People often tell me that Maui politics are completely different from the mainland, and it’s easy to see that when you come across something like Mayor Alan Arakawa’s proposed 2007 county budget, which he presented publicly for the first time today. Now we all know Arakawa’s a Republican, so it comes as no surprise that his budget offers a bunch of tax cuts. What’s a Republican without tax cuts? Anyway, Arakawa wants property taxes—no joke on an island where real estate values are boiling over—slashed a whopping 39 percent. But get this—unlike Republicans in, say, Washington, D.C., Arakawa says his tax cuts are possible because of the expected budget surplus. Surplus?! What happened to George W. Bush’s cut-taxes-when-times-are-good/cut-taxes-when-times-are-bad philosophy? And what’s the deal with Arakawa’s budget being 20 percent bigger than last year’s? He’s got millions in new spending packed in there—community centers, fire stations, civic centers, road extensions—even possible Upcountry bus service, which we first told you about last week (see “Missing the Bus,” March 16, 2006). Cutting taxes because of a budget surplus and increasing spending on badly needed community projects—some Republican Arakawa is.
THURSDAY, March 16
The County Council gets to spend the next two months thrashing out Arakawa’s budget numbers, and I think there’s no question it’ll go smoothly. I mean, so what that two council members—Charmaine Tavares and Dain Kane—will be actively campaigning for Arakawa’s job? So what that Riki Hokama is still relatively new in his position as council chairman, and still feeling out his power relative to the mayor’s office? And so what that, for the Democratic Party as a whole, 2006 has extremely high stakes where the U.S. Congress is concerned? Everybody loves budget discussions—in fact, Tavares has already pretty much thrown in the towel—and she’s running against Arakawa for mayor. “I agree with the mayor,” she’s quoted as saying in today’s Maui News. “[W]hen we have good times, we should use those funds to invest.” Seriously, though—someone really ought to sit Tavares down and explain to her that if she agrees too much with the incumbent during an election campaign, people might start asking why she’s running in the first place.
FRIDAY, March 17
Well, looks like yet another whale got plowed by some boat. For those of you at home keeping score, boats have so far struck five whales this season in Maui waters. One of those boats even belonged to the Pacific Whale Foundation. Apparently, one of its whale watching boats hit a whale that it apparently wasn’t watching close enough. Anyway, the score stands at five for human race, zero for the whale race or species or society or whatever they are.
SATURDAY, March 18
So I’m hanging out at a Westside establishment with a buddy of mine (yes, we were drinking—no, we weren’t drunk) and the old Ray Parker, Jr. song “Ghostbusters” starts playing. He and I are carrying on about college basketball, the flooding on Kauai, how President Bush’s longtime domestic policy adviser just got arrested for repeated refund fraud at Target (go ahead and look it up!) or something like that when it hits me—“Ghostbusters” is an anti-lynching song. Hold on—hear me out on this one. If I recall the lyrics correctly, and I like to think that I do, the song starts off with “If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood/Who ya gonna call? (Ghostbusters).” What’s stranger in your neighborhood than a bunch of Ku Klux Klansmen running around terrorizing people? Dressed in white sheets, wouldn’t they bear at least a passing resemblance to ghosts? And remember the old Ghostbusters logo with the ghost? You look carefully at that ghost, and it’s suddenly pretty obvious that it’s a guy wearing a sheet. I’m telling you, the whole thing is about “busting” the Klan, people! And no, I wasn’t high, either.
SUNDAY, March 19
So state Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Peter Young says there’s need for people on Maui to worry about dams breaking the way they did on Kauai. Hmm, could it be because it’s pretty much only rained hard one day (that would be yesterday) in the last six months? That being said, the Honolulu Advertiser recently published a list of “high hazard” dams, and four of them are on our lovely island. And guess what? They’re all old earthen dams that date to the sugar plantation days. According to today’s Maui News, there’s one in Wahikuli of indeterminate ownership, two in Pu’ukoli’i that belong to the Ka’anapali Development Corporation and one in Paia that belongs to Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar. Officials with both companies say they dutifully inspect their dams all the time, though one of the Ka’anapali dams is empty right now. As far as the story with that fourth dam—the Wahikuli one that no one seems to own—the story didn’t say when (if?) that one gets inspected.
MONDAY, March 20
As if we don’t have enough to worry about right now—dams breaking all over the place, whales getting whacked, everybody and his uncle running for mayor—the Honolulu Advertiser tells us that Bird Flu is on its way, perhaps arriving “on the wings of a Pacific golden plover or some other migratory bird returning from arctic nesting grounds.” Looks like we’re doing another SARS scare, like the one that proved so much fun back in 2003, except this time we really could all die. At this point the disease is still only transmissible from bird to animal, so as long as we don’t eat any infected animal or play catch with its severed head, we should be good to go.
TUESDAY, March 21
The war on whales apparently taking care of itself, we can now safely turn our attention to smokers. According to the Associated Press, there’s a bill moving through the state House right now that would make it illegal to smoke in bars, airports, bowling alleys, art galleries, enclosed portions of stadiums and coin-op laundries. Coin-op laundries! Man, that’s harsh.
Anthony Pignataro has been eating food off and on for the last 33 years. MTW