What a year.
Let’s start with the democratic (or at least anti-authoritarian) revolutions sweeping through the Middle East. Across the board, all the big names in terror and dictatorship ended up dead or swept from power: Muammar Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak, Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong Il, Charlie Sheen. It was also the year Elizabeth Taylor, Steve Jobs, Amy Winehouse and Joe Frazier passed away. It was the year a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan, and the Iraq war finally ended. R.E.M. broke up, Sting turned 60 and Alec Baldwin got kicked off a plane for playing Words With Friends. New York seemed especially hard hit, with the contentious Wall Street occupation and that Spiderman musical.
If you think there’s no way our tiny, lovable little Maui could compete with all that drama, you’re wrong.
For the second time this millennium, Republican Alan Arakawa takes the oath of office as mayor of Maui County. And he’s boiling over with good ideas: more water projects, new affordable housing projects, bringing Halloween back to Lahaina. And something else: “One of the first things that I‘m going to do is issue a directive that all County employees will behave in a professional manner, and that any unprofessional behavior will be dealt with through disciplinary action,” he told Mauitime during an extended interview.
After years of debate and discussion, a ban on the distribution of plastic bags throughout the county finally goes into effect. Officials say the easiest thing for people to do is remember to take their own reusable bags into grocery stores, but trees everywhere know what will really happen, and they are scared.
In one of his first acts as a member of the Maui County Council, Mike White–the general manager of the Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel and a former member of the Maui Visitors Board (MVB)–proposes that the county give the MVB more than its current $3 million grant. Residents file complaints with the Board of Ethics within seconds.
In Honolulu, Democrat Neil Abercrombie gives his first State of the State address. Among other promises: the Hawaii Tourism Authority shouldn’t get so much state funding anymore. “The amount we are spending in the name of marketing Hawaii [$70 million] has grown disproportionate to the amount we need to spend on Hawaii’s own infrastructure,” he says. He also pledges to bring all 1,700 Hawaii prison inmates housed on the mainland back to Hawaii.
The price of a gallon of gasoline in Wailuku is about $4.03.
After nearly two decades, the North Shore’s beloved Kuau Mart closes, but not before local artist/skim boarder Lanakila Kelliher helps paint a gorgeous mural on its wall. In somewhat but not really related news, a bill legalizing assisted-suicide dies a quick death in the state Legislature.
Officials form the County General Plan Committee to update the Maui Island Plan–a thorough examination how planning will proceed on Maui in the coming decades. “The task is daunting,” County Council member Gladys Baisa says, but says she’s “confident” the plan will be approved and enacted this year.
Apparently scared of bill SB1458 (sponsored by Maui’s own state Senator J. Kalani English), which would assist in the creation of medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state, Maui Police Officers hand out anti-weed pamphlets at Walmart, even though medicinal marijuana has been legal in Hawaii for over a decade.
Two days after Valentine’s Day, Abercrombie signs a bill legalizing civil unions. “I have always believed that civil unions respect our diversity, protect people’s privacy and reinforce our core values of equality and aloha,” he says. Divorce lawyers, who now get a whole new class of potential clients, celebrate with paper hats, noisemakers and fireworks.
The parking situation in Paia goes from “Getting Waterboarded While Listening To Katy Perry” on the M.E. Finn Scale of Torture to the slightly better “Flying Coach Next To Carrot Top” when that paved pay lot behind Charley’s finally opens.
But soon no one much cares about how it’s now slightly easier to get to Mana Foods because on March 10 a tsunami generated from a massive and deadly 9.0 earthquake in Japan hits Hawaiian shorelines at the bright and early hour of 3am. County spokesman Rod Antone calls it a “mess, not a disaster.” No one is killed, but Ma‘alaea and Lahaina Harbors end up filled with debris and swamped boats. Trash and rocks inundate at least one house in Paukukalo. When it’s over the county suffers about $3.3 million in damage, while the state costs rise to $30.6 million.
Arakawa presents his budget, which allocates $43.9 million for water sourcing and development and ends the practice of furloughing employees.
Senator English talks to Mauitime about his medical marijuana bill, which would set up a distribution pilot program for a medicinal marijuana dispensary. “I took this up because I saw people who were suffering, sometimes in the last months of their life,” he says.
