Special Year in Review Edition 2007
December 27, 2007JANUARY
Democrat Mazie Hirono takes over the 2nd District congressional seat last held by Ed Case, who was mostly a Democrat. New Maui County Mayor Charmaine Tavares continues to appoint her cabinet. One new member, Parks Director Tamara Horcajo, immediately says she needs eight more people than she currently has. Also mentions possibility of selling park sponsorships. Four state senators, including our own J. Kalani English (D, 6th District), demand that Hawai`i Superferry (HSF) conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The proposed Malulani Medical Center in South Maui gets a Reconsideration Hearing, albeit in Honolulu. Nothing happens. U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka announces that he's re-re-re-re-introducing his Akaka Bill, also known as the Native Hawaiian Recognition Act. Hawaiian Telcom announces that they've somehow managed to answer 70 percent of all customer service complaints within 20 seconds (the state requirement is 85 percent, but everyone seems pleased). The state Legislature bans lobbyists from taking jobs as unpaid interns. Pacific Business News reports that one in five families statewide "have zero or negative net financial worth." Governor Linda Lingle asks the Legislature to pass a $346 million tax bill that would give every family earning less than $100,000 a $100 rebate. Superferry CEO John Garibaldi introduces his company's new manta ray logo, saying the ferry will navigate our waters "with elegance and efficiency." Maui Fever, a reality show about a bunch of 20-something Westside haole hotties, debuts on MTV. World peace ensues when absolutely everyone comes together to denounce the show. Former County Councilman Dain Kane finally goes back to work after losing the 2006 mayoral race—as a lobbyist for the County of Maui in Honolulu. Drug-sniffing dogs go to work at Kalama Intermediate in Makawao. The state Attorney General's office is thrilled. The Hawai'i American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) office? Less so. Council Chairman Riki Hokama introduces a bill to ban big box retail stores from Maui. The luxurious ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2, in the throes of a norovirus outbreak, drops anchor off Lahaina. Lingle announces that she wants the revolutionize the state by moving away from land as the basis of our economy embrace high-tech research and development.
BluBlocker Sunglasses kingpin—and former Maui Weekly owner—Joe Sugarman somehow wrangles an appearance on CNBC's The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch to talk about how he invented the infomercial. "I've built million-dollar businesses through my writing," Sugarman says. Someone who hasn't built such businesses through his writing is Poet Laureate/Maui resident W. S. Merwin, and it's probably because he does stuff like speaking out in support of dissidents like U.S. Army Lt. Ehren Watada, currently under court-martial for calling the war in Iraq "illegal" and refusing to deploy there. "It is Ehren Watada, and those forebears of his who have taken a similar honorable and dangerous stand, who continue to make it possible for us to believe not only in democracy but in the value of human individuality," he says. U.S Senator Dan Inouye says it's vital that congress help out the tourist industry. The state Senate holds hearings throughout the state on whether to force HSF to do an EIS. No one holds his or her breath. State Representative Bob Herkes (D, 5th District) puts forth a bill legalizing prostitution. Everyone still breathing properly? Now how about this one: big money developer Everett Dowling and some even bigger money investors band together and spend $575 million to buy Makena Resort. A dozen local peace activists protest outside the military recruitment offices at the Queen Ka`ahumanu Center, but are turned back by mall security, one of whom browbeats sign-carrying Karen Chun so much that Chun refuses to have lunch at that Korean BBQ place. State House Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Souki (D, 8th District)—beneficiary of $1,000 from HSF, Inc.—refuses to hear the Superferry EIS bill, effectively killing it. Meanwhile, something called the state Office of Environmental Quality Control votes nine to one to call for a Superferry EIS. Few pay attention—I mean, it's not like they're the Hawai`i Supreme Court. Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) announces they lost $131 million in 2006, which they blame on a requirement that they have to hire Americans—who make American wages—on their interisland cruises. Maui Time covergirl/county firefighter Uilani-Manu Gomes gets named Fire Department Employee of the Year.
