Sour Poi Awards: Celebrating the Strange, the Stupid and the Scandalous of 2014
Honoring the best of the worst news stories from 2014.
Illustration: Daniel Guidera
Yes, 2014 proved to be a banner year for ridiculous happenings in Hawai‘i. Nowhere more so than on the Big Island, particularly in Puna. Residents got slapped with tropical storm Iselle, and threatened by Julio and Ana. Madame Pele sent Kīlauea lava creeping closer. The suspense apparently drove some residents to trespass, run rogue tours and even dip golf clubs and egg beaters into the lava as hot souvenirs. Storm damage knocked down albizia trees, which then closed Puna polling places. Puna voters, at least, weren’t fazed, managing to oust unrepentantly controversial state Rep. Faye Hanohano. Bring on the new year. Please.
Can’t hurry love
Hawai‘i Public Radio’s fall fund drive was disrupted by a snail’s pace. Storms knocked out power lines atop Mount Ka‘ala, severing the signal to Kaua‘i and O‘ahu’s North Shore as the station was making its donation pleas. Engineers rushed to make repairs but found themselves at risk of interrupting the mating season of endangered tree snails nearby. They waited.
All theft is bad, of course, but sometimes you hear about an incident that goes beyond regular bad and right into “special place in hell” bad. Among the items stolen in Hawai‘i this past year: two Red Cross trucks (in separate incidents); seven military medals, taken from the home of the widow of a Hawai‘i National Guard soldier killed in Afghanistan; cash and master keys from Laup-ahoehoe Community school, taken during the weekend that Hurricane Ana was threatening the Big Island; and, from Haili Christian School in Hilo, camera equipment, cash, ‘ukulele and a Bible.
Culturally Clueless? There’s an App for That
An iPhone app designed to show proof of a user’s sexually transmitted disease status provoked a rash of outrage in Hawai‘i after its designers named it Hula. (The app would help you “get lei’d,” quipped app founder Ramin Bastani.) An online petition opposing the app’s name attracted 4,595 signatures, and the state Senate Hawaiian Affairs Caucus and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs issued a statement calling it “highly insensitive, tactless and inappropriate.” Bastani, whose company is based in LA, initially refused to change the name, but relented several months later.
Let’s Call This “The Rod Tam Maneuver”
After a complaint from the Campaign Spending Commission that state Rep. Romy Cachola had spent campaign funds to buy a Nissan SUV for personal use, the lawmaker agreed to pay a $2,496 fine and reimburse $32,166 to his campaign committee. That amount was half of the total amount of questionable expenditures identified by the commission. Then, in September, the city Ethics Commission levied a $50,000 fine on Cachola for “pernicious” ethics violations that included accepting free meals and golf junkets from lobbyists, abusing his vehicle allowance and failing to disclose conflicts of interests when voting. Outraged voters ousted him from office. Wait, no, actually, Cachola was re-elected by default when no one bothered to run against him.
So Much For a Clean Getaway
In June, police arrested a man who allegedly broke into a Kalihi home to burgle it. A resident of the house discovered the man while he was taking a shower.
March 31 marked the end of go! Airlines, which had entered Hawai‘i eight years ago and sparked a fare war that ended up killing competitor Aloha Airlines. Said former Aloha Airlines CEO David Banmiller, when asked for a response from the paper, “Everything we predicted years ago has come to fruition. We said go! would ultimately leave, fares would dramatically increase and people wouldn’t be able to afford to fly. And everyone we talked to just nodded and listened and unfortunately did nothing to assist us.”
Dammit, Google Maps!
Two masked robbers with bats tried to stick up a Date Street house in May, but were quickly subdued and detained by the seven people who turned out to be inside. “Just let us go. We got the wrong house,” one of them reportedly pleaded.
Lenore Kwock unsurprised
The deification of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye hit a bump in September when it was revealed that he had allegedly held the waist of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and told her, “Don’t lose too much weight, now. I like my girls chubby.” The incident showed up in Gillibrand’s new memoir, and while she never specifically named Inouye, others ID’d him to The New York Times as the source of the inappropriate comment.
Quote of the Year
In January, state Rep. Rida Cabanilla introduced a bill that aimed (unsuccessfully) to legalize the cultivation of marijuana for sale to countries where the drug is legal. “We are the best. We are the best!” said Cabanilla. “We have the best marijuana in the world. I haven’t tried it, but the people who have tried have said, ‘Wow!’”
