TEACHERS SHOULD COUNT BLESSINGS
Unlike a fellow classroom teacher (Letters, Sept. 2) I do consider myself lucky to have a job during what may well become the Obama Depression. Our national economy continues to shed hundreds of thousands of jobs every month in spite of — perhaps because of — trillions of dollars of new debt with which our elected officials have foolishly encumbered us.
At a time when parents of the children we teach are worrying about losing their private sector jobs altogether, it seems ungracious, ungenerous, uncaring — perhaps even mean-spirited — for us public-sector teachers to grumble about the possibility of a temporary furlough or even a pay cut. In contract after contract, teacher pay has steadily ramped up since I first began teaching in this state in 1994.
Instead of wallowing in self-pity, maybe we teachers should take time to count our blessings as our fellow citizens prepare to endure what many are now calling a "jobless recovery." Indeed we might even take some of that oft cited "passion for teaching" and transmute it into compassion for those now suffering in our communities, those whose hard-earned wages are taxed to pay our salaries and benefits.
Thomas E. Stuart | Kapa'au, Hawai'i
CHARGE HIGHER TAX FOR IN-HOME BUSINESS
The City Council is looking at ways to change our property tax laws.
I suggest that those who make money at home — using a room for their office, art studio, or rental — must pay a portion of their property taxes at the enormously higher business tax rate.
Those who do have home offices and rentals also get income tax advantages — they can deduct some of the cost of running their home and even depreciate part of their home. They aren't paying the higher electric rates, higher Internet fees, and higher telephone charges that business properties do.
The time has now come for this — more people are running their businesses from home and the demarcation between business and residential property is blurred. How would the property tax office do it?
Tax all residential and business property at the full business tax rate, regardless whether they have business property or not. Residential homeowners would then apply for a full or partial residential exemption (and senior credits, etc.) depending upon if all, a portion or none of their property is being used to earn income. Maybe when everyone is paying their fair share we can lower our business and residential property taxes.
Libby Tomar | Kailua
DELEGATES HAVE TRIED TO REVERSE DENIAL
The director of Hawai'i's Department of Human Services recently limited health care for freely associated states citizens legally residing in Hawai'i. In explaining the move, the DHS director said the state administration's request for help from Hawai'i's congressional delegation to avoid this situation with more federal support has been ignored. Simply not true.
The congressional delegation has introduced legislation five times since 2002 to reverse the denial of federal benefits to FAS citizens. This year, I added an amendment to House healthcare reform legislation making FAS citizens immediately eligible for Medicaid. This would save Hawai'i about $15 million, the same amount saved by cutting medical benefits.
Last January, we made sure that pregnant FAS women and children were covered by the federally funded State Children's Health Insurance Program.
Cutting medical benefits to save money is inhumane and ultimately pointless. If FAS citizens can't get medical care through Medicaid or the state's Basic Health Hawai'i program, many will turn to hospital emergency rooms, and Hawai'i citizens still pay.
Trying to balance the state budget on the backs of the most vulnerable is not right. State and federal officials have to work together to solve problems instead of finger pointing.
ReP. Neil Abercrombie | U.S. House of Representatives
REPRIMAND SHOWS PARTY'S TRUE COLORS
The vote to reprimand Sen. Gabbard for exercising his duty as an elected official shows the true colors of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is not the all-inclusive political party they claim to be. Republicans are routinely painted as intolerant by Democrats, but with this vote their intolerance speaks louder than their empty words.
Sen. Gabbard's views on traditional marriage should not have been a surprise to Democrats. He has been a vocal advocate for traditional marriage since his election as state senator in 2004 and before. A vote in favor of this reprimand is an attempt to embarrass Sen. Gabbard or, worse, to intimidate him to silence his convictions and toe the Democrat party line.
As an advocate of traditional marriage, I know the strength it takes to take a stand in support of such a divisive issue. I am thankful that while Republican elected officials hold opposing views on this issue, the Republican Party respects their opinions instead of publicly condemning them as my colleagues across the aisle have chosen to do. I hope Sen. Gabbard remains steadfast in his efforts to represent his constituents, regardless of the pressures put upon him by his fellow party members.
Rep. Lynn Finnegan | District 32
NATIVE HAWAIIANS NOT LIKE INDIAN TRIBES
Whether Republicans or Democrats on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission support or oppose the Akaka bill is not the real issue, Mr. Stender (Commentary, Sept. 4).
The real issue is that passage of the bill would violate the Constitution's 14th and 15th amendments, Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Article I, Section 5 of the Hawai'i State Constitution, all of which prohibit discrimination against people or abridgement of their civil rights because of their ancestry, race, or national origin.
Akaka bill supporters vainly try to make the case that Hawaiians are like Indian tribes, which have a special relationship as wards of the federal government. But Congress has no power to create tribes out of thin air. It may only recognize self-governing groups in distinctly Indian communities that have existed continuously from historic times to the present.
The more than 400,000 Native Hawaiians, as defined by the Akaka Bill, are dispersed throughout the world, and have been assimilated into the communities and governed by the laws where they reside. In no sense can those more than 400,000 people be considered to reside in a separate and self-governing distinctly Hawaiian community.
Tom Macdonald and Bill Burgess | Members of the Hawai'i Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
KUDOS FOR GETTING BACK IN THE BLACK
My hat is off to Mark Wong and the orchestra committee for steering the symphony "back into the black." I was on this committee for several years while playing in the orchestra. We fought "tooth and nail" for pay raises, work hours, tour regulations, etc. I know that the musicians are thankful for their back pay.
Keep up the good work.
Donna Kats | Kailua