Letters to the Editor
Paul Costello gave UH positive press
Stanford Medical School's gain is the University of Hawai'i system's loss. In addition to his efforts to broaden awareness of the great things about the system through television and radio, Paul Costello turned around some very negative press shortly after his arrival.
He also developed a directory featuring UH Manoa faculty and their areas of special expertise, distributing it to his more than 5,000 contacts in the big-league press throughout the world and making it easy for them to call UH about astronomy instead of Arizona.
The positive press he generated for the UH system was well worth the money we paid him. And while he didn't do it "our way," he showed more aloha for UH in defending it than many of its alumni and Hawai'i residents.
Aloha Paul, and thanks for all you did for Hawai'i.
Effort by Whieldon is what wins games
Jason Whieldon proved at the University of Hawai'i-Alabama football game that he is the man at quarterback. He deserves to start the rest of the season.
However, I suspect Coach June Jones will continue to play Timmy Chang until Chang breaks the career NCAA passing record. Jones is so stubborn to prove that the run-and-shoot offense is almighty that he is willing to jeopardize his team's chance to win by starting Chang.
For someone as experienced as Chang is in the run-and-shoot offense (four years at St. Louis and at UH) you would think that he would improve every year statistically, especially in the turnover area (i.e. interceptions).
To Coach Jones: Statistics do not win games. Effort shown by Jason Whieldon wins games. I can't believe that UH produced a DVD hyping Chang as a Heisman trophy candidate.
Military's commitment to cleanup not yet seen
The Nov. 23 article "Atoll still harbors toxic dangers" is yet even more evidence of how the U.S. military has taken advantage of the land. They have completely disregarded the Johnston Atoll as a wildlife refuge more than 80 years ago and we still have yet to see a complete clearance of the pollution they caused from nuclear testing.
Why is it taking so long for them to clean up what they have destroyed in the first place? We are talking about radioactive materials and cancer-causing agents they buried in the soil, as well as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that leaked into the lagoon.
They say they might be done by June of next year, but who will be responsible for any toxicity issues that may arise in the future? It is surely not up to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who will take over after they are done. It is obvious that the U.S. military did not consider the consequent cleanup as a priority until after the damage was done.
We should carefully analyze the U.S. military's commitment to cleanup before approving any of their future projects.
'Old boys club now includes girls, too'
In response to Lee Cataluna's article on the governor and her appointments, I would certainly like to know what all these cronies who helped get her elected are now being paid at taxpayers' expense.
As I recall, she ran on the mantra that it was "our taxpayer money" and now it is going into the deep pockets of all her Republican cronies. I guess nothing really does change in Hawai'i except that the "old boys club now includes girls, too."
Security Summit showcased Honolulu
Honolulu took a significant step forward last month, as we strengthened our standing as a center for the exchange of information critical to America and our friends throughout the region. The success of the Inaugural Asia-Pacific Homeland Security Summit & Exposition (Nov. 19-21) reaffirmed the wisdom of diversifying our economy by showcasing our city as a gathering place that fosters the transfer of knowledge on the vital issues of our time.
Congratulations to Gov. Linda Lingle and her staff for the week-long event. Ted Liu and Ray Jefferson of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism are to be commended for organizing a gathering of this caliber.
The Security Summit provided a unique opportunity to develop and share strategies fundamental to the safety of our nation and its people. It also served as a reminder of Honolulu's place as a focal point for information and technical transfer.
Good things follow when we leverage our knowledge and resources in areas of importance to our regional neighbors. Such efforts will be the key to growth of our island economy in the years ahead.
Mayor Jeremy Harris
City and County of Honolulu
Cell phones don't belong in the halls of learning
Regarding the Dec. 1 article on cellular-phone use at public schools, how did we ever get along without cell phones?
How did my mother contact me while I was in class if there was an emergency or a change in after-school plans? Simple. She called the office and someone delivered the message, causing very little commotion during class and effectively communicating with me, without a cell phone.
The use of a cell phone for children in elementary and high school should be viewed as a privilege. Allowing their use during the school day is ridiculous. Most universities and colleges don't allow cell-phone use, and using your cell phone at work is usually frowned upon.
So we should educate children now about cell-phone etiquette. We should also commend schools such as Mililani and Lana'i High for their steadfast stance against these disruptive little nuisances that have become such an integral part of our daily lives. There certainly is a time and a place for them. I just don't think they belong within the halls of learning.
