- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 13, 2009

KAILUA, Hawaii | Many in this upscale, oceanside suburb of Honolulu are expecting it to again serve as the holiday getaway for scores of reporters, photographers, federal agents - and one president.

The White House hasn’t formally announced that President Obama and his family will be celebrating Christmas in Hawaii - or anywhere else - in part because the health care reform debate in Congress may delay his departure. Republican Gov. Linda Lingle’s office and Honolulu police also are remaining silent.

But there are many behind-the-scenes indications that plans are being made, and Kailua is abuzz with anticipation, hoping for an economic boost from another visit by the Hawaii-born president.

“The word is out,” said John Stallings, a real estate agent who runs the Web site OurKailuaTown.com. “I’d say it’s more than the talk around town that they are returning.”

Mr. Stallings said he knows for a fact that preparations are being made to house Secret Service agents during the holidays in rental homes near where Mr. Obama stayed a year ago. There also have been several news reports indicating a possible presidential vacation starting Dec. 23.

A visit would be Mr. Obama’s first as president to Hawaii, where he was born and spent many of his childhood years. It’s also the first time he’s coming home with no relatives living here. His grandmother died last year just days before he was elected, and his sister has moved to Washington.

Many expect that Mr. Obama, first lady Michelle, and their two daughters will vacation in the same multimillion-dollar beach home where they stayed a year ago. It’s located on the Windward side of Oahu at the base of the towering, green Koolau mountains, about a half-hour drive from downtown Honolulu. The five-bedroom home is in a long cul-de-sac and features Kawainui Stream on the other side of the road and the white sands of Kailua Beach out back. It’s a pricey neighborhood - one nearby home is on the market for nearly $13 million.

Neighbors said they aren’t concerned that Mr. Obama’s visit will cause havoc, since he and his entourage didn’t seem to cause much disruption last year.

“It wasn’t problematic,” Lisa Kiakona said. “It was kind of neat to be in the mix.”

Mr. Obama last visited a year ago when he was president-elect and the glow of his historic election was still bright even as the country was reeling from the financial crisis on Wall Street. He also vacationed in August 2008 shortly after receiving the Democratic nomination.

“Last time he came, it did great things for the economy,” said Richard Whaley, assistant manager of Island Snow Kailua. “Everybody wanted to come over here and do everything that he did.” That includes eating a “Snowbama” shave ice slathered with guava, cherry and lemon-lime syrups - Mr. Obama’s choice of flavors. The store still displays an Associated Press photo of Mr. Obama and his daughters sitting on a bench outside the shop last year, slurping their shaved ice.

“We get Japanese tourists that come in, see the picture and they just freak out about it,” Mr. Whaley said.

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