Letters to the Editor
BIOTECHNOLOGY HELPED SAVE PAPAYA INDUSTRY
In the early 1990s, papaya growers were devastated by the papaya ring-spot virus, which threatened a way of life for hundreds of farmers in Hawai'i.
A transgenic papaya with virus resistance was created by the University of Hawai'i and Cornell University in New York and developed by the Hawai'i Papaya Industry Association. These transgenic papayas were finally planted in the late 1990s as the new varieties "Rainbow" and "Sunup." Both of these varieties have saved the Hawai'i papaya industry and have re-established the growers' papaya farms.
It is very disturbing to have a university professor (Hector Valenzuela, Jan. 22 commentary) restricting the research and advancement of biotechnology in Hawai'i.Loren Mochida
General manager, Tropical Hawaiian Products
LINK TAX TO LENGTH OF RESIDING IN HOME
I believe our property tax burden can be lessened if the politicians create an assessment scale directly tied in with years of actually owning and residing in a home.
Each successive year of ownership would see a lower assessed tax compared to property value.
Assume a person buying a home for the first time is aware of that home's assessed tax value. The first year that person would pay full assessed value. The next year, by some percentage rate to be determined, the assessed amount would be reduced. Over a long time of living in the same home, the assessed tax would be greatly reduced.
To qualify for this sort of tax break, the person would have to live continuously at the same address. This would greatly help older, long-time nesters, particularly those on fixed incomes.Val Marciel
PUT AFFORDABLE UNITS ON KAILUA TEARDOWN
Congratulations to both Castle Family LLC (subsidiary of Kane'ohe Ranch Co.) and the local Schuler Division of Texas-based D.R. Horton as together they have figured out how to finally get rid of the low-income residents of Kailua concentrated near the Kailua District Park.
They really don't fit the tourist destination look that Kane'ohe Ranch wants there. They're sitting in the way between our new upscale stores and the beach.
The best part of why the apartments of these people have to be demolished is that they are on a cesspool, and federal standards demand sewers.
How about Castle doing something meaningful for the town it owns and therefore controls and put up a lot of nice affordable units (on sewers, of course) and lead Hawai'i in the direction of compassion and caring in this nice beach community that should be shared with others rather than the rich and visiting?Judy Mick
WORK WITH THE POLICE TO HELP SOLVE CRIMES
About four years ago, my brother, Mark Mehr, was murdered on his way home in Wahiawa.
Mark was a command sergeant major in the Army Reserves and had lived in Wahiawa for over 20 years. He touched many people during his life in wonderful ways.
At the time of the murder, I wrote a letter to the editor asking people who witnessed the incident to come forward. After a month or so, the case was solved by Detectives Ted Coons and Larry Tamashiro with the help of some good people who came forward.
I will forever be indebted to those people, whom I will probably never know, and to the Honolulu Police Department and all other police who helped in the case. My life would be in ruins if the case was never solved.
Just the other day, I was reading my local newspaper and there was an article about an unsolved murder in the small town I live in. It touched on the anguish people go through who were close to the victim. My space to write is limited so I will conclude by asking anyone who has any information regarding crimes in your wonderful state to be brave and do the right thing. Work with the police and help end the pain and suffering victims of crime go through when cases aren't solved.
Also take a minute and say a prayer for your police officers, who risk their lives daily to protect you. They see the pain and suffering on a daily basis and still go to work the next day.Craig Mehr
BRAVO FOR CASE MOVE; REPLACE HIM WITH DJOU
It's about time. Hawai'i voters finally have a choice for a U.S. senator that will bring to Hawai'i the fresh ideas and building of future seniority that we need.
Rep. Ed Case will handily beat incumbent Sen. Dan Akaka and will be able to be an understudy to Sen. Dan Inouye to learn the tools he needs to continue Hawai'i's demand for ever-increasing federal funding.
Surely no one thinks that our two Sen. Dans can go on forever; at their ages, even a couple more years is optimistic. I say right-on to Ed Case.
Who should replace Case in the House of Representatives? We need someone who, like Case, is an independent thinker who can build up seniority with a Republican majority and give Hawai'i the funding that has been deferred due to our Democrat congressional delegation. There is only one individual who has demonstrated time and again that he can think clearly and act decisively to address our needs: current City Councilman Charles Djou.
Djou isn't afraid to buck the system and demand lower taxes and laws that favor the most needy in our county.
If there is anyone who can bring to Hawai'i the important funding and work with a Republican Congress and president to bring Hawai'i what it needs, it is Charles Djou. He has my vote.Garry P. Smith
KHON'S NEW OWNER WILL BE A GOOD BOSS
I was pleased to read that SJL Broadcast Management purchased KHON. I am a former employee of SJL who has personally witnessed its strong commitment to its employees, communities and viewers.
