So much for the world not ending last week. I know. What a bummer.
Can you think of a better way to fix climate change, the rise of dangerous fungi and antibiotic resistant bacteria, soul-crushing poverty, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, the ruinous drug war, Michael Bay movies, government debt, ocean acidification, avian flu, school shootings, traffic fatalities, targeted drone assassinations, Katy Perry songs, corporate crime, garbage patches, tsunami devastation, cyber stalking, cancer, unemployment, mindless service industry jobs, social media terms of service, Rush Limbaugh and paper cuts? It’s quick, cost-effective and easy.
But alas, our society apparently has to solve these issues (all of which, save the tsunamis, we had a hand in causing) on our own. And if that seems overwhelming then, well, join the club.
Better to focus on home–on our little Maui County. Just step outside for a moment, look around, take a nice, cleansing breath, and see just what a mess we’ve made of this wonderful paradise. I jest, somewhat, though 2012 did have its share of shake-ups, scares and just plain stupidity.
To make looking back over the year just a bit less painful, we’ve organized our annual Year in Review into a series of lists highlighting 2012’s biggest stories, and biggest disappointments. Given the record-breaking year of traffic fatalities in the county, we’ve also decided to list the names of every person killed on the road in Maui County during 2012.
We made it through another year, and that’s good cause to celebrate on New Years, but please be extra careful. Worlds can end for individuals, too.
TOP FIVE CRISES
5. Monkeypod tree destruction
Put simply, there were four very large Monkeypod trees on South Kihei Road. The County of Maui wanted to cut them down because they were damaging nearby sidewalks, creating a hazard for pedestrians (and a potential liability for the county). But residents rallied around the trees. Let’s just say a lot of trees died to provide enough newsprint to save those four trees, which are, apparently still there, thanks to the Kihei Community Association.
4. LC goes after Kihei Triangle (again)
Facebook was lit up for weeks in the spring over this one. As it had a few years ago, the Maui County Department of Liquor Control started making noises about bringing the hammer down on Kihei Kalama Village (aka, the Barmuda Triangle). The issue, as then, was excessive noise. So the LC proposed banning all live entertainment after 10pm. Licensees packed the hearing room. Commissioners went back and forth, and ultimately did what they do they best: they punted. Later, when Lulu’s closed, the whole issue seemed to die away quietly.
3. Proposed Olowalu Town
The big money in West Maui (in this case, Bill Frampton and Dave Ward) wants to build 1,500 homes in Olowalu, which is currently very small and very quaint. It’s also home to some of the most unique coral reefs in the entire state, and marine biologists are saying that much development won’t be kind to the corals at all. It’s still in the approval process, and is shaping up to be the most controversial island development in years.
2. Cane burning
Not sure why cane burning, which has been causing health and respiratory problems for residents on Maui for generations, suddenly sparked high controversy this summer, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision not to include cane smoke in its study of haze in Haleakala National Park probably didn’t help matters. In any case, a whole lotta people on both sides of the issue got really hot and bothered, which should certainly flare up again next year when Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar starts burning their cane fields again.
1. Kihei Mega Malls
Very long story short, Eclipse Development from Orange County, California has a bunch of land mauka of Piilani Highway in Kihei that’s currently zoned Light Industrial. If they get their way, they will build a whole mess of big retail outlets there, which aren’t exactly “light industrial” land uses. Anyway, the whole island from Mokulele to Makena is buzzing over this, and it won’t end anytime soon.
TOP FIVE SCANDALS
5. MauiTime Publisher arrested for photographing Maui cops
In late November, the Maui Police Department started Operation RECON, a massive effort on Haleakala Highway targeting cars with illegal window tints and trucks with oversized tires. Stopping near some officers to find out why traffic was so backed up, MauiTime Publisher Tommy Russo was arrested after trying to film the officers. We can argue about Russo’s attitude when confronting the officers, but his right to film them is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
4. Wailuku Main Street Association
After years of news reports and stories about how the Wailuku Main Street Association (WMSA)–long a darling of the Maui County Council–was allegedly mismanaging county taxpayer-funded grant money, this year the state Attorney General’s office finally took a legal crow bar to the nonprofit. It’s investigation, which remains ongoing, has uncovered nauseating evidence that WMSA has made a mockery of terms like “community” and “accountability.”
