Wednesday, January 10, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Letters to the Editor

Deposit bill would encourage recycling

Unlike Nova Scotians (Jan TenBruggencate, Dec. 25), Hawaii people are most likely to throw away their bottles after finishing the drink. Those bottles end up clogging our landfill or being incinerated, neither of which has to happen.

A bill being introduced this legislative session hopes to change that. It is backed by recyclers, the City and County of Honolulu, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups. This recycling deposit bill, if passed, would greatly increase the amount of material recycled in the state.

The bill is similar to Oregon’s, where the customer pays a 5-cent deposit on each beverage container when purchased, both glass and plastic. The deposit is returned by the store when the empties are returned. A percentage of the uncollected deposits goes to the store and recycling centers to help them administer the program.

In 1998, about 2 percent of plastic bottles, 62 percent of aluminum cans and 43 percent of glass containers were recycled on Oahu. Through a deposit program, we have the opportunity to lessen the burden on our landfills, reduce litter from bottles and cans, and create new local jobs and markets with recycled materials. Please support the bottle bill this year.

Randy Ching
Sierra Club, O
ahu Group

Renewable energy isn’t ready for us yet

In his Jan. 3 letter, Jeff Mikulina of the Sierra Club expressed grave concern that HECO has locked the state into depending on imported oil and coal for generating over 90 percent of its electricity. He claims this has produced "massive economic hemorrhaging" that could be avoided if HECO more diligently pursued renewable energy technology. He seems to mistakenly believe that renewable technologies are cheaper than what we are using today.

He has apparently forgotten, if he ever knew, the lessons learned from the HEI Kahuku wind farm. This 12.2-megawatt wind farm employed the latest wind turbine technology and was the largest of its kind when it started up in 1985. The economic justification for this project was the steady escalation in oil prices expected to exceed $60 per barrel by the year 2000. Since the price set by law to buy wind-produced electrical energy is the cost avoided by not burning oil, such higher oil prices would produce the revenues necessary to keep the wind farm in operation and provide a reasonable return on the investment.

Well, guess what happened. Oil prices didn’t escalate as expected. In fact, at $25 to $30 per barrel, present oil prices are no different from 15 years ago. (Considering inflation, oil is even cheaper today.) As a result, wind-generated electricity sales revenues were insufficient to keep the wind farm in operation. Today it stands idle as a stark reminder of the uneconomic nature of renewable energy technologies.

Contrary to the view of the Sierra Club, we should be grateful that HECO has locked us into generation technologies that will continue to produce electricity cleanly, reliably and economically until renewable technologies become reliable and affordable at some indeterminate time in the future.

Dick OConnell

Legislature must protect pedestrians

Unless you believe pedestrians want to get maimed or killed, it is generally drivers who control pedestrian behavior.

Right now in many areas of Hawaii, cars don’t stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. This forces pedestrians into risky behavior and into not bothering to go out of the way to use a useless, unsignalized crosswalk. Basically, they have to wait for a break in traffic, come rain or shine, and then rapidly cross the road. In some places, such as trying to cross King Street next to Star Market in Moiliili, traffic breaks are a long time in coming.

Before you can change driver behavior, you have to change police behavior, and before you can change police behavior, you have to take the ambiguity out of H.R.S. 291C-72, which uses the words "stopping if need be to so yield" to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

Let’s hope the Legislature succeeds in changing H.R.S. 291C-72 this year. Last year’s House bill 1899 may be re-introduced or another bill may be drafted. Contact Legislative Access to check for progress or to testify.

By the way, 1999 made Hawaii the worst state in the country five out of the last six years for the percentage of traffic fatalities who were either a vulnerable pedestrian or a vulnerable motorcycle rider. When 2000 is reported, it will be even worse.

Kent Bennett

Better love hath no military chaplain ...

A factual response to Frances Viglielmo’s dilemma (Letters, Jan. 2) with military chaplains could include that freezing-cold January 1945 morning in the Ardennes when forward elements of the 328th Battalion, 83rd Infantry Division, supported by Company A-774 Tank Battalion, met with heavy German machine-gun fire as they crossed an open forest clearing.

As the Americans deployed, taking cover and positions for a counterattack, they heard the pitiful cries and moans of their fallen wounded lying in snow. The onlookers, relieved at not being one of them, however, cursed their own helplessness in coming to the rescue.

It was then that all stopped in disbelief to watch the battalion chaplain, with the chaplain’s flag in hand, struggling in waist-high snow, making several lone trips to bring the wounded back to safety and waiting medics.

Viglielmo may equally find the answer by reading the heroic story of those four military chaplains who did not hesitate to give their lifejackets to other fellow servicemen when their troop transport was sunk in the Mid-Atlantic by a German U-boat.

