Civil Beat spends a lot of time down at Honolulu Hale.

We’ve followed Honolulu City Council meetings and kept tabs on Mayor Peter Carlisle. We’ve watched the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation grow from an idea into a reality, and have been a watchdog for the community from the Waianae Coast to Waikiki — and beyond. We keep our finger on the pulse of city government in our daily blog, Inside Honolulu.

Here’s a small selection of the best stories from the Honolulu beat in 2011:

  • Stormwater Released Into Ocean to Avoid Larger Landfill Catastrophe, Jan. 28, 2011: As the rain continued to fall in the hills above the city’s landfill in January, officials faced a choice. They could release garbage-laden stormwater into the ocean, or they could hold it back and risk catastrophic failure. They chose the first course, and medical waste washed up on Leeward Oahu beaches for days.
  • Wide Gap Between Illegal Rentals, City Enforcement, Feb. 14, 2011: Hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of Honolulu property owners break the law when they turn their homes into short-term vacation rentals. Enforcement is light: A Civil Beat examination showed the Department of Planning and Permitting reprimanded just 18 property owners for 24 total violations over the course of an entire year.

  • Honolulu Department’s OT Jumps 49 Percent, Director Won’t Talk About It, April 25, 2011: Overtime spiked by nearly half in the Honolulu Department of Enterprise Services, but the city said it couldn’t figure out which employees were responsible for the increase. The department’s director at the time, Sid Quintal, refused an interview request, and the city refused to reveal its records.

  • City Lawyers Told Council Members What Not To Ask on Rail Fact Finding Trip, April 29, 2011: The company hired to design, build, operate and maintain Honolulu’s train system for $1.4 billion has had performance problems in the past. When two members of the City Council flew to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Copenhagen to check out Ansaldo’s work firsthand, they were told to steer clear of controversial topics.

  • Senior Center at Heart of Federal Probe Falls Short, Aug. 3, 2011: The city awarded $8 million in grants to a Wahiawa senior center, but ORI Anuenue Hale did not serve as many clients as it said it would. The federal government is trying to recoup that money from the city, and Civil Beat investigated a decade of records to see what really happened.

  • Carlisle: Homelessness Worse than Rat Infestation, Sept. 6, 2011: Getting public officials on the record is an important part of what we do at Civil Beat. When Mayor Peter Carlisle came into our headquarters, we pressed him on rail and the city’s financial future. But the mayor made his most controversial statements — the headline sums it up — on the issue of homelessness.

  • Honolulu Police Load Up on Taser Ammo, Pepper Spray, Bean Bags for APEC, Sept. 26, 2011: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation protests turned out to be subdued, but the Honolulu Police Department took no chances. It purchased $700,000 worth of non-lethal weapons — things like pepper balls, Tasers, bean bag projectiles and “sound cannons.” Civil Beat obtained the full shopping list and explained what it meant.

  • Rail At The Airport: Investigation In 3 Parts, Oct. 20, 2011: Runway safety rules forced rail planners to change the route near Honolulu International Airport. The episode raised the specter of conflicts of interest and a lack of accountability among major contractors. Civil Beat asked three key questions — What happened? Who was responsible? How much will it cost? — and then answered them for readers.

  • A Cry of ‘Politics’ As City Council Districts Finalized, Nov. 10, 2011: Once every decade, Honolulu redraws its City Council districts based on new population data from the U.S. Census. Leeward Oahu has grown faster than the rest of the island, so boundaries were bound to shift. One member of the panel in charge of the new lines says the final decision was made to punish one outspoken politician.

  • Police-Business Deal Raises Ethical Questions, Dec. 21, 2011: An organization of Waikiki businesses donated a “gift” of $75,000 to the Honolulu Police Department in exchange for extra enforcement on the neighborhood’s sidewalks. A national expert on government ethics said deals like this one are problematic, and other cities handle things differently than does Honolulu.

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