HONOLULU (KHON2) — Sadness, frustration and pride are among the many feelings Maui Mayor Richard Bissen has been feeling on a daily basis.
However, he said there’s no time for exhaustion.
KHON2 spoke with him one-on-one and asked him if the gravity of the situation, now one week old, has sunk in.
“No. I think many of us feel so fortunate for those we’ve been able to reunite with our families. I can’t imagine the ones that are still looking for families. That’s really our main focus right now, so we don’t want to relax until we have gotten everybody at least some closure. That’s our main focus,” said Mayor Bissen.
The mayor also spoke about the immediate reaction to the fires. Not by government, but by private citizens.
But for all the good, the mayor recognizes there is frustration. That the government could not meet the moment for everybody.
“My first frustration is having to close the road, so many powerlines are down, so much toxicity at the site,” the Mayor said. “So the biggest frustration has been from the community getting in. And from the administration side, is trying to open it in a way where people can respect the clean up, before the clean up actually, the recovery of the remains. Eventually getting rid of the toxic material, hazardous material and then of course, allowing us to get people back to their properties.”
And when it comes to accusations the county, the state, even the federal government has been anything less than honest and forthcoming?
“I understand people are frustrated. I understand people try to sensationalize this tragedy. I understand there are opportunists. we try to use this as a platform to speak out about something that might be frustrating them,” replied Bissen. “The part I do think people are talking about is they weren’t getting communication. We were putting it out, but it wasn’t being received. Clearly we understand there was no power, no transmission, no internet, no email. Should we have gone out with megaphones and trucks and advised people? Maybe that would’ve worked.”
And when it comes to the future of Lahaina, long after his term as mayor is over.
“I see opportunity, I see hope, I see a new reinvigorated town. This is a discussion that has to happen with the folks that are from Lahaina,” he said. Thankfully I think it’ll all be built around the banyan tree that is still here. So we will have a constant reminder of Lahaina as it was. But opportunity is what I see.”