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By Paul C. Curtis

KAUAI, Hawaii (The Garden Island, Jan. 2) - The September Bali Hai Helicopter Tours crash that killed five people, and the sight of around 200 melon-headed whales coming close to shore in Hanalei Bay in July, are the top two news stories of 2004.

Both of these stories made national headlines, with speculation continuing today that sonar used during the Rim of the Pacific war games off the coast of the island may have caused the erratic behavior of the whales.

Bethany Hamilton continued to make news throughout most of 2004, to the chagrin of some Kaua‘i residents, after losing her left arm in a shark attack in October of 2003. Her book, "Soul Surfer," continues to be one of the top sellers at Borders Books, Music & Cafe in Lihu‘e, and a movie is in the works.

Hanalei's Andy Irons claimed his third straight Association of Surfing Professionals world championship, and brother Bruce Irons got a bit out from under his brother's shadow by claiming the $55,000 first prize in the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational at Waimea on O‘ahu.

Kalani Vierra, co-supervisor in the Kaua‘i Fire Department Ocean Safety Bureau, was awarded the prestigious Waterman of the Year award.

On the downside, the number of ocean drownings and traffic fatalities were both way up in 2004. On the upside, there were no murders or hurricanes.

Some things were news in 2004 because they failed to happen. Some two full years into his four-year term, Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste not only failed to find or hire a county engineer, but also failed to find a site for a new landfill as the Kekaha Landfill nears the end of its useful life.

On the positive side, Baptiste's war on drugs continued to make forward progress, and his Ka Leo O Kaua‘i community meetings give members of the public real voices on neighborhood issues.

The November elections yielded few surprises, except that Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, a first-time candidate for County Council with a huge family and extremely organized campaign organization, ousted Joe Munechika.

A surprise at the November election was the voters' overwhelming approval of real-property-tax reform, in the form of the Ohana Kauai charter amendment. Implementation of that amendment remains a matter in court.

Hanalei resident Lauryn Galindo was sentenced to 18 months in prison for allegedly profiting from adoptions of Cambodian children she facilitated for many people, including Angelina Jolie.

Kaua‘i Police Department officials coordinated a drug bust that got $500,000 worth of illegal drugs off the streets.

Alton Miyamoto of Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative announced he would retire, Police Commissioner Leon Gonsalves announced he would not step down even after Baptiste asked him to after an e-mail surfaced containing a racial slur about Kaua‘i Police Chief K.C. Lum.

Art Umezu accepted the role as film commissioner in the county Office of Economic Development, and a dog attacked and killed a young boy in the Moloa‘a area.

The Kauai Lagoons Resort Company was sold, and Clyde Hashimoto of Kalaheo School won the prestigious Milken Award and its $25,000 prize as one of the nation's top teachers.

Leaders at Aloha Airlines filed for federal bankruptcy protection from creditors as the island again welcomed over one million visitors. It seemed like there were a million visitors on the roads, as highways from Kapa‘a to Puhi neared gridlock during many hours of the day.

Craig De Costa was sworn in as the new county prosecuting attorney, Dennis Furushima was lured out of retirement by Baptiste to become the fire chief, and after members of the Police Commission gave Lum nearly unanimous support to be permanent KPD chief, he named veteran Kaua‘i and Los Angeles policeman Ron Venneman as his deputy.

The Kekaha Panthers Junior Pop Warner cheerleaders were named national champions, and the Kaua‘i High School team was tops in the state in a land-judging contest.

Dr. Ramon de la Pena was named the Kaua‘i member of the University of Hawai‘i board of regents by Gov. Linda Lingle, replacing Charles Kawakami, and Judge Clifford Nakea announced his retirement.

A student attacked a teacher with a machete at Kaua‘i High School, and Ku Kilakila Kaua‘i All-Island Marching Band represented the island well at the Tournament of Roses Parade before one million people live and several million others watching on TV.

State Rep. Ezra Kanoho, D-East and South Kaua‘i announced the upcoming two-year term would be his last, and Koloa's Don Cataluna won unopposed re-election to the Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau seat on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs after his would-be opposition announced she did not live on Kaua‘i as required to run for the seat Cataluna holds.

Former school principal Maggie Cox easily won election to the state Board of Education seat representing Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, and state Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua‘i-Ni‘ihau handily took on the challenge of Republican Maryanne Kusaka in his re-election bid.

Navy officials at the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands successfully won state leases or easements to extend their boundaries, or to at least keep surrounding lands in agricultural use, and county officials approved permits necessary to allow construction of a 1,500-unit resort development at Kukui‘ula on the South Shore.

Among the friends we said our final good-byes to in 2004 was Kaipo Kealalio, Kaua‘i district executive with the Boy Scouts of America Aloha Council and a friend of youth and the young at heart. Friends we said good-bye to, hopefully only temporarily, are the 100 men and women of the Hawaii Army National Guard Company A, 2nd Battalion, 299th Infantry Regiment, most of whom left New Year's Eve back to Fort Bliss, Texas, then to Fort Polk, La., before deploying to Iraq for what may be a stint of one or two years in the war zone.

While affordable housing for residents continues to be a key issue without a concrete solution, representatives moved forward with plans to rebuild and reopen the two remaining visitor properties closed since Hurricane ‘Iniki visited in 1992: the Coco Palms Resort and Poipu Beach Hotel. The Princeville Resort, some 9,000 acres of land, was sold for over $200 million, and several island hotels changed ownership in 2004, also.

January 3, 2005

The Garden Island:


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