The bees! They're dying! Seriously, folks—and no one knows why. Not to miss a chance to open his mouth, Representative Souki explains why he killed the Superferry EIS bill: "[W]e don't need it. The judge said we don't need it. The federal government says we donneed it." Of course, the Hawai'i Supreme Court hasn't yet weighed in on this, but who listens to them anyway? Median price of a houses on Maui? $645,ooo. In a desperate move for move for NCL, the company cuts a deal with the state Department of Education to move busloads full of kids through the ships to teach the kids "science, mathematics, history, language, engineering, mechanics and much more," which presumably means how they stock those mile-long breakfast buffets. Word breaks in the state press that Lingle flipped a Hawai`i Kai condo after a mere 15 months of ownership, earning her $178,864 in profits. Her spokesman denies that her sale has nothing to do with pending legislation that would tax the hell out of people who flip condos in such a manner. In honor of Sunshine Week, Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona writes an 0p-ed saying the Lingle Administration has "restore[d] trust in government by creating a transparent and open system that is fair to everyone…" At nearly the same moment, the Freedom of Information Hawai`i Coalition announces that various state and county boards and commissions "are not providing adequate service in releasing executive session minutes and notifying the public about meetings." Speaking open and honest information, McNeil Wilson Communications—the Superferry's well-heeled public relations firm—announces that their wholly owned firm QMark Research & Polling has conducted an "independent" poll showing "widespread support for Hawaii Superferry." McNeil Wilson also says that Hawai'i Superferry will leave the state if officials force them to do an EIS. State Senator Roz Baker—who Malulani boosters blame so much for letting their beloved proposed South Maui hospital die at the state's Certificate of Need (CON) process that they ran ads against her saying she hates babies and doctors—casts the lone committee vote for a bill that would have done away with CON. Meanwhile, The Maui News reports that in Olinda, feral pigs dig up the garden of a "mostly vegetarian" woman. Monsanto Hawai`i signs a 99-year lease for 500 acres of Molokai, bringing their island holdings up to 1,200 acres. Respected Molokai activist Walter Ritte calls the expansion "absolutely scary" and tells the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that, "We have no protection because the state and the feds are not regulating them to our satisfaction." At the Maui Baseyard, SOS Metals Island Recycling opens, finally making it ridiculously easy to get rid of derelict, abandoned cars and prompting owner Sandy Shadrow to find a way to use the phrase "absolute man-killer job" in a sentence.
|Representative Joe Souki, in sponge form|
The price of oil? Sixty-five dollars a barrel. Good thing BlueEarth Biofuels is here to transform palm oil into biodiesel at some massive new refineries they want to build in our state. Whaaat? People oppose clear-cutting rain forests to make way for palm oil plantations? BlueEarth managing partner Landis Maez tells The Maui News he had no idea people might look askance at that. The Dalai Lama visits Maui, bringing peace, enlightenment and a whole lot of traffic in Kahului. Kurt Vonnegut dies. Governor Lingle does a photo-op at the Iao Theater for some reason dealing with non-profits, I think. Then Don Ho dies. Maui Land & Pineapple Company boss David C. Cole writes an op-ed piece saying he is "working to protect Honolua Bay for the benefit of everyone," including, apparently, the thousands of island residents who don't want to see any development there. Marriott announces that they're making huge money off their Maui Ocean Club timeshares on the Westside. Lahaina Bypass Now executive Director Theo Morrison announces that construction on the road, promised for 35 years, is finally going to start. "This is really for real," she says. Whalers Village Museum Director Lewis Eisenberg pleads guilty to multiple counts of selling illegal sperm whale teeth. In the state Legislature, a bill that would publicly fund political campaigns dies for the eighth year in a row. So it goes.
Hotel Hana Maui closes a popular access road to Hamoa Beach, outraging locals. The Liquor Control Board of Adjudication slaps a 15-day suspension on the popular Lahaina nightclub Paradice Bluz—which previously had a clean record—for over-serving alcohol. The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee passes the Akaka Bill, sending it on to the full House for a vote. A couple days later Native Hawaiian activist Uncle Charlie Maxwell criticizes the Akaka Bill on his Fox News 900 KNUI-AM radio show, saying it's been "watered down" by "scary" Republican amendments. The state Attorney General's office releases 2005 crime data showing Maui is easily the most popular island for car thieves in all of Hawai'i. Mayor Tavares appears at Seabury Hall for one of the school's Philosophy Club debates—this one on women's rights. "Our society is so permissive it's ridiculous," she tells the few dozen students and community members who showed. "You cannot be a 250-pound, six-footer and wear clothes like Britney Spears. This does not fit." The white kid suing Kamehameha Schools decides to cool it. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich visits Borders Books in Kahului as part of a book tour for his new fantasy novel Pearl Harbor. Norwegian Cruise Lines announces that it lost $61 million in the first three months of this year. Superferry opponents get a hold of a March 15 letter from federal Department of Transportation official Sean T. Connaughton about the Superferry, saying, "The ferries are also militarily useful and TRANSCOM [United States Transportation Command] has expressed interest in them." Playground Destination Properties announces that it sold more than $100 million in Honua Kai condos on North Beach in one weekend. Senator Inouye endorses Senator Hillary Clinton (D, New York) for president. The move is early, considering the election isn't for another 18 months, but then he hedges his bet by adding that "My support for Hillary Clinton does not take away from, or speak any less of, the other Democratic candidates."