Remember Mayor Arakawa’s promise to get all county employees to behave in a professional manner? Well, apparently Maui PD Officer Nelson Johnson never got that memo, because on April 12 he assaulted Mauitime Publisher Tommy Russo in the Wailuku Municipal Parking Lot while Russo was trying to film him with his iPhone. Russo had been trying to film Dog the Bounty Hunter, who was in the parking lot with his film crew entourage, when one of Dog’s security guys struck Russo for filming them (in a public place) without their permission. After reporting the story, Mauitime’s website is flooded with comments, many, many of which strongly disapprove (to put it mildly) of Officer Johnson’s behavior.
Soul Surfer, a movie based on the life of Bethany Hamilton, a young surfer chick from Kauai who lost her arm to a shark attack, comes out. “If you’re struggling, trust in God with everything you’re doing and don’t live like the world is telling you to live,” Hamilton tells us. “Especially for young girls: body image is such a huge issue. Live a healthy lifestyle and love yourself. Most importantly, focus on your inner beauty.”
Oh yeah, and the Hawaiian Grammy Awards come to an end. Since very few Hawaii-based musicians doing Hawaiian music actually won these awards, we can’t say we’re sorry to see them go.
Ali‘i Chang, who founded the Ali‘i Kula Lavender Farm, dies at the age of 69. “His first love was always nurturing the land,” says Lani Medina Weigert, his business partner.
The price of a gallon of gas in Wailuku? About $4.99 a gallon.
Apparently pissed off at at least one comment on Mauitime’s website about MPD Officer Johnson’s assault against Russo (detectives call the comment “terroristic threatening”), the Maui County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office subpoenas the IP addresses for all online commenters on Mauitime websites. Appalled at such heavy handed act which detracted from the core issue of a public safety official violently violating a citizen’s right to make a video recording in public, Mauitime vows to fight the subpoena. California media attorney Thomas Burke calls the subpoena “an overzealous reaction.”
Of course, the Prosecutor’s office has problems of its own when former prosecuting attorney Jacki Jura sues the county, alleging harassment and wrongful termination (another former prosecutor, Marie Kosegarten, is both named as a defendant in the suit and has her own lawsuit pending against the county). Her suit alleges all sorts of fun stuff like surfing porn on office computers, rampant name-calling, harassing comments about at least one attorney’s “hair color and chest size,” jealous superiors, falsified attendance reports and inter-office romances gone bad. Sounds like a killer place to work! Of course, all the alleged activities took place in the past Benjamin Acob administration, not the current, apparently professional, J.D. Kim regime.
Senator English’s pot dispensary bill goes up in smoke. In fact, it never even gets out of committee. Ditto the ethics complaints against County Councilman Mike White.
And yes, we’re aware that our little joke about trees fearing the plastic bag ban is a tad ironic, given that this newspaper you’re reading right now is printed on dead trees.
South Korean automaker CT&T announces that its plan to build 10,000 electric vehicles in Hawaii (organized by former Governor Linda Lingle!) is dead, as are similar plans in Pennsylvania and South Carolina. Apparently, when a company loses 90 percent of its stock value in a year, building electric cars in Hawaii suddenly seems less of a priority.
Arakawa signs the county budget (which is $25 million lower in his Dept. of Water project allocations). Overall, the budget expands county spending by 10 percent. On Maui, the words Republican and Democrat apparently don’t mean a lot.
The Maui Redevelopment Agency charges ahead with plans to build a parking garage atop the current 208-stall Wailuku Municipal Parking Lot. The town lacks about 750 spaces, but the garage provides only 418, and its construction will turn Wailuku Town upside down for at least a year. Five years ago, locals greeted the plans with a mixture of consternation and outright opposition. Nothing much has changed. “It is big, boxy and tall,” local activist Barbara Long tells the agency. “[It has] embellishments on facades that seem to mimic Kahului shopping malls. That green color is everywhere.”
Oh, and on that promise to bring Hawaii’s prisoners back from the mainland, Governor Abercrombie says the best way to do that is to sign a new $45.5 million contract with private prison builder/manager Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) to house 1,956 inmates at two Arizona facilities.
On the brighter side, reason somehow prevails at the Maui County Prosecutors Office, which withdraws the subpoena against Mauitime, saying they found the identity of the “terroristic” commenter through normal police work–something Mauitime told the police they should have done before filing a subpoena.
By the way, did any of you notice the irony in the Maui PD demanding to see the identities of anonymous commenters on Mauitime’s site while concealing the identities of police officers sanctioned by Internal Affairs (a special protection brought about by intense police union lobbying)?
