Letters to the Editor
Several concerns should be addressed
The growing debate about the potential of power lines over Wa'ahila Ridge has stimulated a wide range of opinions. Even though I live in Kaka'ako, I do have a number of concerns:
- As a user and ratepayer, I am disturbed about the considerable controversy over the need for this expansion. Before any decisions are made, agreement should be reached as to the magnitude of the need and the best alternatives for satisfying it.
- As a businessman, I am curious about the potential savings in long-term operating costs from buried cables as contrasted to those susceptible to weather, hurricanes, vandalism and other repair issues.
- As a member of the Ala Wai Watershed Association, a group dedicated to restoring clean water to the streams of our ahupua'a and ultimately the Ala Wai Canal, I am fearful about the poisons that must be used to keep the ground around the poles accessible. These poisons will ultimately find their way into our waterways.
- As a Vision Team member, I am interested in overhead wires on all parts of our island.
- As a citizen, I am concerned about anything that unnecessarily spoils our views and those greeting our many visitors.
After determining the appropriate level of need, we could develop an islandwide long-range plan that ultimately buries all overhead wires so that everyone can equitably share both the costs and the benefits. It is time for reason to prevail over this ongoing debate.
Sesame Street could settle teacher strike
Script: WWSSD What Would Sesame Street Do?
As the Sesame Street scene opens, the Governor Muppet and the Teacher Muppet are arguing. As they argue, a Student Muppet is bumped and falls behind the stage (dub in broken glass sounds).
Neither adult Muppet notices the Student Muppet. As they get more upset, their shaggy carpet fur flops around and their eyes whirl. Both speak at once and neither listens to the other. (Props Dept: Supply as needed.)
Teacher Muppet: Exit stage left and return in a strike T-shirt.
Governor Muppet: Unfurl long sheet of accounting paper with squiggles.
Teacher Muppet: Whack Governor Muppet over head with picket sign.
Governor Muppet: Exit stage right, hold head; take Teacher Muppet's health insurance with him.
No, that can't be the right script. This is a learning show for children. Well, it is, but what are we teaching the children about settling disputes? What Would Sesame Street Do?
Since neither side is talking to the other, perhaps they could spend some time watching PBS' Sesame Street reruns and learn about compromise and listening.
Gov. Cayetano fiddles while schools burn
Newscasts covering the governor's activities on the first day of the strike of the entire public education system of Hawai'i say it all: While thousands of teachers and professors were picketing on April 5 to draw attention to the crisis in education in the state, the governor was being interviewed during a break from entertaining himself at the local car show.
Seeing his image on television and observing his seemingly cavalier "let them strike a few days" attitude reminded me of a certain Roman leader who fiddled while his city burned to the ground. Let's hope the despot analogy ends there and that, somehow, much-needed wisdom and righteousness surface through the strike ashes and lead to a long-overdue renaissance in education priorities.
Professor of Mathematics, Leeward Community College
Better salaries would help retain teachers
As teachers in Wai'anae, we know firsthand what state neglect has done to affect families and schools in Wai'anae. In the hard times of this strike, we have 100 percent of our teachers walking the picket lines at Wai'anae Elementary, Wai'anae Intermediate and Wai'anae High School.
Many new teachers leave because of the high cost of living. Others leave because of the lack of facilities and other resources to do our jobs well. Many leave because of low pay and high stress.
We have award-winning students and teachers at our schools. I see many new talented teachers with the same dedication and smarts to create opportunities for more of our students. It takes years to guide and support a struggling student toward a future of success. This can't be done if the students are forced to work with new teachers all the time because so many are leaving for other occupations.
Higher pay will allow us to keep the talented teachers who work well with our students. Our students deserve the opportunity to work with a teacher who doesn't have to think about leaving just to make a living.
'Steep' UH pay hikes nothing of the kind
Gov. Ben Cayetano rebukes letter-writers who criticize him for his "reluctance to grant steep pay hikes" to university professors and other public workers ("Hawai'i must move forward," Focus, April 5).
I was hired by UH Manoa in 1997. Colleagues in my cohort have received exactly one 2 percent raise in four years. Add on the state's last offer up to 9 percent for some professors over the next two years and you have an 11 percent increase over six years for the best or luckiest professors.
This is about half of what my peers will receive at, say, UC Irvine and the University of Washington.
In the same letter, the governor forgot to mention that the offer that put 9 percent "on the table" would have cut professors' health and retirement benefits by 25 percent. What was offered with the right hand was simultaneously withdrawn with the left.
Here are two basic truths: Professors are the soul of a university, and professors work in a labor market wherein bad offers drive out good teachers and scholars. The state is playing a dangerous game of chicken. Even if it "wins" in the present conflict, it will lose big time in the long run. UH's brain drain will accelerate, the university will become increasingly soul-less, and Hawai'i's youth, economy and society will pay the price for having a university system that cannot compete in a global world that revolves on higher education.
Is this an appealing vision for Hawai'i?
David T. Johnson
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Adjunct Professor of Law
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
Teacher unions had chance to back Saiki
Right now, as the HSTA and UHPA are on strike, my thoughts go back to the 1994 gubernatorial race. Former U.S. Rep. Patricia Saiki ran in that race.
