While our publication doesn’t usually publish op-ed pieces from local elected officials, we’ll make an exception for the following opinion piece on county budget politics, which was written by Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa and emailed to us and other local news organizations on May 7. It is, as you’ll see, rather pointed–especially towards Maui County Councilmembers Mike White and Riki Hokama (should these councilmembers wish to write rejoinders, we’d be happy to post those as well).
So here you go:
By Mayor Alan Arakawa
A “snollygoster” is a person, usually a politician, who is guided by personal benefit rather than the common good. It’s an unscrupulous person who is shrewd enough to convince people that they have their best interests at heart, even if they don’t.
Council Chair Mike White and Council Budget and Finance Chair Riki Hokama are the very definition of snollygosters, especially when one reviews their budget proposals. Upon first glance their proposals seem to benefit the community, until you look at the long-term effects.
• The proposal to cut close to $3 million from the Department of Fire & Public Safety. Cutting these funds could affect the safety of our community and of our fire fighters because it affects their overtime pay and equipment. Just recently our fire fighters extinguished a fully engulfed Kahului home and rescued seven hikers. The emergencies they respond to vary and they need the resources to be able to be prepared for anything.
• Proposing to increase overall fares for the Maui Bus saying that people should pay for the services they use. What about students, seniors and others who depend upon the Maui Bus and can’t afford the fare hike? Also, the County is conducting a bus fare study as part of the update for our Maui Short Range Transit Plan and it would be prudent for the council to wait until that study is complete before making any decisions.
• Proposing to cut $2.5 million from the Molokai Baseyard project. The old baseyard is on state land in a flood zone and is falling apart, not to mention that the project is almost halfway finished, so why stop now? Also, once complete it will provide better shelter for our equipment and vehicles and help to avoid the wear and tear that saves taxpayer dollars from having to make new purchases.
• Proposing to eliminate all funds for the Kalana O Maui Campus Expansion, which would provide a new building to house our county departments and offices. Right now we are paying for $1.4 million in rent for various county operations in One Main Plaza, and there is no guarantee that our rent there will stay the same. How much will it have to increase before White and Hokama realize the future cost savings? Will it have to double? Triple? We must act soon.
• Proposing to cut $7 million from the Ka’anapali Water Distribution Expansion. This project would allow more treated wastewater to be used by the hotels so we have less volume to put into injection wells. The benefits are obvious and I’m not even sure what Councilmen White and Hokama’s reasons are for these cuts.
Also, when some councilmembers and county personnel had questions about Budget Chair Hokama’s decisions, they couldn’t ask him because he wasn’t there.
That’s because he left in the middle of the budget process, to attend to his duties as president of the National Association of Counties (NACO).
When the budget chair finally retuned a week later he felt the need to hold meetings that lasted until 3am to make up for the time that he was gone.
But even then some who represent our non-profit community said he would not listen to their concerns about how his cuts hurt their operation and the community that they serve.
Our County Council has until June 10 to pass the budget and a public hearing will be held at 9am on May 15 in Council Chambers for anyone to comment. If you are concerned about any of these things that I have mentioned, please take some time to stop by and let your opinions be heard.
I’m sure some of the other council members–who were just as frustrated at Budget Chair Hokama’s absence–will appreciate hearing feedback from the public so that they can make informed decisions.
Also, if you are upset at Councilman Hokama for leaving for the mainland in the middle of the budget process, or at Council Chair Mike White for allowing him to leave, be sure to let them know. You can reach Council Chair White 270-5507 or [email protected] and Budget Chair Hokama at 270-7768 or [email protected].
Photo of Mayor Alan Arakawa courtesy County of Maui