Although I am not currently a local, my father was born and raised in Hilo and resides in Hawai'i, along with numerous family members throughout the Islands. I have great respect for Joe Moore and his news team. I've been watching him since I was a young boy.
I've worked in broadcast television since 1991 and was a department head when SJL purchased KSBY in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Yes, there were layoffs initiated at the time and yes, it was an emotional time for everyone involved. But in the end, we had a better station with which to serve our viewers and the community.
I want to assure Mr. Moore, KHON employees and their viewers that the people of SJL are good, caring and fair business people who embrace the meaning of aloha.Marc Michael Murai
Former SJL employee
MONEY COMMITTED, SPENT
DOE NOT 'SITTING' ON REPAIR FUNDS
This is to clarify and correct the false impression that the Department of Education may already have sufficient funding to address the repair and maintenance backlog in our public schools.
Confusion originated with the Department of Budget and Finance's statement that nearly $600 million is already appropriated for public school repair and maintenance. This claim was repeated in the Legislature's opening-day remarks by Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings ("There are approximately $570 million on the state books right now for repair and maintenance of schools.") and House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan ("There is over half a billion dollars currently appropriated to attack the repair and maintenance of our educational buildings and grounds.").
The DOE disagrees with the suggestion that existing funds are available for new projects, since all of the current appropriations, allotments, expenditures and encumbrances are already designated for specific jobs. Our supplemental budget request is for new projects that are currently unfunded.
In the past three years, the Legislature has appropriated $557 million for school facilities capital improvement projects, which include repair and maintenance funds, but also cover construction of new schools and classroom buildings. Many are confusing the total CIP appropriation with funding for repair and maintenance alone. In reality, these CIP funds are for major construction and numerous compliance projects — as well as repair and maintenance.
As of Dec. 31, only $344 million of that $557 million total CIP budget appropriation has been released by the executive branch.
From that amount, $195 million has either been spent ($114 million) or encumbered ($81 million).
Of the allotted balance, $74 million will be encumbered by the end of this fiscal year, and the remaining $75 million (most of which was released in December 2005) will be encumbered for already-designated projects by June 30, 2008.
School CIP projects involve a multi-year process that advances from planning and design stages through final construction. Repair and maintenance projects are selected from a lengthy prioritized list that represents a considerable backlog. Whatever funds the 2006 Legislature provides for repair and maintenance will already have projects waiting.
The Board of Education's FY2007 supplemental CIP budget request is for $368.1 million, which includes $160 million for whole school classroom renovations at 96 schools and $100 million for other major repair and maintenance projects. Without this funding, the backlog will likely grow, and the public demand for improving the learning environment at our public schools will remain unfulfilled.Patricia Hamamoto
Superintendent of schools
DON'T BLAME PHYSICIANS FOR HIGHER MEDICAL COSTS
Your Jan. 11 article on the jump in medical spending attributed "increases in prices" for physician services as one of the driving factors in the jump in total medical spending. This is entirely incorrect, especially here in Hawai'i, and here's why:
Physician reimbursement is overwhelmingly tied to fees that are set not by the physician but by third-party payers (private insurances like the Blues and HMSA as well as Medicare and Medicaid).
In fact, physician fees have been steadily declining for years as relates to inflation. In many years, fees were decreased in absolute terms, as well.
For example, as of Jan. 1, all physicians treating Medicare patients had their fees cut by more than 4 percent in response to the federal government's continuing attempt to keep this program afloat. This is certainly not fair and cannot be justified from an expense standpoint. After all, doctors' office rents, supply expenses and payroll costs go up every year.
If this was where it stopped, it would be bad enough, but it isn't. When Medicare makes a cut that doctors are forced to accept, the private pay insurers figure this gives them the right to turn around and do the same. Here in Hawai'i, where HMSA holds sway like an 800-pound gorilla, the effect is even more pronounced.
In spite of the costs of doing business in Hawai'i being more than 30 percent above the average, physician reimbursements are some of the lowest in the country. Many services are reimbursed less now than 10 or more years ago.
Ironically, HMSA continues to mount ever-increasing surpluses, presently around half a billion dollars. All the while, it handsomely reimburses its executives with ever-increasing salaries and generous perks.
The real reason for the rise in medical costs is the incredible advances in diagnosis and treatment that we hear about almost every day. Inevitably, the patients and their families that can be helped by these advances demand them. Unfortunately, each advance is associated with a new price tag that adds to the increasing overall costs.
So please, in the future, place the blame for the problem where it belongs, not with the doctors.Ron Kienitz
Past president, Honolulu County Medical Society