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Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, May 1, 2000


Straight talk
on Bishop Estate

PARDON any muddled, unclear writing on my part in the past seven days. Ever since the surprise April 22 announcement that the Star-Bulletin is up for sale, I've been struggling to stay focused.

Obviously, though, the uncertainty on the job front has taken its toll. My ability to cogently comment on topics in the news has, ahem, apparently gone astray.

At least that's the impression I've received from readers who've absolutely misunderstood two recent columns -- last Monday's about the federal raid to retrieve Elian Gonzalez and Friday's on pro-labor leader Nani Aragon. May I clarify?

Bullet "Was Elian kidnapped or rescued?" (April 24) wasn't a treatise in support of the child's Miami relatives. I've always believed the boy belongs with his Cuban father, and was simply pointing out the many ironies plaguing that long-overdue reunion.
Bullet "Union rally spawns star named Nani" (April 28) highlighted an HGEA member's speech at the April 19 multi-union, anti-civil-service-reform rally at the Capitol. While Aragon gave a dynamic presentation, I don't agree that the rights and benefits of organized labor must be protected at the expense of the greater community.

There. I hope that clears up any and all confusion.

And now, on to a new subject -- last night's "60 Minutes" story on the Bishop Estate. However, to avoid any possibility of being misconstrued, I present this critique in straight-forward, no-fancy-stuff fashion...

Hawaii got some prime-time network exposure last night on "60 Minutes," courtesy of correspondent Steve Kroft. He explained the complex and controversial saga of the Bishop Estate and its five former trustees to a mainland audience, correctly calling it the biggest local story "since Pearl Harbor."

The news magazine used lots of beautiful panoramic shots, including an aerial of the sprawling Kamehameha Schools campus. There were plenty of numbers, too -- like the 400,000 acres in the islands bequeathed by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop to the trust, the estate's $10 billion in assets and how it served only 6 percent of eligible Hawaiian children.

There were interviews with:

Bullet Former state Attorney General Margery Bronster, still smiling despite getting fired by the Senate.
Bullet The lightening rod for trustee criticism named Lokelani Lindsey.
Bullet Esteemed "Broken Trust" co-authors Randy Roth and Samuel King.
Bullet Henry Peters, walking barefoot on the beach with Kroft as the ousted trustee tried to explain things like why they had been deserving of million-dollar-a-year salaries.

BUT the best part of the whole show -- in my biased opinion -- was when Kroft asked Peters to reflect on what, if anything, he should have done differently.

The most highfalutin' of the five trustees answered that, in hindsight, they should have bought the Star-Bulletin, which published the August 1997 "Broken Trust" article that led to a state investigation that started the court proceedings that led to their downfall.

Kroft: "That's the only thing you couldn't control?"

Peters: "Absolutely."

Pardon my pride, but I couldn't have said a nicer thing about the newspaper myself. Maybe our owner's broker can use that nationally publicized sentiment to solicit offers for this fine, 118-year-old publication. Former Bishop Estate trustees need not apply.



Bishop Estate archive






Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at
dchang@starbulletin.com, or by fax at 523-7863.




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