‘Tis the season for small talk about how quickly the year has flown by.

Yet again, these cliches ring true. And 2022 really was a year when much started to look different here in our islands: Covid-19 regulations eased, voters chose a new governor and representatives at all levels of government, tourism bounced back and a volcano erupted.

All in all, Civil Beat published more than 2,000 articles and columns. Our local operation reached well over 5 million people across the globe thanks to the support of more than 7,500 readers like you. And because of your generosity, our little newsroom is not so little anymore.

Civil Beat has seen tremendous growth since it was founded in 2010, and 2022 was no exception. We rolled out a neighbor island reporting team, published four major investigative projects and launched our pop-up newsroom initiative to get out in communities — particularly those we don’t spend as much time in — to hear what you think we should be writing about.

We’re really proud of the impactful stories our team told over the past year. So would you care to join me in taking a month-by-month look at 12 of our biggest articles of 2022?

January: 2022’s First Major Indictment In A Public Corruption Scandal

Prosecutors charged the three former Honolulu officials. Cory Lum/Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Federal prosecutors charged three former high-level Honolulu officials — former corporation counsel Donna Leong, former Honolulu Police Commission chair Max Sword and former managing director Roy Amemiya — with conspiracy for allegedly misusing city money to give a $250,000 payout to now-disgraced police chief Louis Kealoha. Read the full story.

February: 2 Legislators Ensnared In Bribery Scheme

Ty Cullen and J. Kalani English pleaded guilty to taking bribes. 

Another month, another public corruption investigation. Former Hawaii Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English and former state Rep. Ty Cullen were charged with taking bribes to influence legislation and later pleaded guilty. Cullen — who accepted $23,000 and gifts such as casino chips — has yet to be sentenced but English — who received $15,000 and gifts such as Las Vegas hotel rooms — was sentenced to three years behind bars. Read the full story.

March: So Long, Indoor Mask Mandate

Mask required sign at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.
Hawaii had some of the nation’s strictest Covid rules. Masks were still required in schools until mid-July. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

We grew used to seeing small fragments of our neighbors’ faces for the first two years of pandemic, but that started to change when Hawaii became the last state to drop its indoor mask mandate on March 25. Then-Gov. David Ige simultaneously dropped the Safe Travels program, which required travelers to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test upon arrival. Read the full story.

April: A Major Oahu Homeless Service Provider Bids Adieu To Chinatown

Pauahi Hale / Safe Haven shelter located at 126 Pauahi Street.
The Safe Haven shelter located at 126 Pauahi Street in Chinatown relocated as part of Chinatown revitalization efforts. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

As Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi sought to revitalize Chinatown — a neighborhood long affected by homelessness and mental illness — the River of Life Mission served its last meal there in April after 35 years and agreed to move its feeding center. Meanwhile, three other Oahu homeless service providers prepared to leave their spaces by the year’s end. Read the full story.

May: A Historic Legislative Session Winds Down

Left, Senators Rosalyn Baker hugs Senator Clarence Nishihara as Senator Brian Taniguchi looks on after floor session honoring the 3 that were retiring.
Three senators retired this year including, from left, Roz Baker, Clarence Nishihara and Brian Taniguchi, far right. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Lawmakers made good on a lot of promises this year thanks in part to a $2 billion budget surplus. They set aside more than $1 billion to benefit Hawaiians — including $600 million for Hawaiian Home Lands — put $300 million toward affordable housing projects and paved the way to raise the minimum wage to $18 in 2028, all the while stashing away $500 million for a rainy day. Read the full story.

June: Abortion Remains Legal In Hawaii As Roe V. Wade Overturned

Demonstrators rallied on Kalakaua Avenue in a rally and to defend the right to abortion.
Protesters marched along Kalakaua Avenue during a May rally in support of abortion access. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

The Aloha State became the first in the nation the legalize abortions in 1970, and politicians doubled down on their commitment to abortion rights following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. As some wondered whether more women might travel to the islands to receive an abortion, then-Gov. David Ige said he “will do everything in my power to ensure that women retain control over their own reproductive choices” in Hawaii — one of 16 states with laws protecting abortion access. Read the full story.

