FARMERS MUST HAVEMORE THAN JUST LAND
Kioni Dudley's letter (April 16) advocates saving farmlands, yet neglects to address the real issue at hand: How do we take a comprehensive approach to supporting the viability of Hawaii's farmers and ranchers? If land was the only impediment to successful agriculture, how do you explain why so much former pineapple and sugarcane land is now idle?
The problem is not a lack of agricultural land but the lack of affordable water, work force, infrastructure and incentives that help farmers compete in a global economy.
Agriculture cannot thrive without local community support, and our farmers and ranchers must have the necessary business tools to be successful. In 2008, the Legislature passed a comprehensive package of incentives to support important agricultural lands.
The Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation supports continued focus on this critical endeavor because it encourages farmers and landowners to continue and expand active agricultural production.
There are also several other measures the Legislature may pass this year that will have a positive impact upon agriculture, but HB 2290 is not one of them.Mae Nakahata
President, Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation
LACK OF PROCEDURAL CLARITY WORRISOME
Reed Shiraki's letter ("Charter schools cap should be removed," April 16), criticizing Rep. Roy Takumi's action on removing the cap on charter schools is off base. Shiraki claims that Hawai'i's chance for Race to the Top dollars was hurt by the cap. Unfortunately, he is wrong.
He should consider the application and the comments by the reviewers from the U.S. Department of Education. One wrote, "It is unclear how charter school authorizers approve, monitor, hold accountable, reauthorize, and close charter schools."
Another wrote that the approval process was "murky."As a retired public school teacher, I agree with these reviewers that it makes little sense to allow more charter schools to open until there is greater accountability and transparency.
Shiraki is running against Rep. Takumi in the upcoming election so it's understandable why he wants to attack him.
However, before doing so, Shiraki should do what I always told my students: do your homework and get your facts straight.Laraine Yasui
PAIN AT PUMP
TAXES DON'T ALWAYS DETERMINE GAS PRICE
A recent article on gasoline taxes ("For Hawai'i drivers, pain at pump about to worsen," April 17) lacked balance in its message to Hawaii consumers.
While taxes are built into the price of gasoline, taxes do not always determine what the consumer will pay for gasoline. Just a few years ago (2005), Hawai'i gas prices hovered around 45 cents above the national average. When the excise tax was removed from gasoline for two years (a tax reduction of 10-14 cents) the price average between Hawai'i and the national average climbed to 70 cents per gallon. Today with the excise tax in place prices are still is still 60-70 cents higher. Why didn't lower taxes bring gas prices closer to Mainland prices? This is a question our governor needs to answer.Frank Young
Former Chevron dealer and former chairman of the Petroleum Advisory Council
DON'T RAISE GET
REALTORS ASSOCIATION AGREES WITH OSHIRO
The Hawai'i Association of Realtors wants to commend Rep. Marcus Oshiro on his recent thoughtful commentary ("Budget bill dilemmas force hard decisions," April 20), especially his courageous commitment to not increase Hawai'i's general excise tax as a way to balance the state's budget.
While the association understands and respects the tough choices facing legislators this session, we agree with Rep. Oshiro that increasing the GET is bad for Hawai'i's economy because it places an unfair burden on Hawai'i's working families.
As Realtors, we know that when taxes go up, consumer confidence — and the willingness to make major purchases — goes down. We also know that higher taxes translate into higher costs for local businesses, leading to cost cutting and layoffs. We've seen a direct link between recent job losses and a significant drop in home sales here in Hawai'i in just the last few years.
In short, increasing the GET is not only bad for the economy overall, it is also bad for Hawai'i's real estate industry, which accounted for $14.2 billion — or 23.3 percent — of the gross state product in 2007.
On behalf of our more than 8,600 members, mahalo for saying no to increasing the GET and yes to a stronger economy for Hawai'i.Tracy Stice
President, Hawai'i Association of Realtors
COUNCIL MEMBERS SHOULD TAKE A STAND
Here we go again, more shipping trash talk. Can't our elected officials on the City Council just stand up and show some guts? For the past two years, all I have heard is Todd Apo pushing Honolulu to ship its extra waste to the Mainland to save space at the Leeward landfill.
Now, when the doo-doo hits the fan, these proponents of shipping are nowhere to be found.
As the old country song lyrics go, "You gotta stand for something or you'll fall for anything," depicts our elected City Council to a T. They're always trying to appease everyone, and you just can't do that. Take a stand and see this through.Romeo Garcia
DHSBILL WILL HURT NEIGHBOR ISLANDS
If Senate Bill 2650, CD1 becomes law, the state Legislature will permit an unjust system that treats Neighbor Island residents as second-class citizens when they apply for Medicaid, welfare, nutrition benefits and other forms of public assistance.
The legislators who voted for this misguided bill would allow the Department of Human Services to use modern processing methods — including a call center, online applications and a streamlined workflow — to help Oahu residents receive public aid as quickly, conveniently and accurately as possible.
On the Neighbor Islands, by contrast, this bill would force DHS to maintain an antiquated, inefficient and error-prone benefits processing system for one reason — it requires lots of unionized government workers.
As a result, Oahu residents who apply for assistance will receive medical care, food and other vital benefits within a few weeks, while most Neighbor Island residents in need will continue waiting as much as three or four months just to get their application process started.
By doing the bidding of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, legislators have placed the interests of union workers above the needs of the most vulnerable residents in Hawaii, Kauai and Maui counties.
As someone who lived on Maui for 17 years, I am personally saddened by the Legislature's shameful act.Lillian Koller
Director, Department of Human Services
PROVIDERS MUST PASS STATE LICENSING EXAM
As your article ("Nurse may become your doctor," April 14) describes, nurse practitioners and physician assistants will have a greater presence as direct providers of primary health care, as increased numbers of patients will have access to care following passage of President Obama's health care reform bill into law.
When practicing and prescribing without direct oversight by a physician, they should be expected to have passed the same state licensing examinations as do newly minted medical doctors, along with a physician-supervised year gaining hands-on experience in family medicine, OB/GYN, or pediatrics, depending on their anticipated area of practice.
As regards their use of the title "Doctor," patients indeed are often confused, and the specific educational background of those providing their care should be disclosed.
With these caveats, the addition of nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to the primary care work force should be embraced as a shortage of primary physicians looms large.Allan R. Neiman, M.d.