2006 filled with hope for good times for all
Hawaii begins a new year with remarkable opportunities.
SELDOM does Hawaii face a new year with prospects as rosy as presented by 2006.
A flourishing economy invigorated by record tourism, strong military spending and brawny construction activity ushers in hope for good times in the islands.
The state's treasury is flush with revenue, sending various interests groups scrambling to get a piece of the bigger pie that in lean years dwindled to crumbs.
Though there seems to be enough to go around, opportunities must also be extended to better the quality of life for many who have been left behind.
Housing for work force-income people, in perennial short supply, should be at the top of the list as the real estate boom has squeezed them out of rental units and has placed buying a home of their own out of their financial reach. The homeless are still in need, as well.
Finding traffic solutions not only for gridlocked Honolulu, but for Kona, Kahului and Kapaa also should be a priority. However, Oahu's needs will take center stage. Voters will have to decide whether rail transport is their best bet and if it is, where will it run, what technology will be used and to what extent they are willing to foot the bill.
Reducing the backlog of school repairs and financing improvements in classroom equipment to bring them into the 21st century would conform to taxpayers' wishes to invest in the education of Hawaii's children.
With the state enjoying a surplus, leaders should spread some of the wealth to the counties whose primary dependence on property taxes have them struggling for revenue that can't increase without further burdening homeowners. Moreover, sending money to the counties allows them to determine their future without administrative and legislative micromanaging.
Sunny as island skies might be, war continues to cast a shadow. For many whose family members and friends remain overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, the new year celebration would be brighter with loved ones at home. Let's hope that will happen sooner rather than later.
It would be foolish to think 2006 will be all blessings and light. Besides the war, the nation will confront many challenges, including the spiraling cost of health care, erosion of civil liberties in the face of the constantly evolving hostilities, finding sources of energy that release us from the grip of fossil fuels, and researching cures and treatments for debilitating diseases.
Most difficult will be finding ways to get along. The political atmosphere of 2005 was teeming with division and what might be an unusually divisive election season is dawning. Still, Americans must try to recognize common ground instead of differences, rediscover goodness, kindness and mercy within ourselves and others.