Letters to the Editor
WHY HAVE SANCTUARY IF SANCTUARY LACKING?
Let's hope the governor's proposed sanctuary or refuge for the Northwest Hawaiian Islands has more protections for endangered animals and habitat than the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
In the portion of the whale and marine sanctuary around Maui, sewage of more than 1 million tour boat passengers a year is allowed to be dumped in the middle of the sanctuary. This continues during the several months when the endangered whales and hawksbill turtles are present. This estimate is according to testimony of the Pacific Whale Foundation, and the number does not include cruise ships.
Lay nets are also allowed in the whale and marine sanctuary. Lay nets are a most destructive fishing technique, killing non-targeted fish and damaging reefs.
What protections should a sanctuary provide? Much more than the existing whale and marine sanctuary, which allows commercial exploitation but not substantive protections.Richard Fairclo
HANNEMANN BACKER WASN'T 'GIVEN' CONTRACT
Garry P. Smith's recent letter tries to convince us that since Joe Pickard was a contributor to Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Neil Abercrombie, it automatically follows that he was given a non-bid contract as a reward.
To start with, Pickard's company is negotiating a subcontract with Parsons, Brinkerhoff, Quade and Douglas — not being "given" one by the city.
Pickard not only contributed to Hannemann and Abercrombie, but Linda Lingle and Charles Djou and many others as well.
Does Mr. Smith suggest that anyone who has made a legal contribution to any elected official be eliminated from consideration for government contracts or subcontracts? If so, that would also eliminate Kitty Lagareta, whose firm was passed over by Parsons, and practically everyone one else in the consulting business in Hawai'i.
Mr. Smith only offers deliberately inaccurate and misleading information to support his argument that Councilman Djou is "doing taxpayers a service."
I, for one, see Councilman Djou's actions as simply politically motivated obstructionism.Judith Anne Melvin
SPECIAL SQUADS WOULD UNSNARL TRAFFIC JAMS
We all get frustrated when a major traffic problem disrupts our schedule. Rather than complain, let's give police a tool that might reduce the frustration for a lot of people.
Let's set up four squads — one each for urban Honolulu, Leeward, East Honolulu and Windward. Each squad would be comprised of a highway planner (city or state), a sergeant from HPD and two or three junior police officers. These squads would be assembled initially from existing city and state employees on an overtime basis while the plan is being tested. Either the sergeant or the highway planner would have access to a pickup truck equipped with cones, temporary signs, two-way radio and other relevant equipment.
When a major problem (like the recent 12-car Kalaniana'ole/'Aina Koa traffic problem) arises, the appropriate squad would be activated. Its job would be to take over traffic control while the regular police force handled the investigation. The squad sergeant would interface with the investigating senior police officer. The highway planner would assess the situation from a traffic perspective and make whatever temporary improvements that could be made until the road is cleared. The junior police personnel would assist in directing traffic and setting up cones, rerouting lanes, etc.
In the case of the Kalaniana'ole/'Aina Koa incident, there were numerous opportunities to reroute the traffic through adjoining neighborhoods, add contraflow lanes and direct traffic. Had this been done, thousands of people would have had their commute shortened, in some cases by hours.David H. McCoy
QUALITY OF LIFE
HIGH HOUSING PRICES WILL FORCE AN EXODUS
Kudos to Bob Iinuma on housing prices (Letters, Dec. 20). He was right on target. Unfortunately, we have already advised our 11-year-old to study hard, get a good education (which will hopefully result in a decent-paying job) and move to the Mainland.
There's no hope for homeownership here in the Islands for future generations, and the quality of life diminishes greatly when one is faced with paying an exorbitant amount on housing, leaving not much money for anything else.Susan Viloria
PROPERTY ASSESSMENT IS UNFAIR TAXATION
As a 33-year resident of O'ahu, I was outraged upon receipt of the city's 2006 real property assessment notice. The notice indicates yet another tax bill increase for 2006, raising my payments over 370 percent since the taxable year 2003.
This is unfair taxation based solely on property values tied to recent market sales in my neighborhood and does not address the fact that I have no plans whatsoever to sell my property.
The city is, in essence, taxing us on the future sale of our properties, if in fact there is one, and the potential realized capital gain created by those sales. This amounts to real tax dollars now on "paper profits," and that is unfair taxation.
Taxes on unrealized gains in any venture, stock portfolio, bond purchase, etc. are not collected until those assets are sold. Further, these "collected" taxes are based on the acquisition value of the asset at the time of purchase, not some anticipated future sale date.
We must all take action to change the property tax laws from the assessors' "fair market" opinion to an acquisition value-based property tax system, similar to California's Article 13A, formerly Proposition 13. Write your councilmember now.Peter T. Dawson
WHAT GOVERNOR GIVES, MAYOR TAKES AWAY
There was an interesting contrast to the approach to taxation this week by state and local government.
