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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 9, 2006

Racetrack debate sign of skewed priorities

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

You know how when you drive down certain streets in certain neighborhoods and there are those certain houses that make you go, "What are those people thinking?"

The house is all buss, broken screens, sagging porch, peeling paint, lawn gone to tassels that reach up to the windows, but wow, they got the fancy Limited Edition Escalade with the gold rims and the onboard video screens parked in the used-to-have-gravel-but-now-only-mud driveway. The house is a wreck but, ho, that car is cherry.

Or maybe it's a little souped-up Acura or a tricked- out racer with painted flames.

But in between the souping, tuning and waxing, can't they fix the screens or something? Why they spending money on a car when the house is all kapulu?

And aren't we letting this happen on the large scale as well?

Sewage systems failing, dams breaking, schools with urgent repair needs and not enough textbooks, hundreds of homeless in tent cities at beaches and parks and the buzz issue at the Legislature is state support of a racetrack out 'ewa.

What are we thinking?

The House and Senate bills to give tax credits to investors of a Kalaeloa motorsports complex were tabled last year, but when the owner of the Hawai'i Raceway Park announced the closure of his business this year, the measures were revived with new urgency.

Other factions are asking legislators to just give the city money so it can purchase the existing racetrack.

It's great when people are so passionate about something, and certainly the folks who are into racing have lost something very important to them.

But the argument that is questionable and bordering on offensive is that this privately owned commercial venture is crucial to public safety because it will keep illegal racers off the street.

Uh, aren't laws and the threat of arrest supposed to do that? Illegal racers should be arrested and their cars impounded; they shouldn't be coddled and appeased by government-sponsored play yards. Why not then state-sponsored super brawls? Otherwise, people will just beef illegally on the streets. Why do taxpayers have to shoulder the burden of keeping speed demons from terrorizing public roadways? Why is it always the responsibility of the responsible ones to take care of the rebels?

There needs to be some reason to temper the emotion. Racing is a hobby, a sport, and though it may feel like the spice of life and the reason for living for many enthusiasts, in light of more critical life-and-death and basic human dignity issues facing our state government right now, it is not a priority. It is not a "need to have."

Why create this fancy aid package for basically one guy? What about independent business and healthy competition? If a speedway is such a great idea, then some smart, able businessperson should be able to make a go of it without asking big favors of the government. Our legislators' attention and efforts and creative tax breaks should be focused on the life-and-death issues of our buss up state, not the tricked-out wheels in somebody's driveway.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.