is now collecting signatures to send to the Board of Directors of the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC), “Urging the expediting of all necessary approvals and processes to permit the West Maui Hospital to become a reality.”
WMTA annual meetings are required by the organization’s bylaws, and the group takes the opportunity to pack the agenda with informative reports and speakers each year.
In addition to Mayor Arakawa, other elected officials and speakers included Rep. Angus McKelvey, who spoke on the subject of “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” and his efforts to move a jobs agenda as chair of the House Economic Revitalization and Business Committee.
County Councilwoman Elle Cochran urged that residents pay attention to the Maui General Plan and West Maui infrastructure needs. Describing her life as a new council member, she said it is “never a dull moment.”
Other speakers included Maui Transportation Director JoAnne Johnson-Winer. The former West Maui councilwoman happily announced, “I got married!” Like the mayor, she also spoke of fiscal reality, saying, “We may have to increase (bus) fares while trying to keep rates as reasonable as possible.”
Howard Hanzawa of Kaanapali Land Management Corp., gave an update on Pu’ukoli’i Village; Charlene Shibuya of the Maui Division of the Hawaii Department of Transportation outlined progress on the Lahaina Bypass; and Pamela English of Maui Land and Pineapple Company discussed the company’s planned Pulelehua development and the near completion of the Lahaina Skate Park.
Elected to the board of the WMTA were Paul Brown, Pam English, Jim Hentz, Richard Jarman, Byron “Pat” Kelley, Donald Lehman, Gregg Nelson, Joseph Pluta, Bob Pure, Uwe Schulz and Richard Starkweather.