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.

10) Living Hawaii: Many Families Sacrifice to Put Kids in Private Schools

Punahou Gate

The gates of Punahou School.

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.

9) 65 Years of Hawaii Hurricanes, Tropical Storms and Depressions in One Map

THE PROJECTOR 8.8.14 Waikiki tropical storm man waiting 8.8.14

A man waits at The Wall in Waikiki for signs of tropical storm Iselle on Aug. 8, 2014.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Tropical Storm Ana was about to bear down on Hawaii when reporter Nick Grube wrote this blog post on how lucky the state has been when it comes to hurricanes; only two have directly struck the islands in modern history. This story was easily Civil Beat’s most shared item on Facebook, where residents hoped for Hawaii’s luck to hold out. Ana skirted past the islands leaving only minimal damage.

8) Living Hawaii: You Might Be Surprised at Who Else Is Snagged by High Costs

Duke Aiona sits with his two grandkids, 5-months-old Makana John Paul Aiona  and right, 21-months-old Rylee (cq) Bautisto (cq) at his residence in Kapolei.  The two kids just got up after a 45-minute nap.  14 Nov 2014. photo Cory Lum.

Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona’s new life includes babysitting his two grandchildren at his house in Kapolei.

Cory Lum / Civil Beat

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.

7) Denby Fawcett: Where Are the Dancers From the Most Famous Hula Movie?

Consolidated Theaters Trailer

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.

6) Last Words: A Homeless Woman Writes Home Just Before She Dies

Tabatha Wood grainy

This grainy photo, one of the last images of Tabatha Wood, was taken two weeks before she died on a beach in Waikiki.


Reporter Nick Grube was determined to report on the human side of one of the city’s most intractable modern problems. Tabatha Wood’s last letter to her family brought together many homeless issues, highlighting that it can be difficult for people on the street to access help, how unforeseen circumstances can trigger a person’s decline and the impact of the local government’s efforts to drive homeless people out of some public spaces. On a more human level, it was a tragic story that traced one woman’s decline.

5) How the Hawaiian Language Got to Harvard University

Kamehameha Schools grads now attend Harvard College

Kamehameha Schools grads now attending Harvard College are, from left, Leshae Henderson, Nākoa Farrant, Kaipo Matsumoto and Kyle Yoshida.

Kaipo Matsumoto

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.)

4) 1,000 Votes: Maui GMO Farming Ban Squeaks By

Molokai Mycogen GMO Tractor

Employees at Mycogen Seeds, an affiliate of Dow AgroSciences, lay irrigation lines in a field.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

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.

3) Living Hawaii: Houston, We’ve Got a Problem

Nora Yolles-Young and her husband Scott Young with their two kids, Sam and Makena in Honolulu on September 18, 2014

Nora Yolles-Young and her husband Scott Young with their two kids, Sam and Makena, in Honolulu weeks before they moved to Texas.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

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.

2) Kanaka Maoli to Feds: ‘Get Out of Our House! Go Home!’

Leona Kalima lets a Department of the Interior panel know her feelings during a public meeting on whether the United States should establish a government-to-government relationship with Hawaii’s indigenous community held at the Hawaii State Capitol auditorium on June 23, 2014

Leona Kalima shared her intense feelings with a federal panel that came to take the temperature of people on core Native Hawaiian issues.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

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.

1) Leak in Navy Fuel Tank Raises Concerns About Water Contamination

Security fence at Red Hill Underground Fuel Facility. 1.29.14 ©PF Bentley/Civil Beat

A security fence at the Red Hill Underground Fuel Facility.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

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.





About the Author