3. Justin Dobbs’ lawsuit against the County of Maui Liquor Control Dept.
In October, former Maui County Liquor Control Officer Justin Dobbs filed a lawsuit against the county, alleging that he was terminated for being a whistleblower who had attempted to inform his LC superiors of corruption within the department. Dobbs lawsuit named a whole bunch of names–both of LC officers allegedly taking freebies and goodies and of establishments (regular and hostess) that were apparently handing out said goodies.
2. Wailuku shanty town condemned
There are about a hundred people living in hand-built shacks on about 34 acres of land (owned by developer Stanford Carr) in Wailuku near Happy Valley. In the first weeks of the year the county brought the hammer down on Carr for a long series of alleged code violations, but the ultimate fate of the poor, largely Hawaiian people who squatted on the land was left unknown. Making matters much worse, unscrupulous types claiming to be kanaka royalty were pretending to represent many of the squatters, when in fact they were merely taking what little money the people had. It was ugly all around.
1. Convicted meth dealer/Maui fire fighter admits selling drugs to other fire fighters
On July 11, The Maui News reported that former Maui County fire fighter Juanito Dudoit was convicted of selling methamphetamine. But in the story, the paper revealed that Dudoit had also admitted to selling the drugs on the fire station property itself, and to various colleagues “in engine, hazmat and rescue crews” of the fire department. Who exactly those fire personnel are, and whether they’re still on the job (and allegedly taking meth) remains a mystery.
TOP FIVE CELEBRITY STORIES
5. Doobie Brother parties with Congresswoman Mazie Hirono
Who knew that Patrick Simmons of the Doobie Brothers was a supporter of up-and-coming left-of-center U.S. Senate candidates (now Senator-elects) like Mazie Hirono? Apparently, superstar music producer Shep Gordon knew, because in February he hosted both of them at his pad for a little fundraiser. Judging by the election results, Simmons seems to know how to spend his political capital.
4. Mick Fleetwood opens restaurant in Lahaina
In the summer, Mick Fleetwood, drummer for Fleetwood Mac, took the vacant old Lahaina Store Building on Front Street and turned it into Fleetwood’s on Front Street, a sprawling restaurant featuring a rooftop bar with live entertainment nightly and a sprawling menu (which includes, I kid you not, a one-pound burger that comes with cheddar cheese, applewood bacon, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and a custom Harley Davidson motorcycle, all for $32,274.81) that’s orchestrated by Chef Scott Leibfried of Hell’s Kitchen.
3. Shane Victorino traded to Dodgers, then Red Sox
When the Major Leagues started their season in April, Maui’s own future Hall of Famer Shane Victorino was a Philadelphia Phillie, as he’d been since 2005. But in the summer, he was suddenly sporting Dodger Blue. This lasted until mid December when Victorino (who wasn’t apparently happy in L.A.), got himself traded to Boston.
2. Oprah announces she will start organic farm
When Oprah Winfrey, the Queen Of All Media, who already owns a bunch of land, a B&B and a road on our fair island, announces that she’s opening an organic farm here, people listen.
1. Larry Ellison buys Lanai
Yes, the billionaire who runs Oracle – a baller who collects houses, cars, yachts and ex-wives and is one of the Grand Poobahs of the Internets–now owns 98 percent of the island of Lanai. And so far, residents seem to love the idea.
TOP FIVE DUMB THINGS MAUI COUNTY COUNCIL DID
5. Approved another $3.5 million grant for the Maui Visitors Bureau
I know they do this every year, without fuss or question. But it’s still corporate welfare, given with dubious reasoning and accountability.
