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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 27, 2006

Letters to the Editor

MALPRACTICE

BLAME DOCTORS, NOT EMOTION, FOR AWARDS

In his commentary endorsing bills that create in physicians a protected class of people against whom money judgments may be limited, Insurance Commissioner J.P. Schmidt blames large damage awards on emotion.

His conclusion that emotion is related to the magnitude of a jury's award for money damages is speculative. But presuming emotion plays any role in non-economic damage awards, Schmidt's attempts to protect doctors from such damage awards endeavor to invalidate jurors' natural responses to injuries caused by medical negligence, not to mention the unavoidable emotional response that people affected by medical negligence and their families feel.

Schmidt attempts to create an emotional (and fearful) reaction by threatening the unavailability of medical services in the face of medical malpractice lawsuits. Readers should be reminded that non-economic damage awards are only available if a defendant is first held to have caused a given injury. Doctors who cause injury are the real reason substantial non-economic damage awards exist.

Patrick K. Shea
Kailua

TRAINING

MILITARY WOULD BE BETTER OFF IN TEXAS

Charles M. Ota contends live-fire training in Makua Valley is necessary because we are at war and soldiers need the practice (Feb. 20 commentary). If that is so, I suggest the Army would be better served if it trained in Texas, instead.

For starters, the wide-open ranges of the Lone Star State resemble Iraq more than Hawai'i does. Texas even has lots of oil rigs dotting the landscape, just like Iraq.

Texans also don't worry much about the environment apparently, because when President Bush was governor, they had the dirtiest air in America and ranked 47th in water quality. Toxic smoke from exploding ordnance or accidental fires wouldn't even be noticed in Houston, thanks to Bush's legacy of going easy on corporate polluters.

Ota claims the Army has "proven to be stellar stewards of the environment." Forgive me if I seem skeptical, but is he talking about the same U.S. military that is responsible for dumping thousands of rounds of mustard gas bombs and mortar shells in Hawai'i's waters over a 30-year period? Does the name Kaho'olawe ring any bells?

Anyhow, Texans love guns and hunting, so letting loose a few hundred soldiers with live ammo wouldn't be a problem there. Heck, maybe Vice President Dick "Deadeye" Cheney could drop in and offer some tips on shooting? On second thought, that might not be such a good idea.

Rich Figel
Kailua

KAKA'AKO

SKYSCRAPERS ARE DESTROYING THE VIEW

We live up on Punchbowl. From our fourth-floor lanai, we see a panorama from Tantalus past Wa'ahila Ridge to Diamond Head and Waikiki and on over to Kaka'ako. Clouds perform above. I watch freeway traffic whoosh by below.

But now 40-story concrete skysores threaten Kaka'ako. Let's stop this cancer.

Peter Cronburg
Honolulu

UH PRESIDENT

FORGET THE SEARCH, JUST APPOINT MCCLAIN

I was a psychiatrist at the University of Hawai'i when the Oliver Lee debacle occurred approximately 40 years ago. I saw how much it hurt the university when Dr. Tom Hamilton resigned as its president.

Recently we had the Dobelle fiasco. Fortunately Dr. David McClain was appointed as the interim president of the university. He did a remarkable job in saving the university during those difficult times. There now is a strong move to name him as a permanent president of UH.

I do not think it is wise at this time to set up a search committee to find the next president of the university. It is time-consuming and expensive. Many highly prestigious schools, including Harvard, that can offer much more to their presidents than our university have great difficulty in finding the right person to serve as their presidents. Let us not create another potential Dobelle problem.

Instead, the Board of Regents should now appoint Dr. McClain as the permanent president of the University of Hawai'i and accept his UARC proposal.

Walter F. Char
Professor emeritus, John A. Burns School of Medicine

UARC

KUDOS FOR MCCLAIN

Bravo, President McClain, for supporting the Navy research project and for not giving in to those people who think that everything connected with the military is evil.

These liberals would be in jail in any dictatorship, but their freedom of speech is protected by the same armed forces that they hate.

Klaus Wyrtki
Honolulu

SPECIAL INTERESTS

VOTER OWNED ELECTION BILL MUST BE APPROVED

For too long, special interests have called the shots in our federal, state and local governments.

Why is there an overflowing landfill in Wai'anae? Why are tobacco companies giving our state legislators thousands of dollars every year? Why is the Hilton allowed to plop in a development in Waikiki that breaks all kinds of code limits? Why is Honolulu the biggest city in the U.S. with no curbside recycling program? Why do our state legislators spend up to 70 percent of their time raising special-interest money instead of doing the public's business?

I'll tell you why: There is no Voter Owned Elections system.

By giving candidates the option of running as a publicly funded candidate, they will have the choice to sidestep all of that special-interest money that they now rely upon and focus instead on talking to people in their districts. Pass the Voter Owned Elections bill now.

