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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Letters to the Editor

Despite the spin, we are badly overtaxed

There you go again. Trying to put a positive spin on the fact that Hawai'i has the highest state taxes in the nation. In spite of your excuses, combined federal, state and county taxes and fees still make our beleaguered citizens among the highest taxed in the nation. Ask the Tax Foundation for the facts.

What is even sadder is we have high taxes paying for failing government services. For instance, we spend close to $10,000 per child in public schools, and our capable children rank poorly on national test scores. At the city level, we have fees galore as well as high property taxes. What we get for our excessive city and county costs are failing sewers and ongoing infrastructure deficiencies.

We conservatives do support limited taxes and fees for targeted government services that get the job done. It is indeed sad Hawai'i's citizens are held hostage to failing government programs and asked to pay more. There are solutions to Hawai'i's problems. The solutions do not include throwing more taxpayers' money at ongoing failures.

I love you guys and gals at The Advertiser editorial page. You are like Dr. Beach, who just declared Huntington Beach in California the best surfing beach. You don't let the facts interfere with your opinion.

Sen. Fred Hemmings
R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawai'i Kai)

Alcohol is far more dangerous to fetuses

While news has focused on use of illegal drugs during pregnancy, nothing has been mentioned about the effects of a pregnant woman's consumption of the legal and socially acceptable drug — alcohol. Research shows that alcohol causes more damage to the fetus than any other substance.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders (FASD) occur at the rate of 10 per every 1,000 births. Annually, the number of babies born with FASD is greater than the number born with muscular dystrophy, HIV, cystic fibrosis, Down's syndrome and spina bifida combined.

People with FASD are involved in the court and mental health systems and are among the homeless. As children, their needs and behaviors tax the patience of school personnel and confound the families who love them.

Most mothers say they quit drinking when they learned they were pregnant. While drinking at any time during pregnancy puts the fetus at risk, permanent damage often occurs within the first few weeks of pregnancy. The "I stopped as soon as I knew I was pregnant" statement is no safe bet for the unborn child.

The cost of raising one child with FASD through adulthood can be as high as $5 million (not including incarceration).

The Legislature passed a resolution requesting the Department of Health to establish a coordinated statewide effort to address FASD. FASD is 100 percent preventable. A coordinated effort can not only wipe out this devastating problem, but can also take care of those already afflicted — those who will continue to pay for their mother's drinking for the rest of their lives.

Ginny Wright

Picture of pregnant teenager disconcerting

While I was reading Sunday's "I'm Pregnant" article, I was taken aback by a picture of one of the mothers-to-be — a 17-year-old teenager. What could possibly be gained by having a 17-year-old as one of the subjects?

In general, at age 17, a student should be thinking of furthering her education, earning an income and gaining more wisdom and maturity about dealing with the complexities of life.

As a society, we certainly don't encourage teens to get pregnant. The Advertiser should have looked at the message it is sending by having a picture of a pregnant teenager.

Randall Fong

Private enterprise won't do better job

Regarding Stuart Hayashi's push for privatization of state harbors (Island Voices, May 20): For those of us who have seen, firsthand, the collusion that goes on behind closed doors between government and business, we might wonder if the neglect and poor maintenance is just part of the plan for some Halliburton-type corporation to come in and "save" our docks.

If you did an honest study on the frivolous expenses of those people spending the harbor revenue, you would see they could do a much better job if they used a little more common sense.

Anyway, what's better: a government monopoly, or a private one at twice the price?

Greg Prindle

Old computers are getting a new life

I would like to thank all the people who dropped off their old computers at CompUSA on Saturday. While many of the computers were taken away for recycling, some of them ended up at schools around O'ahu.

Five computers found a new home in my classroom, where they will be used and appreciated. My students were excited to see the "new" computers, and will use them to develop their computer literacy skills and expand their learning opportunities.

Thank you to the people who volunteered their time for this event, and to CompUSA for hosting it. Because of you, my students have important additional exposure to technology that they would not otherwise have.

Deanna Klein
Seventh-grade English teacher
Nanakuli High and Intermediate School

Governor's Mideast trips need rethinking

Gov. Linda Lingle has already made two trips to the Middle East, engaging herself in the controversial Bush war in Iraq and more recently with Israel's Ariel Sharon, one of the leading terrorists in that part of the world.

The first trip was to show support for Bush's war in Iraq, which most Americans think is fraught with folly. The second Lingle trip, to Israel, was to plant a tree and "to raise Hawai'i awareness" in that market.

