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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 4, 2006

Letters to the Editor

JUDGES

POSITIVE COACHING SHOULD BE SHARED

Judge Michael Town has the highest client satisfaction rating of any local judge currently being surveyed. His May 1 commentary on Positive Coaching clearly spells out why this is so.

Both plaintiffs and defendants (euphemistically termed "clients") report that they felt heard by Judge Town. Even if ruled against, parties agree that Judge Town does engage in active listening and that they got to tell their side of the story.

In addition to continuing to apply Positive Coaching to his own courtroom, Judge Town would be doing the community a great service if he set up training sessions in Positive Coaching for our current judges so they can learn and apply the same principles of dignity and respect in their courtrooms. It would be a win-win for everyone.

Myrna B. Murdoch
Honolulu

ETHICS

THINGS AREN'T AS THEY SEEM IN KANNO CASE

I have been quite surprised to see the amount of space and the tone of The Advertiser's articles and editorial on Sen. Brian Kanno and his upcoming contested case hearing at the Ethics Commission. The Advertiser seems to be ignoring some important issues.

First, it is my understanding that Sen. Kanno was following a plan developed by Ethics Commission Executive Director Dan Mollway, which should have been the end of the issue. But the plan and Mollway were overruled by the commission in one of the most mysterious decisions in the history of the commission.

Second, this whole issue seems politically motivated, being raised by Republican Sen. Fred Hemmings and timed to coincide with this election year.

Third, Sen. Kanno was standing up for a single, powerless person against one of the most powerful corporations operating in the Pacific, NCL, a corporation noted in the pages of The Advertiser as creating awful working conditions for its employees. Isn't that kind of advocacy exactly what we want from our elected officials?

Fourth, several other elected officials participated in trying to help the same person. Does it not seem inappropriate and disturbing that only Sen. Kanno was singled out for an ethics charge?

Finally, I know Sen. Kanno as a fellow social worker, a wonderful human being, caring and compassionate about wanting to help others.

Renee Furuyama
Honolulu

TORT REFORM

WHERE'S ACCOUNTABILITY FROM REP. SYLVIA LUKE?

What a waste of time and print space! Your community board didn't hold Rep. Sylvia Luke's feet to the fire about her holding the medical tort reform bill in her committee.

Where else are we able to get her to defend her actions in print for the public to see and maybe, just maybe, hold her accountable in the next election?

Lawyers shouldn't be able to make laws (or not make them) that directly affect the amount of money they can make off a case. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house!

Terrence Won
Honolulu

INNOCENT

SHAUN RODRIGUES DESERVES FREEDOM

Mr. Albert Tufono and the parole board now have the fate of my brother, Shaun Rodrigues, in their hands. Surely they have gained an intuition of the inmates before them and can decipher between the ones who deserve parole or release and those who don't.

I beg them to look through all of the facts and evidence and they'll see that an innocent man sat before them. He understands the meaning of remorse, but how does he show such emotion when he isn't the one who committed this crime?

Please review everything. A mistake has been made. Give my brother his life back. Let him raise his son to be the man his father is a person who knows the values of respect and compassion for another human life.

I ask Mr. Tufono and the paroling authority to do the right thing. A wrong has occurred. Please make it right. Free my brother. He is not the Manoa robber. He is Shaun Christopher Rodrigues an innocent man.

Kelly Higa
Kalihi

ACHIEVEMENT

CORE CURRICULUM CRITICISM FALLS FLAT

Professor Paul Deering's April 28 commentary opposing core curriculum mentions the progress of an increasing population expected to finish the 12th grade and "rising achievement for every grade level in reading and mathematics (with no declines)." Apparently the professor's research missed the 36 percent of ninth-graders who aren't finishing the 12th grade. That number is even higher in disadvantaged schools.

So much for rising achievement.

Because of the tenure privilege, teachers are constantly moving out of schools that are poorly equipped and staffed, such as ours in Nanakuli. That's one reason our schools are disadvantaged and why almost 500 kids are currently in special-education classes in one of our secondary schools.

The UH's College of Education added to the problem when it dropped the phonics approach to reading and adopted the "whole language" a few years ago.

Yes, the old-time teachers will have to rewrite their lesson outlines and get used to a new curriculum, but for those moving to another school, it's an advantage.

It's time for the Hawaiian communities to speak out for the core curriculum. Our homesteads are in disadvantaged school areas, and our kids need our help.

Bill Prescott
Nanakuli

PRICE HIKE

ETHANOL NOT WORKING?

Why are Hawai'i gas prices continuing to escalate despite the fact gasoline is now a mixture of gas and ethanol? Gov. Lingle and Mayor Hannemann should give this question serious thought and act on it.

