The Best and Worst of 2007

Happy New Year. 2007 has come and gone and now is a good time for a very brief review….

GOOD STUFF THAT HAPPENED THIS YEAR

Hawaii Superferry 12-13-07

The Hawaii Superferry arrived in the islands and finally set sail on a close to regular schedule on December 13 after an aborted start in late August. I was so luck y as to be on that “return to commercial service” trip as a freelance photographer for a media outlet. The bumpy ride going over to Maui was memorable and the return nearly as smooth as silk.

The voyage was the culmination of my personal documentation of the Superferry as it plowed through a sea of controversy from the time it was built, arrived in the islands and subjected to court orders and a special legislative session, which in the end, cleared it for service. Today despite bad weather, the Superferry is making regular trips between Honolulu and Maui in what hopefully will be a success story for the new year.

Another highlight of 2007 was the spectacular air shows offered by the United States Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Thousands of island residents turned out to watch the government sponsored aviation aerobatics as talented fighter pilots from these elite squadrons entertained the public in their own unique way to get young people interested in a military career. I was lucky enough to snap off several hundred photos at the Thunderbirds show from Magic Island Beach Park in Honolulu.

The University of Hawaii Warrior football team was certainly made big news for islanders as they went through their football season relatively unscathed while compiling an impressive and record setting 12 – 0 win-loss regular season…. the first for the U.H., and the best and only unbeaten regular college football team in the country. The U.H. Warriors put their unblemished record to the final test today as they play for the BCS Sugar Bowl title in New Orleans against Georgia.

I Flew Go!

The local inter-island airfare war continued throughout 2007. Mesa Airlines’ Go! set the agenda for low inter-island fares that came tumbling down to $1 on one occasion. I was lucky enough to make trips to the Big Island at fare levels of $9 and $19 each way this year. The big 2 airlines, Hawaiian and Aloha hated the fare war enough to take Go to court. Hawaiian won their case and Aloha’s set for trial in April 2008. Feisty Go! is still around, selling discount fares for $39. The fare war is good for consumers and the local traveling public.

The design for the Hawaii Quarter was unveiled. In late 2008 the last in the 50 states series will be minted and feature a design of the 8 Hawaiian islands and King Kamehameha on the reverse side. While Hawaii’s quarter was to have been the last in the series, another half dozen or so new designs will also be forthcoming to commemorate the territories and the District of Columbia quite possibly in 2009 and continuing to 2010.

In late August Hawaii sky observers were treated to a clearly seen and highly visible total eclipse of the moon. I was lucky enough to capture a series of photos of this heavenly phenomenon without pesky clouds blocking my view.

Apple introduced the iPhone, iPod Touch and new iMacs. Mac OSX version 5 was also released. Apple stock ended the year at $198 per share as they became the 3rd most popular selling computer maker in America.

Amazon.com joined the digital music fray by offering DRM-free, downloadable tracks to compete with Apple’s iTunes, which this year also offered selected DRM-free tracks from mainly Capitol/EMI. Music downloads without DRM is a good thing. Let’s hope this trend continues into 2008 and beyond.

THE DOWNSIDE OF 2007

For those who are concerned about their pocketbook, 2007 certainly got off to a very bad start. On January 1 the State’s General Excise Tax climbed from 4% to 4.5% , hitting nearly every consumer in the wallet as the cost of final goods and services are rendered. What do the public get out of the .5% (more properly read 12.5%) tax increase?

2007 Small Business Hawaii Conference

Funding for a choo-choo train line to be built by the City and County of Honolulu to the tune of at least $6.4 billion dollars. This will be a rail line that will travel from West Oahu’s Kapolei community and finishing off somewhere in Honolulu near or at Ala Moana Shopping Center. The tax train to nowhere will become an even bigger headache in the years to come as more and more of our money are taken away to build a railroad that is supposed to alleviate traffic congestion but really won’t. The government knows that but they keep on moving with this choo-choo train fantasy.

Thanks Governor Linda Lingle for letting the tax increase bill get by without a veto in 2005. Thanks Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who has gone against his mantra of “do we need it” “can we afford it” and “can we maintain it”…. Our “mess-transit” nightmare will continue unless the Mayor and current council members up for reelection in 2008 are tossed out and replaced. It is my hope that groups such as Let Honolulu Vote and HonoluluTraffic.com prevail in the ongoing issue of mass transit, the rail tax and the Mufi train to hell.

Other bad news for 2007:

Hawaii was still rattled by earthquakes long after the big one in 2006 shook us statewide on an early Sunday morning.

Big storms and heavy seas delayed the launch of the Hawaii Superferry. Humans bent on seeing the service not happen made worst storm waves by using the legal system to shut down operations in August before the legislature and governor intervened with a new law to exempt the service while a required Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is done.

Airline prices may climb in 2008 as Mesa Airlines lost its case against Hawaiian Airlines to the tune of $90 million in federal court. Should Mesa’s Go! leave the Hawaii market, island travelers and consumers will be whacked with severely increased costs to travel to another island.

Lastly property taxes continue to rise as we all get assessed for higher values as scores of developers and speculators push the cost of owning a home beyond what our dwellings are actually worth. Go figure.

Let’s hope that 2008 can be a better year where cost can be reigned in and more free market principles take root. Remember it’s an election year and it is another chance for the public to throw out the old cronies of the “tax and spend” generation.

Have a Happy New Year!

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