VIDEO: Mayor Will Not Be Spooked By Lahaina Halloween Opponents
By Wendy Osher
[flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOqVTYpHMbc /] Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa defended his position on proceeding with Halloween Festivities in Lahaina this year, despite criticism from a contingent of cultural advocates and kupuna who have raised a list of concerns including cultural activities in the Historic District, and transparency in the permitting process.
“We’ve worked very hard to make sure that all the various issues that have come before us have been addressed,” said Mayor Arakawa, who noted that while some are speaking out against it, many more, he said, have expressed gratitude for his efforts to bring the high-profile Halloween event back to Maui.
“When we announced that we were going to be looking at the reinstatement of Halloween, the entire business community in Lahaina got behind it and applauded. We’ve been working with many members of the community since we’ve come in as an administration to try and make Halloween work… a survey done showed literally millions of dollars were being lost because of Halloween not being there,” said Mayor Arakawa.
The event has drawn crowds in the tens of thousands, bringing an annual economic boost that many businesses were dependent on, said Arakawa.
With the crowds, also came concerns of safety, which the mayor said has been addressed through coordination with the Maui Police Department to assign officers, and supplement police with adequate staffing.
“There is no time in Lahaina that is safer than during the Halloween, period,” said the mayor. “I mean, when you look at it and you look at a police officer virtually every 15 feet, you’ve got a police officer standing there –you’re not seeing the rowdiness that would normally occur,” he said.
Mayor Arakawa said he worked within the parameters of the permitting process to remove triggers that would have required a review by the Cultural Resources Commission.
“Unfortunately, in Lahaina, the Cultural Resources Commission has taken it upon themselves to try and dictate the mores of the entire community, well beyond the scope of what they are assigned to do,” said Mayor Arakawa.
By removing activities from Banyan Tree Park and reducing the height of the stage, he said, the county no longer was required to seek approval from the CRC.
“When a few people within the commission just decided that they would use this to grandstand their positions, and take it well beyond the authority of a commission, we decided what we would do is we would work with the community groups there, with Lahaina Town Action Committee, with the businesses–we’ve met with kupuna council and many others, and have taken their suggestions,” said the mayor.
The mayor’s office today said his comments from discussion with kupuna about the event were taken out of context and released the following statement:
“I value our kupuna’s input, which is why we had a meeting with them earlier this year. During that meeting I encouraged members to not only consider their interests but also that of the younger generation as well. In other words, I asked everyone to keep an open mind. Unfortunately what was actually said has since been twisted around by certain individuals.”
Mayor Arakawa said his obligation includes listening to the entire community and not just one group.
“A vast majority of the community – including other kupuna – have told me that closing Front Street for Halloween celebrations would be a positive thing to do. Again, we will take precautions to make sure that this is a safe and fun, family-friendly event,” he said.
“We are going to make this one of the fun events–not a cultural affront,” said Mayor Arakawa, who pointed to other activities that are permitted around the island.
“We have parades in Makawao; we have parades in Kihei, we shut off Market Street in Waikuku. We’ve been doing this for decades, and decades and it’s only because a few people who want to be able to judge what the moral basis of a community should be, that they are trying to maneuver things around and we’re not going to allow that to happen,” he said.
In terms of cultural respect and understanding in Lahaina and the community as a whole, Mayor Arakawa said, “As mayor, a former council member, and someone who has a lot of relatives in Lahaina, we’ve gone out of our way to try and make sure the Hawaiian culture is being respected and that we are being able to develop areas of cultural significance in a very, very large way.”
He pointed to the work going on to resurrect Moku’ula, as well as the efforts to control activity within the Banyan area throughout the year.
“We’ve [worked] very hard to make sure that the return of the Hawaiian culture is upfront and up-center for everyone to be able to enjoy and to respect. The historic value of the monarchy is there in Lahaina, and we have been working very diligently with the various groups to make sure that that is being respected and rebuilt,” said Mayor Arakawa.
He said, “It’s not only good for tourism and good for the economics, it’s also good for our community to be able to understand some of the Hawaiian culture, and we’re working very hard to try and do that. That should not be lost in the discussion of the Halloween parade,” said the mayor.
In an effort to deal with some of the other issues that have been brought up, including racy costumes, Mayor Arakawa said, “We’re asking everyone to please not under-dress but to wear appropriate attire and to respect the fact that there are varying ages of participants there.”
“We’re asking everybody to calm it down a little bit, but have a lot of fun. The idea is for everyone to be able to show off their imagination and their ability to be creative, and at the same time, be tasteful,” he said.
“We’re very supportive of the Halloween that’s occurring and we’re hoping that everyone who comes there will truly have a great event,” said the mayor.
*** For video and comments from opponents of the Halloween in Lahaina event, visit the link to our post sharing sentiments from those who have expressed concerns over the October 31 festivities.