Letters to the Editor
PEDESTRIAN CROSSWALK SHOULD HAVE A LIGHT
A few years ago, a light was installed at a mid-street crosswalk on King Street (near University Avenue, between Star Market and Down-to-Earth Natural Food Store). Why? Because the government understood that only a pedestrian-directed stoplight provides real protection for crossing a street, despite the existence of white strips.
The lesson here is that only traffic stoplights afford real protection for pedestrians. Such lights also promote traffic safety, as cars are clearly on notice that they must stop. Moreover, tailgaters are also put on notice and thus are less likely to slam into the primary vehicle approaching the crosswalk.
The current system of pedestrian crosswalks, many of which are faded and thus invisible (especially during the night or on rainy days), simply do not work. The solution is pedestrian crosswalk lights. Yes, it would be costly, but we're talking about the value of human life.Paul J. Smith
PART OF KAILUA SHOULD BE KEPT AFFORDABLE
Regarding Kaneohe Ranch management's Feb. 23 letter, "Kailua Road: Why housing decision was made":
I've lived in Kailua all my life the last 22 years as a tenant in an apartment on Kailua Road. Like many, I held two jobs, raised a family and struggled to make ends meet. Becoming a homeowner was a dream that never came true. Now retired (bank downsizing), I face the heartbreaking decision of where to live when these apartments are gone.
Mr. Mitch D'Olier, president & CEO of Kaneohe Ranch, stated:
The area may not be classified for "affordable housing," but in today's rental market, apartments at $600 to $800 monthly are definitely affordable. Kailua is getting a much-needed facelift, but at what cost? More tourists, traffic, bed and breakfasts, high rents, less inventory and increased homelessness. How is this keeping Kailua "Kailua"?
Yes, the Kailua Road apartments are old and D'Olier's points are valid, but we must consider replacing a portion of them with reasonable rental apartments. For many, ownership of a market-priced condo is unrealistic. The reality is everyone needs a place to call home, even if it's only a rental apartment. Please don't let Kailua become a place we can no longer afford to call "home."JoAnn Correia
BUS SERVICE CUTBACK DOESN'T MAKE SENSE
As with many others, TheBus is my primary mode of transportation. I survived the fare increases and month-long strike in 2003. I don't understand how bus workers were guaranteed no layoffs, no cutbacks in benefits, received pay increases and added benefits to pension plans for five years, yet here we are, not even three years later, and they're going to cut back service for the public again this April.
It doesn't make sense to take away much-needed bus stops. During the last major changes and cutbacks in 2005, wait times were increased to an additional 15 minutes on some routes. Additionally, more of us riders have to stand on overflowing buses.
If the goal is to obtain more capacity and service while being fuel-efficient, how about increasing the number of high-capacity or articulated buses instead? Besides, TheBus already received an additional $11 million from the city to compensate for rising fuel costs.
These service reductions and fare increases have to stop or fewer people will consider public transportation at all. Somebody needs to tell the city transportation department that "being more efficient" doesn't have to include being a hardship to the public.Napua Ahina
DON'T SEIZE PEOPLE'S HOMES FOR TRANSIT
What assurance do we have that the City & County of Honolulu won't exercise eminent domain after selecting a route for the fixed-rail system? I find the very idea that the city may have to resort to condemning people's houses over this far more unsettling than any increase in the general excise tax.
We shouldn't rest easy until the city publicly promises us, in this newspaper's op-ed pages for everyone to read, that it won't forcibly confiscate anyone's private land when the time comes to construct the rail.
If this project requires the seizure of people's homes, then perhaps it wasn't such a terrific idea after all.Stuart K. Hayashi
DILAPIDATED HONOLULU IN NEED OF A MAKEOVER
Honolulu needs a facelift. Its lackluster appearance is depressing. This city needs to be revitalized, and we need to have a concerted effort to make Honolulu attractive.
The city needs to force, through zoning ordinances, dilapidated hostess bars lining Kapi'olani Boulevard to shut down and move off prime real estate that can be developed to the benefit of residents and visitors alike.
The development of the Victoria Ward Complex into an upscale, pedestrian-friendly community should serve as the model for future development.
Shopping should be developed in concert with residential building, and more thought should be applied by city and state designers. Hawai'i should serve as a model for the Mainland and not lag 20 to 30 years behind other cities.
Certainly Japanese visitors must feel that Honolulu is decades behind Tokyo in technology and design. It's time Honolulu looked the part of a premier vacation destination.Ryan Thornton
QUARTER SHOULD REFLECT DIVERSITY, HARMONY
What to put on the quarter that will honor Hawai'i's people? "E Pluribus Unum" is printed on the bottom of the flipside of all new quarters. "One Out of Many" says it all about America and the island state of Hawai'i. That's a given.