Illustration: Daniel Guidera
The bar for friendship was raised in late October when Big Island resident Brian Wargo fought off a shark attacking his surfing companion, Mckenzie Clark, at a surf break near Hala‘ula Lighthouse. Wargo told the paper that, when he saw the shark dragging Clark away, he grabbed the shark’s dorsal fin, and then kicked and punched the shark’s body until it retreated. Clark was left with a severely injured hand and a shark-bitten surfboard, but the two were able to make it to shore safely.
Out of Hand
The Honolulu City and County’s Handi-Van program had all kinds of problems in 2014. One of its vans went up in flames, with the two passengers only narrowly escaping with the help of the driver. Handi-Van bought 20 new vans to replenish its aging fleet, but, as of July, only 10 of them were on the road. There were numerous complaints from riders of inconsistent and late pickups, and the Handi-Van phone line was often busy, with callers unable to get through to make appointments.
Don’t Taze Me, Brah
One of the stranger incidents of the 2014 election cycle happened on the Neighbor Islands in July, when Maui mayoral candidate Beau Hawkes got tasered in the street while running away from a cop. A YouTube video of the chase, and Hawkes’ resulting faceplant, went viral. Hawkes, a self-described hippie who runs a bamboo-bong business called Maui Wowie, walks barefoot all the time to stay connected to the electromagnetic field of the Earth and doesn’t believe in things like driver’s licenses, safety-inspection stickers and license plates, vowed to outlaw Tasers if he won election in the fall. He did not win election.
The Honolulu Police Department made national news in March when it urged lawmakers to keep in place an exemption to state law that allowed officers to have sex with prostitutes in the course of their official duties. Lawmakers eventually revoked the exemption. As is often the case, Hawaiian Rent-All’s sign had the funniest take on the situation: “Don’t worry HPD, still OK to rent hoes from us.”
Suddenly Our Economy Seat Doesn’t Seem Quite As Cramped
In April, a 16-year-old boy managed to stow away in the wheel well of an airplane in San Jose, Calif. and made it all the way to the Kahului Airport on Maui, surviving the lack of oxygen and the cold temperatures that occur at 35,000 feet, as well as avoiding being crushed by the landing gear. The boy later said that he had been trying to reach his mother, a refugee in Ethiopia, and chose the plane because it was the first one he found heading west.
Where there’s smoke…
The historic but decrepit Coco Palms property on Kaua‘i suffered a fire in July that did $600,000 worth of damage. The resort, which has remained empty since it was torn up by Hurricane ‘Iniki in 1992, had, over the years, been the focus of several failed restoration attempts. One possibly meaningful clue in the post-fire investigation: a post that appeared on the resort’s Facebook page the day before the fire that said, “Best thing we could do is get 1,000 gallons of gas and burn it down.”
Return To Sender
In May, as part of a process to create a Native Hawaiian governing entity, Office of Hawaiian Affairs CEO Kamana‘opono Crabbe sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asking for a legal opinion on whether the Hawaiian Kingdom still exists, under international law. The letter was apparently news to the rest of the OHA trustees, who freaked out and rescinded the “unauthorized” letter, asking Kerry to pretend it had never been sent.
Illustration: Daniel Guidera
Flight of the Bumblers
Aerial advertising has long been illegal in the City and County of Honolulu, but that didn’t stop Florida-based company Aerial Banners Inc. from repeatedly flying banner-towing planes over Honolulu. Police cited the pilot two separate times in July, although he contended that he had been granted an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration. The pilot is currently set to be arraigned in Wahiawā District Court on Jan. 29.
Photo: Courtesy of Governor’s Office
In April, as the gubernatorial race heated up, Gov. Neil Abercrombie publicly questioned the significance of late Sen. Daniel Inouye’s deathbed letter. He told the Los Angeles Times that construing Inouye’s letter, which recommended Colleen Hanabusa as Inouye’s successor, as his dying wish was “problematic.” Abercrombie wound up apologizing to Irene Hirano Inouye, the widow of the late senator, and would go on to lose the gubernatorial primary election by an unprecedented 36 percentage points.
Taxing Our Patience
In May and June, the state mistakenly sent out more than 2,000 balance-due tax notices to residents who were actually all paid up. The mix-up was apparently a result of delays in posting payments to the accounts of certain taxpayers. This, after the state spent $87.5 million modernizing the Tax Department’s computer system over the course of a decade.
