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For Hawaii, 2014 was a newsy year. There were election surprises and the threat of a pair of hurricanes, with one turning into the damaging storm that struck the Big Island just before primary Election Day.
Beyond the breaking news, the state’s rising cost of living continued to turn the screws on residents in their daily lives, and our stories about this relentless phenomenon captured plenty of attention from readers.
It is clear that many of the big stories of 2014 will become an integral part of next year. We have yet to really feel the imprint of our new governor, David Ige, after his improbable rise to become the state’s chief executive. The GMO debate is sure to continue, with lawsuits moving forward. The inability of the city and the state, at least so far, to bend the curve on homelessness means that the issue will almost certainly continue to get plenty of attention. As for the cost of living, well, you tell us when things get a little easier.
In the meantime, here are the most-read stories Civil Beat published in 2014.
Civil Beat really dived into its Living Hawaii series this year to explain, understand and seek solutions to the enormous challenges people face as a result of the high cost of living. The cost of education can be enormous. Families in Hawaii, and especially on Oahu, have a uniquely intense faith in private schools and, in many cases, they make enormous material sacrifices so that their children can get what they believe is a “better” education. The article drew broad interest and sparked an impassioned debate among parents who, in some cases, sought to confirm or refute that private education in the state is better.
Former Republican Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, who placed cost of living issues at the forefront of his campaign for governor, is more similar to many voters than people knew. The choices he made in his career and for his children’s education have set him back financially, despite living in a two-income household and holding jobs as a judge and as lieutenant governor, and having a private legal practice.
Many commenters said that if Aiona had shared this side of himself, including his family’s struggles during the campaign, he might have been a more persuasive candidate.
Veteran Hawaii journalist Denby Fawcett has penned many of Civil Beat’s well-read stories, but her “Where Are They Now?” column on the most watched hula movie of all time resonated. She offered a look behind the grainy yet majestic trailer that opens up every film in local Consolidated Theaters and tracked down some of the people who performed in it. Fawcett followed this up with a longer piece featured in Honolulu Magazine.
Millennials, academics and Native Hawaiians on Facebook were drawn to Harvard student Kaipo Matsumoto’s Community Voice essay about how he got the prestigious university to accept the Hawaiian language for the foreign language requirement. His success in gaining this stamp of legitimacy came during a year when the public conversation about Native Hawaiian identity in the state was lively. (More on that later.)
Gov. David Ige’s campaign wasn’t the only example of a major political victory in the face of far better-funded opposition. Biotech companies poured in $7 million to combat a voter initiative to temporarily ban GMO crops in Maui County. More money was spent on it than on any election campaign in Hawaii’s history, yet the initiative passed after a last-printout turnaround that provided a particularly dramatic moment in the 2014 general election. Because of court challenges, the initiative has not taken effect yet.
This article on the Young family detailed the intense economic pressures that convinced them to move to the mainland despite their strong desire to stay in the islands. Their plight resonated with many people who struggle with Hawaii’s nation-leading cost of living. The article, and the comments on it, underscored a broad anxiety over how people can or cannot handle the price of paradise. The article drew particular attention from former Hawaii residents who wish to return home, but can’t afford to.
The federal government reached out to the Native Hawaiian community to hear what sort of framework people wanted for their relationship with the Washington, D.C. Some people spoke up to say that the hearings lacked legitimacy because of the U.S. role in overthrowing the monarchy and meddling in Hawaii’s affairs. Native Hawaiian issues got a lot of attention this year on the islands and on the mainland.
Watchdog journalism is a cornerstone of Civil Beat’s work. Reporter Sophie Cocke broke the news about possible water contamination caused by the Navy. This story caught fire on the social networking site reddit, where it found a national audience. Our ongoing coverage raised questions about the safety of Oahu’s water supply, the toxicity of possible jet fuel leakage in the tanks and the military’s broader environmental impact on the land.