Maui County

Maui’s mayor says
Lingle will
come through
for the Valley Isle

He says he's worried about the economy
and its effect on Maui

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa wasn't shy about reminding Gov. Linda Lingle that her political roots were planted in Valley Isle soil.

"I know she'll come through for us. She always has," Arakawa told several hundred people during his inauguration yesterday evening at the Iron Maehara Baseball Stadium in Wailuku.

As Arakawa begins his first four-year term, he knows there are troubling economic winds blowing and he may need all the help he can get if the storm comes.

While his speech was optimistic, Arakawa acknowledged to the media later that he was "very apprehensive" about the world economy and its impact on the Valley Isle.

Political observers noted that Arakawa faces a number of challenges, including preparing a balanced county budget that would likely be hurt by a U.S. war with Iraq.

"How do you prepare for that kind of thing?" said Marsha Wienert, executive director of the Maui Visitors Bureau. "We're all very edgy."

Wienert said while visitor volume on Maui appears good for the first quarter of this year, it could change quickly if the United States goes to war. She noted that a recent survey indicated that more than 50 percent of American travelers are considering traveling by land on vacation because of fears of flying and potential terrorist attacks. Arakawa said part of his economic plan calls for no tax increases and the promotion of more business activity, especially agriculture.

Observers say another task facing Arakawa will be balancing economic growth with environmental preservation.

Arakawa was endorsed by environmental candidate Rob Parsons during the general election, and some observers believe it contributed to the mayor's victory.

He has proposed creating two additional deputy positions, including a position for Parsons as a second deputy director in public works in charge of environmental issues. Arakawa also plans to appoint former deputy parks supervisor Allen Shishido to the second deputy parks job. Shishido was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the state House 9th District, representing Kahului and Paia.

Arakawa said he will ask the Council to fund the two positions.

Dain Kane, selected yesterday as Maui County Council chairman, said it is too early to tell whether the county will have to increase property tax rates, and he is waiting for revenue projections, scheduled to be completed in April.

Kane also said he is undecided on whether to support funding the two deputy director positions.

The Democrats, including Kane, still control the Council. The mayoral race is nonpartisan, but Arakawa has run as a Republican in past races.

Arakawa said he has worked with many Council members previously and does not see a problem in working with them again.

Lingle, who served as Maui mayor for eight years, told Arakawa that Council members are able to take hard positions, but the life of the mayor is not the same.

"As mayor your job is more complicated, and it's hard because you can't please everybody all the time," she said.

County of Maui

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