|Paradice Bluz in Lahaina|
Haleakala Park Superintendent Marilyn H. Parris comes out against the National Science Foundation's proposed 142-foot Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, planned for the dormant volcano's summit. Speaking of Paris, she—the Hilton heiress, not the French city—finally goes to jail in Los Angeles for a whole manner of crimes against society, sparking a national agony that rivals the war in Iraq for TV news play. Getting a headstart on the 2008 election, Lt. Governor James "Duke" Aiona submits papers to start raising money for the upcoming governor's race, then boldly tells a Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter that he's "too busy with his job as lieutenant governor" to comment on why he filed so early. The Maui County Liquor Commission begins an endless series of inconclusive hearings on what to do with the level of crime in Kihei Kalama Villages, which has eight liquor licensees. Maui Time helps lead a media frenzy over news that Bob Awana—Lingle's longtime confidant and chief of staff—has been the victim of a blackmail threat by some Indian guy, apparently over a Filipino chick. Tavares tells a sell-out crowd of 250 at the Maui Chamber of Commerce's luncheon over at the Maui Tropical Plantation—sponsored by Alexander & Baldwin—that the county needs to spend more money on tourism. Lingle refuses to comment on her chief of staff, who's now embroiled in a full-fledged media frenzy about international extortion plots, mysterious trips to Asia, unconfirmed Filipino chicks and a possible fed investigation into Awana's complicity in a 2002 Saipan corruption probe—all of which leads to Awana's resignation. In the midst of it all, Maui Time turns 10. Yeah, we were surprised, too.
|Bob Awana, ex-chief of staff to Gov. Lingle.
Illustration: Sarit Giovanni Cardone, www.saritis.com|
The Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua closes, then promptly begins its renovation into super-condos for the super-rich. Maui County Council member Michelle Anderson proposes a "Show Me The Water" bill, requiring land developers to guarantee a 20-year supply of water before they can get County Council approval. Even The Maui News editorial page says it's a good idea. After wildfires obliterate 2,600 acres and two homes in West Maui, stretching from Olowalu to Launiupoko, Maui Fire Chief Carl Kaupalolo tells the Honolulu Advertiser that, "We may want to have our Fire Prevention people talk with major landowners again as we did last year and take a look at these areas and cut fire-breaks and conduct grading that would provide access." The county Cultural Resources Commission begins holding hearings on the annual Halloween celebration in Lahaina Town. Commissioners begin talking about rejecting a permit for the festivities, which typically draw 30,000 people, because it's insufficiently Hawaiian. Despite all the financial losses NCL is experiencing, the Hawai`i Tourism Authority says last month saw a "triple-digit increase in cruise visitors." They also put out a request for proposals for a $600,000 "Hawaii Cruise Industry Study." Maui News columnist Liz Janes-Brown dies after along bout with cancer. Many, including Governor Lingle and Mayor Tavares, attend her funeral. The county buys three big buses, which though costing $400,000 apiece, employ standard diesel-burning engines, even though big cities on the mainland are increasingly buying hybrid-powered buses. Stateline.org reports that Governor Lingle has just 78 virtual friends. The Maui County Land Use Committee begins holding hearings on the 1,400-home Wailea 670 project, if for no other reason than to get Charlie Jencks—the developers' "representative"—to stop whining about how he hasn't gotten a hearing. To approve the deal as well, I'm pretty sure, but mostly to stop the whining. Senator Akaka announces that he's "postponing" a longtime promise to head up to Alaska and talk with the Gwich'in Indians who oppose plans to sink a bunch of oil wells in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—a proposal Akaka thinks is perfectly peachy. Despite all his assurances about the re-re-revived Akaka Bill, the Honolulu Advertiser reports that the bill has "little chance" of getting a vote before the fall. Oh well—hey, that's funny!
