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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 31, 2003

A different New Year's list

By David Shapiro

What's a New Year without lists? Five things I'd like to see more of in 2004:

1. Kim Willoughby. This remarkable University of Hawai'i athlete plays with ferocious power whether smashing down volleyball kills or snatching basketball rebounds.

Win or lose, she's a model of grace off the court.

Here's hoping Willoughby's Hawai'i ties remain strong as her immense talent takes her far in athletics and beyond.

2. Economic recovery. After a decade of demoralizing gloom, Hawai'i's economy is showing encouraging signs of life.

Construction and home sales are booming, and tourism is stabilizing after the blows of terrorism and SARS.

We're enjoying job growth, improved personal income and lower unemployment. Our challenge is to spread the wealth to enhance everybody's quality of life.

3. Sen. Les Ihara. He's been a consistent voice for open and ethical government, unafraid to challenge legislative colleagues on campaign financing, conflicts of interest and secretive decision-making,

Ihara (D-Kaimuki-Palolo) is often a voice in the wilderness, but one deserving of respect in the struggle for fairness and integrity in public life.

4. Grassroots politics. Community activism forced initiatives by the governor and Legislature to address the devastating effects of crystal methamphetamine addiction.

Follow-through will be a top issue in 2004 as communities keep up the pressure. Hawai'i will thrive if this kind of activism becomes contagious in setting the political agenda around gut community concerns.

5. Frank DeLima. Some of his shtick is so old it's starting to grow a beard, but he still cracks me up every time. His show is a good antidote for the daily bombast.

And five things I'd like to see less of:

1. Public school apologists. There's plenty of room for debate on what changes are needed to fix our failing schools, but further defense of the current system is a distracting waste of energy.

We've tweaked the system to death, and still two-thirds of our schools fail to meet achievement standards. This won't improve without wholesale changes in the way public schools are funded, managed and held accountable.

2. "Click It or Ticket." With more than 90 percent of major Hawai'i crimes going unsolved, how can police justify using major manpower to harass otherwise law-abiding citizens who choose not to buckle seatbelts?

Sure, we must protect children who can't make their own safety decisions, but adult drivers and passengers know the statistics and are quite capable of taking responsibility for their own seatbelt safety. Police should aim manpower at criminals who threaten the safety of others.

3. City Council cluelessness. From the budget to bus fares to police pay raises, council members put on spectacles of indecision before doing what it was obvious they had to do in the first place.

The previous council left discredited for ethical laxity, but the new group's ineptitude is inspiring a "Bring the Rascals Back" campaign around Honolulu Hale.

4. Political piety. Americans who regularly attend church vote Republican 2 to 1, while those who never attend church vote Democratic by the same margin, according to the Pew Research Center.

Shame on us for letting this most private matter become the leading point of political polarization in our country.

5. Presidential blinders. After courting rich campaign donors during his 12-hour visit to Hawai'i, President Bush averted his gaze from ordinary citizens who gathered at the Hilton Hawaiian Village to wave signs commenting on administration policies, pro and con.

Bush skirted the demonstrators by sneaking through the Hilton's service entrance to attend a Republican fund-raising dinner.

David Shapiro can be reached at dave@volcanicash.net.