Friday, December 31, 1999

Concerns on eve
of the new year

Bullet The issue: Concerns over computer glitches, terrorism and fireworks cloud the new year and new millennium.

Bullet Our view: The time to celebrate will be when we know we've survived these threats.

NEW Year's Eve this year is more an occasion for dread than celebration, especially in Hawaii. Like every other place that has entered the computer age, Hawaii faces the threat of Y2K computer glitches that could cause disruptions in vital services. However, that threat seems greatly exaggerated. Billions of dollars have been invested in checking out computer systems and we expect that effort to pay off in a generally smooth transition to the year 2000.

Also blighting the turn of the millennium is the threat of terrorism. This is less easily discounted than computer glitches. No amount of precautions can provide absolute safety. The arrests of suspected terrorists attempting to enter the United States from Canada only add to the concern. Needless to say, Honolulu is not immune to terrorism.

Hawaii's special reason to dread New Year's Eve is the insanely reckless and excessive use of fireworks, which is expected to reach new heights tonight. It's encouraging that the police and fire departments are trying to crack down on fireworks violators.

It's also encouraging that the public is cooperating. Assistant Police Chief Boisse Correa said, "The community is fed up. We're getting real good information, and we're moving on it."

At last report the fire department had revoked the licenses of three fireworks sales outlets for selling illegal aerial firecrackers. The police have seized tons of illegal fireworks and filed charges against vendors.

However, those efforts are likely to result in only a small reduction in fireworks activity. Tougher laws -- preferably a total ban and stronger penalties for violators -- are needed to make it possible for law-enforcement agencies to bring the problem under control.

Perhaps the time to celebrate will be tomorrow, not tonight. The reason: We survived Y2K, terrorism and fireworks.

Economic outlook
for Hawaii brightens

Bullet The issue: Hawaii's economy is showing signs of improvement.

Bullet Our view: The new year could see significant growth.

HAWAII'S long-stagnant economy is showing signs of life as the old year ends.

Bullet After eight years of increases in bankruptcy filings, filings in 1999 tailed off slightly.

Bullet Asia-Pacific tourist traffic showed its first increase in nearly two years in November while arrivals from the U.S. mainland and Canada maintained strong growth.

Bullet There have been other positive signs, such as increased activity in the real estate market and improved Christmas sales.

Bullet The state Council on Revenues improved its tax-revenue projections by almost 1 percent a year for the next five years.

Bullet That prompted Governor Cayetano to increase the supplemental budget he submitted last week to the Legislature. He announced he will restore $3 million to the state Health Department and $1.6 million to the University of Hawaii.

Bullet Cayetano also dropped efforts to raise $29 million through tax increases. These include a tax on used-car sales, an addition of $1 to the surcharge on rental cars, and elimination of the 1 percent tax credit for Hawaii-based insurance companies.

This is welcome news from the point of view of the economy because any tax increase can have a negative effect on growth.

Confidence in Hawaii's future is essential to economic recovery, and that confidence seems to be growing. Barring unforeseen setbacks, next year could see a significant improvement.

OHA logo

OHA leadership
change brewing

Bullet The issue: An attempt will be made on Monday to unseat OHA Chairwoman Rowena Akana.

Bullet Our view: OHA sorely needs more stable leadership and less bickering.

NO sooner had the trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs failed for the third time to agree on an appointment to fill a vacancy on the board than it was reported that Chairwoman Rowena Akana is the target of an attempted coup.

Five trustees have called for a reorganization of the board on Monday at which they will try to oust Akana. If they stick together, they will have the votes.

The change would be made possible by the defection of two trustees -- Clayton Hee and Hannah Springer -- from the former majority. They join three dissidents -- Haunani Apoliona, Collette Machado and "Frenchy" DeSoto.

This would be the fourth change in OHA board leadership in four years, a reflection of the seemingly endless intrigue and bickering that have marred the agency's leadership for many years.

The criticism of Senator Inouye by Mililani Trask, an Akana ally on the board, set off an avalanche of denunciations and may have triggered the move to oust the chairwoman. But there was no shortage of discontent with Akana in any case.

So the jockeying for power on the OHA board will continue into the new year. It would be pleasant to think that the next board leadership will last more than one year.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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