Friday, January 5, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, January 5, 2001

Letters to the Editor

We should get rid of firecracker limit

Going against the New Year’s holiday tradition, I found myself not playing with fireworks, but with my radio scanners tuned to Police and Fire Department radio traffic.

For nearly seven hours, I monitored every fire call, ranging from simple rubbish and brush fires to several two-alarm structure fires. Police were kept busy as residents called to deal with the problem of illegal aerial fireworks.

Back in the days when one permit allowed you to pop as many fireworks as you wanted, aerials were always a part of our arsenal. We did it every year, including New Year’s Eve 1999. With the new $25 per 5,000 firecracker permit in line for this year, we quieted our streets with a catch: Fewer firecrackers resulted in increased aerials going off in our neighborhoods.

Allow as many firecrackers as one wants, just as long as the aerials stay out of the state. I’d rather pop firecrackers in the comfort of my home than have to worry about someone else’s aerials burning our house down.

If you were listening to a scanner on New Year’s Eve, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

David Cabatu

Many share blame for fireworks tragedy

The din has subsided, the stench has dissipated, but a somber pall lingers over our Palolo Valley neighborhood. A neighbor died on New Year’s Eve.

She, like so many of us, probably hoped to preserve her health and comfort her beloved pets from the evening’s mayhem. Instead, she died because someone set himself above the law.

The perpetrator stockpiled or bought, then shot off, illegal aerial fireworks. He or she is directly to blame for this tragedy. But numerous others share in the blame:

The scofflaw’s family and friends, who likely cheered as those illegal fireworks were shot into the air, further encouraging the illegal activity.

Island families who continued to buy and use illegal fireworks, providing incentives to lawless sellers and importers.

Sellers of illegal fireworks, who pocketed the illicit money without a twinge of conscience, contending they simply filled a demand.

Importers of illegal fireworks, who brought them into the state by air, water or who knows what means, jeopardizing hundreds of innocent people in the process;

Politicians who clutched at specious excuses to avoid banning all fireworks except for carefully regulated cultural, religious and public events.

This New Year’s Eve, your failure to pass strict laws was responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage, numerous serious injuries, an innocent life lost. Have these tragedies this year finally made the case?

Kerry A. Krenzke

Lawmakers should put an end to danger

A woman lost her life this New Year’s Eve to fireworks; others suffered property damage. Yet our elected lawmakers have persisted in their "good judgment" that this practice be preserved.

Last year, the saying was that the more fireworks you burn, the more prosperity you will enjoy during that year. Last year we did have an unprecedented array of fireworks, which caused heavy smoke in all parts of the city and made it very difficult for people with respiratory ailments. Yet the year 2000 was not all that good for business and the economy. I conclude that the only people who were prosperous were the Chinese manufacturers of fireworks, which amount to millions of dollars in revenue for them.

Our lawmakers, if they want to really look after the welfare of the people, should put a stop to this forever.

David Ikegami

U.N.’s real mission works against us

Strong exception must be taken to the Dec. 29 editorial in which concern was expressed about "saving America’s reputation" by paying the back dues the United Nations says we should pay.

The topsy-turvey understanding, among most of the public, as to the long-term purpose and nature of the U.N. is reflected in the editorial’s statement that "the overall mission of the United Nations" is one we must support.

It is this "overall mission" that is so poorly understood. What the schoolchildren and their teachers see, what the general public sees, in wishing well for the people of the world, is a rather slow-moving but really benign and helpful organization dedicated to working for the betterment of mankind. They tend to favor the various conferences, declarations of rights, efforts to relieve hunger, scoldings for heedless consumption, and the deep concern for the children of the world.

But these are the sheep’s clothing. These get everyone nodding yes, especially Americans, with our tradition of charity amid and abundance enabled by our very special political and economic systems.

We should look behind the surface, the well-published aspects of the U.N., and read the documents, such as the Charter, and compare it to our Constitution. Our Constitution, when adhered to, leaves us free to produce and make our own decisions. The U.N. Charter has reservations, exceptions to all basic rights.

Our Constitution has no such equivocation, but severely and wisely limits the power of central government. Because of such limitation, ours is a republic, not a democracy, and we must be wise enough not to let ourselves be moved into the type of worldwide "democracy" imposed by ultimate U.N. success in its "overall mission." For such is the U.N.’s real mission.

David C. Sanford

Youth gang problems must be addressed

What is the world coming to? That was my immediate reaction to a recent article in your paper that spotlighted the incidence of menacing behavior on the part of some students in our public schools.

Specifically, one issue cited situations involving bullying at Campbell High School, where some victims had to go public before corrective action was taken. There are probably others who choose not to go public for fear of reprisal.

Another issue carried a drug-related murder report implicating two youth gangs: an Ewa Beach gang called Kids Gone Bad and a Waipahu gang identifying itself with the grisly moniker Born to Kill. Kids Gone Bad is bad enough, but Born to Kill is absolutely horrifying.

