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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 8, 2002

Letters to the Editor

Voucher OK doesn't mean we should use it

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the Cleveland school voucher program encourages other states to pursue this unwise, unsuccessful and unpopular policy.

Diverting public tax dollars to private and religious schools not only drains money from public schools, it undermines real reforms such as reducing class sizes.

So far, the voucher program has drained $43 million of public tax funds. And what have we gotten for our money? Ohio's most recent state-sanctioned evaluation of the Cleveland program compared the progress of public school students and voucher students during a two-year period. Over this period, public school students had learning gains that were greater than those achieved by voucher students in language, math and reading.

Pro-voucher legislators have claimed that they want to help disadvantaged children, but a closer look at the voucher program shows the opposite is happening. Many of the voucher schools are not willing or able to serve students with physical and learning disabilities. Public schools serve all children, but private schools play by a different set of rules.

This may explain why voters have defeated voucher initiatives every single time they've been placed on a state election ballot. Just because the Supreme Court says we can have vouchers doesn't mean we should.

Terri Madden

School vouchers won't make schools better

School vouchers are a nice idea, but they do not provide help for those who cannot provide transportation to private schools.

And they don't help the schools that are getting left behind by those who have the means to get their kids into private schools.

What we end up with in the end are good schools and bad schools. Isn't this where we are today?

Rodney Evans

What's with search of pregnant woman?

I would like to commend our dedicated security personal at Hilo Airport. And I would like to share some of their outstanding efforts to combat terrorism.

While visiting Hilo recently, I watched as these underpaid, overworked guards meticulously pick out several "random" individuals to search. Who were these suspicious characters? A pregnant woman with her breast-feeding infant, her two toddlers and her husband, along with their two strollers and suitcases.

Come on, guys. I doubt Mr. and Mrs. White from SmallTown USA fit a terrorist profile. Choosing that tired family to search intensely was asinine. The only thing accomplished by searching that already-stressed family: making an infant mad, a pregnant woman irritated and the rest of the flight questioning the integrity of security personnel.

Amelia Woods

Court should have left the pledge alone

Congratulations. The Pledge of Allegiance may be dead. In our ever-relentless march to purge all hint of favoring any one value or belief, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had the wisdom to protect our secular way of life. Or so it seems.

The court was not wrong in its decision about the use of "under God" being unconstitutional. However, the pledge is one of the last items common to most U.S. citizens.

Color me blind for being disgusted by the applause of secularists, accusations by those seeking to make me believe there is a God and calls of unpatriotic activity. While President Bush calls the decision ridiculous and congressmen pat themselves on the back for reciting the pledge on the steps of the Capitol, I'm saddened by the lack of concern in an identity of what it means to be a U.S. citizen.

The phrase "under God" should never have been put in the pledge, but the current fight over the pledge's legality underlies a more serious debate over our national identity. To this degree, it is about whether or not we can mandate agreement toward a common value or belief — and whether it becomes coercive.

One argument is that here we are defending the rights of the minority, the right of the atheist to be free from having a government-paid employee reciting a pledge to a deity. It ignores that the pledge is optional, that "ceremonial deism" exists due to our nation's religious and ideological conflicts, and that holding a view in contrast to everyone else always implies frequent confrontation between those of different values.

What the court is doing, by requiring the pledge be changed or removed, is implicitly promoting the viewpoint that there is no supernatural being. Yet the phrase is unconstitutional, no matter how one looks at it. However, to remove the words is to change what the pledge means, as well as what it represents.

We should have just let sleeping dogs lie.

Sechyi Laiu

Statistics misused in motorcycle debate

Mike Newbern in his July 1 letter argues against Jack Scaff's June 18 letter propounding the comparative benefit of helmet use by motorcycle riders. Newbern's statement that helmets don't offer much protection above 14 miles per hour would appear reasonable based on the comparative statistics offered.

Moreover, if we apply simple algebra to the deaths-per-registration and accident ratios, we can derive an accidents-per-10,000-registered-riders statistic of 116 for "helmet states" and 107 for "non-helmet states." Are we then to conclude that riding without a helmet is actually safer? Are non-helmet riders more aware of their environment and less likely to have an accident? Or alternatively, are helmeted riders more confident that their helmet will protect them and thus less careful and more accident-prone?

No, what we have here is a very complex system of causes and effects coupled with an arbitrary use of statistics.

Perhaps the best answer to the helmet issue may be to leave the choice up to those individuals most intimately affected by the specific outcomes — in this case the rider. Any attempt to inject determinacy into an obviously indeterminate complex system will only lead to frustration.

Fred Lins

Organ donor card

As a very grateful recipient of a donated kidney, I say pass a law that makes it illegal to ride a motorcycle or moped without carrying an organ donor card.

