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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 2, 2007

Letters to the Editor



It's curious that some people still question whether or not to build rail. Perhaps they are hoping that traffic will just go away, or get better all by itself. Others want the benefits, but don't want to pay for it. But let's get real.

I'm pleased that the city is finally moving forward with a much-needed rail system. We have been waiting for this for more than 30 years.

Lei Matsuura



Sharon Mahoe's March 4 commentary against drug testing for public school teachers had several inaccuracies.

Ms. Mahoe stated that drug tests are unreliable. This is untrue. Drug testing, when performed by a certified laboratory is very reliable. Ms. Mahoe mentions a false positive rate of 30 percent; however, the actual confirmed positive rate for testing at in-state toxicology labs is no more than 5 percent.

False positives do not occur when presumptive positive tests are subjected to confirmation testing. All of our positive test results are only reported after this confirmation process.

Federal and state regulations require laboratories to work with medical review officers, who are trained physicians and interview all positive-testing donors to investigate whether positive tests were due to proper medical prescription usage.

Positive-testing donors also have the right to challenge results by sending their test to another laboratory for verification.

Finally, Ms. Mahoe states that drug tests are expensive. Drug tests are quite inexpensive, especially if you consider that the financial benefits of identifying drug abusers can save an employer substantial costs including various forms of liability, absenteeism, potential theft and property damage.

Ms. Mahoe estimated the total cost for testing all 13,000 teachers statewide. However, this cost is unlikely to occur, since it is not prudent to test every single teacher each year. A more realistic program would involve testing teachers for pre-employment and for-cause/reasonable suspicion cases, resulting in a much smaller testing pool.

Clifford G. Wong
Clinical Labs of Hawai'i, Toxicology Department


The recently reported proposal to randomly drug-test our public school children is asinine and dangerous.

Fueled mostly by the media and under the guise of student and public safety, a paranoia and hysteria has been created. We are about to enter George Orwell's futuristic "1984" society, in which our government has been allowed to intrude in all aspects of our personal lives.

Why should we stop at drug-testing our students? Why not drug-test those applying for driver's licenses, going to the doctor, shopping at the local supermarket? The public is in all these places, too.

Random drug testing, besides being costly and ineffective, is unAmerican. Our Constitution provides for us to be safe from an unreasonable search of our homes and person. Some will argue that our Supreme Court has supported random drug testing, and I would only remind those people that at one time, the courts also supported the non-rights and secondary-class of women and people of color. Just because it's "law," doesn't mean it's right.

Once a student has tested positive, we do what counseling, incarceration? Those cost money, too.

I'd rather have my tax dollars spent on truant officers to keep kids in schools and books for the library. Then, our students and their parents can read George Orwell's "1984" and learn what its message is.

Mel McKeague
'Ewa Beach



I urge everyone in the state who is covered by HMSA or Kaiser health insurance to contact their legislators and the Senate and House health committees to urge them to pass new health insurance rate regulation to keep insurance rates in check.

Health insurers had been subject to rate regulation for three years, but that law expired last summer. The law did work.

The Task Force for Patients Rights worked long and diligently on wording for that regulation.

The law should not have expired! Call now. Help keep your health costs in check.

Ruth Dias Willenborg



This Kailua Neighborhood Board has been in office too long. They're interested in making Lanikai their own private beach and Kailua their kingdom.

Access to Kailua Bay has been restricted to Kailua Beach Park near Lanikai and Kalama Beach Park in the middle of the bay. Local residents already have no access to Castles from the exclusive residential community on Kailuana Loop.

Members of the Kailua Neighborhood Board from Lanikai talk about safety issues with cars parking on the unimproved sidewalk areas of the roadways in Lanikai.

The parking issue is just code for setting up another private beach in Lanikai just like the private beach at Castles.

Let them do it, and the closest local residents will get to Lanikai will be the Kailua boat ramp.

Jill T. Honda



Are mentally ill persons second-class citizens?

The Mental Health Association of Hawai'i is organized to help persons with mental illness. It is all the more tragic that one of its board members wrote a letter to the editor (March 17) undermining the hard work done by MHA. Rather than protecting the mentally ill, this letter contained false statements that could harm them.

My assumption is that this board member is well-meaning but has been misinformed by those who have attempted to allow psychologists to prescribe psychotropic medications.

Legislators are being asked to pass either HB 1456 or SB 1004. Passage of either bill would allow psychologists to prescribe dangerous psychotropic medications as independent practitioners, despite lack of medical training.

If psychologists with a crash course in medicine can prescribe medications to mentally ill persons (who are often homeless or unemployed), that, in essence, classifies our mentally ill as second-class citizens who don't deserve quality care.

Fortunately, positive changes are being made to provide quality care to persons with mental illness. At a recent conference in Honolulu, primary care physicians from community health centers exchanged ideas with psychiatrists and nurses. There are safer and preferred options to helping mentally ill persons than attempting a quick fix by psychologists trying to get the authority but without the wisdom.

Carol E. Minn, MD, MSPH
Psychiatrist, Honolulu



Hawai'i remains among a handful of states that impose a higher income tax burden on low-income families.

While federal and local programs do good by providing millions of dollars in assistance to the most needy in our community, we then turn around and take dollars back through our income-tax system. This works against the ultimate purpose of assistance programs helping working, low-income people move toward self-sufficiency.

The federal government and many states have long recognized that one of the most effective ways to provide targeted asset building assistance is through earned income tax credits. In fact, the federal EITC program is the most effective and efficient national anti-poverty program. A state EITC would add to the effectiveness of the federal program and correct the counter-productive taxation of those who are starting to work toward financial stability.

Aloha United Way has a grant from the state to increase the number of eligible Hawai'i residents who file for the federal EITC. Recently, through this program, a resident was provided free tax preparation at one of the state homeless shelters. When this person's federal return was complete, he received a refund of approximately $5,000 the majority from the federal EITC. Yet he owed more than $200 on his state taxes.

Aloha United Way's mission is to improve lives. By focusing our efforts on those who have not yet achieved self-sufficiency we hope to reduce the demand on our state's health and human service resources. It is not good enough to sustain low-income people we must provide them help to move to self-sufficiency. A state EITC is an important step toward that goal.

Susan Au Doyle
President & chief professional officer, Aloha United Way


In the debate over how to cut Hawai'i's high taxes on poor families, everyone's entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.

Interim state tax director Kurt Kawafuchi got his numbers wrong in last Wednesday's Advertiser in claiming that increasing the state's standard deduction would help poor families more than a state earned income tax credit.

First, Mr. Kawafuchi greatly understated the share of low-income Hawai'i residents who claim the federal EITC and thus would benefit from a state EITC. According to the IRS, about 26 percent of Hawai'i families who report income under $30,000 receive the EITC, well above the 14 percent figure Mr. Kawafuchi cited.

Second, an EITC would provide much greater assistance to low-income families than increasing the standard deduction. More than 80 percent of the benefit of an EITC would go to families earning less than $32,000, but less than 40 percent for the standard deduction.

And increasing the standard deduction would not help those who need it most, such as married couples with two children who earn less than $14,000.

The earned income tax credit is a proven, targeted method of helping the families who need it most low-income working families with children. This need is especially acute in Hawai'i, where the state income tax hits poor families harder than almost any other state.

Hawai'i should join the 21 other states that have state EITCs.

Jason Levitis
Policy analyst, State Fiscal Project, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Washington, D.C.