I wish it could be said that our school system is not infected by the virus of gang activity, but that would be the height of naivete. How is the community failing these teenagers to drive them to such extremes of desperation? Can this be anything short of a clarion call for help? How are we responding to this call?

Our future rests on today’s youth. I believe our community is blessed with the resources to address this problem at all levels. Perhaps your paper can play a role in encouraging and eliciting a constructive dialogue by way of a public forum to flesh out the problem and consider solutions.

Muriel Flanders

Will the burden be put on special ed teachers?

Regarding the Jan. 1 Alice Keesing article headlined "Special ed computer system may literally pay off": On the surface, it seems the Department of Education is on the right track in automating some of the procedures to expedite or simplify the handling of its special ed record-keeping and Felix Decree reporting, dubbed ISPED.

I am also pleased to see there is a potential for other states and school districts to help pay for this effort. My concern lies with the question of where the savings will be?

It would seem there would be a reduction in man-hours in processing and filing, and an increase in accuracy and timeliness in reports at the DOE level. This would seem to be true at the district level as well.

There appears to be a likely manpower and man-hour requirement reduction potential at the administrative level in the individual schools. It also appears, however, that the burden of record-keeping and maintenance is being shifted almost totally to the special education teachers, who will be required to draft, edit, manually input and proofread all of the material entered into the ISPED system. I understand that much of the manual data input is presently accomplished at the individual school administrative level.

It doesn’t seem proper for special education teachers to be asked to do more when they have already been identified as the ones who are now overworked and overburdened with paperwork.

If my interpretation is correct, are DOE planning staff reductions commensurate with the number of man-hours that ISPED will save? Is the DOE planning to support premium pay for special education teachers, who will be asked to do even more (likely during nonregular-school hours)? Or, is this just a facet of ISPED planning that hasn’t been addressed?

B.G. Judson

Seatbelt, bike helmet laws infringe on rights

How is it we can be fined for not wearing seatbelts and not keeping our babies in car seats? The newest law in the State of Hawaii that we the people never voted on is that 16-year-old and younger children must wear bike helmets or be fined while riding their bikes.

This infringes on our rights. Why don’t we fine people for smoking cigarettes? I am not a smoker but believe people have the right to smoke, not wear sunscreen, not wear seatbelts and not wear helmets.

Why is it that the city buses and tour buses do not require passengers to buckle up, but require only the driver to buckle up?

Freedom is your choice; enjoy what remains.

Jim Rosen

Northwestern Hawaiian Islands coral is already protected

Recently, public hearings were once again held in Hawaii to solicit input on President Clinton’s new plan to convert the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands into a Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. Once again, the testimony was polarized, with the environmental activists speaking in favor, and fishermen, scientists and other authorities speaking against the new plan.

This polarization is unfortunate since everyone is in favor of protection.

Those in favor of the reserve think that more protection is needed, yet none of the fisheries (lobsters, bottomfish, precious coral and pelagics) are overfished. Yet propaganda presented by the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund and Kahea would have you believe otherwise.

The president’s executive order for a new plan itself recognizes the NWHI as "some of the world’s healthiest reefs." This is true. And why? Because the existing management agencies are doing an excellent job at their management.

Why then replace them with a new plan? The answer has more to do with politics than protection. The new plan would be a legacy for Clinton, but would it help better protect the NWHI? I think not.

First of all, the new plan only applies to waters seaward of Hawaii state waters out to 50 nautical miles; 99 percent of this area is too deep for the growth of coral reefs. So the very thing that the new plan is supposed to protect isn’t even there. Virtually all of the coral reefs in the NWHI are inside state waters within three miles of the islands.

What the new plan does do is cap the lobster and precious-coral fisheries at year-2000 levels of zero, and almost zero for the bottomfish fishery. All of these resources are on the deep banks and shelves of the islands, beyond actively growing coral reefs in shallow waters.

Many of the arguments raised in favor of the new plan pointed to mismanagement of coral reefs elsewhere in the world, such as the Florida Keys and the Caribbean or Indonesia or other fisheries in the world that have collapsed. And as sad as these examples may be, they don’t apply to the NWHI because the coral reefs there are already protected.

Seventy years ago, serious overfishing occurred at Pearl & Hermes Reef, where the pearl oysters were wiped out. Such activity is prohibited under existing laws today. I do agree, however, with environmentalists’ concerns that coral reef resources should be protected, but in the NWHI, they already are protected.

Where we need more protection is in the high Hawaiian Islands between Niihau and Hawaii. This is where the problem of overfishing exists. Closing the offshore fisheries of the NWHI will only produce more pressure on these high-island resources.

Also, with the possible exception of lobsters, which have a nine-month larval stage, the NWHI are not a nursery ground for the main Hawaiian Islands. They are simply too far away. and the prevailing currents move in the wrong direction, to the west.

Overall the new plan will probably make things worse and the high Hawaiian Islands will become even more over-fished than they are today. More protection for the NWHI sounds good until one realizes that the outcome is in fact less protection. The new plan represents a victory of feel-good environmentalism over the facts.

Richard "Rick" Grigg
Professor of Oceanography, University of Hawai

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