A couple hours before Mayor Alan Arakawa gave his annual State of the County address, a tidy group of residents gathered at the entrance to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Carrying signs and upside-down Hawaii state flags, they were there to express their anger, as one demonstrator put it, at Arakawa. Their numbers swelled from about 50 at 4:30pm to nearly double that an hour later, but their message was clear: the mayor has to go.
Their signs they carried were about what you’d expect. “Respect the Culture.” “Iao is Sacred.” “County of Maui Guilty of Desecration.”
Despite the heated emotions that formed the foundation of the protest, the gathering on Thursday, Mar. 9 was chill. The group of three (sometimes four) Maui Police Officers who milled about a few dozen yards back from the protesters looked, if anything, bored. Children played on the grass. One demonstrator brought sweet potatoes from her yard for everyone. Another brought her pet pig Pua`a. Maui County Councilmember Elle Cochran walked around the demonstration at one point, chatting with the protesters. The most militant behavior I saw came from a handful of sign-carrying demonstrators who did a s-l-o-w march across the street in front of every car wanting to turn into the MACC.
As proof of their intentions, one organizer began collecting signatures on a new Petition for Impeachment of Mayor Alan Arakawa. Dated Mar. 9, the three-page petition states that Arakawa is guilty of “malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance” in regards to his authorizing the removal of rocks in Iao Valley following the flash flood storm of Sept. 13, 2016.
“The Mayor worked outside the scope of his authority under the emergency proclamations to protect the public’s safety, and instead took advantage of the emergency situation to use the Iao river bed as a rock quarry for large quantities of harvested material for crushing,” states the petition. “The public’s safety was not in jeopardy from the river bed and boulders that had lived there for ages. By working outside the scope of his authority within the river bed, on mostly private land, to conduct emergency work within Iao Valley, the Mayor is guilty of illegal misappropriation of public funds.”
The removal of rocks–which many native Hawaiians consider to be sacred–from the Iao stream bed following the flood has sparked outrage from a few activists since it took place. Ironically, Arakawa himself recently poured gasoline on the fire by making outrageously condescending comments on Hawaii News Now.
“[T]here’s no such thing as sacred rocks,” Arakawa said on HNN on Feb. 17. “The monarchy, starting with Kamehameha… declared Christianity the religion of Hawaii. In Christianity, if I remember the 10 Commandments correctly, thou shall have no false god before me. There are no sacred rocks in that religion.”
It took two weeks for Arakawa to apologize for his remarks (which reportedly spurred the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to issue a statement on the considerable importance native Hawaiians place on rocks like those found in Iao), though he continued to insist that removing the rocks was necessary for public safety. He reiterated that at the conclusion of his State of the County address last night.
“Before we wrap up tonight, I would like to thank the men and women who worked tirelessly to fix Kepaniwai Park, our Flood Control along Iao and Kahoma, as well as other areas last year,” Arakawa said in the speech. “Our county crews worked fast and hard to get repairs underway, at times placing their own lives in danger. Timing was critical, because right after that flood we had another flood event on New Year’s Eve, which caused no damage due to the repairs made to our flood control. Without those repairs, flood waters could have damaged homes from Iao Parkside to Paukukalo, and businesses all along Lower Main Street.”
The impeachment petition references Section 13-13 of the County of Maui Charter. “Appointed or elected officers may be impeached for malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in office or violation of the provisions of Article 10 (Code of Ethics),” states the petition. “Such impeachment proceedings shall be commenced in the Circuit Court of the Second Circuit, State of Hawaii.”
One organizer told me they’re trying to gather 5,000 signatures, and have only just started.
When I asked County Communications Director Rod Antone if he’d like to comment on the impeachment petition, he emailed back, “Not really.”
Click here for a PDF copy of the impeachment petition.