4. Approved a mere $100,000 to fix War Memorial Gym
When Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa asked for $21.5 for a new gym complex that would replace War Memorial, which dates to the 1950s, the County Council responded with just $100,000. A few weeks later somebody hit a fire hydrant in Maui Lani, and flooded out the gym, causing an estimated $200,000 in damage. Do the math. Oh wait, on second thought, don’t bother. It’s not pretty.
3. Supported HB 2742
In February, County Council members Bob Carroll, Danny Mateo, Joe Pontanilla and Mike White wrote letters to the state House Judiciary Committee, saying they supported HB 2742, which would have exempted county councils from the state’s open meetings law (known as the “Sunshine Law”). Mateo, who wrote the most detailed letter, said their reason was that under the pesky Sunshine Law, “council members have little or no opportunity to communicate outside of meetings to find areas of agreement and avoid misunderstandings”–exactly the kinds of secret meetings the whole open meetings law was designed to avoid. Needless to say, HB 2742 went nowhere.
2. Approved a drastically weakened Maui Island Plan
To be fair, the very fact that this council managed to pass anything in their two-year term labeled “Maui Island Plan”–a feat the previous council failed to do–should be applauded. Too bad they decided the way to do was by stripping out virtually all of the smart growth protections the plan’s original authors had put into the plan so many years ago.
1. Took Lipoa Point out of preservation
It was one of the most cynical votes I’ve come across while covering Maui. On Aug. 2, Maui County Council Members Gladys Baisa, Danny Mateo, Joe Pontanilla, Mike Victorino and Mike White approved Maui Land & Pineapple Company’s request to take 150 acres of Lipoa Point, which for decades had been considered off limits to development, out of preservation. The company, which still owns a great deal of land, said that it needed this particular area for collateral for its 1,600 pensioners.
TOP FIVE SURPRISES
5. U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye passes away
Sure, it’s not really surprising when any 88-year-old man dies, but Inouye? They literally built the State of Hawaii around that guy. He’d been in the Senate since JFK was president. And then, just a few weeks ago, he went into the hospital for what was described as a minor respiratory ailment or something. A week later we’re talking about who’s going to succeed him. Damn.
4. Mazie Hirono wipes the floor with Linda Lingle
When these two met back in the 2002 Hawaii Governor’s race, Lingle handily beat Hirono. It wasn’t a blowout, but it wasn’t close either. But during their rematch, over retiring Senator Daniel Akaka’s seat, Hirono utterly and completely smashed Lingle. This, despite the fact that Lingle has incredible ambition and is a far better debater than Hirono.
3. ILWU endorses Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa
Where do we begin on this one. How about the fact that when it went down, back in April, Arakawa still had two full years left in his term of office. Add that to the fact that Arakawa is a nominal Republican, and the ILWU is hard-core Democrat. But when you add the fact that the wife of County Councilman Mike Victorino (the name most often floated as a possible mayoral challenger to Arakawa’s eventual 2014 bid for reelection) works for the ILWU, then the story gets downright weird.
2. Environmentalists save Freight Trains
We’re putting this on the list because of the scope of the surprise, not because we thought environmentalists (led by Surfrider) incapable of saving the world-famous surf spot. Literally, news that the decades-long fight over expansion of the Maalaea Harbor had ended came out of nowhere. But it’s done.
1. Representative Joe Souki announces he will be Speaker again
The whole Is Joe Souki Gonna Be Speaker Again? question is far from resolved, but here’s what we know for certain. Current House Speaker Calvin Say, who’s held the job for 14 years, has resigned, saying he no longer has the votes to stay in power. Souki, who once held the job but lost it to Say, says he does have the votes to become Speaker, but had to recruit a bunch of Republicans to do so. But Finance Committee Chairman Marcus Oshiro (who is toast if Souki comes to power), says he wants to be Speaker. We’ll have to wait to 2013 to see how this one plays out.
