Arakawa, Front St. closure for Halloween subject of protest
The Maui News
By HARRY EAGAR - Staff Writer (firstname.lastname@example.org), The Maui News
WAILUKU - About two dozen kupuna and supporters held a sign-waving protest outside the Kalana O Maui building on Tuesday morning to scold Mayor Alan Arakawa for remarks they said he made in a private meeting concerning the Halloween plans for Front Street.
Protest organizer Ke'eau-moku Kapu said Arakawa had told his group "kupuna don't matter" during the meeting. "Kupuna do matter," Kapu said.
The protest also was designed to reinforce the group's objections to plans for closing Front Street on Halloween for a revival of festivities, which were curtailed beginning in 2008.
The event had drawn as many as 30,000 people (estimated) until it was highly modified in response to complaints from the Cultural Resources Commission. Now that it is back with county sponsorship and a closed road, Kapu said he thinks there could be twice as many people this year, maybe three times as many.
Five groups endorsed Tuesday's protest: Na Kupuna O Maui, Kahalawai O Honokohau, Hui Pono Ike Kanawai, Na Ohana O Wai'hee and Na'aaikane O Maui.
Ewalani Shim, who said she belongs to several of those groups and many other Hawaiian organizations, came to the protest holding a sign reading "Kupuna do matter." Her niece Mattie Kaeo said: "Put it somewhere else." Suggestions include Kaanapali Beach, Paia and Haiku. "The island is big," Kaeo said.
Kapu said the protest and objections are not only by and for Hawaiians, though. The safety concerns apply to "the general public."
The safety conflict works two ways. Revelers like the street closed so they can promenade without dodging cars on the two-lane road. Kapu is worried about an hourslong shutdown that would impede emergency vehicles from reaching the congested area.
County Economic Development Coordinator Teena Rasmussen contrived a revamped celebration that avoided infringing on the kuleana of the Cultural Resources Commission, although Kapu disagreed that it did avoid the collision.
"We will be bringing our concerns to Mayor Alan Ara-kawa to either mediate or mitigate a transparent process that will allow for true dialogue with the host culture of Hawaii in setting parameters and stopping the exploitation of our customs for profit," Kapu said.
Arakawa had his regular Tuesday radio broadcast at the same time as the demonstration, so he did not attend.
Later in the day, he made a statement regarding the protest: "Wherever I go I keep hearing about how people appreciate the fact that we've brought Halloween back to Lahaina. This is a fantastic opportunity to have a safe, fun and family-friendly event for locals and tourists. Everyone from hotel workers to business owners to community leaders are very excited to see Halloween back on Front Street.
"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.
"I have an obligation to listen to the entire community and not just one group. And 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."
* Harry Eagar can be reached at email@example.com.
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