Blowing Up the New Year

Fireworks Hawai’i is a unique place to ring in the new year for all sorts of reasons. For one thing, we’re one of the most western time zones. By the time you read this, it’ll probably be late morning on January 1st, yet we’ll still have a few minutes to go before the clock strikes midnight :).

The second, and perhaps more noticeable, feature of Hawai’i is our insane celebratory use of fireworks. Due in part to our large Chinese population, Hawai’i is one of the loudest places in the world to be on New Year’s Eve. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these firecrackers from 2000 – and no, this isn’t an unusually large amount.

Stories abound in the local papers about New Year’s fires, asthma problems, and attempts to ban fireworks in Hawai’i. Yet the big, illegal fireworks that our civil servants can’t seem to crack down on still go off (like the one that just hit my roof – think Disneyland-sized mortars in residential neighborhoods, folks). There always seems to be a party in the Pacific Ocean that somehow rivals that cute little glass ball in the Big Apple.

There’s a contemporary Hawaiian song that was popular a few years ago… “You can take the boy from the islands, but not the islands from the boy.” I think if I ever moved away, one of the things I’d miss is the explosions on New Year’s Eve. Despite the pain it causes my ears, I think it would be very different not to experience it.

So wherever you are or wherever you may find yourself in 2004, make the most of every opportunity and every situation. May you find peace and joy in all you do, and may you find God’s aloha in every part of your lives.

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!

(Image courtesy Jon Sullivan.)

Gearing up For the Holidays

Shaka Santa and Mrs. ClausCrazy after-Halloween retailers notwithstanding, Hawai’i is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The first sign wasn’t a tree or fancy lights, but rather the weather. As you’re probably aware, it doesn’t snow in Hawai’i. The closest we can hope for is rain, and we had the first winter storm of the season two days ago. I love the cooler weather, with rain pounding on the roof before it patters to the ground. Damage was confined to mud slides and some computers with busted power supplies, according to KHON2. (Is your computer plugged in to a surge protector? I’ll wait.)

The crews at Honolulu Hale (city hall) are starting to put up the Christmas decorations, including unpacking Santa and Mrs. Claus (pictured). Other decorations will include Frosty the Snowman and family, nutcrackers, and a large Christmas tree.

(Image courtesy Lisa Devlin and stock.xchng – yes, I’m too lazy to go down there and get it myself ;).)

Trouble at TheBus

TheBusTheBus is the island of O’ahu’s public transportation system, and one of the best in the nation. (It was designated “America’s Best Transit System” in 1994-95 and again in 2000-01.) According to the company’s web site, each day 218,000 trips are made on one of 525 buses that serve 4,200 stops. (That translates to 30 seconds between stops on most routes.)

Unfortunately, despite the popularity of the bus among locals and tourists alike, TheBus is facing financial struggles. In June, fares were raised from $1.50 to $1.75 for individual fares and $27 to $30 for monthly passes. Other fares increased too.

To cope with the budget shortfall, this past June TheBus reduced service on 23 routes by at least one bus, increasing waiting time and crowding passengers. Even more reductions are planned in August (PDF).

Coincidentally, the contract between O’ahu Transit Services (the company that runs TheBus under contract by the City & County of Honolulu) and the local Teamsters expired recently. Negotiations are at a deadlock, and if OTS doesn’t agree to a costly benefits package*, the Teamsters have declared that they will strike on August 26th. If they do, the 525 buses people are used to seeing on Hawai’i’s roadways will suddenly disappear.

Now, if all that news isn’t exciting enough for a regular rider, there’s always the most recent story – Mayor Harris has suggested increasing fares again for the second time in two months. This time, the increase would only affect people riding on bus passes (like me), and it would only go toward funding the routes slated to be cut, not the contract stipulations the Teamsters are demanding.

Whoever said riding TheBus wasn’t an adventure?

(Photo courtesy City & County of Honolulu.)

* LINK TENDING 1/11 – Removed dead link.

Hawai’i Today

(Note: This is the final installment of a three-part series discussing recent legal and political challenges to the Kamehameha Schools and other institutions designed to benefit the native Hawaiian people. Read parts 1 and 2.)

With all the challenges to the Hawaiian community, is there any hope for its survival? I think the answer is a definite yes. The solution, which is currently being debated in both houses of Congress, is Senate Bill 344, introduced by Senator Daniel Akaka and co-sponsored by the other representatives of Hawai’i’s congressional delegation, Senator Inouye (as well as senators from Nevada and Alaska), and Representatives Abercrombie and Case* (plus a representative from Virginia).

The bill is an effective compromise between the Native Hawaiians who have been defrauded of their rightful land for so long, as well as for people who have legitimate reasons to be concerned. It does not immediately create a new Hawaiian government; rather, it defines a structure to begin doing so. Most importantly (for the attorneys defending the state of Hawai’i in lawsuits) is that it firmly establishes that the Hawaiian people are an ancestral group. By doing so, it provides a strong legal basis in the assertion that institutions that support Hawaiians are not engaging in discrimination by race.

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A Crash Course in Hawaiian History

(Note: This is the second installment of a three-part series discussing recent legal and political challenges to the Kamehameha Schools and other institutions designed to benefit the native Hawaiian people. Read parts 1 and 3.)

January 17th, 1893 is an unmemorable date for many, but an important one for many Hawaiians. It was on this day that the nation of Hawai’i came to an end.

At the direction of a 13-member committee formed by members of the immensely profitable sugar industry, John L. Stevens, the United States minister to Hawai’i and an unabashed annexationist, ordered 162 troops from the U.S.S. Boston ashore. Queen Lili’uokalani, desiring to prevent bloodshed, temporarily abdicated her throne to the United States:

“Now, to avoid any collision of armed forces and perhaps loss of life, I do, under this protest, and impelled by said forces, yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon the facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representative and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.”

Members of Congress and President Grover Cleveland both acknowledged that the overthrow was illegal and immoral at the time. However, due to the lobbying of the planters and a number of issues related to the timing of elections, the overthrow was never reversed. A few years later, a treaty of annexation was ratified by the Senate and President McKinley.

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