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Counting our blessings

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The fireworks rubble — remnants of the last big-bang celebration of its kind, or so they say — lies on the street outside. That usually prompts the happy realization of a new year ahead, and the Star-Advertiser has some looking-forward thoughts to share in some detail tomorrow.

For today, though, we hope readers will indulge us in a little look back, something along the lines of a sigh and a muttered, "Glad that’s over."

The year ended with an election, with all its portents for a new chapter of life in Hawaii with some new leadership, but on the whole 2010 was not the best of times.

It brought continued business failures and unemployment for many Hawaii residents. Among the most consequential for the community at large and our employees in particular: the merger of The Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin, after both operating separately since the 19th century.

Homelessness became a mounting, high-profile problem, and despite city crackdowns on illegal camping, Honolulu seems no closer to a systematic means of delivering help to those who need it.

There were furloughs for public employees who still had jobs. At public schools this meant disruptions to family schedules. Angry parents staged sit-ins at the office of Gov. Linda Lingle, adding one of the sour notes to Lingle’s final months in office.

More divisiveness ensued — over the civil unions debate and the planned Honolulu rail project, which had suddenly degenerated into a showdown between Lingle and outgoing Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

Talk about your summer of discontent.

But if the islands can close the door on 2010 with no small measure of relief, it’s because more glimmerings of hope started to show in the waning months. Tourism, the hub that helps to fuel economic activity, began its rebound, and there was anticipation that the worst of the decline was over.

In the film industry, the long-running television series "Lost" drew to a close, but by September, TV watchers greeted the renaissance of the iconic "Hawaii Five-0." Love the remake or hate it, the new "Five-0" provided a fun pop-culture diversion for the kamaaina (did you buy your Kukui High School kitsch yet?) and a new attraction for onlookers across the pond.

The sports world also brings the prospect of positive movement for the University of Hawaii football Warriors, who will be joining the exodus from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West — another reason for a more expectant 2011.

It’s a New Year’s tradition to review even an unpleasant history through a more informed lens. As glad as we are to leave behind its most negative aspects, the experience of 2010 at least shines a light on where a change in direction is most critical.

Hawaii now must find ways to help those most in need while reevaluating its less productive government spending. It should have a more collaborative and less fractious arena for debating public policy.

Ultimate success will require a departure from conventional modes of thinking and an embrace of new ideas.

The upside of an election year like the one just past is that the influx of new blood into leadership positions gives hope that something like that could actually happen.

New Year’s Day offers the optimal time for seizing that hope and looking ahead, with the lessons of the past year still fresh in our minds.

 

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