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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 22, 2003

Letters to the Editor

City Council not getting paid to be incompetent

If the word dysfunctional does not describe the current City Council then maybe we should use Honolulu City Council to describe dysfunctional. What are these people getting paid to do? Are we paying them to play musical "chairs"? Are we paying them to see who can criticize Mayor Harris the most? Or are we paying them to take care of city business?

This fiasco with police pay raises brings to light the total incompetence of our city "leaders." The modus operandi seems to be "if we criticize the mayor enough and try to look good the police raises will appear out of thin air."

Hey! Has anyone thought about having some sort of plan? If the mayor's proposal isn't good enough, then what is? Do something.

In the Mufi Hannemann, Jon Yoshimura, John DeSoto days (which are looking better and better), they, at least, got things done (without raising taxes, I might add). Now, it seems, our council is spending way too much time in front of the copy machine and in the mail room. Unfortunately, that's not what we are paying them to do.

Mark Middleton

Prevent crime, recidivism by focusing on offenders

I am part of a small group (minuscule) in Hawai'i that thinks it would be smarter to prevent crime or prevent recidivism rather than build new prisons.

I read last week's Focus commentary "Rethinking prisons" with interest and looked forward to reactions from your readers. When Wednesday passed and still no comment, I thought I'd better read the article again.

I was struck with the phrase "history suggests that dollars have never been the single motivating factor in prison policies." That's where I went wrong. I have stressed to legislators (the few who would talk to me) and the governor's office (she wouldn't either) that if the recidivism rate could be reduced, it would not be necessary to build a new prison.

Most of those active in the issue of keeping released prisoners from re-offending are pushing drug-treatment programs, marriage counseling, anger management. These are expensive programs in the short run, but for every dollar spent the savings is like $4.

I thought I would push a program with no cost at all. If prisoners got out of jail thinking they were part of the community, maybe that would help them re-enter society. One way to foster that sense of community would be to involve them in the political process. Senate Bill 863 and House Bill 885 have been introduced to allow incarcerated felons to vote (as in Maine and Vermont).

Lately I've been wondering if I was wrong. When 95 percent are against you, you are a minority. When 100 percent are against you, you might be mistaken. If both the leaders and the citizens would rather spend money on worthless buildings than help other citizens become productive members of society, then I am wrong.

Dorothy I. Cornell

Government needs to look into visa denial

I have just learned that a student grantee at the U.S. State Department's East-West Center will not get a visit by her parents over the holidays because their long-ago-applied-for visa was inexplicably denied at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Does Hawai'i need tourism from the People's Republic of China? Would you think that the parents of a federally subsidized student, here at a U.S. State Department institution, would qualify for a tourist visa?

Is the 50-year-old, Chinese parents' profile grossly unlike that of historical terrorists? Might PRC visitors get a better impression of the United States than is conveyed to them daily through their PRC-controlled media, and might such an impression improve people-to-people relations? I'm pretty sure the answer is five yeses.

Would our U.S. congressmen please look into this situation so that it doesn't happen again?

William Reese Liggett

Let's move forward with decentralization

I agree with The Advertiser that the Citizens Achieving Reform in Education (CARE) committee has done a credible job in diagnosing the problems of public education in Hawai'i ("Education panel paints only part of the picture," Dec. 17).

The biggest problem in public education is that many decisions aren't being made by the right people. Many decisions affecting student performance are made by bureaucrats in the upper administrative levels of the Department of Education who are not sensitive to the particular conditions faced by schools. Instead, these decisions should be made at the school level. The CARE committee recommends giving principals the authority to make these decisions.

With much of the decision-making authority shifted to the school level, the CARE committee recommends the elimination of an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy by dissolving the DOE, which has three organizational levels, and replacing it with seven independent school districts, each of which would have two levels. This new organizational structure would help decentralize public education and ensure that principals are given the decision-making authority they need.

The Advertiser believes that decentralization can happen within the existing DOE. However, experience shows just the opposite. For example, in 1989 the Legislature passed the School-Community-Based Management (SCBM) law that was supposed to shift decision-making to the school level and to give communities more of a say in how schools were run. To date, neither has happened.

The basic recommendations in the CARE committee report are sound. However, I agree with The Advertiser that the specifics now need to be developed.

John Kawamoto

Judges need to enforce laws we already have

Racers need a venue. First, it is a small minority of modified cars that races. Not everyone who modifies their car races it. But I have seen all types of vehicles speed — stock four-doors, trucks, buses, even vans.

Second, we don't need more laws. We already have enough. If you believe Sen. Cal Kawamoto about more laws then I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. This is just another typical liberal "feel good, do nothing" reaction to a problem.

There are so many loopholes in these so-called laws you can have an Indy race through them. What is needed is for the judges to enforce the current laws rather than dismissing cases right and left. Or when the person is arrested for being reckless, let them plead out to unsafe lane changes — yes, the judges let them do it all the time. So next time people are screaming for the police to do their job, remember we are. It's the ones in the black robes that forgot to do theirs.