Kory Payne
Field director, Voter Owned Hawai'i

POLICE

WORK SHIFT CHANGE BETTER FOR COMMUNITY

If changing their work shift from a 12-hour shift with four days off to an 8-hour shift with two days off is going to give more coverage for the community, I'm all for it.

Elizabeth Hata needs to understand that the police are there for the protection of the people in the community. Being a police officer is a job, not a convenience for the family.

Even if Police Chief Boisse Correa is a poor communicator, he is still the chief, which means he is the boss. Besides, according to a previous report, he has the backing of the high-ranking officers.

There are too many illegal things going on in the streets that need action now.

Kenneth Ikenaga
Pearl City

WARRANTS

FEWER APPEARANCES IN COURT WOULD HELP

I see a lot of complaints on your story concerning the backlog of warrants and shortcomings of the Hawai'i court system. What I don't see is any in-depth research on the nature of most of these warrants.

If the Legislature would push for more fine-able misdemeanor offenses and fewer court appearances, it could solve some of these problems.

Why is it that having a dog in Kapi'olani Park requires a referral to the city court for a plea, followed by a sentencing appearance? "61,000 backlogged warrants" is a good story. "30,000 insignificant warrants canceled so true justice can be served" is a great one.

Allen Griffis
'Ewa Beach

LICENSING

B&B OPPOSITION WON'T SOLVE EXPANDING PROBLEM

The majority of bed and breakfast and vacation rental owners have wanted to get a license with fair regulations and conditions since 1990, when the county stopped further licensing of such establishments.

The opposition in 1990 was from the same group of people who oppose B&Bs and vacation rentals today. Invidious people do not understand that they are wasting valuable time in fighting the inevitable outcome that we will get licenses. Without the two sides working together, several new accommodations will establish themselves every month, which is not a desirable solution to either side of this issue.

Time and other factors like overseas investors and Kane'ohe Ranch will change Kailua's neighborhoods, not the existing B&Bs and vacation rentals.

Huge (Mainland style) homes are being built by filling the entire lot with a structure a few feet away from the neighbors and leaving no lawn area (Hawaiian style) or privacy. Kailua's downtown and other small towns on O'ahu will be changing fast, with building after building popping up in the next 10 years.

The BB/TVU Association of O'ahu has asked the opponents and the Kailua Neighborhood Board again and again "for all sides to come together and resolve this issue," just as the Kailua Chamber of Commerce is stepping up to encourage the same now. The BB/TVU Association also wants "Kailua to stay Kailua. Neither side of the issue wants to see more B&Bs and vacation rentals or hotel moguls and other big developers buying up land in the residential areas.

With rules and regulations, the existing established accommodations will be able to continue to be "low key and low impact" in O'ahu's neighborhoods and fulfill the need that otherwise would encourage hotels to come into our neighborhood communities.

Tonic Bille
President, The BB/TVU Association of O'ahu

REGULATION FUNDING

EXTREME COMBAT BILL MISUNDERSTOOD

The Advertiser's Feb. 21 editorial, "State shouldn't cash in on extreme combat," misrepresents the Legislature's approach to regulate extreme combat in the best interests of the sport and the community.

In its current version, the bill forms a commission to regulate the sport, just as boxing has been regulated in Hawai'i since 1929. This is consistent with the direction that the Legislature has been going in, faced with the growing impact of this violent sport, especially on the young who idolize the participants.

It is true that "no rules" combat was prohibited in the state, but it was the Legislature, not the governor, that passed the law granting an exemption, the purpose of which was to start to regulate the sport for the safety of the participants. The bill does repeal the exemption, but in its place we are proposing a mixed martial arts commission to form its own rules and regulations. The other option was to pass the other measure that would have banned all forms of ultimate fighting.

To say that we want the state to cash in on the promoters is just not true. We do not believe that the taxpayers should have to foot the bill for many of the costs associated with regulating this sport.

The revenues generated would not be going into the general fund but into a compliance resolution fund. This fund would pay for clinics and seminars for all licensees, including but not limited to referees, participants, medical personnel, commission officials and regulators.

The purpose of these seminars is to better protect the health and safety of the participants. It is imperative that licensees are able to recognize the early danger signs of potential serious injuries.

The regulation of this and similar sports such as boxing differs from other occupational licensing programs in that it protects the principal licensee the participant.

In addition, it's important to note that the licensing fee is based on a sliding scale that is completely in line with national standards. Currently, there are 43 state boxing commissions or similar government entities in the United States. Of those 43 entities, 39 have statutes that allow the collection of a percentage of the gross receipts. Within those 39 states, 20 commissions or entities regulate ultimate fighting.

The reality of extreme combat sports is that even if they were banned, or if left unregulated, the state would be placing all participants, especially the young, in a very unsafe and dangerous environment. This sport should be guided by commission members who understand the industry and who can advocate for the best and safest way to regulate it.

That's what House Bill 3223 proposes to do.

Rep. Jerry Chang
D-2nd (Hilo), chairman of the Committee on Tourism and Culture