This Is Not the Poop Deck
The City and County battled an unusual foe in Kailua this past year: ducks. Large groups of the waterfowl started hanging out in the Kailua District Park swimming pool on a regular basis, forcing officials to repeatedly shut down the pool to clean out all the duck feces. Flags and decoys were deployed to scare off the loitering birds, but the ducks proved to be stubborn fans of the swimming pool, if not its best rule abiders.
A Tale of
One Two Cities
In April, Facebook updated its profile settings and maps to properly distinguish between Kailua and Kailua-Kona. The change came after state lawmakers introduced a resolution pleading with Facebook to recognize Kailua Town as its own location on O‘ahu, rather than conflating it with the town on the Big Island.
Albizia-n You Around
Big Island residents found an unlikely new Public Enemy No. 1 in 2014: albizia trees. The non-native species are both fast-growing and susceptible to falling over in high winds—a bad combination in a year of multiple hurricanes. Dozens of fallen albizia trees caused extensive damage to homes, blocked roads and took down power lines across the
Puna area, leading residents to call for a war on the alien intruders.
Albizia trees weren’t the only invasive species Hawai‘i had to contend with in 2014. Various parts of the state were plagued by fire ants, stink bugs and even coconut rhinoceros beetles.
Well, That Sucks
Police arrested a man in Pearl City in March for allegedly striking a woman several times during an argument. His weapon of choice: an upright vacuum cleaner.
In November, a woman named Drew Paahao was sentenced to a year in prison for kicking in one of the front doors of ‘Iolani Palace and shattering an original etched pane of glass that dated back to 1882. At trial, Attorney General David Louie said that Paahao broke into the palace intending to take items inside. When KHON2 asked her why she did it, she said, “Cause that’s my house. Yeah, that’s my house.”
The bruno fumble
Almost half of the tickets to Bruno Mars’ sold-out trio of Hawai‘i concerts in April were bought by people outside of the state, likely for scalping purposes. In contrast, Jack Johnson announced that tickets to his August performances at the Waikīkī Shell would at first be available only to Hawai‘i residents who either picked them up in person or used a credit card with a Hawai‘i billing zip code. Small consolation to Bruno Mars fans who had to settle for the Super Bowl TV halftime show to see this local boy made good.
Hail to the beach
City Council chair Ernie Martin and member Stanley Chang introduced a bill to rename Sandy Beach Park as President Barack Obama Sandy Beach Park. Native Hawaiians objected, saying that renaming the beach would encroach on its cultural and historical significance. Martin and Chang yanked the bill, and Council spokesman Mark Segami later said they are considering naming a rail stop after the president instead.
Soccer? I Barely Mow ’Er.
The Waipi‘o Peninsula Soccer Stadium was in such bad shape this past year—rampant weeds on the pitch, uneven playing surfaces, an increasingly garbled scoreboard display—that, in August, a visiting Texas team initially refused to play on the field against the UH soccer team.
Illustration: Daniel Guidera
How to hit the target, and yet be way off
In September, a Honolulu police officer accidently fired his handgun while in a bathroom stall in the Salt Lake Target store. No one was hurt, but the bullet went through the stall wall, ricocheted off a door frame and buried itself in an adjacent stall.
hey, it happens to everyone
As Hurricanes Julio and Iselle approached the Islands in August, the Honolulu Department of Emergency Management issued an advisory instructing people to disregard what it labeled a “premature O‘ahu hurricane evacuation list.”
Airline Delays, huh
In October, Larry Ellison’s Island Air gave 45 of its pilots $4,000 bonuses, but quickly asked for them back, saying the bonuses had been contingent on the delivery of new aircraft, which did not happen on schedule.
Thank You For Your Service
It was revealed in June that Hawai‘i’s Veterans Affairs clinics had the worst delays for new patients in the entire national VA system: 145 days.
UH anthropology professor Christine Yano made national headlines in August after one of her revelations in an LA Times interview went viral: Hello Kitty is not a cat. Yano, who wrote a 2013 book about the Japanese pop-culture phenomenon, said that manufacturer Sanrio Corp. told her very firmly, “She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat.”
One Toke Over the Line
Five Puna residents—all holders of medical marijuana cards—filed lawsuits in May and June suing Hawai‘i County and the police. At issue: 52 marijuana plants, which the plaintiffs said had been wrongly confiscated by Big Island police, and which they hoped to get back or be properly compensated for, at $5,000 per plant. Said one of the plaintiffs, “You can’t just take people’s property.”