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Friday, January 5, 2001

Washington Place
restoration is needed

Bullet The issue: First Lady Vicky Cayetano has announced a plan to restore Washington Place.

Bullet Our view: This historic residence must be preserved for posterity and opened to more visitors.

A bold plan to restore Washington Place and make its treasures more accessible to the public, announced today by the governor's wife, Vicky Cayetano, deserves the community's support.

Prompt action is needed to save the home of Queen Liliuokalani, which has been the residence of Hawaii's governors since 1921. Mrs. Cayetano, calling for the application to the structure of standard policies and procedures for protecting historical monuments, warned, "with only the safeguards now in effect, the surviving 150-year-old components of Washington Place will probably not outlast the generation now living."

The first lady proposes to spend $2 million -- with the state and private contributors sharing equally in the cost -- to renovate the building, transforming the second floor into exhibit rooms for Washington Place's collection of historical artifacts, plus offices.

Another $1 million, to be financed with private donations, would be used to build a residence for governors and their families on the Washington Place grounds.

Mrs. Cayetano pointed out that the second floor living quarters are inadequate and provide little privacy for the governor's family. The space could be better used to exhibit the residence's many important artifacts and make visits to Washington Place more informative.

In addition, the time has come to face the need for more suitable quarters for governors. Building a home on the Washington Place grounds means that governors could continue to entertain in the main building and that it would not become simply a museum.

There have been proposals in the past to move the governor's residence out of Washington Place. Before his first election, Cayetano himself proposed turning the home over to Hawaiian organizations. At the start of his first term he experimented with living at his home in Mililani, but soon gave that up because of the time spent commuting.

Mrs. Cayetano vowed to commit the full resources of the Cayetano administration and her own energies to the creation of a nonprofit citizens organization. Its responsibilities would be oversight and endowment of preservation, encouragement of more visits by the public and development of a historical interpretive gallery.

The first lady acknowledged that time is a factor because the governor's term expires in two years. She hopes to have protective covenants in place and much of the renovation and other work completed before then. Jim Bartels, who previously directed the restoration of Iolani Palace and is in charge of the work at Washington Place, expects to open an exhibit on Liliuokalani's birthday in September 2002, when the second-floor gallery would presumably be ready.

Mrs. Cayetano deserves credit for realizing the need for prompt action and, with Bartels' advice and assistance, launching this effort. Its success will depend in large part on private contributions. It's a project that everyone interested in Hawaii's rich history can endorse.

Streamlining process
of charging suspects

Bullet The issue: Honolulu's prosecutor has proposed eliminating grand juries and preliminary hearings to make the charging process more efficient.

Bullet Our view: Allowing hearsay evidence before grand juries would improve the process while retaining important citizen involvement.

HAWAII'S system of bringing charges against alleged criminal offenders has been effective although cumbersome. Streamlining the process is needed to bring it to the standard used in most other jurisdictions but not necessarily to the degree proposed to the Legislature by city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle.

The state Constitution allows county prosecutors to use a grand jury or a preliminary hearing before a judge to bring formal charges against a person. Prosecutors opt in most cases for the grand jury, where defendants lack the right -- guaranteed in preliminary hearings -- to confront state witnesses.

Hawaii's grand jury process is made onerous by a rule that forbids hearsay testimony. In most other jurisdictions, the admissibility of hearsay allows a prosecutor to question a single witness -- usually a police officer -- to summarize testimonial evidence gathered in an investigation, or no witness at all in cases built entirely on physical evidence.

Carlisle says his office could save $500,000 a year by eliminating grand juries and preliminary hearings. He proposes that prosecutors be allowed to present documents from which the judge can decide whether an alleged offender probably committed the offense.

While one judge could be assigned to handle all charging cases for a county -- eliminating judge-shopping -- the judge's discretion could be immense. While one judge could be a prosecutor's dream -- allowing charges to be formalized on the flimsiest of evidence -- another might be a nightmare, demanding extensive evidence before authorizing charges. Probable cause is a flexible standard.

A panel of citizens or a judge with an opportunity to weigh defense evidence is needed to inject substantial independent participation into the process. Carlisle essentially is asking that an indictment be little if any more difficult to obtain than a search warrant.

The fairness of a grand jury is bolstered by the prosecutor's requirement to present evidence proving the alleged offender's innocence. An additional and equally important element that should not be abandoned is citizen involvement.

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