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Mayor Arakawa fields questions from West Siders, Part III

By Staff | Sep 15, 2011

WAILUKU — The leader of any government entity inherits problems when taking office; it’s part of the job, and Mayor Alan M. Arakawa wasn’t given grace from this universal trial.

On March 11, Maui County experienced a live test of its Civil Defense system with a one-meter wave generated by an 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan just three months into the new mayor’s term.

The Maui County Civil Defense Agency is responsible for administering and operating the various local, state and federal civil defense programs for the county, including planning, preparing and coordinating civil defense operations in meeting disaster situations and coordinating post-disaster recovery operations.

The county bureau failed in its mission, with shoreline residents required to evacuate to shelters that were closed.

“When we came in as an administration, there were quite a few challenges that we had to address,” the mayor explained.

“First of all, we had no civil defense director. He had retired, and a replacement had not been assigned yet; therefore, we had a deficit of anyone in that position.

“So when we had the first major calamity, we were actually coming in as an administration, we had to literally operate blind and put together the entire structure again.

“We have since then acquired a civil defense administrator, Anna Foust; but we had to literally reconstruct the entire team and the roles of everyone to be played.

“We also were having to re-coordinate what everybody was doing. We literally had to start from scratch and construct the entire civil defense network,” Arakawa added.

“It was challenging at best; so, yes, there were some challenges that we had to work with,” the county chief continued.

“We realize, as part of our review, that we need to create more areas with restroom facilities. Many of those areas had never been assigned restroom facilities in the past.

“It was something that we’ve never really had a major catastrophe like the tsunami, where we’ve had so many hours and had a real tsunami. We had test runs before,” he recalled

“We also found that there were other glitches within our system,” Mayor Arakawa admitted, “that we had to be able to rectify.

“One glitch, for instance, we’re trying to work through. The Red Cross does not initiate or will not initiate a shelter until after a tsunami or after a disaster has occurred. We actually had situations where their employees were shutting down our shelters we were trying to open,” he said.

“We literally had to go back and reopen shelters. Some of them we had people waiting, because we didn’t realize that the Red Cross shut down shelters we were trying to open.

“It was very problematic, but those are glitches that occur. We have to understand what each of the programs actually do…

“Those coordinations are going to have to be improved even further in the future,” Arakawa commented. “It was not a perfect system, but it was far superior to any other community’s reaction in the state. And, it was far superior to any reaction we have had in the past.

Not embarrassed to admit the truth, Arakawa concluded, “I am going to say that we’re learning from some of the errors, and we are trying to work with it.

Aunty Patty Nishiyama of Na Kupuna O Maui had a question about a century-old Hawaiian issue.

She asked the mayor for “the administration’s position on the agreement President Cleveland had with Queen Lili’uokalani?”

The mayor replied, “The historical record is clear that President Cleveland endeavored to return the throne to Queen Lili’uokalani and appealed to Congress to restore the monarchy. These events were described in what’s known as the Apology Resolution, Public Law 103-150, passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton on November 23, 1993…”

Another challenging, long-standing issue for West Siders in Napili is the ownership of Hui Road F.

Inhabitants of the dangerously rutted, residential roadway formed a task force earlier this year to address the traffic hazard.

Blue Robinson, Kevin Baptist, Matt Dauenhauer, Bruce Curtis, Tere Patterson and Nane Aluli serve on the blue ribbon panel.

“We had a meeting at our Napili Ridge office in order to outline a plan. With the help of Google Earth and walking up and down the road, I approximated 260 dwellings; and, with an average of $1,750 per household, I estimated we pay an annual tax of $455,000,” explained Robinson, a director on the board of the Napili Ridge family condominium complex located at 120 Hui Road F.

“We then had a meeting with (County Councilwoman) Elle Cochran,” Robinson continued. “Her assistant, Dana, sent us a tome of documents which showed that at one time MLP (Maui Land & Pine) owned the road. She explained that it is sitting in the County Clerk’s office as undedicated and in limbo.”

Aluli has been on a mission seeking a fix to the approximate 1,900-foot-long Hui F Road since 2007.

He asked the mayor this burning question: “I would like the county to clarify, once and for all, who actually has title to Hui F Road?”

The mayor’s answer was short and to the point.

“The road is under the jurisdiction of the Second Circuit Court as ordered in the Mailepai Partition years ago (1931).”

The interview with the mayor concluded with a query from the editor of the Lahaina News: “What are the mayor’s priorities for West Maui?”

Rod Antone, county communications director, fielded this question.

“The mayor is an avid supporter of the West Maui Hospital project; and, pending a signed land deal between Sanderling Health Care and Kaanapali Land Management, the planning director will initiate appropriate land use entitlement changes for both the new project location and the original site near the Lahaina Courthouse, as required by the County Council. This will allow the project managers to go forward with necessary county approvals and inevitably begin construction of the hospital,” he replied.