Maui Mayor Faces Immense Pressure After Statement On Those Missing

Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen faced public criticism at a recent press conference in response to the deadly wildfires that continue to ravage the region. Although the fires are mostly contained, the death count stands at 114, and 850 remain missing.

Asked at the press conference about the specifics of the missing, and how many of them may be children, Bissen hesitated and expressed uncertainty – leading to a difficult exchange between the mayor, reporters, and two unidentified men.

The men, one dressed in a gray shirt and the other in blue, publicly challenged Mayor Bissen and expressed their displeasure with his “dismal response” to the crisis. The man in the gray shirt took a pointedly critical stance, thumbing his nose at the mayor with comments like “you have been the worst mayor we could have ever possibly imagined” and “this is the most dismal response we’ve ever had.”

The mayor, initially accusatory of the two men, claiming that they were deliberately spoiling the press conference for the rest of the reporters, eventually conceded and allowed the men to continue but held them firmly in check.

The press conference is just one in a series of recent events from the tumultuous past months, culminating in November’s election wherein Maui County voters resoundingly elected Mayor Bissen to office. The election saw the Mayor take a resounding 62% of the vote from the incumbent Michael Victorino.

In concert with Bissen’s election, a new proposal regarding water control passed with an overwhelming 75% of the vote. The aim of the proposal is to create “community water authorities” that will manage water collection and delivery systems to ensure a long-term reliable supply of water for domestic and agricultural needs.

Though the region continues to grapple with the tragedy of the deadly fire, activists, residents, and concerned individuals around the state remain resolute in their mission to hold the government accountable. Mayor Bissen, moving forward with his focus on the “future and future generations” of Maui County, must now face mounting questions of accountability if he is to garner the trust of those he is sworn to serve.

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