Monday, February 5, 2001
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Posted on: Monday, February 5, 2001

Letters to the Editor

Convention Center could be casino test

Let’s turn a white elephant into a cash cow: As a "demonstration project," the state could turn the Convention Center into a "temporary" casino.

To protect Island residents from themselves, the state could require an out-of-state ID for admission, thereby exporting the so-called "social burden" while importing much-needed cash.

The demonstration project would run for two years as a concession or by the state itself. The state would keep at least half the profit. Investment would be minimal as the concessionaire would be required to provide all equipment and pay all costs for opening, operating and studying the casino project.

At the end of the project, the Legislature could decide, based on hard facts, what role gambling should have for Hawaii.

B. Robin

We should teach kids to think safety’

Every time someone is seriously injured or killed, a great hue and cry goes up calling for "legislation" and "law enforcement" to protect us. Inevitably, prosecution or lawsuits follow to hold someone "accountable."

These are simply knee-jerk reactions to unfortunate events that, more often than not, punish the innocent and waste immeasurable tax dollars, instead of dealing with the root cause of the broad problem.

Why don’t we take a lesson from Corporate America? It has been widely proven that a quality safety training program reduces injuries. If our children are taught to "think safety" throughout their school years, everyone will benefit, and we can allow our lawmakers and enforcers to concentrate on dealing with criminals, as they should.

Richard Flebbe

What’s being proposed isn’t best for Hawaii

The New Economy requires well-educated people. Not true for Hawaii. Our knowledge base is a public school system that ranks as the lowest of the 50 states in percentage of local and state funding for education.

Hawaii’s 1999-2000 Teacher Employment Report shows that 38.7 percent of our teachers are licensed, that is, they have been accepted as fully qualified to instruct in the classroom; 57.8 percent are listed as permitted to teach despite incomplete or uncertain qualifications.

So, what should be done? And what’s being proposed? A costly new medical facility for a university with a failed School of Public Health, constantly increased tuition rates, declining enrollments, fewer library journals and underpaid faculty.

Also, a new "world-class" aquarium. An elite State Art Gallery. Legalized "gaming," supposedly for college scholarships, which won’t help schools but would create hard-to-overcome, serious and costly problems.

Reducing taxes, especially for those with the biggest tax breaks, would end our hopes for improved education and a genuinely diversified economy.

Jerome G. Manis

Eliminating excise tax would be good for all

In a Jan. 25 editorial, you basically say that the proposal to eliminate the excise tax on food, drugs and rent is a bad idea. I disagree, although much depends on the specifics of how that tax would be eliminated.

If, for example, the elimination of the tax is done along the lines of how food and drugs are exempt from sales tax in California, it is not clear that tourists would pay significantly less excise tax as a result of the cuts. If "food" did not include prepared foods, such as purchased in a restaurant, or snack foods, and if "rent" did not include payment for short-term accommodations, the effect on the amount of excise taxes tourists pay would be minimal.

I doubt that many tourists would bring along unfilled prescriptions to be filled, but if they did as a result of an elimination of taxes, that would be good for our local pharmacists and our local economy.

Tax credits would do a poorer job of providing relief to the poor than would cutting the tax on food. The credits would only benefit those who file returns, and depending on how they are implemented, might only provide benefit to those with enough income to have a tax liability, meaning many of the poorest people would not benefit at all from the tax credits. In contrast, eliminating the excise tax benefits everyone, especially the poor.

I also take issue with your argument that the state may not be able to "afford" a tax cut. Whether we can or not is all a matter of priorities, and decisions should be made as to whether any of our expenditures are more important than eliminating a tax which, as you point out, disproportionately burdens the poor.

Nobu Nakamoto

Civil unions bill could save taxpayers millions

House Judiciary Chairman Eric Hamakawa and Rep. Ed Case have introduced a civil unions bill to provide exactly the same rights and benefits of marriage except for the name. The bill deserves a formal hearing and timely passage into law this session.

Mike Gabbard calls the movement an "insult" but fails to understand that the Baehr v. Miike case was a decisive victory for same-gender couples. "The [Baehr] opinion is that same-sex couples are now entitled to all the rights and benefits of married couples without the license, and if the Legislature doesn’t extend it to them, the state will be litigating into the next millennium," according to then-attorney and now-judge Dan Foley.

Well, here we are in the new millennium, ready to undertake further legal action against the state. Only this time the stakes will be higher for taxpayers. This time the plaintiffs will be seeking financial damages — actual and punitive — that could result in a multimillion-dollar judgment against the state.

