Sour Poi Awards 2011
Celebrating the best of the worst of 2011—the strange, the stupid and the scandalous.
Honolulu put its best face forward for the international dignitaries who swept into town for the November APEC conference. In addition to clearing out the embarrassing homeless population in Waikiki, the state gussied up Nimitz Highway with a $1.3 million beautification project that included transplanting 87 trees yanked from Farrington Highway (maybe they considered the West Side a lost cause already?), and, in general, slapped a fresh coat of paint on the city. The stage dressing seemed to go off well, although many residents were less than thrilled about the week-long series of random roadblocks and security checkpoints that led to gridlock all over town.
School of Hard Knocks
In April, Kailua High School woodshop teacher David Izume threw a hammer in his classroom, hitting one of his students on the head hard enough to require four stitches. Izume later pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault, saying that he had been under a lot of stress.
But Sour Poi Never Forgets
If Sour Poi had a hall of fame, former Honolulu Councilman Rod Tam would surely be its first inductee, thanks to years of weirdly inappropriate gaffes, snark-worthy legislation and financial misdeeds. After all of it, though, Tam is getting off easy. In November, he was sentenced to two days in jail and 300 hours of community service in exchange for pleading guilty and no contest to 34 charges of theft, falsifying documents and violations of campaign spending laws. In addition, if Tam manages to stay out of trouble for an entire year, his record will be cleared.
Good Start, No Follow-through
In May, a man suspected of two hit-and-run crashes tried to elude police by jumping 20 feet off the H1 Freeway onto the roof of the Makiki Post Office. He had to be helped down from the roof by firefighters.
If You’re Going to Invade Our Privacy, at Least Be Good about It.
In June, the Transportation Security Administration gave “proposed termination” notices to 36 of its workers and suspended 12 more, after an investigation found that pieces of luggage at a local airport were not being properly screened for explosives. The shakeup followed a March sting operation in which a TSA employee at the Kona airport was arrested for allegedly stealing cash out of the bags of Japanese tourists.
We Interrupt This Aquittal for a Word From Our Sponsor
Farmer Alec Sou scored the most regrettable quote of 2011 when, in August, a judge dismissed the forced-labor charges against him and his brother, Mike. Walking out of the courtroom, Alec was, in his words, super elated. “It’s like 10 tons of watermelon lifted off my shoulder.”
Friends in Low Places
Robert R. Titcomb, a close friend of President Barack Obama, was nabbed in April for solicitation of prostitution. The charge was wiped from his record later in the year, after six months of good behavior. Obama didn’t seem to hold the legal problems against his buddy—the two were seen golfing together in November during Obama’s APEC visit. As Titcomb said in a 2007 Punahou School tribute to Obama, “He’s honest, he’s truthful and he’s always encouraged the better things in you. And you always go back to those people who water your plant, who water your garden.”
Now That’s a Wake-up Call!
The Waikiki Edition hotel became the The Modern Honolulu in late 2011, when its owners ousted management company Marriott, claiming it had done a lousy job. There was an inevitable legal tussle involving New York lawsuits and bankruptcy filings, but the new guys, Modern Management Services, took charge decisively, changing the locks and signage throughout the hotel in a dramatic 2 a.m. coup on a Sunday night.
A Spirited Defense
During a contested case hearing over the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope on Hawaii Island, hearings officer Paul Aoki ruled that Mooinanea, a guardian spirit of Mauna Kea, had no standing to testify in the case. A couple petitioning to stop construction had insisted that Mooinanea be included in hearings, even though she “resonates at a different vibration” and is therefore invisible, because she would be affected by the telescope. The couple also argued unsuccessfully for a waiver of the required $100 filing fee for testifying, saying the spirit was unemployed.
Ew. Never going outside again.
2011 got off to a disgusting start, as medical waste and other debris washed up on beaches along the Leeward Coast in January, including syringes and vials apparently filled with blood and urine. The debris had been washed down from the Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill after heavy rains. Although the landfill operator said that all the waste was sterilized and not considered infectious, many beaches were closed as a precaution, since stray needles posed a puncture risk.
Kramer He’s Not
In January, police arrested an Ewa Beach man who allegedly walked into his neighbor’s kitchen at 4 a.m. and took a six-pack of beer.
Come for APEC, Stay for the Malos
A torch-lighter wearing a malo caused some unintended hilarity during the week of APEC in November when he ran behind Hilary Clinton at the Hilton Hawaiian Village as she posed for photographers. The sight of his traditional, but skimpy, malo flapping in the breeze sent the secretary of state into a fit of giggles, and became a YouTube sensation.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie had a rocky first year in office. His “New Day” reforms didn’t take hold in the way he had hoped: After asking for the voluntary resignations of 28 state board and commission members, only one person agreed to step down. In October, four of his top advisors resigned over the course of a week, each of them citing a need to spend more time with their families. By Fall, his approval ratings had dropped to 30 percent, making him the least popular governor in the U.S.
I’m out of order? This whole neighborhood is out of order!
Police officers responded to a November Waipahu Neighborhood Board meeting in which City Councilman Tom Berg reportedly became disruptive and confrontational. Berg later apologized to the board for his outspoken criticism of the city’s rail plans during the meeting, but chairman Rito Saniatan refused to accept the apology, saying, “As an elected public official, the general public expect them to behave with dignified matter and professionalism.”
