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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 30, 2006

Letters to the Editor

GAS CAP

THE AVERAGE FAMILY IS LOSING $312 A YEAR

Sen. Ron Menor claims that the current gas cap sets a price that is too high, that it should be at least 15 cents lower. If that's really the case, we can look at what his faulty cap is costing the average family.

In our family (as in most Hawai'i families), both my wife and I work, so we fill up at least three times per week, say about 40 gallons (more for those with long commutes or who sit stalled in traffic for long periods). Multiplied by 15 cents is $6 per week. Let's see, the gas cap was foisted on Hawai'i last September, about 35 weeks now. That would be $210. And on a yearly basis, it would be $312 for each average family.

Of course, if the cap is set artificially low, the basic laws of economics tell us the supply of gasoline would decrease, leading to shortages and calls for rationing. End the gas cap now!

William Georgi
Kalaheo, Kaua'i

SURVEY RESPONSE

TOURIST INDUSTRY SLANT DOESN'T HOLD WATER

Murray Towill tries to refute the findings of a recent survey showing that Hawai'i's residents are increasingly critical of the tourist industry (Island Voices, April 25).

He tries to convince us that tourism is unrelated to increases in housing prices, traffic congestion and in-migration of new residents, even though the relationships are painfully apparent.

He tries to convince us that workers in the tourist industry are paid well. But only two years ago, the average annual wage for a tour guide in Hawai'i was $21,010; for a housekeeper, it was $24,290; and for a baggage porter, it was $18,710. In that same year, the federal poverty level for a family of four in Hawai'i was $21,680.

He tries to convince us that the tourist industry offers residents many opportunities for advancement, when actually the tourist industry is characterized by relatively few high-paying jobs. Moreover, by his own admission, more than half of those few desirable jobs in Hawai'i are taken by outsiders.

He tries to convince us that the tourist industry contributes a lot to charity, citing $6 million a year in charitable contributions. But tourism is a $10 billion industry in Hawai'i, so $6 million is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the earnings of the tourist industry.

Mr. Towill dismisses the attitudes of Hawai'i's residents by using glaringly faulty reasoning. He fails to propose even the slightest change that the tourist industry can make to change its course.

As an executive in the tourist industry, Mr. Towill exemplifies the survey finding that the Islands of Hawai'i are "being run for tourists at the expense of local people."

John Kawamoto
Honolulu

PUBLIC PLACES

LEGAL TOBACCO DOESN'T MAKE SMOKING LEGAL

Your April 22 article about pending tobacco-related legislation included comments about a purported "right" to smoke in public places ostensibly because tobacco is a legal product. Nothing could be further from reality.

There is no protected right to smoke in public places, any more than there is a protected right to shoot weapons in public places. While guns, like cigarettes, remain legal, we hardly question the propriety of regulating their use.

Smoking in public places is simply a social custom. It has become outmoded primarily because we now understand well the dangers of tobacco smoke exposure to others. That's why mandating smoke-free public places is supported by an overwhelming public majority, makes tremendous sense for our economy and, of course, protects health.

Mark Levin
Associate professor of law, William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai'i-Manoa

FIND SOLUTION

LEGISLATURE CAN'T JUST ABANDON THE GAS CAP

With the Legislature debating whether to change or eliminate the gas cap, there has been a lot of disagreement over whether the cap has been a good thing for Hawai'i.

This much seems obvious (though I haven't seen it in print yet): During weeks when gas prices go down, people like the gas cap. During weeks when prices go up, people don't like it. Since prices have been rising the past few weeks, consumers aren't too happy right now.

I would urge our representatives not to take the wrong lesson from this debate. Simply abandoning the gas cap and doing nothing else about gas prices will not make those prices go down.

Hawai'i had the highest gas prices in the nation before the cap and we still will if our leaders don't find a solution.

In a time when the price of gas is a nationwide controversy, finding a solution won't be easy, but we must not let our representatives shrink from that challenge.

Jason George
Hawai'i Kai

WORKING POOR

STATE SHOULD APPROVE INCOME TAX CREDIT

In the past few days, there have been renewed calls to enact tax relief. We agree that this is long overdue and that all the proposals have merit. However, a state earned income tax credit remains the most efficient and cost-effective way of providing relief to Hawai'i's taxpayers.

Some have argued against the EITC as "token" tax relief, but an EITC is far from a token measure as seen nationally by the fact that it raises more families out of poverty than any other direct spending program.

Others say that an EITC should not be considered because it only helps the poorest working people in Hawai'i, those making less than $38,000. We should be asking ourselves why the state taxes families that are still eligible for a range of public assistance programs.

Our grass-roots coalition of community groups, academics, policy experts, nonprofits and volunteer tax preparers have never voiced opposition to general tax relief. However, Hawai'i's miserable ranking for taxing our poorest residents will not be solved by general tax relief. A 10 percent EITC would move Hawai'i into the mainstream at a cost of $11 million. You would have to spend over $100 million to get the same results by raising the standard deduction alone.

Brent Dillabaugh
Public policy director, Hawai'i Alliance for Community Based Economic Development

WATER, SAND SAFE

MISINFORMATION, RUMORS HURTING WAIKIKI BUSINESS

How do we stop the misinformation and rumors that Waikiki waters and sand are not safe? They are scaring the pants off our visitors.

Our water sports center is still dealing with many cancellations and concerns daily, three weeks after the all-clear sign was given by the state Board of Health, which tests the waters daily. When we ask the visitors where they are getting this misinformation, they tell us they have been hearing it from the local people that they come into contact with as well as hearing remarks made by our local TV weather people.

Because of this misinformation, visitors are scared to go onto the beach or into the water and then grumble that their vacation is ruined.

Some tell us that when they return home, they will warn their friends not to visit Hawai'i at this time because Hawai'i's waters and beaches are contaminated.

Waikiki survived the rain, the floods and the sewage because it was clear when those disasters ended, but I'm not so sure it will survive the stigma created by well-meaning but misguided local people who are giving out wrong information to our visitors.

Watson Okubo, an expert at the state Department of Health, will ring the alarm bell if there is a problem with Waikiki waters and sand.

Since early April, Health Department officials have let it be known that Waikiki waters and sand are as safe now as they were before the rain, the floods and the sewage disasters. You can believe them.

As Pogo Possum said, "We have seen the enemy and it is us."

Please, the waters and sand in Waikiki are safe, really safe, no scared 'um.

Bob Hampton
President, Waikiki Beach Activities