Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Women politicians
make top ’02 stories

Star-Bulletin staff

While the year started with traffic cameras infuriating motorists and ended with a girl's slaying that shocked the state, 2002 in Hawaii likely will be remembered most for being the political year of the woman.

Leading those women -- and the state -- is Linda Lingle, whose election as governor is No. 1 in the Star-Bulletin's list of top local news stories in 2002. Running with a campaign theme that promised "A New Beginning," the former Maui mayor made a major issue of political corruption among Democrats, which also dominated headlines throughout the year.

Lingle gained national attention for becoming Hawaii's first female governor, not to mention the first Republican to lead the state since 1962. She beat the Democrat nominee, then-Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, in only the nation's second matchup of two women in a gubernatorial election. (The first was in Nebraska in 1986.)

After losing the 1998 race to then-Gov. Ben Cayetano by about 5,000 votes, Lingle came back with a war chest of nearly $5 million and beat Hirono by more than 17,000 votes.

In her inauguration speech, the Republican declared that Hawaii is "open for business," and pledged to improve the state's reputation in the business world.

Here is a look at the other big stories of 2002:

U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink's portrait stood above her flag-draped casket, surrounded by flowers on Oct. 3 at the state Capitol. Mink died on Sept. 28 after a monthlong bout with viral pneumonia brought on by chickenpox.

>> 2. In the middle of the fall election season, another powerful woman in Hawaii politics, U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, died, leaving a legacy of unabashed liberalism and a political free-for-all for her office.

Mink died on Sept. 28 after a monthlong bout with viral pneumonia brought on by chickenpox. The longtime Democrat was remembered for many accomplishments in her fight for civil rights for women and minorities, including co-authoring 1972's Title IX of the Education Act, which mandated gender equality in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

But political opponents and others criticized the secrecy surrounding her illness, the seriousness of which was not disclosed until after she won the primary and her name could not be removed from the ballot in the Nov. 5 general election, which she won posthumously. Former State Rep. Ed Case, a Democrat, won the first special election to finish the last five weeks of her current term, and he is among 44 candidates vying in Saturday's election to fill her next term.

>> 3. The candidacy of Hirono was made possible after Mayor Jeremy Harris dropped a political bombshell on May 30. The presumed front-runner for the Democrat gubernatorial nomination, Harris dropped out of the race, citing polls that put him far behind Lingle. The move negated the need for a mayoral race that already had a field of potential candidates, including Hirono, who immediately jumped back into the gubernatorial race. Harris' 2000 mayoral campaign, meanwhile, continues to be the subject of a criminal investigation involving city contractors. He has denied any wrongdoing.

>> 4. On Dec. 10, 11-year-old Kahealani Indreginal went missing from her Makalapa housing complex. An intensive police search ended Dec. 13 when her body was found by a hiker off Aiea Loop Trail. Later that night, police arrested Christopher Clayburn Aki, the 20-year-old boyfriend of the girl's half sister. Aki has been charged with second-degree murder.

White vans parked along Oahu roadways began taking pictures of speeding vehicles in the first week of 2002. By April the program was killed altogether. This van was parked in February after the Pali Tunnel exit and before the Pali Lookout entrance to Pali Highway.

>> 5. In the first week of 2002, white vans parked along major roadways on Oahu began taking pictures of speeding vehicles. Tickets were mailed to the cars' registered owners, and a political and legal firestorm ensued. In a month, Cayetano had put the program on hold, and by April it was killed altogether.

>> 6. On Aug. 9, a boulder fell from a rain-soaked Nuuanu cliff and slammed into a home, killing 26-year-old Dara Onishi as she slept. The accident had many isle residents looking warily at the cliffs above their homes. On Thanksgiving those fears were reinforced when boulders fell onto two parked cars at the Lalea condominium project in Hawaii Kai. Twenty-six families have been relocated from Lalea because of the danger.

>> 7. Gary Rodrigues, one of Hawaii's most powerful labor leaders, was convicted on 101 federal charges of mail fraud, money laundering and embezzlement on Nov. 19. The conviction has led to a power struggle within the local United Public Workers union, where he had been state director.

>> 8. On Feb. 19, a jury found former Honolulu police officer Clyde Arakawa guilty of manslaughter in the drunk-driving death of 19-year-old Dana Ambrose in an Oct. 7, 2000, car crash. The case had gained notoriety after Honolulu police officials admitted that Arakawa had been granted "courtesies" by the investigating police officers. Those "courtesies" included being allowed to freely roam the accident scene and having a union lawyer called to the scene. Arakawa was sentenced in April to 20 years in prison.

>> 9. Two Honolulu City Council members also went to jail this year. Rene Mansho was sentenced to one year in jail and five years' probation for misusing campaign funds and having her Council staff do campaign work on city time. In January, Andy Mirikitani began serving a four-year, three-month prison sentence for receiving $6,884 in kickbacks from city employees. Other politicians suffering legal troubles included former state Sen. Marshall Ige, who served six months in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree theft, attempting to evade taxes and failure to file tax returns. Also, Honolulu City Councilman Jon Yoshimura was suspended from practicing law for six months by the state Supreme Court for lying about a car accident.

Dr. Becky Rhoades, of the Hawaiian Humane Society, held Hok Get in May after the dog arrived at Pier 24.

>> 10. Finally, the plight of the wayward dog Hok Get captivated dog lovers in Hawaii and worldwide. The 2-year-old terrier, who was left aboard the burned-out tanker Insinko 1907, survived on rainwater and rats for nearly a month before the Coast Guard tugboat American Quest rescued her. She was welcomed to Honolulu by a media frenzy and the state's mandatory 120-day pet quarantine.

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