July: New Video Of 2021 Red Hill Leak Obtained

Civil Beat reported some 20,000 gallons of fuel spewed into the tunnel from pipes at the Navy’s Red Hill bulk fuel storage facility. Provided to Civil Beat

In July, we exclusively published video footage of the November 2021 fuel leak at the Red Hill facility that ultimately sickened hundreds and contaminated the drinking water supply. The worker who accidentally triggered the leak recorded through the window of a ventilation door as fuel shot out of a broken PVC pipe and created a churning flood of fuel on the floor. Watch the video and read the full story.

August: Why Pacific Islanders Get Fewer Kidney Transplants

Elizabeth Mercy Kaleo from Hau'ula, HI on Thursday, August 4, 2022. (Civil Beat photo Ronen Zilberman)
Elizabeth Mercy Kaleo of Hau’ula was hopeful of getting a kidney transplant this year after getting on the waitlist. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2022

In August, as part of our Journey to Care series we reported that people from Indigenous Pacific communities here and across the nation are less likely to get kidney transplants, though Pacific Islanders are disproportionately affected by kidney disease.

Pacific Islanders suffer from kidney failure at a rate four times higher than their rate of getting kidney transplants, while the number of kidney transplants for white patients was 20% higher than would be expected from their kidney failure rate. Read the full story.

September: How Hawaii Kids Are Taken By The State Without A Court Order

Jennifer Chapman with one of her children
Jennifer Chapman demanded a warrant from police and child protection workers when they came to take her baby, but they ignored her, Civl Beat reported. Courtesy: Jennifer Chapman

In September we published a major story as part of our investigative series, Hawaii v. Parental Rights, and reported that eight in 10 children who are removed from their homes by state workers were taken without a court order. Hawaii, as it turns out, does this far more than many other places. Read the full story.

October: Maui County Takes On Light Pollution To Protect Wildlife

Maui County took steps to clamp down on the artificial lights sources that disorient wildlife like Hawaiian petrel. Courtesy: Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project

Scientists say light pollution poses a serious threat to wildlife, and in October the Maui County Council took steps to crack down on the amount of artificial light that could hurt or kill thousands of migrating birds, turtles or other wildlife each year. Bright lights can disorient wildlife, causing birds to fall to the ground and turtles to travel inland. Read the full story.

November: The Lethal Legacy Of World War II In The Pacific

Jeffry Manele, 18, was seriously injured when a suspected bomb exploded in the Solomon Islands, killing father and younger brother. Thomas Heaton/Civil Beat/2022

In November we launched one of our biggest projects in the year — UXO: Lethal Legacy. Our first piece in the series dug into how more than 20 people are thought to be killed by dormant World War II-era explosives left behind in the Solomon Islands by the U.S. and Japan. Their stories are harrowing, yet the Solomon Islands have received little help to deal with this problem. Read the full story.

December: A New Era Of Hawaii Leadership

Dr. Josh Green is sworn in as the ninth governor of Hawaii by Hawaii Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald. David Croxford/Civil Beat/2022

For the first time in eight years, Hawaii awoke to a new governor at the state’s helm in December. Gov. Josh Green took over the reins from fellow Democrat David Ige after securing 62% of the vote in the race against Republican challenger Duke Aiona. Green assumed leadership of a state government with many problems, but plenty of cash to ease them. Read the full story.

Mahalo for joining us on the journey that was 2022. These are just a handful of the biggest stories we covered this year, and 2023 promises to be another important year for our islands.

If you want to stay on top of Civil Beat’s biggest headlines in the new year, you can sign up for our free morning newsletter — or any of the other free email newsletters we offer.

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