Gov. Lingle announced her plan for a $300 million rebate in state taxes next year. At the same time, Mayor Hannemann said he would support a big increase in the city property tax "take" next year. The property tax "take" is the product of the property valuation times the tax rate and equals the total dollar amount of taxes that are paid by property owners.
When the valuations go up by 26 percent, as they have, and the tax rates stay the same, as the mayor proposes, the result will be a totally unwarranted 26 percent increase in the property tax burden.
It's too bad that what the governor would give the overburdened taxpayer, the mayor would take away.Dick O'Connell
ASSESSMENT SHOULD BE TIED TO PURCHASE PRICE
I read with great interest the Dec. 20 article "Sticker shock on property taxes" by Robbie Dingeman. It's like getting false-cracked by a good friend.
I think property tax assessments should be tied to the amount that an owner paid for his or her property and not based on real estate sales in their neighborhood or community.
The article cited two good examples: Mr. Fred Mau in Kaimuki, whose property is 50 years old and currently valued at $900,000; and Mr. Ron Kubota's father, who bought a home in the '30s for $7,500 and which is currently valued at $400,000. Even with tax exemptions, both of these retirees are getting hit hard.
Oh, yeah, I agree with Mr. Mau that the one-time tax credit of $200 (the price for a dinner plate for a political fundraiser) for those 62 years and older is "chicken feed."
When owners sell their property, then they should be taxed on any profit.
If there are improvements to the property in excess of, say, $200,000, such as adding a new wing, a cottage, or tearing down the home and putting up a new home, then they would be taxed on the added value. Also, if there are improvements to the neighborhood and community such as sidewalks, sewer, underground utilities, schools and the like where everyone benefits, then the owners should be taxed a bit more.Randall Mark
SPEND MONEY WISELY FROM ECONOMIC BUBBLE
Thanks to Councilman Charles Djou for his principled stand against squandering the windfall property tax increase.
I hope he succeeds because I believe Hawai'i's economic upturn is a bubble, not a boom: It is less due to a modest cyclical increase in tourism than it is due to explosive real estate and construction bubbles.
Such bubbles should reduce debt or be returned to the people, not justify new spending. Ask anyone who increased debt and spending when they believed the Internet bubble made them permanently rich.
I believe it is a construction bubble, not a tourism cycle, we feel most, because every new high-rise represents tens of millions of dollars borrowed and immediately spent by the developers. And, it is spent on high-wage construction jobs and supplies, not on lesser service wages or taken off island by foreign owners.
Here is my solution for the state Legislature to consider:
Let's spend the bubble to buy better schools for Hawai'i's children, not for new spending to buy any politician's re-election.George L. Berish
STATE SURPLUS SHOULD GO BACK TO TAXPAYERS
Your Dec. 21 editorial recommending that the state "invest" the $600 million surplus rather than return it to the taxpayers, whence it came, is unfortunately typical of socialist thinking.
People worked hard to make that money, and to see it cavalierly spent to grow our state government is a disincentive to those who fund our economy.
Our taxes are too high and our state government too big. Having the state keep this money would only make the government bigger and less efficient.F. Kevin Aucello
CITY BUS CROWDED? WAIT FOR THE NEXT ONE
Regarding Roger Van Cleve's Dec. 15 complaint about crowded city buses between Waikiki and Ala Moana: The current schedule for Route 8, which was implemented in June, provides for a bus every 4 to 4.5 minutes between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays.
That schedule has a capacity for around 825 passengers each hour, each way.
Traffic congestion sometimes results in buses bunching up. When that happens, riders will fill the first bus that arrives, while the next one, just a few minutes behind, has ample space.
TheBus posts supervisors at Kapahulu and Kuhio and at the Ala Moana Shopping Center to monitor and redirect buses as needed.
We are very concerned when our riders are late, uncomfortable or inconvenienced due to overcrowding.
If Van Cleve went out to Leeward O'ahu, he might realize he's not the only one who wants more bus service. The city and TheBus work together to allocate available resources to the areas most in need.
We welcome all constructive suggestions to help us improve our service.Alfred Tanaka
Acting director of city transportation services
TIMES STORY DESIGNED TO STEAL BUSH THUNDER
Who hid behind what? Your Dec. 17 editorial says, "President Bush hid behind the free elections in Iraq this week when a news report revealed that in 2002, he authorized a 'Big Brother' type spy operation that infringed on freedoms of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans here in the United States."
Might it not have been more accurate to say The New York Times held back a story that it had had for several weeks in order to break it the day after the Iraq elections just in case the elections went well?
As it turned out, The Times could, and did, take away coverage of this momentous event by smearing the president. It managed to make this step toward victory a secondary event, and dulled what should have been coverage of rejoicing throughout the Free World. But no, that couldn't be allowed to happen. It might make the president look good and dull the anti-war efforts.
Interesting, too, is the failure to mention that this program was well known to many members of Congress as they had and have been briefed on it since its inception. Seems that hasn't stopped their hollering "foul" now.Douglas A. Russell