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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 27, 2006

2006 seen through the Volcanic Ash lens

By David Shapiro

It's been a year of terrible disasters in Hawai'i, with earthquakes, torrential rains, a deadly dam collapse, landslides and massive sewage spills.

And that was all before the election.

As 2006 comes to an end, here's a flashback on some of the stories that made Hawai'i's year that was:

  • October earthquakes measuring 6.7 and 6.5 caused more than $200 million damage statewide. Emergency information came so slowly that when Christmas bells rang, some confused residents thought it was Civil Defense finally giving the all-clear that no tsunami was generated.

  • Mayor Mufi Hannemann evicted the homeless from Ala Moana Park in the middle of record rains to spruce up the park for his centennial festival. With the transients gone, there was nobody left wasted enough to appreciate the mayor's singing.

  • After 48 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into the Ala Wai Canal and Waikiki beaches, Hannemann blithely blamed voters for electing Jeremy Harris instead of him in 2000. As if we didn't have enough reason to hold our noses.

  • In the year's biggest political story, Hawai'i kept its "Sunshine Boys" U.S. Senate team as 82-year-old Daniel Akaka defended his seat against Ed Case. Akaka and fellow octogenarian Daniel Inouye vowed they won't retire until their combined age equals the national debt.

  • Republican Gov. Linda Lingle spent a record $6.7 million to win re-election against little-known opponent Randall Iwase. Democratic legislators promised to consult closely with the governor before ignoring her as usual.

  • Mazie Hirono cruised to victory in the 2nd Congressional District when her opponent, Bob Hogue, ran a "nice guy" campaign and refused to mix it up on qualifications. We hope Hogue enjoys his reign as "Mr. Congeniality" while Hirono serves in Congress.

  • Voters rejected a constitutional amendment to end mandatory retirement for state judges, but jurists forced to retire at 70 can take heart. They're still young enough to be elected to three terms in the U.S. Senate.

  • On the crime front, Michael Rosario cited "Robin Hood Syndrome" to explain his string of bank robberies, including several dressed as a woman. He's pinning his hopes on a jury of Merry Men who will get the drag thing.

  • Two sweet-toothed women robbed a Pearl City candy store at gunpoint, then held up a Waimanalo ice cream parlor a month later. Witnesses described the wahine with the gun as weighing 150 pounds in Pearl City and 200 pounds in Waimanalo.

  • A 51-year-old man was arrested when he attempted, undisguised, to use a credit card and picture ID stolen from a 20-year-old woman. The dope should have at least trimmed his ear hairs.

  • In government news, the City Council approved a $3.6 billion and up rail transit line between Kapolei and Honolulu. After chaotic politicking over the route and hardware, however, it may end up looking more like a Disneyland ride than a transportation system.

  • The Legislature repealed a controversial gasoline price cap less than a year after it took effect. Ho hum. The repeal had the same effect as when the cap was enacted: Prices immediately went up.

  • The number of food stamp users in Hawai'i dropped by 19 percent over the past five years, partly because of red tape involved in applying for the assistance. We know we're in trouble when people would rather go hungry than deal with the bureaucracy.

  • Kailua residents got a holiday miracle when the city's sewer repairs on Kalaheo Avenue were almost done after seven years of work, more than twice as long as expected, three contractors and a 62 percent cost overrun. We can only pray that this wasn't a practice run for rail transit.

    David Shapiro, a veteran Hawai'i journalist, can be reached by e-mail at dave@volcanicash.net. Read his daily blog at blogs.honoluluadvertiser.com.