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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Letters to the Editor

How long must city study transit plans?

A recent trip to Honolulu International Airport from Kapahulu took over an hour in heavy traffic. This same trip takes 15 to 20 minutes on Saturday or Sunday morning in light to moderate traffic.

Thus, I was quite interested to read in your March 30 issue that city officials will again begin to study long-term transit options in July with hopes of producing a plan of action by early 2007, using another $10 million of federal and local tax money.

Wow! Your very able Mike Leidemann, the Advertiser transportation writer, then states in his article, "The city has developed three similar plans in the past 20 years, but failed to implement any of them."

Accordingly, this latest planning process could well take another 10 or 20 years, with the end personal result being neither my wife nor I may live long enough to realize such grand fruition — as we are now in our mid-70s. I now better understand that old planning process cliche, "study it to death."

Don Gransback

We must begin to wean ourselves of oil

Regarding the April 5 article "Rush-hour drive time could double by 2030": The study apparently does not consider that future declining oil supplies will reduce rather than increase individual transportation. A growing number of oil analysts warn that Peak Oil, the global peak in oil production, is imminent and only a few years away.

Therefore, by 2030, the amount of oil will simply not be there to make the 2030 traffic scenario a reality.

Two recent reports by government agencies plainly outline threats of future decline in oil supply for the transportation sector. One report, "Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation & Risk Management" by R. Hirsch for the U.S. Department of Energy, calls for assertive actions to mitigate oil shortages that will arise for many years after Peak Oil if preparations are not in place.

"Crash programs" to drastically reduce the amount of oil usage, mainly for cars and light trucks, have to be implemented at least 20 years before Peak Oil happens.

Another recent report is by the International Energy Agency. "Saving Oil in a Hurry: Measures for Rapid Demand Restraint in Transport" advises member countries to prepare sweeping measures to curb oil demand in transport in anticipation of future supply shortages and steep oil price increases.

Hawai'i faces much larger oil supply challenges than the rest of the world since the per capita oil consumption is twice as large as for the rest of the United States and four times that of the average in Europe. Rather than planning for traffic scenarios considering increasing oil supply, Hawai'i must make plans to live with less oil in the future.

Manfred Zapka

If only our senators had witnessed beauty

I am very disappointed with the votes of Sens. Inouye and Akaka to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As someone who has seen the coastal plains of ANWR, as well as the oil fields of the North Slope, I strongly disagree with the assessment that wildlife is not negatively impacted by development.

Yes, there are still caribou around the pipeline, but their distribution and the ecosystem overall have forever changed. The tundra is forever scarred by the footprint of the roads and support buildings. ANWR has priceless value as open space and raw beauty. If the senators had taken the time to visit ANWR, they would have seen the fields of wildflowers, the musk ox and arctic fox, and would know that polar bears that den along the coast will not survive the disruption of development.

Moreover, ANWR is thought to only contain up to six months of oil that won't be available for 10 years. Even for those who might never be lucky enough to visit ANWR, isn't it be nice to know that such places still exist?

We have so few remaining wild places. Shame on the senators for not valuing this one.

J. Rivers

Mayor Hannemann was left with mess

In response to the March 24 letter from Pete Dyer: The old housekeeper left a mess. The new housekeeper's job is to clean it up. Have you seen our new mayor do his native dance or the Western "soft shoe" bit? He knows how to tread.

Mufi's agenda is to do right for his city, and if setting it benefits him in other ways, so what?

His predecessor just made it much simpler for him to shine. And like a famous household diva phrases it, "and that's a good thing."

Lani K. Rivera

Fix traffic problem

One of my concerns is the hours and hours of traffic. There is way too much traffic. I have to go into town every day because I go to Kamehameha Schools and I live in Mililani. I hope you can fix the problem.

Braden Clark
Sixth-grader, Mililani

City permit process has improved greatly

Is the glass half-empty or half-full? The city's building permit process either "still lags," as your headline said ("City's permit process still lags," March 20), or has taken "a tremendous step forward," as I described it.

Maybe it's the nature of the business to focus on the negative, but I see a lot of positives in how the city administration and the hard-working permitting staff are improving the process.

It's important to be clear that the delays highlighted in your article are not the "fault" of the staff. Delays are inevitable when a 20 percent personnel shortfall is combined with a 20 percent increase in permit applications since 2003.

Thankfully, the city is adding staff, implementing "third-party review" of plans, and has shown a real commitment to improving the system with a "get it done" attitude.

Those of us seeking permits can do our part by ensuring our plans are in order.

In the short time since this turnabout began, the glass is already fuller than it was in years past. When your writer revisits the permitting story later this year, I'm certain it will describe a dramatic turnaround in the city's ability to support our booming economy through enhancements to our permitting process.