Ann Williamson

Vision teams are democracy in action

Barbara Nakamura, in her June 16 letter, brings up the old canard about vision groups versus neighborhood boards, and implies there is something sinister about the vision groups being given $1 million in discretionary CIP. Actually, they are asked to recommend projects for their communities costing up to $2 million per year. A few facts for your readers:

• The neighborhood boards also each receive $1 million in discretionary CIP.

• The neighborhood board members, while elected, serve only in an advisory capacity, as do the vision groups.

• Neither body is actually allowed to directly appropriate funds; they each make recommendations to the City Council, which must appropriate the funds in the same fashion as any other proposed appropriation.

• Rather than being undemocratic, the vision groups are actually a novel way of distributing power more effectively to the grassroots. They represent the first time in Hawai'i's history that there is actual, effective, fiscal-based decision-making (albeit advisory) at the level below that of county government.

In other words, the vision groups represent an expansion of citizen empowerment and grassroots democracy in our city.

One further note: Anybody can attend and vote for their pet projects at vision group meetings, and many neighborhood board members also attend vision meetings and so have a direct say in spending up to $3 million in CIP funds.

Isn't a system where any citizen can participate really more, rather than less, democratic? Of course it is.

I invite Nakamura to attend the Kane'ohe-Kahalu'u vision meetings, which are held the third Tuesday of every other month at Kane'ohe Community and Senior Center, and join in this great exercise in community empowerment and grassroots democracy.

Elwin Spray

Wa'ahila backdrop will remain beautiful

Thank you for your evenhanded reporting regarding Wa'ahila Ridge. I am of course pleased with your editorial position.

One of the beautiful things about Manoa are the rainbows that often appear around 3 in the afternoon and arc gracefully over Wa'ahila. It would be an esthetic blunder beyond measure to string a section of metal skeletons festooned with a brace of sagging high-voltage lines as a backdrop to a rainbow. Degrades the visual experience and contemplative value, to say the least.

Gary Andersen

Birds have a right to be in our parks

Regarding Michael Nomura's June 19 letter about bird droppings: Birds have as much right to be in parks as humans do. Birds put out a lot less waste than humans do. So if you're going to put anything on a diet, put humans on one.

It's better that food goes to the birds than to landfills, right?

Nomura says birds can maintain a regular population without human help. Does he have any scientific proof of that?

William Chambers

Dockworkers, when is enough enough?

Two and a half years ago, when I moved back to Hawai'i, my furniture was stuck on a ship in the harbor for three weeks due to a "slowdown" on the docks.

The eventual settlement resulted in what many considered almost obscene wages for the union's workers — far more than almost anyone earns in the state.

Now, the first new car I've had since 1968 is similarly stuck in the harbor. I'll happily vote anti-union this year.

Sylvia Clay

Big tax credit would only benefit developer

I agree with the governor. The $75 million tax credit for the Ko Olina development and aquarium would only benefit the project itself.

Yes, this project would bring more jobs, but at the expense of each taxpayer. This is another example of private interests lining up at the government trough for another money handout.

It's even sadder to see Republican lawmakers huddling behind each other to lend support for this law favoring special interests. It's this kind of behavior that convinces me that politics and public interest rarely meet.

Miles A.P. Kahaloa

What can you do when heart is broken?

Keiko Ohnuma's July 2 column musing whether it is men who are the true romantics was right on the mark. Good for her. I've thought that for years now.

I've had any number of women friends who upon breaking up look like the end of the world, but who two weeks later are bright, smiling and, heavens, who would have guessed, dating again. Well, life has to go on, they say.

I know the same number of guys, two weeks, two months later are still moping. What can you do when your heart is broken? You expect it to mend overnight?

It seems women talk about what's wrong with the relationship and the guy. Shortage of thoughtfulness, compliments, gifts, gestures and candles. Guys wonder why their heart isn't going pitter-pat and why their head is still jerking around when a pretty young thing walks by. Nothing personal, it either happens or it doesn't.

And you mean to say, as Ms. Ohnuma implies, that women aren't believing in the one and only anymore? God, I've gotta read some of those women's magazines.

Well, I should thank the editors, too, for having the courage and insight to run the column. Thanks, Keiko. Sign me single, happy and still looking.

Papa Al Koo

Pi'ikoi-Lunalilo gridlock needs state attention

Since reversing the one-way directions on Pi'ikoi and Pensacola will probably never happen, we should do something about the constant gridlock that occurs when mauka-bound traffic on Pi'ikoi turning left onto Lunalilo Street to get onto the freeway gets caught in the intersection after the light turns red.

This gridlock prevents cars exiting the freeway from continuing on to Pensacola, creating congestion backing up onto the freeway at times.

For mauka-bound cars on Pi'ikoi, perhaps a "left turn on green arrow only" traffic light that is timed to turn red early will clear the intersection before the 'ewa-bound light on Lunalilo turns green.

Or, if the state wants to raise some revenue, leave it as it is. A police officer stationed at that intersection could be writing citations all day long. Hey, here's an idea, how about a traffic camera that would take pictures of the violators, who would then be sent citations in the mail ...

Ron Yoda