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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Letters to the Editor

Outstanding keiki make us proud for holidays

What is it about Hawai'i that produces such wonderful keiki? As the holidays approach, we have much to be proud of in our children; three, out of many, shine especially bright this year.

A talented freshman, who plays with top athletes, responds with grace, dignity and maturity under the glare of national scrutiny and the less-than-professional demeanor of her fellow competitors. Another young competitor takes tragedy and triumphs with heart, spunk and great hope. Giggling on news clips, the lovely surfer demonstrates the ocean teaches many lessons, including the unbeatable joy of life.

A 12-year-old boy also teaches us some valuable lessons. Never let false assumptions decide your future, or who you are; never fear to take the harder path. The intrepid student withstands angry protest and claims his place with his family and chosen heritage.

All our heritages shine in Hawai'i's keiki and produce for the new year caring, brave and wonderful young adults.

E.M. Skinner

Misinterpreted remarks reflect reporter's agenda

In Jim Dooley's Dec. 17 article "Lingle supporters fill key stadium positions," some reporting of the facts was clearly missing. When informed of the content of this article by Dooley, I found numerous remarks that I made that could be misinterpreted and I believe they reflected what Dooley really wanted to write about. I would never make any statement that would embarrass the governor, the Aloha Stadium Authority board, the management team or myself.

If Dooley feels that I am unqualified to serve on the stadium authority, then that is what he should have written about. To accuse me and others of cronyism without even asking me about my background and qualifications is a disservice to all who have a desire to help the state of Hawai'i.

I know reporters have a tough job. Yet, statements that are made by individuals should be stated as is, not sensationalized to sell papers or to create a controversy or conspiracy that does not exist.

I am grateful for Lingle's support and for her belief in my capabilities to do the job as a part of the stadium authority. Isn't that what good government is all about? We should find and encourage quality people to serve their communities and their state rather than scare away anyone considering public service because they are afraid they will be wrongly criticized.

In spite of Dooley's story, I plan to do my best in serving our state because it is a privilege and honor to be considered qualified to do so.

Kevin Chong Kee

God will bless only heterosexual marriages

This is in response to Michael Golojuch Jr.'s Dec. 19 letter " 'Traditional marriage' coalition a hypocrisy."

First of all, the "sanctity of marriage," or traditional marriage, is a belief and not a phobia.

I'm sure Michael Golojuch Jr. has heterosexual friends who don't run away from him simply because he is considered "unnatural."

Secondly, problems in heterosexual marriages occur because God is not in the marriage. He has the patent for marriage. Christian couples are properly prepared when they go through a premarital class based upon the Word of God. God will bless only heterosexual marriages ... period.

Melvin Partido Sr.
Pearl City

Steve Hirano blessed lives of many around him

Steve Hirano, who died on Friday, played among power. Short in stature and slight of build, soft spoken and unintimidating, he counseled two of our U.S. congresspeople, two of our governors, some of our state senators, many of our Honolulu City Council members, a bunch of our state representatives and any number of candidates who did not get elected but ran fine, honest campaigns.

The state's public-employee unions treasured his thoughtful advice. Steve also fought savage campaigns for and against ballot issues that have affected, one way or another, the course of progress in our state. Those involved will remember the Date-La'au issue, the "Save Sandy Beach" issue, the Hau'ula Beach issue, the Big Island irradiation issue ...

He broke in as a television and radio producer for the ad agency that is now Milici Valenti Ng Pack. He was a director and producer for two of our network-affiliated TV stations. He served on boards and committees and volunteered for junk details because he felt the work at hand needed to be done.

He also established bonds between Japanese corporations and Hawai'i. He hosted and escorted one of the U.S. presidents here in the Islands. Several of our business leaders credit Steve with launching their careers. Rabid sports fans sought his company and opinions, and he produced a number of sporting events here.

Incredibly, he is remembered most for trying to restrain an elephant on behalf of his client, the circus who brought the beast. Heroic as that act may have been, it became a joke ... even to Steve, who first accepted elephant memorabilia gracefully, then began displaying a private museum of such artifacts.

Perhaps people such as Steve are too quiet, too gentle and too unassuming. They never get the recognition they deserve, or the credit they earn for affecting the lives and fortunes of the people with whom they associate.

But they do make friends.

And those of us in that number are blessed accordingly.

Jim Winpenny
Hawai'i Kai

Rail system crucial for Leeward residents

Congressman Neil Abercrombie calls Gov. Linda Lingle's efforts to provide an O'ahu rail system to solve traffic congestion a fantasy ("Rail project called a 'fantasy,' " Dec. 14). Is that what he calls any proposal from a leader who takes action? The governor is responding to cries for help with a problem that previous governments have failed to address.

Abercrombie calls the governor's announcement of a proposed rail project "nothing more than a photo op." Is he saying that Congressman Ed Case, Councilman Nestor Garcia and Senate President Robert Bunda's participation was just a photo op? Or does his comment only apply to Republicans?