Bad news for the island’s baseball fans: the 2nd Circuit Court rules that the Na Koa Ikaika baseball team (actually based in California) owes $12,259.53 to Pacific Radio Group–a ruling that team owner Robert J. Young says came about “in default… [and was] handed down to us due to clerical error (for which we take full responsibility).”
Residents begin to wonder if the county is thinking of putting MPD Officer Keith Taguma– the Terror of Wailuku Town, the baddest bad ass who ever carried a pad of parking tickets and puttered around in a cute little three-wheeled Go-4 Interceptor II–out to pasture. The reason? Downtown Parking & Planning Associates issues a study saying the town should go with parking meters and dedicated meter maids.
At the same time, Wailuku infrastructure suffers a rash of breakdowns. Light poles crash at Wells Park, the county’s voicemail system breaks down entirely and doomsday sirens go off in town for no reason.
Meanwhile, Paypal founder Peter Thiel buys a 4,500 square foot house in Makena for $27 million–the most ever paid for a house in Maui history.
Former Maui County Supervisor Richard I. C. “Pablo” Caldito dies at the age of 98. His is a complex legacy: he paved the way for Filipino-Americans to get into politics in both Hawaii and the U.S., and also was busted (between elected terms!) in 1963 for gambling.
Oh, and somebody steals five goats from the Surfing Goat Dairy (eventually two more get pilfered). “Milking goats like these have a value of about $12,000 each,” says owner Thomas Kafsack. “[B]ut they are not only valuable, they are family to us.”
Good news for the island’s baseball fans: Na Koa Ikaika signs the ace Japanese pitcher Eri Yoshida, 19, the first female to play professionally in the U.S.
Shocker! The state Campaign Spending Commission busts former Maui County Council member Bill Medeiros (and current mayoral assistant) for filing exactly zero campaign finance reports during the 2010 election. Medeiros, who ran afoul of the commission back in 2008 for missing eight report filing deadlines (sometimes in excess of 600 days), told The Maui News that the reports were stolen, and that he filed a police report two months after the alleged theft (an earlier police report was allegedly lost). In any case, the commission fined Medeiros $2,750.
The state Health Department shuts down Laulima Farms’ fruit stand for not having proper permits. A few days later, the feds seize 17 birds from the East Maui Animal Refuge–the “Boo Boo Zoo”–as part of an investigation into the sanctuary’s “non-compliance with their federal permit.” Near the end of the month, Wailuku Water Company builds a massive fence on their Waihe‘e property, apparently closing off access to the famous Swinging Bridges forever.
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich campaigns on Maui. Specifically, the Door of Faith Church in Wailuku, where he wows a standing-room-only crowd of mostly TEA Party Maui people with assertions that “We need to begin to resurround [sic] the conversation with the intent of the founding fathers” and “You can’t create jobs with class warfare and bureaucratic socialism. He also called President Barack Obama “the best food stamp president in American history,” then shook nearly as many hands as the number of his own books and videos that he plugged.
We all discover that Hawaii excels at two disciplines: crappy rural roads and workplace methamphetamine use. According to the non-profit think tank The Road Information Program in Washington, D.C., “in 2008, 29 percent of the state’s major rural roads were rated in poor condition, the fifth highest share in the nation.” What’s more, “an additional 68 percent of Hawaii’s major rural roads were rated in mediocre or fair condition.” When you combine that with an Associated Press report that said meth use in workplaces here was “410 percent greater than the national average,” you really start to wonder if there’s anything this state can’t do.
Native Hawaiian families in Waihe’e, upset and appalled at Wailuku Water Company’s closing of access to Swinging Bridges–which also cuts them off from watersheds used by their ancestors–prepare to march in solidarity, but never even get close to the new gate.
Borders Express closes at the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center, which means there’s now just one true bookstore on the island (that would be Barnes & Noble, in Lahaina) where you can buy Paia resident Paul Kramer’s self-published children’s book Maggie Goes on a Diet, which has become a sensation among Internet trolls everywhere. Then again, it’s doubtful few of the thousand or so people who emailed their hate to Kramer ever took the time to actually read more than the title of his gentle tale of a young girl who learns to love herself through healthy living.
Of course, that pales before the stunning report in The Maui News saying 91,000 people on Maui have Costco cards (roughly 90 percent of the island’s population). Or that the Maui Humane Society announces that during the 2010/2011 year, they euthanized 5,174 of the 9,402 animals they received (that’s 55 percent, for those keeping track at home).
In one of those convergences that comes only once in a thousand years, Linda Lingle announces on National Coming Out Day that she’s running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Daniel Akaka.