Associate Editor Samantha Campos trades Maui and Maui Time for California, where she gets a job as a reporter at the Gannett-owned Desert Sun in Palm Springs. Following two contentious hearings—one attendee assaulted a county parks official and a cop for some reason during the second hearing—the Cultural Resources Commission okays Halloween in Lahaina Town. The Maui News runs a front-page story on word that Whole Foods—yes, the grocery store—will be opening a store on the island next year. Construction on the Lahaina Bypass comes to a screeching halt when workers uncover two ancient "archaeological sites" in the corridor—sites that were somehow missed during a survey conducted 15 years ago. Wailea 670's Jencks, who has long dodged the question of where his project's 1,400 homes and private golf course will get water, suddenly announces he'll use "reverse osmosis—an effective but expensive process that requires two to three gallons of untreated water to make one gallon of potable water. Maui Time puts UFC Fighter/island resident Kendall Grove on the cover in anticipation of his upcoming fight, who promptly loses his bout. Story author—and Grove fan—Starr Begley forces me to promise never to put any of her sports heroes on the cover again. Starwood Capital Group announces plans to build an "ultra-luxury" condominium-hotel resort named for Baccarat crystal. A reported 60 investors put forth $5 million on average for one of the units. BlueEarth starts calling the 40 million-gallon biodiesel refinery it wants to build on the island a "transesterifcation facility"—opponents cry foul, saying that means the company might not have to conduct an EIS. Hawai'i Superferry announces that it's starting service on Aug. 28. Well, that's that–sure, the Hawai'i Supreme Court is scheduled to examine the issue of whether the Superferry needs an EIS, but few expect anything other than yet another rubber-stamp. Looks like the Superferry is a done deal, a sure thing, a guaranteed—oops, spoke too soon: the Supreme Court rules unanimously that yes, Hawai'i Superferry needs to do an EIS. The company takes the ruling seriously—so seriously that they start service early and charge passengers just $5. The company manages to do one run to Maui before Judge Joseph Cardoza slaps a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the company. Kauai residents engineer their own TRO, in the form of a human chain of surfers stretched across Nawiliwili Harbor, turning back the Superferry as she tried to dock on only her second voyage to the island. HSF officials immediately announce that they're "indefinitely" suspending all voyages to Kauai.
The Maui County Land Use Committee takes a break from Wailea 670 to hold a quickie hearing on Maui Land & Pineapple's big Pulelehua project on the Westside. Many testify, little else happens. Governor Lingle says environmentalists—and the Supreme Court—have unfairly "singled out" Hawai'i Superferry for an EIS, which, by the way, provided a way for three would-be imu rock smugglers to get to Maui on the ferry's first day of operation. Alert state Department of Land and Natural Resources officers spotted the smugglers and impounded the vehicles, giving local Superferry opponents massive confirmation of their concern that people from Oahu will use the boat to plunder Maui of its secret surf, fishing and imu rock spots. Cleveland congressman and Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich returns to campaign on Maui. I put him on the cover and write a big story on the visit, then somehow forgets to attach my name to the piece. ACLU Hawai'i officials make it official: ourt state is now the first in the union to "subject teachers to random drug testing." Woohoo! Governor Lingle visits Kauai to calm anger directed at the Superferry. A thousand island residents respond by booing and hissing at her. But then the group 1,000 Friends of Kauai fails to get a judge to slap a TRO on the Superferry. But their threat to fill Nawiliwili Harbor with protesters should the Superferry return seems enough to get the company to continue to "indefinitely" suspend its visits to Kauai, even though it's completely legal for the ferry to visit the island. Aerosmith cancels their much-promoted Maui concert, but decides to go ahead with a special Oahu concert for Toyota executives. Congresswoman Hirono announces that the U.S. House of Representatives has just passed a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that includes mysterious and fantastic provisions designed to "protect the rights of passengers." Millions around the country rub their eyes in disbelief.
Upcountry residents chafe—literally, as well as figuratively—under mandatory water restrictions. County officials, like Water Director Jeff Eng, begin making noises about imposing cutbacks on Central and South Maui if residents there don't start voluntarily reducing their water usage. Mayor Tavares and the county Planning Commission decides to solve the controversy over "unpermitted transient vacation rentals"—which make up the vast majority of all independent vacation rentals on the island—once and for all. Hilarity ensues. Judge Cardoza rules that the Superferry can't return to Maui until the state finishes an EIS. Lingle then reminds us what the words "audacity" and "cynicism" mean by then asking for a "special session" of the Legislature that would pass a law singling out the Superferry for exemption of the current law requiring it to wait around for an EIS. Wow, are you still reading? Good for you! Hawaiian Airlines sues Mesa Airlines, alleging that Mesa used "unauthorized trade secrets" from Hawaiian to start its business. The LC shuts down Paradice Bluz in Lahaina after the club gets two convictions in one day for over-service. The U.S. House passes the Akaka Bill. A sickly hammerhead shark begins popping up all along the South Maui coast, prompting officials to close beaches with each sighting. Eventually the shark washes up dead on Charley Young Beach, ensnared in an illegal gill net that also killed two sea turtles. County Council member Jo Anne Johnson formally proposes a moratorium on the development of West Maui agricultural lands. To everyone's surprise, the bill isn't immediately tabled. The state Legislature gives Hawai'i Superferry its special exemption from state environmental law, allowing the company to operate while conducting an EIS. Unless your legislator's name ends in Baker, English, Tsutsui or Carroll, he or she voted for the thing. Another who didn't is Kauai Representative Hermina Morita who said it simply "shows no respect for the rule of law." Hawaiian Airlines wins its lawsuit against Mesa, whose Chief Financial Officer didn't help matters by insisting that he accidentally erased crucial emails while purging his office computer of pornography. Island travelers worry that Mesa, unable to afford to pay the $80 million judgment, will disappear, ending forever the current luxury of fare wars and occasional $19 plane tickets to Oahu. Thirty thousand people party on Front Street for Halloween, of which two dozen are arrested.
