Letters to the Editor
PROSECUTORS SHOULDN'T HAVE THE EXTRA POWER
The Advertiser has taken a stand against the proposed three-strikes law, and State Attorney General Mark Bennett believes "the greatest flaw" in the newspaper's position is its claim that judges should have discretion to sentence offenders.
Mandatory sentencing schemes like three-strikes have been tried in many jurisdictions around the country and one outcome is consistently clear: They restrict judicial discretion by massively increasing prosecutor power to plea bargain and to determine sentencing outcomes.
Mr. Bennett never acknowledges this elephant in the room. The attorney general's claims to the contrary, there is nothing in "common sense, logic and justice" that compels such a transfer of power into prosecutorial hands.David T. Johnson
Associate professor of sociology and adjunct professor of law, University of Hawai'i-Manoa
CONKLIN MISSES POINT ABOUT BEING HAWAIIAN
Ken Conklin's continuing comments about the Hawaiian people, our history and our culture never cease to amaze me.
His March 29 remarks regarding a "new mahele" again deploys on a discourse that dismisses anything Hawaiian. Had he been a scholar, he would realize that we Hawaiians, the indigenous people of these Islands, have not abandoned our "religion, culture and lifestyle."
Our lifestyles may be different because of progress, but who is to say what is and isn't Hawaiian? Culture, any culture, isn't static. It moves and sways with the tides of time. Within culture, however, are values that are embedded and remain constant through the tides.
Conklin's lack of understanding culture is again shown when he asserts doubt that ethnic Hawaiians today "are descended from Hawai'i's 'first people.' " First, he makes his claim without any substantive evidence. Second, things that we understand to be cultural, our mo'oku'auhau (genealogies), our oli (chants) and our mo'olelo (stories), all tell us that we are indeed the descendants of the "first people" to Hawai'i.
Finally, although I am not a supporter of the Akaka bill, Conklin must understand that the bill does not reimpose indigenous status. Our status as an indigenous people still exists today and that this right to be Hawaiian was never taken away. Through all the racism, humiliation, marginalization and degradation committed against our people, we held on to our identity as the indigenous people of Hawai'i.
Continue to say what you say, Ken Conklin, and we will continue to do what we are doing: being Hawaiian.Brandon Keoni Bunag
PAY FOR SEWER NEEDS, NOT FOR MASS TRANSIT
If I remember correctly, one of the prominent issues in the last mayoral election was the condition of our sewers. Why, then, is our mayor spending our money and increasing our taxes to promote a rail system that
90 percent of the people on O'ahu will never use?
This latest horror on the Ala Wai has given Hawai'i a black eye worldwide, has seriously endangered the health of anyone entering our once-beautiful ocean and could easily have a lasting effect on the seafood we eat.
If you are going to increase our taxes, use them to fix our aging sewers, not to pay for lawsuits that are going to abound after people are sickened and may even die as a result of sewage spills.Marijane Carlos
STATE HELP NEEDED TO HEAD OFF MORE SPILLS
Recent record rainfall has made painfully obvious the need to improve our aging sewers and wastewater disposal systems.
Traditionally, this has primarily been a county government responsibility. But property owners (and renters) statewide are already feeling the pain of escalating property taxes — the counties' primary revenue source. As a result, it may be necessary as well as fair to ask state government for more help.
This need may be greatest in Waikiki due to its importance to statewide economic health. Waikiki and nearby residents as well as visitors may be the primary victims of any future sewage spills and wastewater disposal problems in mauka communities from Punchbowl to Diamond Head.
Even if such storms do not increase in frequency due to global warming, more development and population growth alone may make future infrastructure problems more common.
So as debate continues on the best use of the state's budget surplus, one of the most important reasons we need a "rainy day" fund may be increased state funding for infrastructure improvements in and near Waikiki.
As necessary as planned airport improvements may be, I think the state could help protect Waikiki for substantially less cost — with at least as much economic and even more environmental benefit.Tom Brandt
IF MAUI CAN DO IT, WHY CAN'T HONOLULU?
Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa on March 25 announced a 39 percent cut in the real property tax rate and a rate cut in each of the classifications for improved residential and apartment dwellings. With the "strong state economy ... Maui County real estate is at record levels." The mayor actually proposes helping out the taxpaying public while still increasing needed capital improvement spending.
Not so here in Honolulu. Realizing that Maui and O'ahu have different problems, we in Hono-lulu are still part of the same strong state economy and record-high levels of real estate prices that are generating windfall increases in city and state coffers. Why can't our City Council members and mayor present a simple, realistic and equitable proposal to help out all real property owners?
Their proposals are stubbornly complicated, imbalanced and clouded by the lure of huge new expenditures at the expense of certain taxpayers, especially the elderly.
