KAHULUI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - In his annual State of the County on Thursday, Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa discussed an ambitious plan to bolster economic development, expand environmental protections, and address a dearth of affordable housing on the island.
But in a sign of Arakawa's growing unpopularity among some groups, the takeaway from the night might have been more about the protests outside his speech than about what he actually says.
By about 5 p.m., more than an hour before the start of Arakawa's address, at least 100 protesters were holding signs outside the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. The crowd steadily grew as the night wore on.
Core to their concerns: How Arakawa has handled repairs in Iao Valley since a major flood in September.
Near the close of Arakawa's address, he briefly mentioned the issue by thanking those who worked to repair the flooded valley. But he didn't acknowledge the ongoing controversy.
"We're very upset," protester Tiare Lawrence said. "We're very upset that funding was spent inappropriately. The misuse and mismanagement of emergency funds alone is enough for this man to be impeached, honestly."
In February, Arakawa set off a firestorm of criticism from Native Hawaiians activists, practitioners and lawmakers for dismissing concerns about the destruction of sacred rocks in Iao Valley.
"The monarchy, starting with Kamehameha ... declared Christianity the religion of Hawaii," Arakawa told Hawaii News Now. "In Christianity, if I remember the 10 Commandments correctly, thou shall have no false god before me. There are no sacred rocks in that religion."
Last week, Arakawa apologized to Native Hawaiian practitioners for saying there's "no such thing as sacred rocks" in reaction to community concerns over the the county's movement and destruction of boulders in the area.
But the mayor has said he isn't saying sorry for using boulders removed from Iao Valley during repair work.
"What I won't apologize for is for standing up for our county workers who put in long hours trying to protect our community," said Arakawa, in an editorial in Maui News. "I won't apologize for trying to help the residents of Iao Valley and those living along our flood control. I won't apologize for using the same boulders from Iao Valley to repair our public infrastructure."