Insult to Injury
In the wake of the deadly Waikele fireworks explosion in April that killed five, The Honolulu Fire Department had to apologize on behalf of one of its fire dispatchers who responded to a frantic 911 call reporting the disaster. In a recording of the call, the dispatcher is heard speaking in a blasé, condescending tone, and referring to the caller as a “fucking idiot.”
You Bite it, You Bought It.
A pregnant woman made national news in late October when she and her husband were arrested outside of the Beretania Safeway. In the course of grocery shopping, the woman picked up and ate a chicken salad sandwich, intending, she said, to pay for it at checkout. Somehow, though, she forgot to include the sandwich with the rest of the groceries, and the family walked out without paying for it. Safeway security called the police, apparently not realizing that the couples’ arrest would lead to Child Welfare Services taking their 2-year-old daughter for 18 hours. Abashed, Safeway later apologized to the couple, and decided not to press charges.
The Wages of Sin
Several criminals in 2011 were the worse for wear after breaking the law.
>> In January, a man was severely burned in an electrical explosion while allegedly trying to steal copper wire from the old Hard Rock Café site on Kapiolani Boulevard. He wasn’t the only one. In September, a man was critically burned after allegedly trying to strip copper wire at a Sand
>> In April, a 22-year-old man paid the ultimate price for two 12-packs of beer when he was hit by a bus while running away from a Waikiki ABC store from which he had grabbed the beer.
>> Luckier were the pair of burglars who, in July, thought it was a good idea to break into a Lusitana Street house that had been tented for fumigation. It took police more than three hours to extricate one of the alleged burglars from the house, but, after taking the two to the hospital to get checked out, they were able to book them.
A Sedaris Story with No Punchline 🙁
Humorist David Sedaris’s most recent visit to Hawaii in November turned sour when someone stole his laptop from the Kailua house he had rented. Sedaris lost his passport and some gift cards in the theft, but most painful, he said, was the loss of all the writing on the laptop, which included all his published books, his diary, as well as unpublished material.
Talk about Making ‘A’
Two Aiea High School students were suspended in May after one of the students posted a picture onto Facebook of his rear end, which had been signed with his friend’s signatures while they were in math class. Said the cheeky student: “It was just for memories and stuff, just between me and my friends on Facebook.”
Next up: chewing gum and walking at the same time.
Honolulu City Councilmember Ann Kobayashi introduced a bill in 2011 that would have outlawed the use of cellphones or iPads while crossing the street as a pedestrian. The measure was referred to committee.
It’s a Jungle Out There
Hawaii has long been proud of its lack of snakes, but don’t get too relaxed. Seized by authorities on Oahu in 2011: a 9-foot-3-inch boa constrictor in Waiawa Gulch, a 7-foot albino Burmese python from a West Loch home, and a 5-foot boa constrictor from an Alewa Heights home. Makes us almost calm about the piranhas, skink and bearded dragon lizard that were also found.
Thank You for Your Service
A McCully man found a naked sailor in his apartment in June, lying on his bed. He called the police, but didn’t press charges, because the sailor had just returned from deployment.
Tim Perry, a former UH student who was busted in 2010 for recording himself in UH Manoa classrooms masturbating and posing in speedos (see last year’s Sour Poi awards), got into trouble again in 2011. This time, it was for allegedly stealing and trying to sell 218 rare books from UH’s Hamilton Library, worth between $50,000 and $100,000. A book collector in California sounded the first alarm, after noticing that the books Perry had sent him for inspection were stamped as property of UH and still sported library bar codes.
The Grammy Awards yanked its Hawaiian music category in April, ending seven years of huhu and humbug over the winners. (Many felt the voting for the category unfairly favored slack key and celebrity names.) Daniel Ho, the winning-est beneficiary of the Hawaiian Grammy, said, “I’m hoping the craziness will go away. Every year I get beat up.”
Let’s not rule out the possibility of DEADLY LAND SHARKS
In October, University of Miami marine conservationists reported that a GPS tag that had been attached to a tiger shark the previous month was now broadcasting its signal somewhere in Haiku, Maui. It was speculated that the shark had been caught by fishermen.
Next up, O’Brien juggles monk seal pups for charity!
Turtle lovers everywhere were scandalized in October by a photo of professional surfer Jamie O’Brien riding an endangered Hawaiian green sea turtle. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration pledged to investigate the incident, which could potentially incur thousands of dollars in fines. O’Brien claimed on his blog that the stunt had been intended to raise awareness of fibropapillomatosis, a virus afflicting the local population of honu.
Ready, Aim … aaaah, Fire!
In October, Kevin Nakagami, an experienced range assistant at the Koko Head Shooting Complex, allegedly caused a large brush fire that trapped hikers up on Koko Crater, after shooting a flare gun into dry brush on the hillside.
In the course of sprucing up Waikiki this past year, the City and County installed new sidewalks containing Hawaiian words embedded in the stonework. One of the tiles misspelled the word for “newcomer,” spelling it “malahini,” instead of the correct “malihini.” The private contractor responsible for the slip-up promised to replace the stone. We point this out knowing that the immutable law of bachi dictates that we misspell something on this very paige.