Hello? Maybe they should talk to Mayor Arakawa.Diane Ackerson
IGNORE THE REVIEW OF 'DROOD' — IT'S TERRIFIC
I would like to second the opinion of Cecelia Stueber regarding the performance of "Drood," currently playing at Diamond Head Theatre.
We are blessed in Honolulu in having wonderful, diverse community theater options populated with some incredibly talented people.
I have, for years, read with dismay and sometimes anger the reviews written by Joseph Rozmiarek. I cite his recent reviews of "Little Night Music" and "Drood."
The former was a beautiful show at Manoa Valley Theatre that was clearly enjoyed by the sold-out audiences on the evenings I attended. In fact, I heard people who had seen the show in New York comment that the production here was much more enjoyable.
I hope no one chooses not to attend one of these performances based on Rozmiarek's reviews.R. Gary Johnson
SEND THEM TO KAILUA
Pat Meyers (Letters, March 30) was absolutely right. We need to show more aloha for the homeless. Let's open up Kailua Beach Park as an area the homeless can camp out in.Terence Yuen
HOMELESS AREN'T TO BLAME FOR ALL OF THEIR PROBLEMS
I don't understand people who would have us believe all homeless individuals have "elected to abandon their responsibility to themselves and to the rest of society" (Bradley Fan letter, March 31). The problems of the homeless cannot always be attributed to alcoholism or drug abuse.
I do not blame society for the homeless problem. It consists of complex socioeconomic, educational, cultural and medical problems.
I have noticed a change in the way some folks view poverty from the days of the New Deal, Fair Deal and Great Society to the Trickle-Down/Supply-Side economic model and Ownership Society. Programs that were designed to lift people out of poverty and provide a social safety net are now viewed negatively as welfare programs.
I feel as if some people believe if you are poor it is your fault because you made bad choices. It is not a choice to be born into a broken family. It is not a choice if the job you've held for years goes away because of negative economic conditions. It is not a choice if you have a crippling mental or physical illness.
I believe these conditions are more to blame for the homeless problem than the choice to take advantage of the benevolence of the taxpaying public. I know some folks do abuse assistance programs, but I am also sure not everyone on assistance is taking an unfair advantage.
It is said the greatness of a society is exemplified by how well it takes care of the less fortunate of its members. This is a choice we can make. We are the conscience of our society.
We can support assistance programs as a necessary vehicle for a solution to the hopelessness of many of our homeless, or we can rail against them as a wasteful governmental indulgence. We need to make sure our social service agencies are responsible for their activities and expenditures.
We need to ask the members of our society to be more generous with their time and money. We might want to reflect on what it would be like if the slipper were on the other foot. We need to look past the easy stereotype if we are to succeed in this endeavor.David J. Rosenbrock
LAND USE, INFRASTRUCTURE
HAWAI'I MUST PLAN FOR ITS FUTURE
The March 17 Advertiser editorial supporting sound land-use planning is absolutely correct. Hawai'i must consider and plan for our future to ensure we have affordable housing for our children, to identify and protect important agricultural lands and preserve our natural resources and cultural heritage.
I submitted a comprehensive planning bill this session to accomplish this very purpose. House Bill 2353/Senate Bill 2316 would establish clear standards for county comprehensive plans. Each county would be required to identify its affordable-housing needs, important agricultural lands, hazard-mitigation plans, transportation needs, community infrastructure and more. The counties then would incorporate each of these elements in their long-range land-use plans.
State agencies that provide services or infrastructure, such as transportation and education, would be required to participate in this planning process. To be efficient, all government must coordinate and prepare to support the areas identified to serve growth and to preserve the areas identified for agriculture and resource protection.
The bill would require the counties to provide meaningful public participation in the development of the plan and to identify implementation strategies.
Once the plan was approved by the Planning Commission and adopted by the council, a county could submit a request to the Land Use Commission to certify that the plan met the state law. If the plan was certified, the commission would reclassify the state lands to match the county comprehensive plan. Upon certification, no individual could file an application with the commission to reclassify lands unless the county plan was more than five years out of date.
This framework honors and respects the ability of local communities to develop the most appropriate land-use planning and ensures that such planning meets a state process and addresses elements of statewide concern.
The Legislature did not provide a hearing for these bills. But the issue clearly needs to be addressed, as The Advertiser points out. My administration continues to work on these land-planning issues through the Department of Agriculture and the Office of Planning and will continue to coordinate with the counties in these efforts.
We strongly support an approach that empowers people in the communities and their local government to plan for their futures. The most appropriate state role is to establish the elements that must be addressed in long-range plans. The choices over how to address those elements are best left to the counties and communities that are most familiar with their needs, abilities and opportunities, and which are directly affected by their choices.Linda Lingle