It was a big news year in Hawaii, topped by the convictions of Louis and Katherine Kealoha in the state’s largest public corruption case and the months-long Mauna Kea protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope that has triggered a resurgence of Native Hawaiian activism.

Civil Beat also offered readers several investigations, as well as deep-dive journalism into critical issues such as climate change, Hawaii’s teacher shortage and the future of tourism.

These standout pieces from 2019 display our commitment to go beyond the nonstop grind of the daily news cycle to bring you high-impact journalism. We strive to hold the powerful accountable, make sense of Hawaii’s most complicated issues and serve high-quality news and analysis.

If you need proof that in-depth journalism and investigative reporting are needed in Hawaii today, look no further than this list.

We want to know your favorite story this year. Post the headline in the comments at the bottom of the article.

1. The Kealoha Trial

Former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha and Katherine Kealoha arrive at District Court. May 28, 2019
Former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha and Katherine Kealoha arrive at U.S. District Court in Honolulu. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Years of reporting on Louis and Katherine Kealoha came to a head this year, with the trial of Honolulu’s retired police chief and his wife, a former city prosecutor. Our reporters covered the trial closely as the pair faced a series of federal felony charges.

In the end, a jury convicted the Kealohas and two Honolulu police officers on federal conspiracy charges.

2. Mauna Kea

Afternoon classes meet at Pu'uhuluhulu University on July 26, 2019. Free classes are offered daily to Kia'i in a range of subjects, including Hawaiian language, holidays and hula.
Afternoon classes meet at Pu’uhuluhulu University on Mauna Kea last July. Ronit Fahl/Civil Beat

Civil Beat sent reporters Anita Hofschneider and Blaze Lovell, as well as photographers Cory Lum and Ku’u Kauanoe, to document the protests on Mauna Kea over the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. Their coverage provided a comprehensive picture of one of the most divisive issues of the year.

Beyond news stories, Civil Beat strives to represent a wide range of voices and information on the topic through Community Voices, polling and analysis.

3. Conflicts, Lax Oversight Shroud This Secretive Fisheries Fund

The day starts early Pier 38 where fishermen can be found six days a week unloading their fresh catches of fish to be sold at the Honolulu Fish Auction. The fish are sold same day to buyers in a competitive bidding environment. (Civil Beat photo Ronen Zilberman)
The day starts early at Pier 38 where fishermen can be found six days a week unloading their fresh catches of fish to be sold at the Honolulu Fish Auction. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat

Even if you aren’t familiar with the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, you’ll be interested to find out about the fishy practices Civil Beat uncovered in this investigation.

Reporters found limited oversight, a process of awarding contracts mostly behind closed doors and a reluctance to produce public records. The investigative series prompted congressional calls for a federal investigation.

4. Wayfinding

Marcel Honore’s Wayfinding column tackles a topic that affects us all in Hawaii — how we get around.

This year, that included crowdsourcing Hawaii’s worst intersections, documenting the long, dangerous bike commute from West to East Oahu and looking back on the history of traffic engineering in the Aloha State.

5. Tourism’s Tipping Point

As part of senior business reporter Stewart Yerton’s yearlong look into Hawaii’s changing economy, he dived headfirst into the future of Hawaii’s biggest industry.

The project takes a look at tourism’s effects on the state as a whole, as well as on individual neighborhoods and natural resources. One major question bubbled to the top: How many tourists are too many?

6. The Sad Story Of The Kiwikiu

kiwikiu mosquito avian malaria
This male kiwikiu was one of 13 endangered Maui parrotbills that were recently moved from one side of Haleakala to the other in an effort to establish an “insurance population.” Nearly all died from disease-carrying mosquitoes. Courtesy: Bret Nainoa Mossman/MFBRP

The kiwikiu, a critically endangered native bird on Maui, is on the verge of extinction. But a team of scientists is determined to save it.

Reporter Nathan Eagle documented the team’s failed attempt to bring 13 critically endangered Maui parrotbills from one side of Haleakala to the other in what may be our most ambitious multimedia project to date. (Plus, Ralph Steadman drew the kiwikiu for us, which is undeniably cool.)

7. Living Hawaii

Civil Beat continued to cover Hawaii’s cost of living in 2019. We featured the personal stories of residents in their own words through the HI-Priced newsletter, crunched the numbers on what it’s like to be a millennial living in Hawaii and wrote about the often important aspect of family help when it comes to coping with the high price tag of living in the islands.

8. Major Player In Black Market Marshallese Adoptions Faces Criminal Charges

Paul Petersen is the elected assessor in Maricopa County, Arizona, which covers the Phoenix metro area. Maricopa County Assessor's Office

A major player in our 2018 Civil Beat investigation into illegal adoptions of Marshallese children is now facing criminal charges. Paul Petersen, an Arizona attorney, was indicted in a multi-state investigation involving authorities in Arkansas, Arizona and Utah.

Civil Beat’s investigation showed how, despite reforms two decades ago to give the Marshall Islands control over all international adoptions, U.S. attorneys such as Petersen were ignoring a treaty between the two nations to fly pregnant women to the U.S. to hand over their newborns to American couples.

A Hawaii attorney, Laurie Loomis, is now being investigated by the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel after Civil Beat documented adoption practices similar to what Petersen had been doing.

9. Hawaii 2040

Hawaii 2040 was one of Civil Beat’s biggest projects of 2019, bringing environmental and climate issues to the forefront of our coverage.

Through data analysis, reporting and multimedia, we explored the effects of climate change in the islands and what is being done about it.

10. When Delusions Steal Your Daughter

Marti Claussen goes through her photographs with foreground photo of daugfhter Christie Claussen at her condo.
Marti Claussen goes through her photographs at her cond0, with daughter Christie Claussen’s photo in the forefront. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Reporter Brittany Lyte took on Hawaii’s mental health crisis this year, writing from not only a policy perspective, but telling the stories of individuals who have experiences with mental health issues.

This particular story peers inside the relationship between a mother and daughter and the damage done by years of struggle with mental illness.

11. Help Wanted: Teachers

Molokai High School walkways with students.

Suevon Lee’s reporting on Hawaii’s education crisis highlighted an amalgamation of issues the state is facing and how they affect our education system.

Hawaii’s teachers face an unforgiving cost of living and low salaries, factors that make it tough to recruit new applicants. As many longtime teachers retire and others leave the profession for more lucrative jobs, the state is struggling to keep up with the demand for qualified educators.

12. Tulsi Gabbard’s Obscure Consultant

A satellite dish in the backyard is how Kris Robinson connects to the internet. Nick Grube/Civil Beat

This story was a great example of “follow the money” journalism, leading reporter Nick Grube to the tiny town of Stehekin, Washington.

There, he found the home of Kris Robinson, a consultant to U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard with a notable lack of a political resume. Robinson is one of the top paid vendors on her 2020 presidential campaign and grew up in the same controversial religious sect as Gabbard.

13. Honolulu Rail Project

HART Rail West Loch guideway supports with darker gray parts which feature an anti graffiti material painted on.

The Honolulu rail project chugged along into 2019, bringing continued construction, rising costs and federal subpoenas. Reporter Marcel Honore kept his finger on the pulse throughout the year, bringing you the latest updates.

14. A Nonprofit Rehab Center Mixes Taxpayer Support With Lavish Pay

Sand Island Treatment Center.

In this story, Civil Beat investigations editor John Hill uncovered the questionable pay practices at Sand Island Treatment Center, a nonprofit drug treatment facility.

Hill found that the executive director of the nonprofit has been paid as much as $500,000 a year — and many counselors make over $100,000 — far in excess of their peers in Hawaii.

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