John K. Kingsley
Company A-774 Tank Battalion, At Ardennes December 1944-January 1945

Georgette Deemer will be sorely missed

I have worked in Hawaii’s film industry as a location and production manager for the past 12 years and have had the great pleasure of getting to work closely with Georgette Deemer on feature film projects that have included "WaterWorld," "Sphere," "Godzilla," "Windtalkers" and many more.

In a business that is notoriously difficult at times because of the rapid-fire pace we move at and with many of the explosive Hollywood personalities we must deal with, Georgette has been a shining star to our Hawaii film industry. Not only has she helped to improve our image as a state to filmmakers, but she’s put in long hours that I know she never got any extra pay for, and she’s always put 100 percent into every project she’s ever worked on.

It’s going to be tough to replace her as the manager of the Hawaii Film Office. One of the things I’ve always admired about her the most is her ability to stay cool, calm and collected when some of the most challenging situations have arisen. I can only hope the state will make an exhaustive effort to find a candidate who will build on what Georgette has accomplished. I wish her every success with her new career and I know I won’t be alone in missing her. All the best, Georgette.

Ginger G. Peterson

Cigarette tax failure is corporate welfare’

I am dismayed that there appears to have been little public reaction to your Dec. 26 story on the state’s failure to collect an estimated $20 million in cigarette taxes.

In an era of sensitivity to welfare fraud, this apparent carelessness amounts to massive "corporate welfare," benefiting an industry that many people would not choose for their charitable giving.

Given Hawaii’s current population, $20 million is approximately $16 for every person in the state. This could be seen as a forfeited tax cut. Or think of the good that could be done in the schools, for the homeless, to stimulate industry, with an "extra" $20 million.

Mary S. Sheridan

Insurance carriers are manipulating us

I read with disgust Frank Cho’s Jan. 4 article on Hawaii insurance carriers manipulating customers into higher-rate workers’-compensation plans. Again, these masters of statistical manipulation cite mounting losses as their alleged excuse for once again raising prices for the consumer.

Throughout the 1990s, they did the same thing. In 1995, they used their political clout to get the Legislature to ax medical reimbursements to providers over 50 percent and severely limit and control treatment guidelines that doctors and providers need to follow, basically dictating what happens when people are hurt and require treatment.

What followed was over four years of windfall profits as the rates carriers’ charges stayed the same, while benefits and payouts fell over 50 percent. The result, as this paper published before, was profit margins well over 40 percent for both workers’-compensation and no-fault lines of insurance. Now a year after facing mandatory rate rollbacks by our insurance commissioner, they are winning. Do they think all consumers are idiots?

Statistically, there has not been an increase in claims filed. In fact, the Department of Labor shows a drop in the number of claims filed over several years. Since we know medical costs have been halved, how do they explain it?

Sure, their profit margins are finally falling into line with what the commissioner deems "reasonable" (25 percent), but greed prevents them from accepting it. If anything, they, like the rest of small-business owners, need to look at cutting operating expenses and trimming the fat.

I respect Commissioner Wayne Metcalf, as he has stuck up for the consumer time and again. I urge all businesses and politicians to support his efforts to bring reasonable insurance rates for all of the public.

The insurance industry, on the other hand, continues to attempt to deceive the public into accepting higher rates to support extraordinary profits. Without the medical providers to blame, insurance carriers have only themselves to look to. Don’t try to pull the wool over the public’s eyes again.

Wailani Ho

Bus transfer policy could ease problems

Regarding the city’s proposed bus fare price hikes: The buses’ recent change in policy regarding transfers should be looked at as a partial cure for increased revenues.

This past summer, the private company that manages TheBus, OTS, enacted a new policy regarding transfers. The policy change included a substantial increase of time allowed for transfer use.

Further, and more importantly, the old transfer policy included specific direction in travel, transfers were to be used at specific transfer points with no layovers and passengers were to use the most direct route. The new policy has no such restrictions. This change in policy resulted in a loss of revenues for TheBus and the city.

My proposal would be to either revoke this policy change or charge a flat fare such as 50 cents for transfers. This would increase bus revenues.

Ashly Garcia

Government money comes from taxpayers

Thank you for printing the Jan. 8 letter from Jim Drake. Hopefully everyone read it and it sinks in that every time someone says it is money from the federal or state government, it is really from the taxpayer.

The federal and state governments receive no income other than from taxes and tariffs. The purpose of government is to spend our money as fast as it can confiscate it from us.

Next time you hear someone say "don’t worry, it’s federal (or state) money," remember where it came from. Politicians love to use this term. All monies belong to the taxpayer, not the consumers of the money, i.e., the government.

M. Sather

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