Until the judges are held accountable for not doing their jobs, you will continue to have a problem with irresponsible drivers.

We need to have the current laws enforced, not more useless laws made. Remember, it's not the car that causes the problems, accidents and deaths. It is the driver who caused it.

Michael W. Hunt

Editorial on impact aid needs some clarification

The Advertiser Dec. 19 editorial "New Island compact a good deal for all" was fine, but I think some points need clarifying. I was an officer in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) administration for three years and am presently a legislative researcher in Hawai'i.

The first point I would like to make is that pressure to raise the "impact act" came as much from the Hawai'i Legislature as it did "from Hawai'i's congressional delegation."

In 2002 the Legislature unanimously passed SCR 102, which proposed what eventually happened (specified "impact" aid) and sent copies to all relevant parties. The resolution pointed out that the state had already spent more than $100 million on expenses for health and education programs for lawful nonimmigrants from there.

The second point is that your editorial said "Hawai'i has argued" that the "federal government should help foot the bills." The resolution went far beyond "arguing" and cited U.S. Code, Title 48, Section 1904. That statute stated in part that it "was not the intent of Congress to cause adverse consequences for the State of Hawai'i" and authorized monies to be appropriated "to cover the costs ... incurred by the State of Hawai'i ... resulting from any increased demands placed on education and social services." The Legislature pointed out that Hawai'i, by law, should be reimbursed.

Finally, I have to personally object to your calling the U.S. presence in those Pacific Islands as "long years of American occupation" and that we owed money to those areas "to offset costs, both physical and human" stemming from that "occupation."

Those islands were colonies of the Imperial Japanese government for almost 40 years as the "Japanese Mandated Islands" — a period in which the native islanders were treated as virtual chattel. The American government, under the aegis of the United Nations Trusteeship Council, spent untold millions upgrading the infrastructure, educating potential leaders, establishing democratic institutions, stimulating the economy and providing jobs for those areas.

The island territories, when they were deemed ready by the United Nations and the United States, negotiated their own political status that included long-range promises of future financial and technical aid from the United States. That is a far cry from what you have characterized as an onerous "occupation."

James V. Hall

Let's not chain ourselves to BRT plan

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie is 100 percent correct in calling the proposed $2.6 billion light-rail project for West O'ahu a "fantasy." However, the fundamental problems go beyond the lack of a financial commitment by our state and local governments.

The 2003 rail plan is radically different from the last $1.7 billion light-rail project that was stopped at the last minute with unexpected opposition by former Honolulu Councilwoman Rene Mansho.

The 1992 elevated electric train system (Honolulu Rapid Transit) planned to connect West O'ahu with other important locations, including Pearlridge, Aloha Stadium, Arizona Memorial, Honolulu International Airport, Honolulu Community College, Aloha Tower, downtown Honolulu, Blaisdell Center, Ala Moana Center, Hawai'i Convention Center and the University of Hawai'i-Manoa campus.

Unfortunately, this year's rail plan costs over 50 percent more than the '92 rail system, yet it does not even reach downtown from West O'ahu. If it is completed by the target date of 2018, commuters would then have to transfer to a bus to reach all the important points east of 'A'ala Park that were to be serviced by the 1992 HRT system.

This is where the current overall traffic plan breaks down. Although city officials are counting on the proposed BRT to bring "express electric buses" to Honolulu, all BRT vehicles are scheduled to use Hotel Street — along with city buses that already use this narrow, two-lane road.

Since Hotel Street does not provide any room for passing, the BRT vehicles will not go any faster than all the regular buses on this portion of the route. The additional BRT buses will slow down all buses by adding more vehicles and two BRT stops to Hotel Street.

BRT vehicles will find a similar situation on those sections listed as "semi-exclusive" except that there may be an adjacent lane that might allow BRTs to pass regular buses. This is not "express" bus service and it will not improve our traffic problems.

Although some promotions and articles printed about this BRT system describe the proposed BRT vehicles as "hybrid-electric vehicles" or "electric buses," this is misleading because the BRTs are set to be powered by diesel-fuel engines in the environmental impact statement.

The existing models that meet the EIS specifications are very expensive. The few prototypes currently available cost more than $900,000 each — more than twice as much as similarly sized buses that are now in use.

Being 100 percent diesel-powered but adding a large, heavy set of batteries for the electrical portion of the hybrid still leaves a total bus system that is 100 percent dependent on imported oil. This is a very poor choice, particularly considering the increasing price and scarcity of this volatile fossil fuel.

Being chained to this lead balloon called the BRT will never get us back on track to a truly efficient rail system that is now needed to provide a clean, safe and dependable way to get around in the worsening traffic of Honolulu.

Wally Bachman
Science adviser, Citizens Advocating Responsible Education