The exciting anti-corporate greed mayhem of Occupy Wall Street reaches Maui shores with a sign-waving thing in front of the State Office Building in Wailuku on Oct. 7. Unlike the massive gatherings that sprung up in places like New York and Oakland, where legions of young people descended on the streets and skirmished with battalions of cops, this was clearly an older person’s game. In fact, it was pretty much the same people who show up at all the Maui Peace Action sign-wavings and protests. It was mostly an anti-Afghanistan War thing, but the one demonstrator who showed up with a sign saying “END FEDERAL RESERE [sic]” wasn’t really helping any cause.
Laird Hamilton–the guy we’re all supposed to blame for stand-up paddling (as well as credit for tow-in surfing)–and his volleyball player-wife Gabrielle Reece decide to sell their $2.4 million Maui home (original selling price: $2.75 million) to move to Kauai for some reason.
Giddy from the success of Wailuku’s “First Friday” town party (started, if you recall, by local attorney Dave Jorgensen’s wish to find a good pau hana spot each month), county officials announce that there will now be four town parties each month: Wailuku gets the first, Lahaina gets the second Friday, Makawao the third and Paia the fourth Friday. Given the fact that Paia’s town parties are mostly labors of love for local merchants, Lahaina’s are traditionally art gallery-centered and Makawao really has none of the experience, sidewalks or parking to deal such events, residents hope for the best.
Wokstar, one of the more colorful and tasty noodle houses on the island, closes after three years of business at Kihei’s Kalama Village. Reasons abound, but probably the best is that it just sucks trying to run a small business on the island these days.
Halloween returns to Lahaina, just as Arakawa promised it would. Though a few Native Hawaiians protested, saying it was disrespectful to hold such a party in the Lahaina Historic District, it goes off with few arrests and (sadly) little nudity.
Construction crews start working on Sanford Carr’s new 200,000-square foot shopping center at his still unfinished Kehalani subdivision in Wailuku. Neighborhood residents cheer when they find that when it’s completed, they’ll be five minutes closer to a Longs, Foodland and McDonald’s.
Castle & Cook announce that they want to build 170 windmills in the 20,000-acre Ka‘a ahupua‘a (by comparison, by the Kaheawa wind farm above the Pali has just 20 windmills). Though this would provide many, many megawatts of clean energy, the locals get fired up, mostly because of the area’s designation as one of the state’s “most endangered historic places.”
Speaking of neighbor islands, Molokai Properties executive Peter Nicholas–the guy who managed the shutdown of Molokai Ranch back in 2008 that put 120 people out of work–retires to Fiji, leaving behind an island trying to cope with a 17.5 percent unemployment rate.
Remember that Maui Island Plan thing that Councilmember Baisa said would pass this year? Well, it’s not gonna happen–at least not until August 2012, which is about four years after the plan was originally supposed to be done.
Hell, remember the old Hawaii Superferries? Turns out the U.S. Navy will take possession of things after all. Like anyone saw that coming.
The price of a gallon of gas in Wailuku? About $4.34.
Alexander & Baldwin, one of the most powerful companies in Hawaii for the last century, announces that next year, their subsidiary Matson Navigation–which used to be a separate company–will become a separate company (don’t worry: the growing, burning and harvesting of 37,000 acres of sugar cane on Maui, burning the eyes and lungs of local residents and providing incalculable tons of sugar to people who really don’t need it anyway, will continue as before).
University of Hawaii law professor, human rights attorney and all-around decent guy Jon M. Van Dyke dies at the age of 68. One of his greatest victories was a lawsuit he filed in the 1990s against Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos on behalf of more than 9,500 Filipinos tortured or murdered by the regime. The $2 billion judgment Van Dyke and his wife Sherry Broder won in 1995 was the largest of its kind.
State officials begin muttering of some sort of mysterious and apparently serious “internal security breach” at the Hawaii Department of Taxation that may have started as early as 2008. An unknown number of unnamed state taxation bureaucrats are placed on “administrative leave without pay” pending a criminal investigation by the state Attorney General’s office. It all sounds really bad, but not bad enough for Abercrombie to crack a little tax joke: “To the extent that any wrongful activity has taken place, anyone who has participated in or has had knowledge of these activities that date back to at least 2008 will be brought to account.”
Brought to account! Ha!
Zacharia Aubut, 17, of Kihei is hit by a car on Christmas Eve and dies. He’s the 20th motor vehicle fatality on Maui this year–up from 11 last year.
Oh, and MPD Officer Nelson Johnson? Still on the job!