Friday, March 5, 1999

Another chapter ends
in Hawaii sugar story

CLOSING down Pioneer Mill's sugar-growing operations after 104 years is yet another decision reflecting the dimming of sugar's star in Hawaii. Once dominant in the islands' economy, the sugar industry has been reduced to a handful of plantations on Maui and Kauai -- none is left on Oahu or the Big Island -- and their days may also be numbered.

The Lahaina-area mill currently employs 76 full-time staff employees, 21 full-time management people and 50 seasonal workers. In September, upon completion of this year's harvest, the sugar operation will be ended. A company spokesman explained that Pioneer Mill has lost $7 million during the past five years despite the implementation of measures to improve efficiency and no other options remain.

However, at least 12 workers will be retained for diversified agriculture, which Pioneer Mill's owner, Amfac/JMB Hawaii, plans to introduce on some of its 6,000 acres.

Diversified crops appear to be the future of Hawaii agriculture. Gary Grottke, president of Amfac/JMB, pointed out that on Kauai Amfac used federal funds to plant more than 500 acres of alfalfa, corn, guavas and papayas on its former sugar lands. It hopes to duplicate that success on Maui.

Similarly, on Oahu and the Big Island the closing of the sugar plantations has made thousands of acres available for diversified agriculture. Government can encourage farmers to produce a variety of crops with such actions as the state's purchase of Waiahole Ditch to ensure a continued flow of water for irrigation in Central Oahu and the funding of a fruit irradiation plant on the Big Island.


Harry A. Blackmun

APPOINTED as a conservative but not long afterward vilified by conservatives for his authorship of the ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion, Harry A. Blackmun personified the independence of the U.S. Supreme Court. Blackmun resisted being labeled either a liberal or conservative, reminding himself that "human beings are involved in all these cases." He died Thursday at the age of 90, six years after retiring from the bench.

Blackmun was President Nixon's third choice in 1970 to fill a vacancy on the high court, following the Senate's rejection of Southerners Clement Haynsworth and Harrold Carswell. Nixon saw the longtime Minnesota friend of then-Chief Justice Warren Burger as a "strict constructionist," whom President Eisenhower had appointed in 1959 to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Blackmun and Burger grew apart philosophically during their years in Washington. Blackmun later said he read the Constitution in terms of "contemporary concepts of decency and human dignity and precepts of civilization which we profess to possess."

Blackmun, onetime house counsel at the Mayo Clinic, was proud of the fact he would go to his grave being recognized for his authorship of the 1973 decision in Roe vs. Wade, holding that a woman in the first trimester of pregnancy had an absolute right to seek an abortion in consultation with her doctor. Fifteen years later, Blackmun remarked, "If it goes down the drain, I'd still like to regard Roe vs. Wade as a landmark in the progress of the emancipation of women."

Blackmun reversed his position on capital punishment, deciding finally that "the death penalty experiment has failed." However, he denied that his political perspective had shifted.

"What does equal protection mean?" he once asked an interviewer. "What is cruel and unusual punishment? I would hope that I have grown in that respect over the years. But as far as shifting from conservatism to liberalism, I don't believe I have done that."

Instead of being judged ideologically, Blackmun deserves to be remembered as he wished, "just as a good worker in the vineyard who held his own and contributed generally to the advancement of the law."



Fireworks legislation

ALTHOUGH the Senate has unanimously approved a fireworks ban, 11 senators expressed reservations. With the House moving legislation that would restrict rather than ban fireworks, it seems probable that something less than a total ban will emerge from the current session.

The Senate bill would exempt religious and cultural celebrations, such as Chinese New Year, which no one could reasonably oppose. Such events aren't the problem. It's the indiscriminate, unrestrained use of fireworks on New Year's Eve that makes thousands miserable and that Governor Cayetano called "utter madness." The bill offers the county governments the option of choosing not to observe a ban.

The House bill would allow the counties to limit the amount of fireworks that could be purchased per person to 1,800 firecrackers, through a permit system. If the counties did not enact restrictions, the current law, which bans only aerial fireworks, would remain in effect.

There is strong popular resistance to a total ban on fireworks and the legislators are clearly looking for an acceptable compromise.

Sen. Randy Iwase expressed a widely held sentiment when he said, "Celebrating New Year's Eve with fireworks is a custom and tradition interwoven in our islands' unique history."

Yes, but the use of fireworks has gotten entirely out of hand. The problem is that the legislators have been looking for compromise solutions for decades and nothing has ever worked. Instead the noise and smoke have become worse, threatening the health and safety of thousands of unwilling victims. The likelihood is that the Legislature will do no better this time -- and the madness will continue.

Bullet Fireworks Scientific Poll Results
Bullet Fireworks Online Survey Results
>Bullet Hawaii Revised Statutes on Fireworks

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