better to voters
Last year's howls of angerMost find Schweitzer sentence unfair
over Bronster's rejection
seem to have fizzled out
Most say Uyesugi guilty of murder
By Richard Borreca
Legislators, especially state senators, appear to have weathered the political storm created by last year's rejection of a popular attorney general.
Last year, more than half of the state's voters wanted to dump the Senate, saying they would not re-elect senators. But according to a new statewide poll taken after the Legislature adjourned earlier this month, just 37 percent said they would vote to remove the senators.
To show the difference in just one year, senators doubled their supporters, as almost half of the voters would keep their incumbent senators.
At the same time, voters this year gave the House and Senate about the same marks for their performance, with the Legislature failing to win many friends.
But last year, it was even worse as the Senate voted down the confirmation of Attorney General Margery Bronster and Budget Director Earl Anzai.
That action drew immediate public outrage.
"Bronster was a guiding light," Richard and Marie Grigg wrote in a letter to the editor at the time. "At the next election, we must vote the cowards out."
But legislative veterans such as Sen. Carol Fukunaga, who is running for re-election after serving as co-chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee, and who voted against Bronster, said votes are won by handling the concerns of each district.
"We go back to the district, explain what we have done -- much of the work focused on education, improving the work force and the new economy ... also people are very happy that we did not raise taxes," Fukunaga said.
Senate President Norman Mizuguchi acknowledged that "one or two issues marred the 1999 session," but saw the change in the polls meant voters were looking at the Senate's entire four-year term.
"We had major tax breaks for citizens and business, these things have created a better economy," he said.
The poll was conducted among 426 registered voters by telephone May 5-9 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. of Washington, D.C. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.
If the Senate fared better than last year, voters are giving the House about the same marks.
Only one in five approve of the state House's performance, up six percentage points from last year. The negative rating dropped a bit, but still three quarters of Hawaii's voters give the House poor marks.
The House did a bit better among neighbor island voters than those on Oahu, but even on the neighbor islands, nearly two-thirds consider the work to be fair to poor.
More than half of the native Hawaiian voters surveyed called the state House performance fair, while 40 percent of the Caucasians called it poor.
Calvin Say, speaker of the state House, said despite those numbers, the public will judge the Legislature favorably because it addressed several community-wide concerns, including increased funding for education and control of fireworks.
Others, however, including Brad Coker, Mason Dixon poll analyst, said the figures show this year's Legislature gets less respect than average.
"They were better than last year, but still below average," he said.
Because Hawaii is a small state, with much of the population living in the capital city, he explained, it is natural for people to watch local politics more carefully, Coker explained.
"Small state politics is always much more intense," said Coker, who designs and conducts polls for news media outlets in 25 states.
The economy also plays a part in how the public views the Legislature, Coker said.
"The economy probably has some effect, but while the polls suggest that there has been some improvement in the economy, it is still a mixed rating," he said.
"If the economy had fully recovered you would see higher numbers for the Legislature."
The average legislative approval rating on the mainland, he said, was around 30 percent to 35 percent, while in Hawaii the average was just above 20 percent.
To counter just such an image, House Speaker Say worked this year to develop a connection between the community and the Legislature. Three special business days at the Capitol, for instance, focused attention on high technology, movies and agriculture. Say also added a live-television call-in show hosted by legislators every Friday during the session.
Most find SchweitzerBy Rod Thompson
sentence unfair -- poll
Big Island correspondent
HILO -- The public is not satisfied with the sentence given to Shawn Schweitzer for his role in the death of Dana Ireland, a Star-Bulletin poll shows.
Ireland, 23, was run over by a car driven by Schweitzer's older brother Albert Ian on Christmas Eve 1991. Frank Pauline Jr., a passenger in the car, raped and beat Ireland. With Schweitzer in the back seat, they abandoned Ireland to bleed to death.
Schweitzer, 24, was sentenced to a year in jail, which he had already served, and five years' probation after confessing he was present during the attack but did not participate. A polygraph test confirmed his truthfulness.
Four out of five respondents in the poll said Schweitzer's sentence was not fair. Specifically, 80 percent said it was not fair, 12 percent said it was fair, and 8 percent were not sure.
That was a reversal of the opinions about the other two defendants. They received much harsher sentences and the public approved.
Pauline, 26, must serve a minimum of 180 years in prison. The poll showed 89 percent thought that was fair, 6 percent thought it was unfair, and 5 percent were not sure.
Albert Ian Schweitzer, 28, was sentenced to life in prison with parole, to be followed by two consecutive 20-year terms. The poll showed 85 percent thought that was fair, 8 percent thought it was unfair, and 7 percent were not sure.
The poll was taken after Shawn Schweitzer pleaded guilty April 17 to manslaughter and kidnapping. On May 9, while the poll was being completed, Schweitzer was in court revealing, under probing questions by Judge Riki May Amano, that he made a weak attempt to stop the attack.
"I told them go get help," he told the judge. But just 16 years old and smaller than the others, he was afraid, he said.
But he demanded that his brother leave, prompting his brother to back the car out of a side road, forcing Pauline to stop his attack on Ireland and come running, Schweitzer said in his confession.
He admitted to Amano that he made no attempt to get help later.
Deputy Prosecutor Ashida said about half of the reaction he initially heard about Schweitzer's sentence was negative. People changed their minds when they learned Schweitzer did not directly harm Ireland, Ashida said.
Still, Hilo resident John Leite may represent a lingering opinion of Schweitzer's plea agreement.
"I think they were a little too lenient," Leite said. "He could have called (for help)."
The poll was conducted among 426 registered voters statewide by telephone May 5-9 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. of Washington, D.C. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Dana Ireland Archive