Monday, August 2, 1999

State gains major ally
in OHA elections case

Bullet The issue: A non-Hawaiian who sued the state over his exclusion from OHA elections will have his appeal heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bullet Our view: A brief by the U.S. Justice Department supporting the state's position should be helpful but does not guarantee victory.

THE state's case in the defense of the Hawaiians-only restriction in Office of Hawaiian Affairs elections has been strengthened by the U.S. Department of Justice's filing a supporting brief. However, that is no guarantee that the state will prevail in the U.S. Supreme Court, which has scheduled arguments in the case for Oct. 6.

The nation's highest court has agreed to hear the appeal of Harold "Freddy" Rice, a kamaaina, non-Hawaiian Big Island rancher. Rice says he was denied the right to vote in OHA elections on racial grounds. He argues that the restriction represents "a broad and patently offensive regime of racially segregated voting."

The U.S. solicitor general has filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to affirm the lower court decision, which held that the Hawaiians-only restriction is based not on race but on a special relationship the state has with the Hawaiian people.

OHA, as the agency directly affected, has filed its own brief in the case, and so have other Hawaiian groups, the Alaskan Native Federation and the Congress of American Indians.

Robert Bork, a conservative legal scholar and unsuccessful Supreme Court nominee, has filed an opposing brief.

But lawsuits are not decided by counting the number of briefs filed on each side. Nor does Rice's defeat in the lower courts mean that he has no chance. The very fact that the Supreme Court chose to hear his appeal indicates that some of the justices believe his position has merit.

If Rice prevailed, the state would presumably be required to open OHA elections to all voters regardless of race. This might cause an uproar in the Hawaiian community and provide ammunition for Hawaiian sovereignty extremists. It might also call into question other government programs designated for Hawaiians.

We have reservations about an election law that permits voting by anyone claiming the slightest degree of Hawaiian ancestry while excluding everyone else. But opening OHA elections to all citizens would be disruptive.


Scandal won’t end

Bullet The issue: President Clinton has been fined for lying in a deposition and Linda Tripp has been indicted for taping her phone conversations with Monica Lewinsky.
Bullet Our view: Although most Americans are tired of the scandal, it isn't going away.

MOST Americans have had their fill of President Clinton's sex scandal. They made that clear by opposing Clinton's removal from office, and the Senate was well aware of that when it refused to oust him.

The refusal of Congress to renew the independent counsel law reflected the unpopularity of Kenneth Starr and the public's weariness with the scandal. But the wheels of justice grind on relentlessly.

On successive days last week, a federal judge ordered the president to pay a fine of $90,686 for giving false testimony in his sworn deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, and Linda Tripp was indicted for violating Maryland wiretapping law by secretly taping her phone conversations with Monica Lewinsky.

Federal District Judge Susan Webber Wright levied the fine on Clinton. She is the judge who found him in contempt last April for lying -- the first such ruling against a sitting president.

Even that may not be the end of this part of the story. Jones' lawyers called the amount of the fine inadequate and may appeal.

On the other side of the battle line, Tripp could face up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for illegal interception of a phone conversation. She was allegedly told by her lawyer that the taping was illegal.

Deciding these matters could prolong the affair beyond the end of the Clinton presidency. And Starr may have some other matters to litigate.

It isn't over. Even when it is over, the stain on the Clinton presidency will remain.


Wedding bells, blues

Bullet The issue: The state is wooing the lucrative bridal sector of tourism.
Bullet Our view: While that's good news for the visitor industry, wedding businesses located in residential areas must be sensitive to those who live nearby.

IT was mere coincidence that, on the same day Kapahulu residents were objecting to an area wedding business getting a liquor license, Governor Cayetano was holding a reception at Washington Place in honor of marriage marketing.

Last Thursday, with state officials and representatives of Modern Bride magazine in attendance, Cayetano announced Hawaii's intentions to go after brides, grooms and honeymooners, who spend an estimated $5.3 billion in the U.S. annually. Public and private money has been earmarked for extensive national exposure, such as participation in bridal expos and mainland department store promotions.

Modern Bride publisher Ilene Rapkin says the year-round honeymoon market is "expandable and recession-proof," and is especially desirable to court because couples who "brand" their first trips together are more apt to return with their children.

Despite all the hoopla, there was a different sentiment being expressed about weddings at a Honolulu Liquor Commission hearing on the same day. Because neighbors of the Gloria Gardens Chapel and Club House on Monsarrat Avenue were able to garner 53.1 percent of the property owners around it to sign a petition, the wedding service was denied a liquor license.

A representative for Gloria Bridal Services said it may appeal the decision in court. This portends a future acrimonious relationship for the chapel and its neighbors, who certainly deserve to make their feelings known about the wedding business in their residential midst.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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