Good Riddance To A Lousy Year

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - December 30, 2009

Say goodbye to 2009. Actually, allow me to expand: Good riddance, get the heck out of here, you’re not welcome any time soon and don’t let the door hit your okole on the way out!

The past year has brought us well-documented challenges. Chief among them is the ongoing recession that is leaving relatively few unscathed. The national unemployment rate is above 10 percent. Foreclosures are at historic highs. Business closures and bankruptcies are omnipresent. Here at home, tourism revenue is anemic. Hotel occupancy numbers (especially on the Neighbor Islands) are paltry. Automobile sales are the worst in a generation or so. There are proclamations by some that the recession is over and we are in recovery mode. Talk to any of our small-business owners and ask their opinion. It’s the one that matters.

Charitable organizations are struggling daily to provide much-needed relief to an expanding clientele. The Hawaii Foodbank reports staggering numbers of assistance. They distributed more than 12 million pounds of food in 2009 to more than 134,000 people, and the demand is expected to grow. You would be amazed at the impact charitable groups have in our community. To see them disempowered by this economy is unsettling.

Politically, 2009 has been a real hoot.

The ascension of Barack Obama to the presidency on a promise of “hope and change” soon turned to a lamentation of “hope it changes.” His precipitous drop in approval ratings brought him to the lowest point of any president after a similar time in office. His position on healthcare reform, on governmental ingratiation into corporate America, on the use of the Federal Treasury in creating more debt and devaluing the dollar and on global warming, oops, I mean climate change, has not only polarized his own political party, but the nation, too. I’ll be gentle and leave out Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

Congress is hurtling toward approval ratings in the teens led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Their clumsy charade of bipartisanship had been exposed at the outset of their stewardship, but it was further exacerbated with their treatment of the GOP minority during the healthcare debate. On the campaign trail, there were promises of transparent policy debates airing on C-SPAN. In reality, the same closed doors the Dems promised to open are shut tighter than ever.

Here at home, the passing of City Councilmembers Barbara Marshall and Duke Bainum was saddening. Regardless of your opinion about their political positions, both were dedicated to the betterment of our island and they will be sorely missed.

The recent shenanigans of U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and the interesting dynamic among Neil, Mufi and U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye have signaled the official beginning of the 2010 campaign. I mean, there are crucial issues confronting our nation and our 1st District congressman announces his resignation to run for governor. But is it a “real” resignation or merely a political maneuver to ignite his campaign and silence the whispers that his candidacy was half-hearted? Fundraising is the key here.

But there is no political issue in 2009 that trumps the still unresolved furlough Friday debacle. The simple disregard for the public interest in favor of self-interest is incredible. We have seen political plays in this town in the past, but the stupefying inability of our education leaders to resolve this crisis demonstrates how desperately our state education system needs true reformation. But at this rate it would be nice if we could start with simply getting students back into the classroom.

OK, 2009, you had your chance. Now make room for 2010. Here’s to a new and improved year.

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