Harry Saunders
President, Castle & Cooke Hawaii

Criticism of malpractice insurance doesn't hold up

Dr. Inam Rahman's claim in his April 5 letter that you cannot find a cardiologist to see a patient for two to three weeks is pure fiction. I called three of Hawai'i's best cardiologists. They all could schedule an appointment within the next day or two for patients needing prompt attention.

Rahman asserts a myth about frivolous lawsuits. Before a lawsuit can be filed in Hawai'i, it must go to the Medical Claims Conciliation Panel and be certified that a physician in the same specialty verifies that the claim has merit. Further, the number of medical malpractice claims filed in Hawai'i fell a dramatic 33 percent over the past three years.

Rahman claims that a $250,000 damages cap is the solution to high premiums. The nation's largest malpractice insurance company, however, confirms that such a limit on damages would reduce premiums by only 1 percent. A study by Southern California's largest medical malpractice insurer confirmed that a $250,000 cap in effect since 1975 "did not substantially reduce the relative risk of medical malpractice insurance in California."

The solution to medical malpractice is preventing malpractice from occurring in the first place. The Institute of Medicine revealed in 1999 that doctor malpractice kills up to 98,000 Americans every year. That's 268 people killed every day of the year by malpractice.

A 2003 study by doctors from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Johns Hopkins University found that 32,000 Americans are killed annually by surgical malpractice alone. A 1991 study of New York hospitals by the Harvard Medical School documented more than 27,000 cases of malpractice in only that state in just one year.

Studies confirm that about 90 percent of malpractice victims never make a claim and that a few bad doctors are responsible for a large number of claims. The majority of doctors are very good. However, there is no effective system in place for removing the bad ones.

The Johns Hopkins study concludes that it "clearly supports the Institute of Medicine's contention that medical injuries are a serious epidemic confronting our healthcare system." Rahman should confront this serious epidemic of malpractice by working to eliminate malpractice, rather than eliminate fair recovery for victims of malpractice killed or injured by a medical system that lacks needed safeguards.

Rick Fried
Past president, Consumer Lawyers of Hawai'i

Minimum-wage hike beneficial

The March 27 commentary by Rep. Colleen Meyer, "Minimum-wage hike would hurt everyone," compels me to provide an alternative response that may be less reactionary and more realistic.

Contrary to Rep. Meyer's assertions, real research across the United States has come to conclusions that are the exact opposite of what she asserts. Increases in the minimum wage, no matter how large, help rather than hurt entry-level workers and businesses. The major reason this happens is called the "multiplier effect."

In short, when more money is circulated in the economy (rather than withdrawn and placed in investments), consumer confidence and spending power increase exponentially. In the case of the working poor, this means looking for better places to rent, purchasing more food, eating out more often, increasing clothes purchases and other personal items and moving toward less dependence on food stamps and welfare.

The increase in the minimum wage is good for businesses, too. That's because, again, that increase is circulated throughout our economy. For example, a family of three with more income may be able to go out to dinner once a month to a local restaurant.

The owner of the restaurant uses that money to pay the rent, pay the employees, buy vegetables from the local farmers and pay the utilities. From that money, the owner of the building has money to spend, the employees have money to spend and the farmers can now pay for their seeds and fertilizers and so forth. If all working-poor families had an increase in money to spend, the economy would be far more vibrant.

Meyer stated that a minimum-wage hike would result in small businesses raising prices and that the long-term result would be that the average customer would shop at local stores less and at big national chain stores more. Well, this has been going on for quite some time already without a minimum-wage hike.

It is only when people's wages go up that they are able to frequent the smaller businesses. Thus, higher wages make for a larger pool for the small-business clientele.

Meyer complains about the "financial breaking point," using examples that are not only inaccurate, but mainly applicable to the relatively well-off. For Meyer's information, most of the poor and working poor are renters, not property owners. Most of the working poor do not pay conveyance taxes, real property taxes and sewer fees, or other "luxuries" of the well-to-do.

The working poor simply need more money just to afford life's most basic expenses by being able to afford the same things that Meyer can afford: rent, utility bills, having enough food for the family and maybe some family quality time in between having to work two or three jobs.

Rather than simply focusing on the minimum wage, it's time for all of us to begin considering what it will take to earn a living wage. Self-sufficiency studies in Honolulu indicate that it will take almost twice the federal poverty level to live here in a self-sustaining way. The living wage (see www.livingwage campaign.org/) can make it happen. We owe it to our friends and neighbors to see that it does.

Renee H. Furuyama
Vice president, National Association of Social Workers, Hawai'i Chapter