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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 6, 2006

Letters to the Editor

VEHICLES

AND NOW HERE COME REGISTRATION FEE HIKES

Many letters written during December focused on people outraged about property tax increases. Beginning in 2006, the new outrage will be new prices we all will have to pay to register a car.

The fee to register my car a year ago was $140. The public was told that it would help fund police officers' raises. OK, so no big deal. When I received my renewal recently, the total payable is now $170. I was shocked! Only this time, all we heard was "increase" we were not told what this round of increases would be used to pay for.

It is always fishy when government is hard at work. Only this time you can really smell the fish. I want some answers with some clear-cut details and explanations. And I want them now.

David Cabatu
Honolulu

UH AUTONOMY

TEACHER SHORTAGE WAS BEHIND PUSH FOR MOVE

I agree with The Advertiser's editorial position, "Lawmakers should give university room," (Dec. 22). Autonomy is critical if the University of Hawai'i is to fulfill its potential in serving the higher education needs of our state, and micromanagement is counterproductive to that end.

In this particular case, however, we are missing the forest for the trees. Hawai'i has a teacher shortage, and for the schools in West O'ahu and on the Wai'anae Coast, the shortage has developed into a crisis. Teachers are recruited from the Mainland to teach in these schools, and they are like fish out of water. Even local teachers from Honolulu suffer from cultural differences, put in their required time, and then leave the community for other opportunities as soon as they are able.

The Legislature supported moving the program "Ka Ho'iwai" to the West O'ahu campus so that UH students who grew up in the area could be trained as teachers and recruited to teach in and give back to their own community. The students would benefit from greater consistency and continuity, they would be able to relate to their teachers and vice versa, and the teachers would be excellent role models.

I respected and accepted UH President David McClain's decision to keep the program, which is essentially one position, at the Manoa campus. For the record, I thought that was made clear at the end of our meeting on Dec. 12.

More importantly, let's not use autonomy as a red herring and lose sight of the larger issue, the teacher shortage. We are failing to meet the need, and the Legislature will continue to question the university on its important role in resolving the problem.

Rep. Tommy Waters
Chairman, House Committee on Higher Education

ANTI-HAWAIIAN

SHAME ON THOSE WHO APPLAUD AYAU ARREST

The arrest of Eddie Ayau of Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei is likened to an act of religious persecution for practicing one's spiritual calling and beliefs. 'Auwe!

'Auwe that those who applaud the arrest further perpetuate divisiveness that is devastating to the kanaka maoli. Pray that our descendants don't only know us through a museum display. 'Auwe!

Shame on these same folks who believe themselves above the desire and intent of our ancestors, who condone stealing from our ancestors to begin with! These same people who preach Hawaiian values while they condone thoughts opposite that of kanaka maoli. 'Auwe!

Laura K. Manuel-Arrighi
Wai'anae

ASSESSMENTS

WHAT TAX DECREASE? IT'S ALL A SMOKESCREEN

If the real property tax rates remain the same and assessments go up an average 26 percent, resulting in a $125 million increase in real property taxes for next tax year, how would $40 million returned to selected taxpayers result in a tax reduction, as reported by the news media?

The real story is that taxes were raised an average of 28 percent for this fiscal year and that the city is planning another 26 percent increase for next year.

These increases cause prices and expenses to go up for all goods and services, for owner- occupants, and for renters when property owners raise rents to cover the increases in taxes.

All the rhetoric of concern from the mayor and City Council members is a smokescreen for the fact that city spending and real property taxes are out of control.

The only true and fair way to handle the huge increases in real property assessments is to lower the real property tax rates so that the city collects the same amount of money for the coming tax year as during the present tax year.

Charles Scott
Honolulu

PROPERTY TAX

SPENDING PRIORITIES

How many people who were crying about their increase in property taxes were the same people who were buying hundreds of dollars worth of fireworks?

Just wondering.

Mark Middleton
Kapolei

ALA MOANA

POOR BUS SERVICE WASN'T SET IN STONE

Regarding Roger Van Cleve's Dec. 25 letter about poor bus service between Ala Moana and Waikiki: I believe it was an attempt at sarcasm.

He mentions that schedules had been firmly set in 1932. However, in choosing the year 1932 as his set year for schedules, he chose a year when Ala Moana Center was still undeveloped (the center of retailing was Downtown Honolulu until Ala Moana Center was built) and transit service was provided by Hono-lulu Rapid Transit Co., mostly by streetcar.

Ala Moana Center did not open until 1959, so if he had used that year, it might be more plausible.

Dexter Wong
Wai'alae

FEEDING

KEEP SHARKS AWAY

How thrilling, and what a good business, feeding sharks for the thrill of it, and it's good business, too. And what a thrill when one or more of the thousands of surfers loose a leg or, God forbid, their life. Where is the logic of all this? Encouraging sharks to come into inshore waters where thousands surf and play? I don't get it. Tell me how it makes sense.

Ted Gugelyk
Honolulu

NEEDY FAMILIES

CUB SCOUTS FOUND SEASON'S TRUE MEANING

Instead of exchanging gifts with each other this year, Cub Scout Pack 106 of Holy Nativity School in 'Aina Haina decided to Adopt a Lokahi Family this year and buy gifts for children and select food for families in need.

