Legislators cant do
business as usual
The issue: Proposals to help
Hawaii's economy have been
placed before lawmakers.
The hesitancy of state legislative leaders to endorse plans that could help Hawaii's faltering economy can be interpreted as cautious deliberation or obstructionism. Let's hope it's not the latter.
Governor Cayetano and University of Hawaii president Evan Dobelle have proposed ambitious and expensive ideas that they hope will stimulate the state's economy, but lawmakers seem ambivalent about them. If their purpose is to guard the public's interest, fine. If their intent is to place the state's economic health behind their desire to protect their political behinds, business and other government leaders as well as voters should insist they move forward.
The governor, after consulting with tourist industry officials, labor unions, small-business owners and other stakeholders, has presented 20 bills he wants a special session of the Legislature to consider. He is suggesting capital gains, excise and income tax breaks and proposes spending $266 million from the hurricane relief and tobacco settlement funds and borrowing another $1 billion to pay for new construction projects.
Dobelle has presented a $700-million capital improvement program that he believes will help to kick-start the economic engines. The UH president wants to build a medical center in Kakaako and a West Oahu campus in Kapolei, and to improve university facilities across the state.
Some of these plans have trickled from the governor's office in the past few weeks, and legislative leaders have cast doubts on whether any or all were feasible financially. As is their public duty, lawmakers are questioning how much debt the state can afford. As is their political nature, they are loathe to make themselves vulnerable to criticism about possible budget shortfalls. Hard on their minds are elections next year when Cayetano, whose term will have ended, won't be around to take any heat that may develop.
Whatever their concerns, the usual sluggish pace of legislative action cannot continue as Hawaii struggles to remain afloat. If lawmakers object to the plans before them, they are obligated to come up with their own. They can do what Cayetano and Dobelle have done, which is to solicit ideas from all segments of the community. They aren't limited to a five-day special session as scheduled; they have the power to extend if need be.
What is unacceptable in these critical times is foot dragging and peevish politics. Not now.
Public should be told
of bin Laden evidence
The issue: America has provided evidence
to foreign governments -- but not to U.S. citizens
-- about the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.
TEN days ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the government would "put before the world, the American people, a persuasive case" linking Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network to the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. Powell has since backed away from that promise, instead providing evidence supporting the case to officials of friendly nations but withholding it from the American public. That has resulted in questions about U.S. credibility.
No one expects a detailed explanation that could divulge sources of information and covert U.S. operations. But Americans -- and people throughout the world -- are anxiously awaiting a summary of why the government has concluded that the man President Bush described as "the prime suspect" is indeed the culprit. Patriotic fervor should not be interpreted as blind faith.
In an interview with The New York Times, Powell danced around the question of what information he conveyed in cables to American embassies for oral briefings to foreign officials. He described it variously as a "solid" case, "pretty good information" and "more than circumstantial" evidence that "leaves no doubt" that "all paths lead to al-Qaida and bin Laden."
Americans will have to weigh the undisclosed information by how foreign officials react. NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson called it "clear and compelling proof" that bin Laden was behind the attacks. An allied diplomat told the Times that the information "was descriptive and narrative" but not suitable for legal proceedings. A spokesman for the Pakistan Foreign Ministry, however, said the United States hadn't provided conclusive proof to Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf of bin Laden's connection.
Powell suggested that the public will learn about evidence "coming out in the press and other ways." News accounts so far about bin Laden's links to the attacks have been sketchy. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has said that at least one of the suspected hijackers was connected with al-Qaida, but he offered no evidence.
The information given to foreign officials reportedly includes intercepted communications and information about bin Laden's involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, last year's bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen and the 1998 attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa.
A summary of the evidence pointing to bin Laden's connection to the Sept. 11 attacks should be provided to the public without jeopardizing U.S. intelligence or military operations.
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