20 Years–Go Figure
In the first issue of the Honolulu Weekly, July 17, 1991, then-editor, Julia Steele reported on the Tusitala Street evictions:
All of the women left on the land agreed that they’d rather be dragged off the property than leave voluntarily. They met frequently, over coffee and doughnuts from the corner ABC store, to discuss the eviction, their options and their fate. Finally, on June 2, two days before they were due to be evicted, they decided that as a statement of protest against the eviction and the destruction of affordable rentals for luxury condominiums, they would barricade themselves into one of the empty buildings on the lot after midnight on June 4 and stay there until they were arrested. No one thought that would take very long…[Officers] dragged a 62-year-old Hawaiian woman off the property, fighting all the way, crying, “No! I don’t want to go! I don’t want to go!” When they had “auntie,” as they called her, at the car, they handcuffed her and drove her to jail. The last resident of Tusitala Street was gone.
Twenty years later, that block of Waikiki, bound by Kapili Street and Liliuokalani Avenue and bisected by Tusitala Street, remains undeveloped. The Japanese corporation, then-known as U.S.A. Pensee, had been buying properties at the rate of $31 million per block, and had plans to make Tusitala Street a “superblock,” complete with high-rise condos and luxury roof-top settings. Some residents moved out, others were dragged off the property and eventually arrested.
The $23 million twin-tower condominium project never happened. Instead of roof-top pools, there are broken gutters, weed-infested sidewalks, hot concrete slabs and caved-in ceilings.
So why cover these stories–again, and, sometimes, again? For the Weekly, progress isn’t measured by the numbers of new buildings erected, tourism statistics or countless images of food porn. We want the city to be a place where people can stay, earn a living, live comfortably in an apartment and actually pay their rent.
Early issues of the paper highlighted underground artists, new bands, the re-birth of Chinatown, local films, activists’ causes and other fringe-type events. The paper spoke to those interested in an alternative voice rather than the otherwise mainstream point-of-view projected by the dailies. Over the next two decades, readers turned to the Weekly for the same reasons people around the country turn to their own local alternative weeklies–because it covers under-represented people and the events they care about.
In 2011 there is still an assault on the homeless, nonconformists, immigrants and Native peoples. Artists find it difficult to stay here and find work. Mass transit has become a controversy of epic proportions and local government continues to spin obvious issues like unemployment, foreclosures, gay rights and human rights into a web of confusion. With each new major national chain that arrives, a piece of the city’s soul is lost. The number of anniversaries being celebrated in this issue is a testament to the creative energy back when the backbone of this city was the independent business owners and the artists, the city’s movers and shakers.
Today, many of us are trying to find our “place” in this community, and in the years to come, we hope the Weekly keeps us informed, enlightened and entertained.