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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 11, 2006

Letters to the Editor



In his May 8 letter ("Akaka bill should be debated in Hawai'i first"), Garry P. Smith makes a good point. The Akaka bill deserves a full and fair debate. However, the place for this debate to take place is in Congress.

The debate over the Akaka bill and federal recognition for Native Hawaiians is not new in Hawai'i. It received a full debate within the state Legislature, which passed several resolutions in support of it.

The governor supports the bill and has vigorously lobbied for it in her travels to Washington, D.C. As one can see, a vast majority of public servants elected by the voters of Hawai'i support the bill. In addition, numerous local organizations have expressed their support for the bill.

Hearings on the reconciliation process between the federal government and Native Hawaiians were held in Hawai'i in 1999.

Passage of a bill as significant as the Akaka bill is a long process that can take more than eight years. It is not unusual for bills to undergo several changes before being passed, and once passed, they can be amended.

Only Congress can decide the issue of creating a process for federal recognition for Native Hawaiians. Congress has provided this status to American Indians and Alaska Natives and now only Native Hawaiians lack federal recognition.

With regard to Mr. Smith saying U.S. senators "know nothing of Hawai'i and its diverse culture," we believe it is our civic duty to educate them about our unique culture as they make decisions that affect our lives.

There already has been much debate on the issue within Hawai'i. It is now time for Congress to put politics aside, face the issue and grant Native Hawaiians a Congressional decision on establishing a process for self-determination and self-governance.

Colette Y. Machado
Trustee, Office of Hawaiian Affairs



I read with amazement the desire for additional government control over our lives, with respect to the proposed expanded public smoking ban.

I'm not a smoker. I find the smoke-break table and smoking employees lounging near the entrance of the supermarket closest to my home revolting. However, I found a non-government solution: I shop someplace else.

Michael Jensen



Hawai'i's energy prices are consistently among the nation's highest. The simple reason is we are forced to import virtually all petroleum while having limited refining capacity.

Although we have succeeded in proving the enormous benefit of harnessing solar energy for our homes, Hawai'i has done little to reduce its dependence on imported oil.

Our once-powerful sugar industry has been virtually shut down due to competition from nations with cheaper labor costs, abundant natural resources and climates conducive to sugar production.

Thousands of once-profitable Hawaiian sugar acres lay fallow while local refinery infrastructure necessary for sugar production decays from disuse.

While we bemoan exorbitant electricity and gasoline prices, Brazil has dramatically reduced consumption of fossil fuels by becoming the world's leading ethanol producer.

Retooling Hawai'i's moribund refinery capacity to produce ethanol instead of sugar would dramatically cut the need to import fossil fuels, replace jobs eliminated when our state virtually exited the sugar industry, and utilize vast, fertile land acreage now producing little income and few new jobs to its highest and best use.

Dramatic reductions in energy prices resulting in cost savings to Hawai'i businesses and homeowners, lower unemployment, cutting importation of fossil fuels and the prospective potential to export ethanol for profit make this a "no-brainer."

It is time for collaboration among Hawai'i business and government leaders to strengthen our economy while reducing energy costs to our state's citizens.

Ethanol production is a "Made for Hawai'i" energy solution. What are we waiting for?

Larry Shohet



There's something definitely wrong in society today when a 16-year-old can make in excess $10 million for hitting a little white ball around a golf course for a few weekends a year.

What does a school teacher, police officer, paramedic or firefighter in Hawai'i make after 16 years on the job? Only $50,000 to $60,000 a year, if they're lucky.

Apparently, hitting a golf ball straight down the fairway for 300 yards is worth more than educating future world leaders or saving lives.

Gary Lum



Thank you for your May 5 editorial "DOE wrong to dun charters for dough." Sadly, tragically, this is nothing new and appears to be business as usual for the Department of Education.

The Advertiser covered this unfair treatment as far back as April 25, 2004, with a piece entitled "Lack of money, support killing charter schools." There has been little to no improvement since then.

In fact, with its recent attempt to further cripple the charter schools by demanding $1.19 million back, the attack is blatant and brutal.

The DOE clearly paints itself as the evil stepmother to the charter schools' Cinderella.

Fair and equal treatment in funding and other resources seems out of the question. Why?

Charter schools are a key component of any chance the DOE has to improve itself, and perhaps that is why they are again attacked and treated unfairly.

This has got to stop. Charter schools need relief, level funding and some hands-off time from the DOE.