TOP FIVE SAD DEATH STORIES
5. Maui PD shoots and kills Marshall “Mosi” Langford.
Officer-involved shootings are always bad news. Sure, Langford had a criminal record and may have even posed a threat to the officer who shot and killed him in the parking lot of the Mana Kai Resort in Wailea. Oh, and because state law shields police departments from releasing the names of officers who kill people in the line of duty or Internal Affairs reports on deadly force incidents, we really don’t know who shot Langford, or whether the shooting was completely justified.
4. Ed Tanji died
The former Maui News City Editor and longtime Maui newspaper reporter was 65 when he died in September. His last column, published after his death, stated that he had ignored for too long a lump in his throat, which turned out to be cancerous. His death was not only sad, but preventable.
3. Charles Maxwell died
Cancer took Maxwell–a former Maui cop, longtime Hawaiian sovereignty activist and ordained kahu–died of a long illness* at the age of 74 in March. Maxwell was a legend on Maui, and his presence will definitely be missed.
2. Jose Krall died
One morning in December, Jose Krall was baking delicious, wonderful pastries and treats at the Maui Bake Shop, which he owned with his wife Claire Fujii-Krall in Wailuku. Then that night he got aboard his Cessna 172, like had many times before, and attempted to fly to Molokai. Attempting to turn around in hazy, dusky conditions, Krall instead flew into the water and perished.
1. Lloyd Gilliom died
This one really stung. Gilliom was the father of singers Amy Hanaiali‘i Gilliom and Eric Gilliom, as well as Hokule‘a crewmember Tim Gilliom. He was a working man who had owned his own business and a helluva nice guy. And as one of this paper’s circulation drivers, he was part of MauiTime’s ohana. He passed away in May at 71, and we miss him.
TOP FIVE ACTUAL GOOD STORIES
5. Sea Shepherd says they’ll start chapter on Maui
The radical anti-whaling activist group already has a chapter on the North Shore of Oahu, but they’re more than welcome to come here and raise hell over issues like Navy sonar harming dolphins and mysterious killings of endangered monk seals.
4. Get a Job Movie finally released on DVD
How many years has it been since Brian Kohne’s made-on-Maui film debuted at the Iao Theater? Too many is the answer. But thankfully, Kohne finally finished his movie, which is packed with island actors and celebrities, and it’s now selling for $20. The best part? It’s a good movie, which hopefully means we’ll see more pictures made entirely on the Valley Isle.
3. MFOL opens bookstore in Central Maui
For years, Central Maui had a Borders Bookstore in the Maui Marketplace, a Borders Express in the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center and the Maui Friends of the Library (MFOL) used bookstore in Pu‘unene. Then Borders folded up and closed all their stores. That left Central Maui without any major bookstore. Thankfully, MFOL has stepped into that vacuum and now runs an actual bookstore chain on the island, with new locations in Lahaina at the Wharf Cinema Center and at the Queen Kaahumanu Center. Most of the selection remains used books, but they do sell new books by local authors and publishers.
2. Maui County Council passes GMO labeling resolution
Sure, the bill calling on foods containing genetically modified organisms to disclose such on their labels that the Maui County Council passed on Sept. 21 was just a toothless resolution. But it was also yet another official reminder that many Americans really want to know exactly what goes into the foods they eat. And that’s a great thing.
1. Tsunami proved to be a total fake-out
As everyone who heard the doomsday sirens blow on the night of Oct. 27 knew, the idea that a wall of water generated from a large earthquake in Canada was bearing down on the Hawaiian Islands was quite scary. Graphics and wave height estimates broadcast by the local TV news gave rise to some terrifying scenarios. But then, not long after midnight, the tsunami waves actually reached our shores and proved to be harmless. Fake-outs are generally bad, but this one felt awesome.
* This story originally mischaracterized the cause of Charles Maxwell’s death.