Protesters upset over name change for park

While dozens of people gathered to celebrate the renaming of Waihee Ball Park to the Richard “Pablo” Caldito Sr. Park on Thursday afternoon, a handful of local residents stood just outside the park waving signs against the dedication.

“I have nothing personal against him (Caldito) or his family, but I do have a problem with the name (change),” said Waihee resident Kaniloa Kamaunu, who was among the protesters Thursday. “The name of this town is Waihee, which represents all ethnic groups. All of a sudden, now (it) only represents one.”

The late Caldito, who died on July 25, 2011, at the age of 98, grew up in Waihee and went on to become the first Filipino-American to be elected to public office in the U.S. after he won a seat on the Board of Supervisors, the predecessor to the Maui County Council, in 1956.

The county had started the process to rename the park after Caldito two years ago when then-County Council Chairman Danny Mateo introduced the measure. The proposal has since been heard at a number of public meetings, both in committee and before the full County Council. Officials said there was no opposition voiced at any of the meetings, and the measure was unanimously approved by the council on first reading in July. The final approval was unanimous on Aug. 23rd.

Mayor Alan Arakawa, who was at the dedication ceremony Thursday, said he was “irritated” by the handful of protesters.

“If they are so small-minded that they cannot accept someone who dedicated his life and who deserves to be respected, then they don’t deserve the time of day,” Arakawa told The Maui News at the dedication ceremony Thursday. “This is somebody who worked day in and day out for decades, his whole life, and they come out and disrespect that. That’s not Hawaiian culture.”

Arakawa called the display “showboating at its worst” and said he was “ashamed for” the near-dozen protesters who stood outside the park gates waving signs and shouting during the dedication. One sign read: “It’s Waihee Valley, not Caldito Valley!”

Much of the grumbling stemmed from allegations that the county did not do its “due diligence” in gathering feedback from Waihee residents, who some argued are not represented just by the Waihee Community Association.

“It’s only a handful of people making a decision for the community. They never asked the people of Waihee who were born and raised here,” Marcial Basbas, who lives across the street from the park, said. She said that she did voice concerns to Caldito’s son, Richard Caldito Jr., about the community being unhappy with the renaming of the park. Additionally, she said she sent an email to Council Member Mike Victorino before any decision was made.

An attempt to reach Victorino by phone late Thursday night was unsuccessful.

Basbas began circulating a petition against the renaming of the park earlier this week and has already garnered more than 120 signatures, she said.

Kalani Caldito, Richard “Pablo” Caldito’s grandson, said he was happy to see his grandfather’s name on the park but “wish(ed) it was under different circumstances.”

“My grandfather used to mow the lawn at this park; when HC&S (Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.) was going to plow it under to build a cane field, he helped stop it,” Kalani Caldito said.

Caldito said it wasn’t a matter of Filipino against Hawaiian, as he himself was part Filipino and part Hawaiian.

“I really wish it was under different circumstances, but I understand their side too, because they feel they’re being force-fed this,” he said.

But the public had numerous opportunities to voice their concerns to the county over the past two years but failed to do so, according to Michelle del Rosario, chairwoman of the county Commission on Naming Streets, Parks and Facilities.

“There was no opposition when this was going through the process,” del Rosario said. “This is a done deal at this point. If they want to change it, they would have to file an application for a name change from Caldito back to Waihee, and that will be judged based on the testimony given to us then.”

* Eileen Chao can be reached at

* This article includes a correction from the original published on Friday, Oct. 18, 2013. The Maui County Council unanimously gave final approval Aug. 23 to a bill renaming the Waihee Ball Park as the Richard “Pablo” Caldito Sr. Park. The story was incorrect about when the council took final action on the park’s name change. The Maui News apologizes for the error.