News Briefs

Halloween In Lahaina Takes Another Hit
In an announcement that disappointed many but surprised few, the County announced this week that Front Street will remain open to traffic throughout Halloween night. Both Police Chief Gary Yabuta and Tavares Administration spokesperson Mahina Martin told The Maui News that eleventh-hour efforts by the Lahaina Town Action Committee and West Maui Community Association to get permits were insufficient.

Of course, the County will still provide a police presence, and people will still show up. Yet for a third consecutive year, the party once billed as the “Mardi Gras of the Pacific” will be—as Martin termed it in 2009 when we spoke to her—a “non event.”

That’s bad news for revelers, but worse for businesses. A recent study commissioned by the North Beach West Maui Benefit Fund and conducted by Hawaii Pacific University Professor Jerome Agrussa found that Halloween in Lahaina can generate about $3 million in additional revenue for West side establishments, mostly hotels and restaurants. But the longer it languishes in a state of semi-existence, the less likely the crowds are to come back.

Flutter Of Hope For Endangered Hawaiian Crow
In 1994, the ‘alala, an endangered Hawaiian crow considered extinct in the wild, saw its numbers drop as low as 20. Sixteen years later, scientists have managed to inch that up to 77, despite the fact that ‘alala are extremely difficult to breed in captivity.

So it was with cautious optimism that biologists announced they’ve successfully raised eleven ‘alala chicks this year, some of them at the Maui Bird Conservation Center. “A flourishing captive population is the first major phase towards the ultimate goal of re-establishing a viable population of ‘alala in the wild,” said Richard Switzer of the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program.

Why do ‘alala matter? Before being pushed to the brink by invasive predators and habitat destruction, the bird played an important role in Hawaii’s forest ecosystem, spreading native plant seeds. Whether it will ever do that again is an open question—the factors that decimated its population still exist, and have only increased. But, as Switzer put it, those eleven new specimen represent “a significant step away from the potential of ‘alala extinction.”

Plastic Bag Ban Rules Released
In three months, Maui retailers won’t be allowed to offer plastic bags to customers at the point of sale. The Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance was passed by the Council in 2008, but many are still unclear on exactly what exactly it entails. Last week, the County Department of Environmental Management posted administrative rules online (co.maui.hi.us), so interested parties (and that should include everyone) can read for themselves.

Basically, with a few exceptions—including handle-less bags used for raw meat or bulk items and dry-cleaning bags—all items will have to be carried out in paper or, better yet, reusable bags. Businesses that don’t comply will face fines starting at $500.

It’s easy—and justifiable—to criticize the County for waiting so long to launch a public-awareness campaign. But what’s more important now is to let this law work; anyone who’s visited our landfill understands why.

Iao Valley Entrance Fees Kick In
The free ride is over for tourists and tour companies driving into Iao Valley. This week, a $5 per-car fee kicked in, with tour buses charged between $10 and $40. You’ll need a valid Hawaii ID to get in free.
Citing a steep decline in funding for parks, state Department of Land and Natural Resources head Laura Thielen said fees are necessary “to help the park system become more self-sufficient” and “to ensure that these areas can be cared for and remain open.”

Vote Early, Vote Often
Well, OK, just early. Through October 30, you can fill out your ballot at the County Clerk’s office in Wailuku, Monday through Saturday, 8am-4pm.
Registered voters on Molokai who can’t wait to do their civic duty (or who have a hot date on November 2) can swing by the Mitchell Pauole Center Monday through Staurday, 8am-4pm (closed noon-1pm and ends October 29).

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