It’s a good time of year for good news, and this week we’ve made an effort to highlight a couple of things that are going right around here. Our cover story this week features good news from the public sector–Kevin O’Leary’s piece on the Board of Water Supply is sure to upend some assumptions–to the arts, where Adrienne LaFrance talks to some of the people responsible for making a real difference in the quality and quantity of live entertainment in Honolulu. We’ve also include a few voices from folks about town, and we thank Laura Chartier for finding them.
This is also a chance to mention some other positive developments we’ve noticed lately. Why not?
• Three local schools–Momilani Elementary, Royal Elementary and ‘Ewa Beach Elementary–were named Blue Ribbon Schools this year, a high national honor that recognizes both academic excellence and dramatic improvement in student achievement.
• A combination of citizens’ groups and elected officials–including at least one Republican–has changed the tone vis a vis development in Hawaii Kai, and the farmers of Kamilo Nui have at least some hope of sticking around past the expiration of their leases over the next decade.
• The University of Hawaii broke the gender barrier this year by hiring its first female president. Less than 15 percent of research universities nationwide are headed by women. As we enter 2010, the executive branch, the state senate and the state university are all led by women, a fact that, while obviously not guaranteeing success on its own terms, is a sign of progress.
• In addition to the much-discussed massive commitment to rail, the federal government recently approved roughly $3.5 million for a rural bus program in Hawaii.
• As part of that same omnibus funding bill, Congress approved more than $18 million for combined sea turtle and ‘ahi preservation efforts.
• We’ve become more environmentally aware: initiatives across the public and private sectors in recent years have made solar energy a hot commodity in the Islands, and eco-friendly thinking is going mainstream. The Legislature passed a number of environmentally friendly measures in 2009, including money to fight invasive species and to recycle electronic waste.
• Bishop Museum’s newly renovated and reimagined Hawaiian Hall opened this year to lots of aloha, giving the museum a more contemporary sensibility and opening Hawaiian history to a new generation of visitors.
• Six years ago, filmmaker Alexander Payne turned California’s Central Coast into an trendy destination overnight with his film Sideways. Payne is set to begin production on The Descendants, based on the novel of contemporary Hawaii by Kaui Hart Hemmings, in the spring.
• Young innovators are doing something almost unheard-of in Honolulu: building a fashionable commercial and entertainment destination from the ground up, with no big corporate funding. No, Chinatown isn’t as busy as Ala Moana or “Ward.” Yes, it’s a lot more fun.
• Kona Brewing Co. is going gangbusters as one of the fastest-growing brands in the United States, but the good news for us is that it’s becoming easier and easier to find local brews of all stripes in bars, restaurants and even convenience stores.
• The City transportation department came out with a draft bicycling master plan that, if approved, will virtually quintuple the total lane-miles of bike lanes on Oahu at relatively limited expense. It’s not exactly a circle-island dedicated path, but it’s a lot better than what we’ve had.
• Lawrence Tseu, a local dentist and supporter of civic causes, recently gave $20,000 to help keep state libraries open.
• A land conservation project in North Kohala has been ranked as the top nationwide priority for a coastal esturary protection program administered by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and will receive $1.25 million in federal funds next year. The Lapakahi project is part of the Trust for Public Land’s Legacy Land Conservation Program, which draws 10 percent of the conveyance tax from Hawaii real estate transactions and will pay the remainder of the $2.5 million purchase price for the property.
• System-wide, UH enrollment topped 50,000 for the first time in 2009. That 29.2 percent of Hawaii residents have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher puts us, perhaps surprisingly, in the top 15 states when it comes to educational attainment–when you look at the top 10, it’s clear to see that economic benefits await states that support higher education.
Obviously, it’s not a comprehensive list. But at the end of the year, we’re pleased to focus on what’s good in Honolulu and around the state, and feel refreshed for having had the reminder that while the chips may be down, we’re never out. Oh yeah, one more.
• If you’re reading this, you’re probably in Honolulu, Hawaii, right now. How sweet is that?
Happy holidays from everyone at the Weekly.