Israel might be a very lucrative market. I have no idea how many Israelis come to Hawai'i. But it seems to me that the governor's time could be better spent visiting non-terrorist nations. We could all name a few major markets with more potential than those terrorist nations.

The billions of dollars that we give to Sharon every year may pale in comparison to the billions we are spending to rebuild the Iraq we have destroyed. But, really, do we expect an influx of visitors to Hawai'i from either Israel or Iraq as a result of these visits?

Is it the job of our governor to spend her time promoting Mr. Bush and his war, or showing his support for Israel in that country's war of terrorism with Palestine? If it is, then shouldn't she be going to Afghanistan, too, where the war on terrorism continues? Or how about North Korea, a real WMD threat to our safety? Or to China, where they still kill girl babies?

Keith Haugen

'Advisory arbitration' would be more accurate

Glen Iwamoto, a public school administrator, is incorrect in his understanding of Hawai'i's binding arbitration law as it relates to contract negotiations for the Hawai'i Government Employees Association ("Governor must obey law, finance pay raises," May 3).

Instead of calling it "binding arbitration," a more accurate term would be "advisory arbitration." That's because the state is not legally required to follow an arbitrator's decision — especially when that decision is based on false assumptions that would seriously harm the economy by giving union members more money than we can afford.

Democrats who pushed for binding arbitration are well aware that this process does not legally lock the state into a course of action. They said so, in fact, when they voted for — and overrode the governor's veto of — this misguided approach to contract negotiations. The Advertiser also made this point in a recent editorial ("Arbitration awards can't always be binding," March 30).

Clearly, the arbitration panel issued a fatally flawed decision when it awarded such large pay raises. The panel incorrectly assumed the state had a balance of $972 million in unrestricted funds at the close of the 2003 fiscal year. Much of that money is restricted, however, and can only be used for specific purposes such as airports, harbors and unemployment funds — not wage settlements.

I know Mr. Iwamoto would like to receive a raise, and I'm sure he deserves one. But it's not fair for the rest of Hawai'i's taxpayers to bear the burden of mounting budget deficits these union wage hikes will bring about. As Gov. Lingle has cautioned, we may be able to get through 2005 in decent financial shape, but starting in 2006, we will face severe cuts in important government services.

In formulating sound public policy, the interests of the many must take precedent over the interests of the few.

Ted Hong
Chief negotiator
State of Hawai'i

Protect and love your children

On April 3, Kamehameha Schools sponsored a Building Healthy Families Conference. The keynote speaker was Mervlyn Kitashima, the 2003 state of Hawai'i mother of the year and the 2003 national mother of the year.

Mervlyn is a motivational speaker, inspiring others to become aware of their attitudes toward children and our duties as parents. Her message was simple: protect and love your children.

Children and families are often called "at risk," says Mervlyn; why not "at promise"? The "promise" is in the potential for change.

According to Mervlyn:

  • Parents have forgotten to teach our children how to work and be responsible. How to make it happen and not give up. By teaching work ethics, we are teaching them how to be resilient, capable and successful.
  • A child needs someone to be there to care for him or her and be supportive no matter what.
  • We need to get involved in broadening their experiences, horizons and vision in finding themselves and their talents.
  • We need to take a risk for our children, and let them know we will support them.
  • We need to give our children a sense of hope for their future. To inspire them to be anything they choose, and to remind them there is always something greater out there.

After Mervlyn's talk, the film "Heart of the Sea" was shown. It was the story of Rell Sunn, a resilient spirit who touched many lives with her passion for surfing and her brave battle with cancer. Rell Sunn's attitude, her resiliency, her love of the ocean and surfing inspired and supported the children who surfed under her guidance.

In a later session, I attended Mervlyn's "Developing Resilient Families." Some of the things that make a difference:

  • Talk story to the children. Build your family by talking about your own life experiences in the appropriate time. Sit down to a meal, without TV.
  • Share your dreams (yours and theirs).
  • Children can't do what they've never seen. So expose them online, through books, National Geographic, travel, etc.
  • Move ahead from the past. What worked and what was lost?
  • Broaden their vision. Balance the world.
  • Support, support, support! Lots of support! Be there for them, no matter what. Make it family and friends.
  • Family rituals and traditions help us to understand who we are, our values and roots, and the importance of celebrating ourselves. We all need things we can count on daily, weekly, annually. Holidays, birthdays, our special days, picnic days, etc., all help to solidify the family. Perceptions may even seem boring. Insist! They'll remember.
  • Hugs each day. Show you care and say you care, in your own way.

My hope is that others will read this, reflect on it and be inspired, as I am. Mahalo to all those who helped make the conference so successful.

Lynn Vrooman
UHH student and mother