Sunday, April 8, 2001
Misdeeds involvingWITH A NEW name and after extensive purging, the Bishop Estate is well on its way to discarding its reputation as a political gorilla and replacing that with an image as a community angel.
estate reached deep
into the community
The issue: Documents from the
state's investigation of Bishop Estate
disclose an ingrained pattern of
questionable ethical behavior.
Now called Kamehameha Schools, the Hawaiian institution that is the estate's primary beneficiary, the estate has a better chance of attaining that goal as its new leaders avoid repeating mistakes of the past.
The misdeeds of the Bishop Estate that have been exposed in the past several years were more than a broken rule here and technical neglect of a requirement there. They encompassed a culture of arrogant camaraderie and exclusivity. That is the ethical code of the past that should be recognized for what it was and then avoided.
"I don't know if you call this lobbying, but if you and I are friends...it's almost like I don't need to ask you to vote for my stuff already," Bishop Estate lobbyist Alika Thompson told state investigators about his rubbing elbows with state legislators. "It was like, uh -- what would you say? -- understood. That if you're my friend that you gonna, you know, do it. I don't have to ask you."
Meanwhile, the Bishop Estate's lobbying arm helped funnel tens of thousands of dollars to the campaign chests of Hawaii legislators, drafted legislation and floor speeches for them and entertained them at restaurants, according to the Attorney General's Office.
Whether a deed was overtly requested or not, that seems to have been the thread running through the way Bishop Estate conducted business, including some school admissions, as reported in a series of articles by the Star-Bulletin's Rick Daysog. | 4/2 | 4/2 | 4/3 | 4/4 |
Several readers complained that the series raked over what they considered to have been an old story that should be left alone. The editors of this newspaper believe that corruption is never an old story and that constant vigilance is necessary to prevent it from recurring.
The system described in the series included state Supreme Court justices and their roles in appointing the five estate trustees. Robert Klein, even as a justice of the high court, felt no compunction in making a request of Lokelani Lindsey after helping elect her to a trusteeship. Klein asked Lindsey to help a child whose mother was a longtime friend of Klein's gain admission to Kamehameha, which accepts only one in 10 applicants.
"That's what judges do," says Klein, who has since retired his black robe. "That's what people do in this community. If you know somebody, you give them a recommendation." The child was accepted into the school ahead of six students who scored higher on admission tests.
Fortunately, Supreme Court justices no longer appoint the estate's trustees; Klein alone dissented from the other justices decision in 1997 to shed themselves of that role. Trustees instead are chosen by a probate judge, and the board's consequent makeup is starkly devoid of the high-end Democratic politics that had been its common strain for decades. Thompson still works as a lobbyist for the estate but, unlike the old days, now registers as such with the state government.
The plain-spoken henchman of New York's notorious Tammany Hall political machine, George Washington Plunkitt, explained that "the politicians who make a lastin' success in politics are the men who are always loyal to their friends, even up to the gate of the state prison."
That misquided philosophy seems to have driven the Bishop Estate and the politicians who were their friends.
Bishop Estate Archive
THE APHORISM "if you build it they will come" won't apply to the new Kapolei Library if the building is all that's there. And if the state budget for the next fiscal year stands as it is now, that's all there will be. This is penny wise and pound foolish and should be corrected before the Legislature adjourns.
Shelves will be
empty at new library
The issue: The state says
there is no money to buy books for
the new Kapolei library.
The new library is scheduled to be completed next year, but the state Legislature has not included in its budget any money for books, furnishings, or staff. As state librarian Virginia Lowell says, "It will be a library with nothing inside."
The project could be just one more victim of the state's financial crisis as lawmakers say they are scraping the barrels to find money to pay for raises for government workers. Governor Cayetano had asked for $3.1 million for staff and books in his budget proposal, but lawmakers eliminated that as well as has funds for drug treatment and other programs.
Other victims may be taxpayers who don't get planned income tax cuts and even state workers themselves; Cayetano has asked the Legislature to allow him to furlough employees instead of laying them off to help balance the budget.
Kapolei is a fast-growing community, due in part to the vision of politicians for a "second city" that would redirect growth away from downtown Honolulu. Kapolei High School, a major feature of the second city, has thus far avoided heavy hits. The school, which opened to ninth-grade students last July, is being built in phases with the second scheduled for completion in the fall.
The Legislature has budgeted $18 million for construction of the school's next phase, $4 million less than the projected $22 million cost. Another $44 million will be needed to bring the school to completion for grades 9 through 12, said Rep. Mark Moses. Some lawmakers are suggesting that the state's "rainy day" fund, money that comes from Hawaii's portion of a lawsuit against tobacco companies, be released to pay some bills.
That may be fine for today, but not if it rains tomorrow.
The Legislature is robbing Peter to pay Paul, not a sound fiscal practice. It's like covering one credit card bill by borrowing money from another. A responsible consumer would not take this action and neither should our lawmakers.
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