Twelve Cub Scouts selected 22 gifts and collected over 150 pounds of food to be distributed to more than their adopted family. Each Scout spoke about why he chose the gifts and food he donated.

Santa's bag was overflowing, and so were the hearts of these young men as they lit candles and sang Christmas songs after the donation ceremony. It was rewarding to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

Elaine Nishime
Honolulu

EDITORIAL RESPONSE TO PROPERTY PLAN IS TAXING

Honolulu property tax relief is a hot-button issue, as homeowners across the island protest insane increases.

Our local politicians' response is generally to do as little as possible, while making it sound as if they're doing a lot. One exception is Councilman Charles Djou's proposal to limit property tax increases. While not the whole answer, at least 20 percent to 40 percent increases each year over multiple years would not happen under Djou's plan.

What is the editorial reaction of The Honolulu Advertiser? Pejorative phrases and false comparisons:

First, Djou's idea is not another Proposition 13. That California proposition allows for no assessment increase year-to-year without a minimum two-thirds affirmative vote within a locality.

Second, and more pernicious, is your follow-on: Proposition 13 "siphoned tax revenue away from California schools." While the statement is technically true, your use of it in any debate about Honolulu property taxes is misleading and irrelevant.

As you well know, we don't fund Hawai'i's schools with property taxes. Nonetheless, you use a cheap tactic like this, knowing many people will react emotionally to anything that seems to be associated with education for our keiki. Shame on you!

I also disagree with the premise behind your "rational tax reform" plan: that we must first determine what the city needs to spend and then devise a tax scheme that pays for it. On the contrary, we must first determine what the overburdened O'ahu taxpayer can afford and then tailor city expenses to fit within those limits. This is crucial, particularly in light of the GET increase for O'ahu, as well as huge road and sewer fee increases already enacted.

Finally, you state that "More of the burden should be borne by those who profit off ... investments ... than by homeowners." First, many investors are locals who have chosen to invest their hard-earned money in O'ahu real estate instead of the stock market or other alternatives. They get no homeowner's exemptions and they pay federal and state capital gains tax when they sell property, so they are already bearing more of the burden proportionately.

Becky J. Tyksinski
Kane'ohe

DO 'PEOPLE'S BUSINESS'

LEGISLATURE: TAKE A HIGHER ROAD

(Editor's note: This is another in a series of letters from previous Advertiser Community Editorial Board members on the 2006 Legislature.)

The beginning of a new legislative season arouses conflicting emotions in many longtime kama'aina.

Distinct pride and expectancy accompany the start of another session of the "people's business." Our best hopes and wishes for this special place, our home, rest with the elected neighbors whom we have supported, believed in and voted for.

Yes, every session begins with hope for the best; but we must be honest enough to admit that Mark Twain's famous remark that no one's livelihood or property are safe while the legislature is in session seems wiser the older we get.

After the election, after the opening session and the singing of Hawai'i Pono'i, most busy citizens turn attention back to their families, occupations and immediate neighborhoods. In other words, we carry on the business of society, while we entrust its management and direction to others. But there is another, larger reason why the average citizen neglects to participate in the process of our government.

It is not apathy, but intelligence. The citizen who cares enough to become involved soon realizes that the high ideals of our democracy, of aloha (or even common sense or the common good), have very little to do with the day-to-day activities of our legislators and government. The average, local private citizen too quickly becomes aware that what is really going on is driven by a schoolyard mentality in which well-organized and well-funded interest groups pay for dueling experts to tout diametrically opposed views on any topic.

Have you been to a public hearing? Many feel that they reek of futility and obfuscation. Over-formal, and too long for time-stressed working parents, they can often degenerate into acrimony and mutual disrespect. Some officials barely hide their contempt for the intelligence of the average attendee, while the citizen participants can become angry, and sometimes rude, at what they see as deception and disinterest on the part of their public employees.

Everyone knows that the real story is about power, relationships and money, clearly not on what is good, right or logical.

Instead of leading toward genuine consensus, our electees feed us what they think we want to hear (expensive consultants advise them) while keeping their motives murky, and everyone feels it.

No wonder gridlock is the result.

And so the same issues come around again and again: education, homelessness, Sandy Beach, Pua'ena, Point Panic (Kaka'ako Waterfront Park) and now Waimea Valley.

No wonder people get cynical and refuse to participate, even by voting, in a system that promises much but fails to provide even basic functions competently.

Well, I have a radical proposal: Let's banish the zealots of all extremes and take back our government. Let's search for the things that we can all agree on and go to work on those.

If the majority of citizens are wrong about something, may we have leaders brave and smart enough to tell us the truth and lead us forward.

Let's truly value dialogue over demonization. Let the selfless sacrifice of our family members and neighbors who are serving in the military inspire and challenge our elected officials.

Let's see some genuineness and urgency in the housing of our most vulnerable at a time when grants for millions of dollars are spent yearly in our Islands supposedly to address this issue.

Most of all, let's use our secret weapon, the greatest resource of our Islands: the people of Hawai'i! Kaulana Na Pua. Our values, courage and hard work are the stuff of legend.

Cloudia Charters
Health worker and UH graduate