Madonna Dizon
Kapolei

ALA MOANA

CITY GOT THE BALL ROLLING ON HOMELESS SITUATION

There goes Dave Shapiro again, ignoring the facts to condemn us.

If Dave had taken the time to talk to some of those homeless people who were violating park rules by staying overnight at Ala Moana Beach Park, he would have discovered that most of them didn't want to live in the park, rain or shine. They want and need affordable housing yesterday.

He calls our handling of the Ala Moana homeless callous but neglects to point out that the state has been evicting homeless people from state parks and property and shunting them off to city parks with a nod and a wink for years.

Instead, Shapiro unfairly criticizes the city for closing the park to everyone at night, a move most park users and neighbors roundly applaud.

Mayor Hannemann offered an alternative short-term site on the grassy knoll area of police headquarters. Some homeless people and advocates thanked him, especially as he personally provided food for those who were protesting at Honolulu Hale.

The mayor contacted the state about using various facilities. His administration notified homeless service providers in advance of the Ala Moana closing. The mayor has continued to instruct his staff to support and participate in the governor's meetings on homelessness.

To say the city was callous and heartless is just plain wrong.

As the mayor said in his State of the City speech in February, homelessness is a complex issue without an easy remedy. He said at the time, "To the extent that the city can support the state with a plan that is meaningful and viable, we will gladly contribute and do our part."

We are pleased to see that the Legislature doubled the appropriation for homeless programs from the $10 million the governor proposed to $20 million.

We will keep looking for more solutions and participating with the state in its discussions. At the governor's meetings on the homeless, for instance, I first broached Mayor Hannemann's idea of relocating the homeless to unused warehouses on state land in Kaka'ako and offered that the city would try to arrange bus service for the homeless if they would have been relocated to Sand Island State Park.

Shapiro got one point right: The majority of Hawai'i's estimated 6,000 homeless people live on O'ahu. Let's not be lulled into contentment that the Ala Moana problem has been solved.

We look forward to working with the state to come up with solutions to address the larger problem of homelessness, especially the bigger challenge on the Wai'anae Coast.

In closing, if Mayor Hannemann had not gotten the ball rolling, where would we be now?

Jeff Coelho
Personal representative for the mayor

MEDICAL INSURANCE

QUEST LEGISLATION MUST BE REJECTED

The Legislature will consider a bill today that, if approved, would negatively impact our state's medical insurance program for the poor and cost taxpayers millions of extra dollars in healthcare costs.

House Bill 2043 would restrict competition among health plans bidding for contracts with Quest, the state's Medicaid program for 165,000 needy adults and children. The Department of Human Services, which administers Quest, strongly opposes the bill because we believe it is vital to encourage, not stifle, competition by bringing new plans into the marketplace.

When health plans want to stand out in a competitive environment, they offer better services for patients and incentives to use those services. Heightened competition also results in lower contract bids, meaning DHS can stretch its budget to cover people who are currently uninsured.

To maximize the benefits of competition, DHS wants to level the playing field by having QUEST clients actively choose their health plans through a process known as "positive enrollment."

Positive enrollment will not interfere with existing doctor-patient relationships, as some allege, because DHS has developed an ironclad safety net that offers more protections and flexibility than people have with employer-provided health plans.

Quest clients who do not select a plan would be auto-assigned a plan so they would not lose insurance coverage. Also, those who fail to choose can easily switch back to their old plans, if they prefer, by filling out a postcard. This way, clients can stay with the doctors of their choice.

That's the good news. The bad news is that HB2043 would artificially limit competition among health plans by putting a 5 percent cap on the number of clients who could be auto-assigned through positive enrollment. Manipulating competition would have the effect of keeping most clients in their current plans, meaning fewer services for the poor and higher costs for taxpayers.

Only one of the three health plans in Quest AlohaCare opposes positive enrollment, contending it would disrupt doctor-patient relationships, which cannot happen with our bulletproof safety net. What this wealthy company is actually worried about, however, is disruption of its lucrative market share.

In fiscal year 2002, AlohaCare made a profit of just over $2 million. The following year, when two health plans dropped out of Quest, AlohaCare experienced a surge in new patients as a result of positive enrollment and profits soared to almost $9.5 million. Even greater profits were realized the following two years.

Now AlohaCare is attempting to shut the door on positive enrollment and competition by hiring a powerful lobbyist and a top public relations firm to influence the Legislature, the media and the public.

Just "follow the money" and it's simple to see that HB2043 protects AlohaCare while depriving Quest clients of additional services by removing the incentive of competition and placing an additional burden on taxpayers.

Please contact your elected state officials today and ask them to vote "no" on this misleading, special-interest bill.

Angie Payne
Acting Med-Quest division administrator, Department of Human Services