Everybody is wrong

To say there’s some friction between Mayor Alan Arakawa and the Maui County Council is somewhat akin to saying there’s a bit of antipathy between Barack Obama and John Boehner.

Ever since the mayor knocked down the Old Wailuku Post Office during a “renovation” of the building, things have not been too chummy between the administration and the council. Some members of the council claimed the renovation money was misspent – the mayor should have come back and formally requested a change for the project.

The administration countered that the council was advised of the plan to tear the building down. In the end, the mayor apologized for not going the formal route – but that did not silence his council critics. They demanded a full-scale investigation and are apparently still waiting for the county auditor to conduct one for them.

(Note: During this period, The Maui News became tangentially involved in this fight when we asked the state’s Office of Information Practices to investigate if an executive session the council conducted last August to discuss “strategies and options” on the post office controversy was legal under the state’s Sunshine Law. The council refused to turn over unredacted minutes of that meeting to OIP and sued to block it from issuing an opinion on the session. That suit is still pending.)

The most recent dust-up between administration and council concerns the county budget for fiscal year 2014-2015.

The mayor initially proposed a budget that called for a double-digit increase in spending. We now believe he proposed those original numbers to pressure the state Legislature to fully restore the counties’ share of the transient accommodations tax. Part, but not all, of the tax was restored. The mayor announced the county could live with the new amount.

The council then did what it is supposed to do – review the mayor’s proposal and pass a budget. It passed a $604 million budget – some $18.5 million lower than the mayor’s original proposal.

Everything appeared copacetic – until the mayor announced line-item vetoes of eight projects in the budget, saying they were not included in the bond authorization bill. The council countered that initial planning without bond authorization is standard practice in the county and overrode the vetoes unanimously.

We’re not sure what greater purpose is served by this overt animosity. The hubbub over the post office is overblown – council members knew what was happening. On the other hand, though, we are baffled by the mayor’s vetoes.

The vetoes – and the overrides – have turned up the tension.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.