Thursday, January 30, 2014

So Long 2013 - And Thanks for all The Sharks

A Maui Year in Review

Usually, highlights of the year are made at the end of such year, but in the TRUE spirit of “Maui Time” meaning island time, meaning um, being proverbially late, here’s my take of a few things that I found significant:

Connie Adams was the first traffic fatality on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2013. It was a shock to the Maui arts community because her death was so unexpected and sudden and Connie was such a beloved and influential artist. She taught watercolor classes at the Hui No’eau Visual Art Center and had just revamped her website a few months before the accident.  

Known for her glowing watercolors, she more recently started experimenting with paper sculpture.   I had visited her studio during Maui Open Studios and thought I would take a class with her at some point.  That day never came. Here is one of Connie’s pieces that she gave me permission to share in one of my first blog posts.

"Jungle Queen," watercolor of an African Tulip Tree Flower by Connie Adams.

Taken by Wonder – An amazing art exhibition at the MACC by artist Wes Bruce, made of found materials, donated objects, and an overwhelming number of pallets made into a  play “fortress” of rooms, secret passageways and lofts and secret messages. I can’t begin to explain it, but it was wonderful. 

Secret upstairs loft in the Taken By Wonder Exhibit

Land Issues
The PLDC has been repealed. Hurray! The Public Land Development Corporation Act was a sneaky law which undermined public lands (beaches, state parks, etc.) by opening them for development. After much controversy and a lot of protest throughout the islands, the state legislature repealed the act.

Construction Boom on Maui
Maui has been recovering from the recession fairly well. Construction has been booming – there is a new business park going up by Costco and more work along the new road that will lead from the airport to Wal-mart. There is a new airport hotel. Tourism has been up and it’s been a busy year. I suspect our recovery is bolstered by all that Canadian oil sands money. Every other person on the beach is alabaster white (before they turn lobster red) and ends their sentences in “ay”.

There’s a new outlet mall in Lahaina with several name brand shops and the Andaz Hotel opened in Wailea.  There's also a gigantic new Safeway in Wailuku which the coconut wireless says is haunted, since the store was built on the soft sands of old Hawaiian burial grounds. I’ve heard rumors of cases of soda mysteriously being stacked from floor to ceiling overnight. 

The behemoth Kihei police station was built along the Pi'ilani Highway, perfectly situated so that cops can swoop upon the unsuspecting motorist going 10 over the speed limit. Drat. The County will have multiple revenue streams from speeders than just from superstar Officer Taguma's tickets

Construction of the Kihei Police Station

Taguma Watch - Speaking of Officer Taguma, there was a fantastic Facebook page which highlighted the adventures (hmmm) of our officer, known for his infamous speeding tickets. It reached an amazing 5,000 likes in one week, and then the County began an investigation to see if Taguma was being harassed by social media. The fan page has since then been renamed MauiWatch and toned down their punchy style, to the loss of fans everywhere. 

Shutdown of Haleakala National Park
During the government shut down in October, the national park also closed. I’ve heard that Haleakala Park gets more daily visitors that any other place on Maui, so I can only guess at the cost to the local economy. Consider all the companies that provide guided bicycle rides down the crater or horseback rides in the park, all those early sunrise tours that pick up tourists from hotels in West Maui, not to mention all the government employees twiddling their thumbs.  Were those tourist dollars spent elsewhere?

Shark incidents Maui had a surprising number of shark incidents last year (8 reported encounters), and there’s much speculation about why they’re happening and what to do.  A friend of mine dislikes the term “shark attacks” noting that the term “attack” implies malicious intent – whereas the shark is probably just hungry and wants to nibble something, like a nice tasty Canadian. (Actually sharks don't like the taste of humans.) It would be like saying humans attack pigs and cows for meat.  Still yet, I don’t know anyone who is staying out of the water from fear of sharks.

Tropical Storm Flossie in July, the much hyped about storm which didn’t happen. There’s always a fear that the next storm will be the REAL one, the true hurricane that will tear off roofs and ravage the islands, but Flossie turned out to be much ado about nothing. I’m not complaining that it didn’t happen. Thank God.  I love this vine video by Maui which captures the essence of Flossie.

Flash floods in March on Maui
We had tremendous rains and flash flooding on Maui that took out upcountry cottages and washed away the Chartres-style labyrinth at the Sacred Garden of Maui.

Outdoor labyrinth being rebuilt in May 2013.

Maui Food Forests – An organizer of the Kauai Food Forest spoke to a packed hall at UH Maui about how to create a community food forest. A group of enthusiastic people formed to create a food forest project at La’akea Farm in Paia. After a burst of energy over a few months, the project is on hold, because the Board of Directors at La’akea Farm is rethinking the use of its land for the Food Forest Project. 

SHAKA Movement – Another ecological organization started in 2013, protesting GMOs, an eternally hot topic on Maui. They’ve held several community meetings this year.

Maui Eco-villages and Intentional Communities – Jashana Kippert has been leading weekly groups and holding community meetings to help with changes to the Maui County zoning policy. Dale Bonar, formerly of Hawaii Island Land Trust, has been pushing for changes to create affordable farm land trusts, which would enable farmers and their workers to lease long-term lands at an reasonable price and also to live on their leased land. Currently, farmers who rent land to farm on are not allowed to live on their farmland (to prevent sneaky “farmers” from turning their farms into vacation rentals).

Same Sex Marriage has been legalized – Despite many Maui churches being intensely opposed to same sex marriage, even going so far as to buying a rather large ad in The Maui News opposing legalization, the legislature still approved it. Why? Because the community is for it and the times, they are a-changing.

Painted car window in Hali'imaile, upcountry Maui.

Health Exchanges in Hawaii. The Hawaii Health Connector website, part of the Obamacare rollout opened for sign ups. What a mess. I have been wrestling with this website since October. No wonder the enrollment is so terrible, the website is so glitchy that I had to meet with a social worker to do my application and the data we inputted was still missing in their system.  I’m still waiting for them to send the corrected paperwork by mail.  

Huffington Post launches HuffPost Hawaii, meaning a mega website is now offering regional coverage of Hawaii. They may say they want share lessons of aloha and tolerance with the world, but I think it was a practical move to justify visiting Hawaii year round. When other states are cold and blimey, HuffPost wants to warm up in Hawaii. 

That’s a wrap of the old year. Just in time for Chinese New Year, which begins in a few days.  Isn’t New Year’s great? Hawaiian New Year is in late November or early December. The calendar New Year was a month ago, and the lunar New Year is just getting started. 

Farewell 2013. As writer Douglas Adams would say if he were bitten by a shark, "So Long, and Thanks for all the Sharks."