By Rich Figel
It's kind of cool to be able to tell my Mainland friends that the President's family has been spending their Christmas vacations in Kailua, where my wife and I have lived for 20 years. I was also glad to see the Star-Advertiser did a story on the huge tax break the property owner is getting because of the house's "historical" status. The intent of the measure is good, but should owners of beachfront homes that are worth millions be paying far less in property taxes than average middle class folks? Furthermore, did you know the property is in an affluent neighborhood that has their own private beach access? Yep, but I haven't seen one mention of that in the local news coverage.
Listen, I happen to be an Obama supporter. And I think the President deserves some privacy on his family vacations. But Kailuana Place is a public street that our taxes pay for the upkeep on -- yet they won't let their neighbors or others use the beach access on that street you and I foot the bill for. They get away with it because the locked gate is on a private easement. I wrote a letter to the editor a few months ago about an accident I witnessed, in which paramedics were delayed in reaching the victim because they had to use the public beach access -- then realized they couldn't push the gurney through a half-mile of sand to where the injured surfer was lying on the beach. Which was near the gated "private" access pictured here...
In any event, the gate discourages surfers and others from parking on Kailuana Place. It's also easy for police to keep the public out by blocking off the Kalaheo Avenue intersection. On the day the Obamas were leaving Kailua in 2008, my wife and I were walking to the only public beach access at that end. As we got closer, we saw a bunch of motorcycle cops waiting at the intersection for the President's entourage to depart, so we decided to hang around for a glimpse of the Obamas. A small crowd gathered on Kalaheo Avenue and while I was jockeying for position to get a better view, an old man rode up on a bike and stopped next to me.
"What's going on?" he inquired. I kept looking across the street for the President's limo, and explained to him that the Obamas were leaving. The old fellow didn't seem very impressed. "Think they'll let me pass through?" I just shrugged and said, sure. As he started pedaling away from me, I glanced down and saw that strapped to the back of his rusty old bicycle was a propane tank!
A motorcycle cop across from us saw it too and started yelling at the man and waving his arms frantically. "HEY, STOP! GET OFF THE BIKE RIGHT NOW!" The poor guy was startled and confused by all the police suddenly swarming towards him, and practically fell off his bike. He explained that he was just going to get his propane tank refilled at the Aikahi shopping center down the street. Boy, I really felt bad about putting him through that. But you have to admit, it's sort of funny too.
If you missed my fictional Obama Christmas story for my two young nieces, Sasha and Ana, that was inspired by the same visit two years ago, here's the link to that piece. It's a bit long for a blog post, but you've probably got a three-day weekend, right?
Happy New Years from all of us at Career Changers TV... and I'd like to thank the people who help me put the show out each month: Ron Darby (camera, editing), Robert "Aukai" Reynolds (co-producer, camera and editing), Marc Edward (camera, editing), Mahlon Moore (CCTV website), and our host Theresa Tilley. See you next year!