Saiki was a teacher herself, and she contributed a lot to education in Hawai'i. She helped organize a teachers' union at a time when teachers worked long hours under poor conditions and had no say in educational decisions. She questioned the issue of tracking children and felt that teachers should contribute in designing challenging curriculum and setting educational goals.
After all the accomplishments Saiki made for education in Hawai'i, both the HGEA and UHPA endorsed Ben Cayetano in the 1994 gubernatorial race. Today, both unions fuss that Cayetano isn't doing enough for them. Ironic, isn't it?
More smoke, mirrors with governor's 'raise'
The governor and others have made much of the large size of the teachers' last pay raise, so I ran the numbers again for my last contract raise the other morning before I went to the picket line.
I'm one of those 14-A's (thirty-three years at Baldwin High School), so for starters, my 17 percent raise was really only 14 percent not 17 percent. But, seven days, or 3.5 percent, of the school year were added as part of that 17 percent. So, I'm down to11.5 percent for the four years.
In 1996, the Department of Education changed its policy toward partial pay periods, in that teachers would not be paid for partial pay periods until the end of the year. Also, teachers' and other state employees' pay were lagged for five days because the state needed the money. So, my reported 17 percent raise is now down to about 4 percent divided over four years, and I, like all other teachers in the state, have made an unwilling interest-free "loan" of 7.5 percent of our salaries.
In my case this 7.5 percent "loan" is $2,800, which is continually pushed forward every August until retirement, even though I'm paying the taxes on this money that I have no control over. If you think of this across the entire teaching staff of the state, then it's over $25 million of interest-free money from teachers to the state.
So, when the governor offers a 14 percent raise to teachers on the new contract, I'm not sure I can afford another one of his smoke-and-mirrors pay raises.
Leslie Skillings Jr.
H.P. Baldwin High School
Don't compare Hawai'i with California crisis
Philip Hauret (Letters, March 29) is comparing apples to oranges. Hawai'i is not similar to California when it comes to energy. The situation in California should not be used to scare and misinform the Hawai'i public.
First, California has grown dependent on (formerly) cheap Northwest hydro power, which is no longer cheap. Power companies in California cannot legally pass on the rate increases from external suppliers to consumers; so California power companies are now virtually bankrupt. As a result, the external power producers are refusing to sell power to California power companies, resulting in shortages to consumers. Unlike California, Hawai'i has an abundant, locally generated power supply.
Second, while California has experienced unprecedented population growth, Hawai'i's demand for electricity has not changed significantly in the past 10 years.
Third, while it is noteworthy that California has a 30-year plan to underground all utility lines, the rolling blackouts in California have nothing to do with the presence or absence of overhead lines, or transmission lines at all.
The 138-kilovolt line that Hawaiian Electric has been trying to push on O'ahu off and on for nearly 30 years now, at a cost of $30 million plus, is not necessary. The line would have prevented, at most, 30 minutes of blackout time in the past 30 years. Adding solar panels in neighborhoods or smaller, local generators would increase reliability to the same extent at a much lower cost. The money the public pays to HECO would be much better spent.
GOP's behavior in Legislature stinks
I've lived in Hawai'i all my life, and I have never seen anything as disgraceful as the Republicans' behavior in the Legislature.
Hawai'i is a culture of tolerance and respect. It is part of our heritage that we practice aloha and humility when dealing with other people. We are unique in the way we cherish each other.
The Republicans' vicious attacks to try to embarrass a decent and honorable man like House Speaker Calvin Say show their disrespect and disdain for Island values. I'm sure no one would have faulted Say for retaliating, but he obviously has too much class for that.
I, for one, do not want to see Hawai'i politics degenerate into the in-your-face, hateful stuff we see in Washington, D.C.
How about fluoridating our bottled water?
I have bottled water delivered to my home, and there is a choice of two styles filtered or distilled. Why isn't fluoridated bottled water available?
There's certainly a market for it, and it would spare the rest of us who don't want to consume fluoride in any form. Fluoride, if put into the public water system, can be ingested through the lungs via the steam of a hot shower.
Similarly, why don't the soft drink companies offer a third choice besides regular and diet? How about fluoridated sodas (boldly marked, of course)?
Waimea Falls plan was done correctly
Regarding your April 3 article "Waimea Falls Park report submitted": Hurray for the community-based plan being used for the future of Waimea Bay.
"If (the valley is) going to be a public facility," Councilwoman Rene Mansho said, "we need a community-based plan. ... I needed a collective vision from all segments of the community to agree to how we want the project." Evidently a task force of 150 to 200 members worked to propose a master plan to the city. How refreshing and pono.
Waimea's committee was set up through public hearings and community input. This is totally opposite from the manner in which the Hanauma Bay plan came down. It was created by the city first and then presented, top down, to a narrow part of the community for minimal input and opinions. The city would have you believe otherwise. Members of the very small task force (only about 10 were not connected to the project in some way) were not even allowed to discuss size of structures.
It was heartening to read that "Our vision for Waimea is to return it to the spirits of our ancestors that live there."
No Hawaiian or environmental groups were invited to participate in any Hanauma Bay task force meetings. Although the bay is rich in Hawaiian history, the city made no attempt to include the "spirits of the ancients" except for after-the-fact tokenism.
Diane D. Ackerson