Then, watch them prosper and make the entire state proud of our public schools.

Drake Beil, Ed.D.



Gov. Lingle, before you sign into law the three-strikes bill for Hawai'i, please disclose the potential fiscal implications and the impact on our rising prison population to the taxpayers who will be burdened with this cost.

Kat Brady



Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann recently made a trip to Shanghai to view the state-of-the-art elevated magnetic train. It is said to be the best in the world.

I rode that train recently, too, from Pudong International Airport. I chose the train over a bus or taxi because I thought it would be faster and cheaper. But it wasn't a good experience.

To ride the train I had to first go through a security check, then entered a roped waiting area one level above the platform. After a long wait, we were allowed to walk downstairs to the platform single-file, just like getting on a ride at Disneyland.

About two dozen people got on the train. I'm pretty sure I was the only one who used it as a means of transportation.

Most passengers seemed to be taking it as a once-in-a-lifetime tourist attraction. The tickets were even souvenir keepsakes. The ticket was reasonable for me, but for the local Chinese it is 10 percent of a blue-collar worker's monthly salary because the cost of building the railway was so high.

The ride was very comfortable and fast, only 12 minutes. But after we reached the terminal, I realized that I was in the middle of nowhere. After all this, I still had to take a taxi home. It cost me the same as if I had taken the taxi all the way from the airport, but it took three times as much in total time.

When I told my family who lives in Shanghai that I was going to take the train from the airport, they told me it was a very bad idea because it is very expensive and inconvenient. Nobody in Shanghai uses it as a means of transportation.

I shudder to think of such an impractical showpiece in Honolulu. Mayor Hannemann would be better served looking at the new privatized freeways in Japan.

Li Zhao Schoolland



When my father, Clarence T.C. Ching, opened the doors of Kukui Gardens in 1970 he envisioned the complex as an opportunity to help residents evicted in Chinatown during the then-mayor's urban renewal. Clarence Ching felt that Kukui Gardens could serve as transitional housing for these people to "get back on their feet." The housing complex would also become an asset of the nonprofit Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation.

Clarence Ching worked with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop a 40-year mortgage agreement for Kukui Gardens, realizing that at the end of the mortgage, the corporation would sell the complex, funds would flow into the foundation and the money generated from the investment would continue to serve the whole community of Hawai'i.

Over the past 35 years, Kukui Gardens Corp. has invested millions of dollars in upgrades and maintenance to the housing complex to make sure residents had a clean, safe and secure place to live. To date there are still millions of dollars of work that needs to be completed to keep the residents safe. The corporation does not have such funds. Three years ago, upon the realization that they could not afford the necessary property upgrades, the corporation sought HUD's approval on a loan application but was not able to secure the loan for various reasons.

The corporation met in the third quarter of last year and decided unanimously to put the housing complex on the market. In January, the corporation put the complex on the market.

Originally, 17 offers were received; the corporation also received four offers from nonprofit entities, however the bids were either too low or the entities did not have the funding available. Here it is important to note that the corporation's members and the trustees of the foundation have a fiduciary responsibility to serve in the best of interest of the foundation and therefore were bound to accept the most reasonable offer.

Carmel Partners was chosen because it satisfied the three main criteria mandated by the corporation: The company is HUD approved, it has the financing available and it intends to keep the property and tenant profile as it is currently beyond 2011.

What is important to note about this sale is that the corporation was running against time, the property is in urgent need of millions of dollars in repairs and at the end of the HUD agreement in 2011, Kukui Gardens will be required to pay state and property taxes and the IRS mandates that the foundation must distribute 5 percent of its capitalized value. Selling the complex was the only viable option.

It is also very important to note that the proceeds from the sale will go to the foundation.

St. Francis Healthcare System and St. Louis/Chaminade will have to fill out an annual application, just like every other community organization, if it wants to receive funding.

Many of the residents who are upset about the sale of Kukui Gardens are over-income and non-transfer residents who have remained in the complex for many years beyond its original intentions. If you know you earn well beyond the minimum to live in affordable housing, why not give your apartment to one of the truly qualified people on the 200-plus waiting list to get into Kukui Gardens?

It is disheartening to see the negative portrayal of the corporation's members and the foundation's trustees in the media when all they have sought to do was help the community and not profit one penny for their efforts.

I wish to carry out my father's dream to help the whole community of Hawai'i. Now we will work on behalf of the foundation to help other community members in need.

Lawrence Ching
Kukui Gardens Corp.