LC UNCORKS BOTTLE OF HOSTESS BARS
I guess it makes perfect sense that on the same day as the big hearing on the future of post-10pm live entertainment at the Triangle in Kihei, the Maui County Liquor Commission completely liberalized its policies on hostess bars (for those unschooled in the term, a “hostess bar” is an establishment in which employees–usually very attractive, very young Asian women–are paid to sit, chat and otherwise flirt with customers, though without themselves imbibing alcohol). Before the Mar. 14 hearing, the LC capped the number of such bars in the county at 12, all of which are currently located in Kahului and Wailuku. After the hearing (subject to final approval by Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa), there will no longer be any cap whatsoever on hostess bars.
The bars, which typically offer customers karaoke as well as young female companionship, are far from glamorous. In 2005, MauiTime had a reporter visit a few hostess bars and write about what he found.
“Some girls get tricked into it,” one hostess told reporter Barukh Shalev, who wrote about his experiences in the July 14, 2005 story “What it’s like to work in Wailuku’s hostess bars.” “They come from Korea and think they are coming into something glamorous, or they will meet their husband and get citizenship. They end up having to stay for months and months to recoup the bar owners for their plane ticket here. Lots of them are illegal and paranoid about getting deported. Their families think they are in school in America.”
Anyway, on Mar. 23, the Maui News ran a story on the new capless hostess bar rule. The reason for the change, according to LC Director Franklyn Silva, was unique. “A bar owner in Wailuku has been the most recent person to object to the cap,” the Maui News reported Silva as explaining. “The owner would like a hostess license to enable her to better compete with other nearby hostess bars.”
So to recap: a handful of residents complain about noise in the Kihei Kalama Village over the course of years, and the LC considers banning all live entertainment in the complex after 10pm. But when a single bar owner complains about not not being able to compete with nearby hostess bars, the LC changes its rules so now virtually any bar can employ hostesses.
Man, the LC really loves its hostess bars.
NEW COUNTY BUDGET!
Oh joy, it’s budget time again. Us journalists, who typically look upon numbers and math with the same glazed eyes that come from trying to read Sanskrit, dread this time of the year. But budget stories are among the most important that we write, since they deal with the fundamental importance of government: how much money are they bringing in, and what are they going to do with it.
Unless you’re some kind of political junkie, budget speeches, hearings and budgets themselves are unbelievably dry. They’re a mix of accounting language, platitudes about making “hard choices” and endless columns of figures. This year’s was no exception, with Mayor Arakawa once again speaking on Friday, Mar. 23 about “being bold.” According to Arakawa, putting together the Fiscal Year 2013 Budget–$558.2 million in projected revenue, $457 million for the operating budget and $101.2 million for the capital program–was a “bold challenge” because he wanted to institute a “results-based budgeting” process that would, at least in theory, fund projects and departments that work efficiently and force those that don’t to shape up or disappear off the county books. Arakawa’s Budget Proposal Synopsis is filled with statements and analysis and OH MY GOD: We’re getting a new War Memorial Gym!
Sure enough, buried near the back of the budget synopsis is a series of tables labeled “Six Year Capital Program.” There, Arakawa’s budget staff included “War Memorial/Central Maui Civic Complex” as receiving $1.5 million in 2013 and another $20 million in the years 2014-2018.
“I know that some of you hear the words ‘sports arena’ and ‘convention center’ and ‘aquatics center’ and think that this isn’t the right time for those types of projects,” Arakawa said during his Friday speech (which was also highlighted by the Maui News). “You’re thinking the economy hasn’t fully recovered and that we’re being irresponsible and maybe even a little radical. Sometimes that’s what ‘bold’ means. We can’t invest in our future if we hide our money under a rock. So let’s be bold and invest in our community and forge our own destiny.”
The shining light in writing about budgets on Maui is that all the rules that supposedly govern mainland politics don’t apply out here. Arakawa’s a Republican, and he wants both responsible budgeting practices and big capital spending projects. Maui County Council members like Mike Victorino and Gladys Baisa, who expressed hesitation about funding a new gym to the Maui News, are Democrats.
It keeps things interesting, even if you’re spending hours pouring over revenue charts and tables.
FED REMEMBERS JAPANESE INTERNMENT SITES
And now for something rather uplifting about a depressing chapter in American history. On Mar. 22, I got a press release stating that the National Park Service will start handing out $2.9 million in 17 grants “to preserve and interpret the confinement sites where over 120,000 Japanese Americans were detained during World War II.”
Sadly, the grants don’t include any money for Maui (an internment camp sat in Haiku on the site of the current Horizon Academy). But U.S. Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, who represents Maui, is currently running for the U.S. Senate and was born in Japan, finds great hope in the appropriation.
“There is a misconception that Japanese Americans in Hawaii were not interned during World War II,” said Hirono in a statement concerning the grants. “The fact is the opposite is true. Some 1,800 Japanese Americans from Hawaii were sent to internment camps in the islands or the U.S. mainland. What remains of these camp sites reminds us of how wartime hysteria led to the incarceration of thousands of innocent American citizens based on race. The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii’s project ‘Just’ Youth: Taking the Lessons of Hawaii’s WWII Confinement Sites to Our High Schools’ will share how civil rights and personal freedoms were lost resulting in the internment of Japanese-Americans across the mainland U.S. and Hawaii. Mahalo to the JCCH and the U.S. Department of the Interior for working to preserve these sites and stories to ensure those dark times will never be repeated.”
You can see more about the projects that will receive money by checking out nps.gov/hps/hpg/JACS/index.html.