Lokelani school principal: Name in need of input

WAILUKU – Testifiers for and against naming Kihei high school after the late Congresswoman Patsy Mink spoke before the Maui County Council on Friday, with those opposed saying that more community input is needed and those in favor praising the former U.S. representative’s strength and accomplishments.

“We just don’t think this particular venue is right,” said Lokelani Intermediate School Principal Donna Whitford, who said that her concerns had nothing to do with Mink personally.

The community, the schools and students should be considered when naming a school, Whitford said.

A bill pending before the state Legislature would require the school to be named in Mink’s honor, but the measure has not taken into account the South Maui community.

Whitford said that she didn’t have a gripe against council members who were reviewing a resolution of their own to support naming the school after Mink.

Whitford, currently on sick leave from her job as school principal, said that in her 40 years of teaching she remembers how people were shocked when the Kihei intermediate school was given the “Lokelani” name without community input.

Lokelani, according to the Hawaiian Dictionary by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert, means the common small red rose that has since been substituted for the pink rose. Whitford said “Lokelani” was not a fitting name. “There are no roses growing on our dry . . . lands” in Kihei.

Jim Smith testified in support of affixing Mink’s name to the new school. He spoke of Mink’s intelligence, tenacity and truthfulness while in Congress.

“She went to bat for anyone,” he said.

On Friday, council members referred a resolution urging the state Legislature and Gov. Neil Abercrombie to support naming the high school after Mink to its Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.

The resolution was introduced by Council Member Riki Hokama, who is also the Policy Committee chairman.

On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee recommended passage of Senate Bill 2446, introduced by Oahu Sen. Michelle Kidani, which would name the Kihei high school the “Patsy Takemoto Mink High School.” The bill was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. A companion bill is pending before the House but no hearings have been held for that measure.

Lehuanani Huddleston-Hafoka, who attended both the old Kihei School and Kihei Elementary School, submitted written testimony to the Senate requesting the high school be named Kihei High School because that the name represents the area.

She spoke highly of Mink and asked that the high school gymnasium or a future stadium be named after Mink instead.

“With the utmost respect to Patsy Mink and her family and to our public officials who do so much for us, please reconsider the name of our intended Kihei High School to be just that: Kihei High School,” Hafoka wrote.

Evan Nash, a Maui High School student who submitted testimony to the Senate, supported the measure. Mink was a 1944 graduate of the old Maui High School in Hamakuapoko.

“Congresswoman Mink not only helped students in Hawaii but also helped students nationwide,” he wrote. “I feel that we should especially honor Congresswoman Mink because she was born and raised here in Maui and continues to be a great inspiration and role model for girls and young women in our community.”

Mink was an author of Title IX, the landmark federal legislation that brought gender equity to women’s athletics and sports in schools.

In other business Friday, council members:

* Adopted two resolutions totaling around $23 million to pay for a Nov. 30 arbitration decision and award for firefighters, battalion chiefs and assistant chiefs. The money will cover pay raises and fringe and health benefits for a little more than 300 firefighters for fiscal years 2012 through 2017.

* Approved on first reading a bill to appropriate $1.15 million for this year’s fiscal year budget for salaries, raises and fringe benefits for some employees in the departments of Environmental Management, Finance, Liquor Control, Public Works and Water Supply.

* Approved on first reading a bill for $864,000 for the solid waste management fund for this current fiscal year to assist with the costs of landfill operations, refuse collection costs and help the department comply with environmental regulations.

On second-and-final reading council members approved:

* A bill increasing funding for the Lanai Community Health Center infrastructure project by $156,728 and raising the Community Development Block Grant Program Administration appropriation by $14,316. Funds for the center will be used for infrastructure development and funds for the CDBG administration will be used for bargaining-unit contracts.

* A bill increasing funding for the Department of Parks and Recreation Aquatics Program by $87,000, which will be used to cover personnel costs to open county pools on designated county holidays.

* A bill appropriating $190,000 for the design and construction of the septic system replacement project at the Hana Ball Park.

* A bill for $48,000 to assist with the wind turbine project at the Central Maui Landfill.

* A bill clarifying how the percentage of owners or lessees protesting a change in zoning is to be calculated.

* A bill amending hotel districts in Maui County Code to address height restrictions and lot coverage specifications.

* Two bills to authorize Mayor Alan Arakawa to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the state Department of Health to settle alleged violations at both the Central Maui Landfill and the Molokai landfill in 2011. The county will pay $50,000 for the Central Maui Landfill issue dealing with leachate (liquid that moves through the landfill) and $20,000 for Molokai, where litter allegedly spread outside the landfill. The county agreed to perform approved supplemental environmental projects to mitigate the possibility of future violations at the Central Maui Landfill.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.