All property is taxed
Here's a quick test regarding who pays property taxes in Honolulu. Answer true or false to these statements:
Renters don't pay property taxes.
Tourists don't pay property taxes.
Military members don't pay property taxes.
The answer to all of the above is false. Anyone who lives in or visits Honolulu (with the exception of some military members who live on base in military housing) pays property taxes.
Renters pay property taxes as part of the rent charged for their house or apartment, tourists pay as part of their hotel bill and large numbers of the military rent or buy homes. All property is taxed. Whoever occupies that property is paying taxes either directly to the county or through their rent.
The next time a politician tells you that someone doesn't pay property taxes, set them straight and tell them to find another excuse to raise our taxes.
Proposals to 'protect' traditional marriage
So now we have a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution to "protect traditional marriage" by denying gay couples the right to marry.
I fail to see the threat to traditional heterosexual marriage presented by gay civil unions or marriages. Conservatives generally defend a ban on gay marriage by stating that it is harmful to the "true purpose" of marriage, which is the creation and raising of children.
I propose an alternative amendment that would actually "protect" heterosexual marriage if child-bearing and child-rearing are its only legitimate aims. It would include the following provisions:
Criminalization of premarital and nonprocreative sex (no more birth control), as well as a ban on marriage between infertile or elderly couples (who, after all, are incapable of reproduction).
Revive criminal penalties for adultery.
These provisions would go much farther toward protecting "traditional marriage" than not allowing gay partners to form legal unions.
Retiring fire chief not given 'Golden Parachute"
First, I would like to congratulate Fire Chief Attilio Leonardi for his 30-plus years of service to our community.
Second, I would like to respond to Alexander Garcia's Dec. 2 letter that said retaining Leonardi as fire chief is equivalent to a "100 percent pay raise."
Over his career, the City and County of Honolulu paid specified amounts into the firefighters' retirement fund to provide for Leonardi's pension. Those payments were part of the city's contract with him, and that pension belongs to him when he meets the time in service and age requirements. It is not a "Golden Parachute." Leonardi said he was retiring, and he did.
The fact that the city has decided to retain Leonardi as acting fire chief for 89 days is a new contract with him. It is no different than if he went to work for another fire department after retiring.
The city is paying no more for him now than it was before (in fact, less since it is probably no longer paying to the retirement fund on his behalf). It makes sense for the Fire Commission to put a temporary contract in place to ensure a smooth transition to Leonardi's successor.
Education reform is difficult in state
Although The Advertiser contends that education reform should not be controlled by politics, it nevertheless supports a formula for allocating money to individual schools that was developed as a result of the political process ("Education reform can't wait for governance fight," Dec. 2).
The formula did not arise from within the Department of Education or from any apolitical effort. Indeed, the DOE has not successfully implemented any type of education reform in the past several decades. Rather, there is lots of evidence that through the years the DOE has stifled reform.
From a national perspective, education reform usually comes about as a result of political pressure that is brought to bear upon a public school system, and not as a result of an initiative from within the public school system itself. In most cases the governor or the Legislature initiate the reform.
What makes reform difficult in Hawai'i is that the DOE is designed to be as isolated from politics as any governmental agency so that, for example, favoritism is minimized.
However, one unintended effect of isolation that has taken place over many years is that the DOE has developed an inner compass that has little relationship to either the concerns of parents of public school students or the expectations of society at large.
The Advertiser is only partially right in asserting that the key to reform is to empower principals to run their schools and control their budgets as they see fit. Even with budgetary control, if principals continue to make the same decisions that they have made in the past, nothing in the classroom will change.
The other part of the equation is that the school board must be able to select principals who have the capacity and the courage to make the decisions necessary to improve education. Since each principal will surely have a different vision of education, each school will be different, and the school board itself must be able to make the policy decisions that support diversity in education.
Unfortunately, the existing Board of Education has neither the inclination nor the ability to make these decisions. As evidence, visit the BOE's Web site and read the minutes of its past meetings. The BOE and the DOE leadership do not want reform and should not be entrusted with carrying out any reform efforts.
The creation of separate, independent school districts is an attempt to change the pattern of decision-making in public education. Granted, there are no guarantees for an immediate improvement in all schools in all districts. More likely, there will initially be pockets of success. Then, if capable principals are in place and if supporting policies have been adopted, these initial successes will be replicated, and eventually all schools will be improved.
If, however, as The Advertiser suggests, we wait until progress in education is guaranteed before moving forward, we will be waiting so long that the only guarantee will be the continued deterioration of public education in Hawai'i.