2005 Sour Poi Awards
|When you look back on a year that's just ended, especially one dominated by big events-war, elections-it's easy to forget about the little things that happened.|
Do you remember that, in 2004, mice ran amok in Makakilo while feral peacocks menaced Mililani?
Or that the Hawai'i State Bar Association, apparently realizing that people dislike lawyers, hired a PR firm to help improve their image?
Or that the state Legislature cooked up a bill allowing the state to deny information to "vexatious requesters?"
Thus we bring you our annual Sour Poi Awards, to commemorate those small moments we may all find vexatious.
Off to a great start
At his first press conference, new Honolulu police chief Boisse Correa banned TV news cameras and reporters' tape recorders. Correa said he preferred the "old-school" ways, in which reporters would hand-write their notes. Otherwise, he said, reporters end up "dictating to HPD how to do the story" or "take different potshots at the chief."
During the news conference that followed, Correa said he wanted HPD to be "as open as possible."
Slap that one next to your "PUINSAI" bumper stickers, kids
A federally financed sex-education program came to Hawai'i, urging teenagers to abstain from sex. The program adopted the slogan, "Try Wait!"
Eh, Sonny, no make li'dat
In one of the odder sideshows of the Dobelle affair, the embattled university president appeared on Mike Buck's KHVH radio show, only to be accosted by a caller with a heavy pidgin accent who identified himself as "Sonny from Kapolei." Dobelle quickly recognized the caller as state Sen. Fred Hemmings and challenged him. "Fred, I gotta understand something, Fred. Did you just call in the radio station and give them a false name?" Dobelle asked. Chagrined, Hemmings confessed that it was really him. Hemmings doesn't even represent Kapolei. His district is Kailua-Waima-nalo-Hawai'i Kai.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!
Even among Hawai'i's star-struck daily media, The Honolulu Advertiser excelled in Idol worship. It spent weeks obsessively covering Jasmine Trias' progress on the reality TV show, American Idol, including front-page stories, column drops, profiles, interviews, letters-to-the editor forums, a Web site special project on the show-anything the paper could do to stoke the fires of "Jasmania." But as soon as Trias was off the show, The Advertiser issued a sanctimonious editorial bemoaning the fact that Hawai'i residents can't muster the same mania for public education, recycling, homelessness or voting.as Trias was off the show, The Advertiser issued a sanctimonious editorial bemoaning the fact that Hawai'i residents can't muster the same mania for public education, recycling, homelessness or voting.
Last spring, taro production was at an all-time low. A big problem was that something was eating the taro long before people could, namely, Pomacea canaliculata, the apple snail, originally imported to the Islands to be sold as escargot.
You mean, soldiers swear in combat? Gosh, war must be heck
Nationally, ABC aired the World War II film Saving Private Ryan to commemorate Veterans Day. But a number of ABC affiliates, including Honolulu's KITV, pulled the film for fear that its content would bring about fines for indecency by the Federal Communications Commission. Steven Spielberg won a best-director Oscar for this film's honest portrayal of how everyday soldiers hold onto their humanity in the face of war's brutality. But the film "contains 47 uses of the F-word and graphic violence," explained KITV president and general manager Mike Rosenberg. KITV aired the maudlin Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman historical romance Far and Away instead.
The light at the end of the tunnel
Last summer, Big Island police and federal law-enforcement officers embarked on Operation Pono Hawai'i, making 98 arrests through Hilo, Puna and Hämäkua in order to clear a backlog of unserved arrest warrants. When it was over, only 3,000 to 4,000 unserved warrants on the Big Island remained.
"For cause?" what cause? just because?
It took the regents nine days to officially notify University of Hawai'i president Evan Dobelle of his firing, even after it had been front-page news locally and splashed across Mainland media. The regents' letter didn't say why they fired him. Nor would they tell the public what had made them so confident they could fire Dobelle for "cause." According to Dobelle's contract with UH, "cause" was defined as conviction of a felony, mental instability as diagnosed by a physician or conduct displaying "moral turpitude."
By the time Dobelle and the regents came out of mediation, the regents had rescinded the "for cause" element of the firing and given Dobelle a settlement package worth $3.4 million, including nearly $300,000 to pay Dobelle's attorneys.
Hawai'i-The great melting pot
Kaua'i police commissioner Leon Gonsalves Sr. launched himself into local and national infamy when, in an email, he referred to Kaua'i's new police chief, K.C. Lum, as "Hop Sing"-a derogatory allusion to a stereotyped Chinese cook character from the Western TV series, Bonanza. Gonsalves apologized when the email surfaced. After two weeks of public outrage, Kaua'i Mayor Bryan Baptiste asked Gonsalves to resign. As of this writing, Gonsalves has refused.
The no-go logo fiasco-Part deux
After a failed $74,000 attempt in 2003 to find a new logo, the University of Hawai'i tried again last year. It generated six new designs and put them up for a public vote of confidence. Forty-nine percent of respondents chose "none of the above." After 18 months and $151,000, UH scrapped its logo quest and chose to stick with its current seal.
Through the looking glass
In one of his last interviews, Mayor Jeremy Harris angrily complained that three years of news coverage about improper contributions to his campaign amounted to a "smear" that he has had to "sit back and bear." Added Harris, "I'm sure there's not a person on the street who doesn't believe that you trade contracts for contributions in Honolulu."
Whatever gave us that idea? By 2004, 30 people had been charged with campaign-related offenses in a three-year investigation into the campaign finances of Harris and top state politicians.
In July, one of these people-Lee Takushi, vice president of SSFM International-pleaded no contest to charges that he steered $28,000 in illegal campaign contributions to Harris. Takushi's lawyer explained that he had done so out of a 50-year tradition in which companies fund local politicians in hopes that they'll favor local companies over Mainland companies with big public-works contracts.
Kill Haole day
By last June, it was obvious that there were deep tensions between Evan Dobelle and the Board of Regents. On June 13, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported that the regents were considering sacking the president. Regent James Haynes insisted that talk of firing Dobelle was "irresponsible" and "conjecture." The conjecture proved accurate. Three days later, the board terminated Dobelle "for cause," insisting that this freed the university from paying out a $2.2-million severance package.
Put in his proper place and all that kind of stuff
Last year, state Sen. Cal Kawamoto found himself under investigation by the state Campaign Spending Commission. So he introduced a bill that would give senators the power to hire-and fire-the head of the campaign spending commission. Said Kawamoto, "They're dealing with our lives and all that kind of stuff. We want the proper people in there."
The bill went nowhere. Kawamoto's fellow Democrats were so embarrassed by his ploy, they forced Kawamoto to give up jurisdiction over campaign finance-related bills.
In July, Kawamoto was fined $21,000 for not reporting campaign contributions and using campaign funds for personal expenses, including the purchase of a $26,000 car. In the September primary election, Clarence Nishihara, a retired vice principal with less than $9,000 in his campaign, unseated 10-year incumbent Kawamoto and his quarter-million-dollar war chest.