Friday, November 2, 2001

In Kapolei, library
or white elephant?

The issue: The state librarian hunts
for donations to buy books after
the state Legislature fails to
approve funds for them.

That state librarian Virginia Lowell has to go begging for money to buy books for the new public library in Kapolei should be embarrassment enough for state legislators to take action. Even so, Lowell is wise to not count on lawmakers who thus far have been unwilling to approve the $2.5 million needed to acquire furniture, equipment and reading and reference materials as well as staff for the facility.

Lowell, rebuffed for funding at last year's legislative session, has begun soliciting donations from businesses in Kapolei and surrounding areas, lest the $6.9 million building stand empty for a year after its scheduled completion in January. That's how long it would take to get the facility ready for operations even if lawmakers clear the emergency funding request that the library system will submit at the next session.

The Kapolei situation illustrates how divergent funding priorities make for inefficiency. While library administrators and Governor Cayetano put the Kapolei facility on the top of their lists, some legislators felt that the Kapolei community already had been given a big piece of the state's budget pie with about $68 million for its new schools. Meanwhile, the Aiea community was pushing for a new library and, in response, the Legislature approved $2.5 million to acquire land to relocate it even though neither the Board of Education nor library administrators had asked for it.

For Lowell, the Kapolei project demonstrated how little control the library system has over its construction projects. Evidently that's not about to change. Upon hearing of Lowell's plan to seek private donations, Rep. Mark Moses, who represents the district, pointed to the state's economic crisis as an indication of how other demands may divert money from the Kapolei library.

The slumping economy will necessitate prudent budgeting of limited state funds. If the Legislature doesn't make money available to buy books, the state will be left with a vacant building. A building with no books isn't a library. It would be foolish to allow a $6.9 million investment in bricks and mortar to lie empty.

Lowell should be commended for her efforts. Getting no for an answer from the Legislature hasn't stopped her from looking for ways to achieve her goal. She's received a $20,000 donation from R.M. Towill, an engineering company, and says she is willing to acknowledge others who contribute with "brass plaques on chairs and tables and shelving and anything." She might even include the names of legislators -- if they decide to buy some books.

Remember 9-11-01

Spare legal aliens
harsh treatment

The issue: The government plans to
crack down on foreigners with possible
terrorist ties and deport suspected
advocates of terror.

THE ease with which the 19 terrorists who took part in the September 11 attack had entered the United States on visas showed the glaring need to tighten American border controls. Antiterrorist legislation that President Bush signed into law last week is intended to scrutinize foreigners before they are allowed to enter the country. The administration's new powers should not be used, however, to deport legal aliens because of mere suspicions.

The Justice Department has announced its intention to bar entry to the United States to members of any group allegedly connected to terrorism, even those who support legal activities associated with those groups. Attorney General John Ashcroft added 46 groups to that list, bringing the total to 74, including groups in the Middle East, Ireland and Rwanda. A White House task force has been assembled to coordinate efforts to deny entry to people who are "associated with, suspected of being engaged in, or supporting terrorist activity." The aim also is to "locate, detain, prosecute or deport any such aliens already present."

The distinction between those seeking entry and those already in the United States is important. The due process clause of the Fifth Amendment applies to everyone in this country, not just to citizens. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that legal aliens facing deportation are entitled to have their cases reviewed in court. Suspicion alone should not justify deportation.

Greater efforts are needed at entry points to weed out those whom President Bush describes as "the evil ones" from the "good, decent people (who) we're proud to have here." Ashcroft said measures will be taken to tighten the granting of visas to visitors. Those could include more biographical and past travel information.

Meanwhile, the government needs to keep closer track of foreigners after they have entered the country. Those efforts should include requiring more information from visa applicants to include fingerprints and unique characteristics, known as biometrics, such as computerized facial recognition, to check identities.

A computerized system for keeping track of foreign students was approved by Congress in 1996 but was opposed by universities and some members of Congress. The system now is planned to begin next summer. One of the Sept. 11 hijackers was in the United States on a student visa but have never attended the school he had designated.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

Richard Halloran, editorial page director, 529-4790;
John Flanagan, contributing editor 294-3533;

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