The people of Kapolei and West O'ahu would like to invite Abercrombie to stay with us for a while. We want him to feel what it is like to wake up at 5 a.m. and still sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic for a total of three hours or more a day, returning home after 6 p.m., wasting precious time that we would rather spend with our children.

Abercrombie should be aware of what goes on in the state he represents. During the 2002 legislative session, both the House and the Senate passed resolutions "requesting the governor to convene a task force regarding a light rail system." Both resolutions emphasized existing traffic problems on O'ahu and indicated that something beside Mayor Jeremy Harris' BRT proposal should be considered.

The resolutions were forwarded to former Gov. Ben Cayetano, who did not act. When Lingle assumed office, in a bipartisan fashion she embraced the resolution's concept and formed the task force, which consisted of House and Senate Republicans and Democrats, the Honolulu mayor and City Council members.

Abercrombie says we need to secure state and city money for the project. Yet task force members understand that municipalities, that is, cities or counties, are responsible for mass transit, not state governments. If the city desires to pursue mass transit, then it is the mayor and City Council who should determine the funding source.

This has been done before. In 1992, only the City Council's failure to authorize a tax increase (by a 5-4 vote) kept a rail system from being built. That is why the City Council passed a resolution this year, introduced by former Council Chairman Gary Okino and Transportation Committee Chairman Nestor Garcia, putting the council behind rail transit.

Is Abercrombie trying to divide us so that nothing gets done? Day by day, the traffic only gets worse. The governor's task force is working to solve this problem. Reducing traffic problems may be a fantasy to Abercrombie, but not to those of us who suffer from it every day.

Abercrombie, come and join us out in the Leeward side. We are making change happen here. You should help us. Please remember my decade-old slogan: "Good things don't just happen. They are made to happen! Together we do make a difference."

Rep. Mark Moses
Kapolei resident
Member, House Transportation Committee and governor's Transportation Task Force

No excuses not to comply with ADA

I must respond to David Shapiro's Nov. 19 Volcanic Ash column "ADA lawsuits are troubling" because I believe he is perpetuating several myths about the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Firstly, Shapiro excuses non-compliance with the ADA because "small businesses in older buildings get little guidance on what is expected of them." That is a common misconception. Actually there are accessibility guidelines with concrete information about what complies and what doesn't. These guidelines give specific dimensions and the necessary number of accessible building elements.

Moreover, there are free sources of expert assistance for businesses that have questions about ADA compliance. These sources are paid for with tax dollars and are available at no cost. They are staffed with ADA experts whose job duties are to answer questions from businesses. These experts have toll-free telephone and fax numbers to conveniently serve the public. One such agency is Pacific ADA and IT Center at (800) 949-4232.

It is important to understand the ADA law only requires barrier removal, which is "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense." So Congress in its wisdom has never asked businesses to shoulder great ADA burdens. If it's too expensive, it's not required. And small businesses also get a federal tax credit called the Disabled Access Credit, IRS form 8826, for half the expense of barrier removal.

Secondly, Shapiro faults "trigger-happy lawyers (who) file ADA lawsuits with little effort beforehand to gain compliance without suing." However, most of my clients have tried unsuccessfully to get businesses to remove the barriers to their access before coming to me. Perhaps Shapiro naively thinks a typical business has not complied just because it wasn't aware its premises were not in compliance. That's not the reality.

In the real world ADA compliance is just a low priority for most businesses, and therefore the typical business's limited resources are directed elsewhere. The ugly truth is that ADA noncompliance is almost always a conscious business decision.

Shapiro is also mistaken in suggesting that a U.S. Department of Justice complaint is a viable alternative to a lawsuit. The Equal Access Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice where ADA complaints are processed has seven attorneys to serve

50 states and several territories. Leaving any weighting for comparative population aside, Hawai'i gets less than one-seventh of an attorney.

No one I have ever known who has filed a DOJ complaint has ever gotten a positive result. In my experience another ugly truth is that only commencing litigation or at least the threat of commencing litigation yields results.

Lastly, as a person with a disability, I take strong exception with Shapiro's concern about avoiding "hostility toward the disabled and the (ADA) law." Of course, as a human being I want people to be friendly to me. But as a minority being denied equal access to society just because I have a disability, my concern is being included in my community. Equal access is a civil right to which I am entitled, not a social privilege to be accorded me when it's convenient.

The bottom line is that the ADA has been on the books more than 12 years. And although Shapiro may disagree, 12 years is more than long enough to remove barriers. Businesses that haven't voluntarily complied with the ADA in 12 years don't have any excuses. In my opinion any business that insists on ignoring my civil rights year after year because it has higher priorities deserves to be hauled into court. It ought not bellyache when it finally faces the consequences of its own decisions. Litigation should be the last resort. But for businesses that continue to ignore the ADA the last resort is appropriate.

Lunsford Dole Phillips