Bus strike is
top story for 2003

The strike affected thousands
and led to higher bus fares


Top stories of the year

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A month-long city bus strike and a year's worth of upheaval at the Kamehameha Schools were among the top news stories in 2003, a year that also saw isle soldiers called to war and the community called to action against a devastating drug.

The Star-Bulletin's choice for the No. 1 news story of the year is the Teamsters strike against Oahu Transit Services Inc., the private company that runs TheBus system for the city. The strike inconvenienced tens of thousands of bus riders and altered rush-hour commutes for hundreds of thousands of residents.

It was the first Honolulu transit strike since 1971. The Aug. 26 walkout by 1,336 bus workers started over saving jobs and avoiding service cuts but quickly switched focus to wages and pensions. When a deal was struck early on Sept. 25, Oahu bus riders were looking at higher fares to pay for the new five-year contract.

Here is a look at Hawaii's other big stories for 2003:

2. Controversy and crisis: Even for Kamehameha Schools, which has had its share of controversies and upheaval in the past decade, last year was exceptionally busy.

The schools' first CEO, Hamilton McCubbin, resigned in May amid allegations of an improper relationship with a female employee. He denied the allegations. In the summer, the trust was hit by two lawsuits by non-Hawaiian students challenging its Hawaiians-only preference system for admissions. One suit, filed by Kauai 12-year-old Brayden Mohica-Cummings and his mother, was settled when the school agreed to let the boy remain until he graduates. The schools won the first round of the other suit, filed by an unidentified student, but the plaintiff's attorneys filed a notice of appeal this week.

In addition, the schools' administration had to deal with three separate allegations of sexual misconduct by students on campus.

The year ended positively for Kamehameha, with former Kaiser Permanente executive Dee Jay Mailer chosen CEO. Trustee J. Douglas Ing said he hopes Mailer will bring "closure to years of controversy and crisis."

3. Call to arms: In November, 8,000 soldiers at Schofield Barracks learned they would be deployed overseas. About 4,500 soldiers from the 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division are scheduled to leave for Iraq early this year. Later in the year, 3,500 soldiers from the 25th Division's 3rd Brigade will head to Afghanistan for a year.

Also, nearly 400 Hawaii Army reservists from the 411th Engineer Combat Battalion are slated for Iraq duty this year.

Several soldiers with Hawaii ties died in the Middle East last year. They were Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Bolor, 37, a Lahaina native; Army Staff Sgt. Cameron B. Sarno, 43, a Waipahu native; Army Chief Warrant Officer Sharon T. Swartworth, 43, who recently moved her family to Mililani; and Army Sgt. Eugene Williams, 24, of Highland, N.Y., whose wife and children live in Hawaii.

4. Shark victim: On Halloween morning, 13-year-old surfing phenomenon Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm to an estimated 13-foot shark off Kauai's North Shore. After a short recovery period, Bethany went on a national media blitz. She often cited her Christian faith for her ability to accept her fate with composure and grace.

Bethany Hamilton enjoys the view from the Kauai house of a family friend. The 13-year-old lost her left arm when a shark bit it off while she was surfing.

5. Drug summit: Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona led a statewide effort to focus attention on the impact of the illegal drug crystal methamphetamine, or "ice," on all aspects of isle society. A series of community meetings culminated with a three-day, private drug summit in Waikiki.

The summit ended with 11 recommendations compiled by the more than 400 participants. The recommendations went to the Lingle administration for consideration in developing anti-substance abuse bills for the upcoming legislative session.

6. Officer murdered: On March 4 in the Kapolei Baskin-Robbins, plainclothes Honolulu police officer Glen Gaspar was shot and killed by fugitive Shane Mark, who was wanted for a February shooting. Mark was found guilty of second-degree murder last month.

7. Military standoff: Army officials and environmentalists went head to head on several fronts last year. In July the Army's so-called controlled burn of 500 acres in Makua Valley spread to more than half of the 4,190-acre valley. The fire reignited calls by environmentalists and Hawaiian activists for the Army to stop using Makua as a training ground. The two sides also squared off on the Army's plan to bring a Stryker brigade to Hawaii. The unit is organized around the eight-wheeled, 19-ton Stryker vehicles, which opponents fear will destroy native habitat and cultural sites.

8. Rare visit: On Oct. 23, President Bush spent a day on Oahu in Hawaii's first presidential visit since 1999. Amid tight security and secrecy, the president and first lady Laura Bush attended Pearl Harbor memorials, visited Pearl Harbor Elementary School and held two Republican fund-raisers.

9. Big wave days: For two days in November, huge waves slammed east-facing shores on all islands. The surf damaged homes and displaced residents throughout the state.

10. Great escape: On April 4, three Halawa Correctional Facility inmates, led by bank robber Albert Batalona, escaped and fled to the Hauula mountains in Windward Oahu. The three were caught a week later after an intense manhunt.


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