Following the March for Equality, Attorney General Earl Anzai was served with a formal petition of intent to proceed with litigation in the absence of timely legislation to provide a mechanism for legal civil unions.

In his conclusions of law in the Baehr case, Circuit Court Judge Kevin Chang ruled that Section 4 of the Constitution guarantees that "No person shall ... be denied the equal protection of the laws." This "inherent and inalienable" right applies to all persons, including gay and lesbian citizens.

Mitch Kahle
Chairman, Protest and Nonviolent Action Committee, Civil Unions-Civil Rights Movement

A random act of aloha while eating dinner

Several nights ago, my wife and I were eating dinner at a Yum Yum Tree when a local man spotted my wife’s cane hanging on our table with the aid of a special device attached to the cane.

"Where did you get that?" the man asked, pointing to the cane.

"I got the cane in Philadelphia," I replied.

"No," he said. "I mean that little thing that lets the cane hang on the table."

I told him that although we got the helpful device back home, I knew that Longs at Ala Moana carried them. I gave the man exact directions to the aisle and display where he could find them.

Later, he returned and said something I didn’t completely understand. My wife suggested that she thought he said "our meal was taken care of." The waitress confirmed that he had shown his appreciation by paying for our dinners — along with a tip for the waitress.

Paul Klink’s "Live Aloha" bumper stickers and the Rotary’s "Commit a Random Act of Aloha" seem to be paying off.

The gentleman never identified himself, so if he and his wife read this, our sincere mahalo.

Kenneth B. Erdman

Raising age of consent should be no-brainer

I couldn’t believe the quote from Ben Cayetano: "Raising the age of consent, that requires a great deal of discussion." What is there to discuss? The "pros" of adult men having sex with 14-year-olds?

How can anybody be against this bill?

Cayetano also said he appreciates the effort to protect children but has questions about the best way to proceed. Raising the age of consent should be the obvious first step.

I would be extremely suspicious of anybody who didn’t think this bill is not only necessary but long overdue.

Robert Fairchild

Crown lands don’t belong to everyone

After reading Patrick W. Hanifin’s Jan. 31 letter on how the crown lands belonged to the government and indirectly to the public, regardless of race, I thought of this idea: If they are for the entire public, then why not just have everyone else, regardless of where they live now, move to Hawaii in order to benefit.

Better yet, why can’t the rest of us fight for land in the continental United States and take it back from Native Americans? Shouldn’t it be for everyone?

On a serious note, I wonder what really goes on in the minds of people like Hanifin to think that everyone in the world deserves a shot at what was taken away from one group of people.

Kalani Mondoy
Glendale, Calif.

WPA back in business: repaving the highway

Thank you, President Roosevelt, for giving Hawaii the inspiration to create its own version of the Public Works Administration: The Great Kalanianaole Highway Project.

Hawaii’s "New Deal" will ensure full employment for hundreds of citizens for at least the next two to five years. As we sit in traffic, we’ll stare at them and they’ll smile at us, proudly pointing to the inch or so of work they manage to complete each day.

No doubt, as with the last Kalanianaole repaving project (that one averaged one-half inch of completed work per day over five years, as I recall) there will be "unexpected problems" that will add months and years to the project. But, of course, cost overruns were built into the budget and happily doled out whenever the contractor asked for them.

The workers get nervous when real engineers point out that the same kind of project could be, and often is, completed in a matter of weeks on the Mainland. But they know that while motorists may grumble, they won’t do anything about it.

J.H. Williams

LeMahieu should do some more listening

I read with amusement and not a little sadness the reported lament of Superintendent Paul LeMahieu during the meeting with school principals and administrators. He was "left having to watch the event unfold."

It seems to me he continues to miss the point. There can be no doubt that having the superintendent and Board of Education hand down directives that affect their daily lives, without the benefit of input, is a big part of the problem, and when he is asked to remain silent and simply listen, he suddenly feels uncomfortable.

Board member Karen Knudsen’s comment that they had been aware of the growing tension between the principals and LeMahieu, but have difficulty doing anything about it because of all the "new things going on," further demonstrates the problem. We have people at the top who are more interested in looking "busy" and doing new things than actually listening to the people who are, no doubt, the best qualified and most interested in assuring a positive outcome.

I wish those who have such sweeping power to affect people’s lives would actually think about what they say and do before they say and do it. Our children, teachers and principals deserve better.

I wouldn’t last a week at my job if I gave my boss an excuse like that. Wake up, Hawaii. We can change it. The ballot box is not the only voice we have.

Cheryl Kaster

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