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And, Action!

Every January, your story starts all over again.

January is my favorite month. It's like the start of a new story, especially after the rush of the holidays. That whole stretch, from October to New Year's Eve, always feels like the third act of an action film, those last 20 minutes in which the hero ties up every loose end. First comes Halloween, with its morbid overtones reminding the hero that death lurks at every turn. Then there's Thanksgiving, when the hero finds some kind of closure with his family before charging into the fray: Christmas.

One has to cover so many bases with that holidayÑcards, e-mails, decorations, shopping, presents, social obligations, family obligations, work commitments, travel, etc.Ñthat it can feel like storming the Death Star, retrieving the lost ark and defeating the latest alien invaders of Earth all at once. Depending on your approach to mall parking, there may even be a car chase in the mix.

Then, whew, it's New Year's, the epilogue, where those who survived the year exchange Meaningful Glances as they look back on all that they've been through. The hero kisses his or her true love at midnight and everyone gets ready for the sequel.

And here it is. 2006. Why, anything could happen.

In this issue of HONOLULU Magazine, we do some reflecting of our own, and take a look ahead. The annual Sour Poi Awards recap the last 12 months, singling out for attention 2005's oddest moments, from the shameful to the bizarre.

The annual Hale 'Aina Awards survey the very best in Hawai'i dining. The magazine may bestow the awards, but really, they are given by our subscribers, who vote every year to name their favorite restaurants.

Then there's associate editor Ronna Bolante's article, "On the Waterfront." Yes, the title is a shameless movie reference, but one that seemed compatible with the setting and story. The state has recently unveiled dramatic plans to redevelop the makai side of Kaka'ako, which would transform one of the most prominent stretches of Honolulu's waterfront. But the plans attracted protests as soon as they debuted.

The state intends to sell 6 acres of the Kaka'ako waterfront to private developer Alexander & Baldwin. A&B, in exchange, will invest hundreds of millions of its own money to redevelop most of the surrounding 30 acres. To afford that work, A&B wants to build 20-story condominiums on the land it will buy.

Protesters have two major objections. First, the state shouldn't sell public land for private redevelopment, especially not condos, which, the protesters insist, will only benefit those who can afford the condos. Second, the improvements to the area will change its character, making local surfers who favor the Kewalo surf break feel unwelcome.

As we discussed the story, we realized what the fight was really about. Not condos, not the surf break, not a land-swap. The fight is really over Honolulu's identity. What kind of city do we want Honolulu to be? Both sides are struggling to articulate their answers to that question, as Bolante explains; consequently, the plans are evolving. The chance for a city to do something with its waterfront doesn't come along very often. Whatever final plan emerges, I only hope we don't look back on this opportunity and wonder if we could've been contenders.

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,January

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