|County Councilmember Jo Anne Johnson|
State House Speaker Calvin Say tells the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that the Legislature had to pass the special Superferry exemption because they were victims of Big Media: "There was a campaign by the media," Say says. He was especially worried about "the [pro-Superferry] surveys, the radio talk shows and also the negative statements that we are really so anti-business." The citizen-sponsored West Maui Preservation Association releases a study showing significant and unexplained bacteria readings in the Westside's Honokowai Channel. State and local health officials respond by ignoring the study. A Maui Dive Shop boat spots a lone, barnacle-encrusted torpedo-like thing floating in the Humpback Whale Sanctuary. Though a crewmember snaps a photo of the thing and takes down its GPS coordinates, the U.S. Coast Guard fails to locate it. Mos Def schedules a show at Liquids Nightclub in Kihei, then mysteriously doesn't play. Even more mysterious is why the Liquids owner refused to return any of the customers' money (tickets were $70). Days later the band Mystic Roots says Liquids screwed them over, too. Liquids closes a few days after that, surprising surprises no one. With the special Superferry law now on the books, Judge Cardoza lifts his injunction on the company, which promptly announces that they'll resume operations to Maui in about two weeks. As for Kauai? Who knows: "We have already begun community outreach efforts on Kaua'i," CEO Garibaldi says. "We will make our decision about when we commence our Kauai service once that process is completed." The day after Cardoza lifts the injunction a storm surge damages the docking barge the Superferry uses in Kahului Harbor. The Star-Bulletin reports that Hawai'i has the sixth highest Chlamydia rate in the nation. Water Director Eng announces that water use in Central and South Maui has "stabilized," meaning no mandatory cutbacks for now. The Maui County Land Use Committee approves Wailea 670—with a few small conditions, of course—paving the way for the County Council (which has the exact same membership as the Land Use Committee) to take up the issue.
|Liquids Nightclub in Kihei|
The price of oil? Nearly $100 a barrel. The University of Hawai'i Warrior football team goes undefeated this season and secures a spot in the Sugar Bowl. Speaking of sugar, the state Department of Education finally decides to declare war on sweets, and takes steps to end pizza parties and chocolate bar sales on school grounds in favor of "salad fundraisers" and "vegetable of the week" specials. Yeah, that'll keep the kids in school. With storm surge battering Kahului Harbor, Superferry public relations flack Lori Abe sends out a press release saying the Superferry won't come to Maui yet because "highly unusual weather" damaged the docking barge again, then tells The Maui News that weather had nothing to do with the Superferry officials postponing the ferry's return. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency busts a Paia couple living in Santa Cruz, California for dealing LSD. Massive rainstorms soak the island, flooding streets, spilling raw sewage into the ocean near the Lahaina Wastewater Treatment Plant, plunging Kula and Kihei into darkness for days and delaying the Superferry's return yet again. When the Superferry finally does resume service to the island, hundreds of people stand along Pu'unene Avenue, jeering cars as they drive out of the Superferry lot. County Water Director Eng tells residents that the recent rain has helped water levels, but has by no means ended the drought. Lt. Governor James "Duke" Aiona, having not really done much this year, calls on citizens to approve plans for a constitutional convention. Somehow, some way, Council member Gladys Baisa, who chairs the council Planning Committee, holds a hearing on Jo Anne Johnson's proposed moratorium on West Maui ag land development. Did we say the drought wasn't over? Well, now the Water Department says it is–but only for Upcountry, so don't get any ideas. Ron Sturtz, one of the most dedicated activists with the good government, slow growth citizens group Maui Tomorrow, dies following a long illness. So it goes.
|The Honokowai Channel|
Anthony Pignataro is now available in Twitter form at twitter.com/apignataro. MTW
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