To keep it simple yet thoughtful, all that's needed is a picture of the Islands crowned with a rainbow symbolizing the diversity, harmony and essence of Hawai'i's people and outlook.
That should capture the quintessence of our state attempting to bridge the gap between East and West and everything else with understanding and aloha.Richard Y. Will
SPENDING, PRIVATE TUITION
MYTHS SURROUND DOES BUDGET
There's a lot of misinformation floating around about the Department of Education's budget. The following points will help dispel some of the most common myths:
The public schools get half of the state budget. Not accurate. The current state operating budget totals $9.1 billion. While the DOE's operating budget of $2 billion is sizable, it amounts to less than 23 percent of the state's total budget.
The DOE's budget has grown $1 billion in less than a decade. Not exactly. While the DOE budget has grown, the $1 billion increase can be attributed to just a few factors:
(1) Ten years ago, costs for DOE employee benefits, debt service and risk management were reported under the Department of Budget and Finance budget, as they are for all other state agencies except the University of Hawai'i. These items, totaling more than $573 million in the current fiscal year, were transferred to the DOE budget in fiscal year 2000-01 and account for 57 percent of the decade's appearance of growth.
(2) Special-education services rapidly expanded under federal mandate during the Felix Consent Decree. Special-education expenditures have increased $324 million in the last 10 years an expensive yet necessary cost to the state.
(3) Entire programs that 10 years ago were budgeted to and performed by other state agencies are now under the DOE roof, such as student transportation services ($26 million), the capital improvements program ($13 million) and minor repair and maintenance funding ($15 million). This "delinking," part of the Reinventing Education Act of 2004, will continue as personnel and student health programs are transferred from other state agencies to the DOE.
(4) Because of inflation, everything cost less 10 years ago. In 1995, Hawai'i's consumer price index was 168.1; in 2005, it was 197.8, an increase of 17.7 percent. This means a $1 billion budget has to grow nearly $177 million over 10 years just to maintain services.
Since these items alone account for more than the $1 billion growth, it's clear that the DOE base budget has increased, but not with respect to its programmatic needs.
Private schools average $6,000 in tuition. Not accurate. According to a tuition survey by the Hawai'i Association of Independent Schools and private school Web sites, it's evident that most tuitions are much higher. While many of the smaller, mostly church-supported private schools have tuition under $6,000, most of the larger and better-known private schools charge $10,000 and above. Further, tuition rarely covers the full cost of a private school student's education. Therefore, comparisons with the per-pupil expenditures of the public schools, which include high-cost special education, at-risk and second-language services that most private schools don't provide, are misleading and incomplete.
The public schools' budget is large and complex. The DOE is committed to helping taxpayers gain a clear and accurate understanding of where their education dollars are going and whether the money is being well spent.
Budget director, Hawai'i Department of Education
IGNORE SPECIAL INTERESTS, GET RID OF THE JONES ACT
I am responding to Wallace Rickard's Feb. 28 letter supporting the Jones Act. Mr. Rickard, of Seattle, is encouraging citizens of our state to blindly defend an archaic statute that was passed in the U.S. long before Hawai'i became a state.
How many citizens of Hawai'i know that the Jones Act is the law that says that we cannot travel directly on a foreign cruise ship from one Hawaiian port to another without touching at a foreign port? This keeps us from enjoying the option of a cruise ship crossing from Honolulu to Los Angeles without adding an extra day and extra cost of a stop in Mexico, making one-way cruise ship crossings an event as rare as sighting a native bird in Ala Moana Park.
All foreign-flagged cruise ships until recently all large cruise ships here were foreign-flagged since the demise of the short-lived American Hawai'i Cruiseline doing round-trip interisland cruises must travel an additional 600 miles out of their way through frequently rough waters to the Republic of Kiribati in order to comply.
A special exemption to this law was passed for three of Norwegian Cruise Lines' ships, allowing the ships to be American-flagged despite their foreign ownership so long as at least 80 percent of the crew is composed of U.S. workers.
This initially wreaked havoc on these ships (two currently operating, the third to be delivered in June), as previously there were virtually no American workers willing to work the long hours for modest pay necessary to keep a cruise ship running smoothly.
NCL has done a manful job of training workers, and these ships have reached an acceptable level of service while observing American labor laws, but no one can pretend that they run as well as those run by the traditionally diverse foreign crews, nor are they as cost-effective.
Before Hawai'i's citizens support the Mainland special-interest groups that wish to keep the Jones Act intact, they should take note that it is the state most similar to us in geographic isolation from the Mainland United States, Alaska, that is introducing the challenges to the Jones Act. This act is outdated and counterproductive to Hawai'i's interests and should be rewritten or repealed.