Sunday, December 23, 2001
Gambling is last thing Hawaii needsJohn Flanagan, in his column in the Dec. 16 Star-Bulletin, is so right. Hawaii is "lucky" not to have legalized gambling. We're also smarter than most others.
Letters to the editor in that day's paper also gave us some good reasons why we should not be taken in by the gambling lobby group and those who are so easily bought off by gambling's big bucks. Letter writer Jerome Manis pointed out just what Honolulu could become -- another Las Vegas, leading the nation in suicides, gambling addiction, divorce, women killed by men, bankruptcies, abortions, rapes, alcohol-related deaths and out-of-wedlock births. We could easily replace Vegas in those statistics. But is that what we want?
Apathy reigns supreme in Vegas with residents not even voting anymore and most simply accepting the fact that the crime lords, syndicate, prostitution, drugs and gangs are there to stay.
Gambling is not a quick fix. It brings evils that we don't want, problems that we don't need.
A solution is for every resident of Hawaii to register and vote. Oust those who are being bought by this not-so-special interest group. Elect new leaders who will do something about our current ills -- including fixing our education system.
Sept. 11 makes us vulnerable to gamingGambling has resurfaced again as a by-product of Hawaii's devastated tourism industry since Sept. 11. Gambling's appeal as a "new source" of tax monies is attracting the support of politicians.
But I don't believe any such revenues would be "new." There is no multiplier dollar dynamic because the vast majority of waged monies would come from local paychecks. And the majority of monies netted by casinos would flow back to their mainland investors and investments, not stay in Hawaii. Result: Less money would therefore be spent in the local economy with the potential of major negative social implications to the most disadvantaged.
If Governor Cayetano means what he says in preferring gambling in Kona or Hilo on the Big Island for being "harder to get to," then keep Las Vegas as where Hawaii's gamblers should travel. We love Las Vegas and it takes planning to go. We may not be able to influence the appeal of gambling but we certainly can choose to not entice Hawaii's people to "gamble at home."
Many states have lotteries and that was once a subject of discussion for Hawaii. It seems that since Sept. 11, the stakes have been raised for the big bet, casino gambling. Recent examples of breaches of ethics, poor judgment and convicted politicians make me dubious of the integrity and best interest of our community.
After all, did we see the "benefits" to schools and the community from the raises in hotel room tax, rental car tax, excise tax and other assessments purported to be "paid by tourist to benefit the community"?
"A lot of people expected it to be up ... I wanted to at least try something to get (the tree) up." Leonard Tam
Kaimuki community activist, who spearheaded a campaign to repair a 40-foot lighted Christmas tree display that traditionally overlooks Honolulu from an East Kaimuki hilltop. The display had deteriorated and was mothballed until Tam went to work to have it repaired.
"If people refuse to pay their ticket, I really don't know what we're going to do yet." Harold Sonomura
State Department of Accounting and General Services employee, on speeding citations issued to state vehicles that are caught on film by the new traffic cameras.
AIRLINES' MONOPOLY BODES ILL FOR HAWAIIAirlines want OK to fix pricesAloha Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines -- reeling from the post-Sept. 11 economic downturn-- announced this week that they will merge in a deal that will end decades of heated rivalry between Hawaii's two major airlines.
This is not a merger. This is a means to do an end run around price-fixing charges. What makes me angry is that they insult our intelligence by acting as though we don't know what's going on.
Robert G. Devine
Ocean View, Hawaii
No need to call airline by name nowI think Erika Engle's Dec. 21 "The Buzz" column had it right.
Let's call it "Dakine Airlines," like Frank Fasi's "The Bus."
You say to your friend, "You go Kona, how you fly?" "Dakine Airlines." Oh yeh!
Len Withington Jr.
Anti-monopoly sentiment vanishedThis talk about the merging of Hawaiian and Aloha into one airline and the tough talk of Hawaii remaining a one-airline state brings to mind something Senator Inouye once said.
This pronouncement occurred back when MidPacific Air was struggling to provide Hawaii folks with efficient and inexpensive air service to the neighbor islands. The senior senator said, and I am paraphrasing, "Hawaii needs only two airlines."
Does the senator care to repeat that?
William J. King
New competitor would be welcomeA Star-Bulletin story quoted sources saying that the merger of Hawaiian and Aloha airlines will not affect the "unrestricted" fares.
Has anyone checked the unrestricted fares for our two airlines (soon to be one)? At their Web sites, you will find the unrestricted fares are $106.75 and $77 for Aloha and Hawaiian respectively.
You will notice the powers-that-be said nothing about our kamaaina fares being protected. Are we ready to pay a $77 fare each way?
Looks like a good time for a competitor to start looking at Hawaii again. SouthWest Airlines, how does Hawaii sound?
Humanitarian spirit can rise above tragedyDecember is the month to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ. While we are busy buying gifts for our loved ones, let's not forget to make a donation to the charities that help the poor and the homeless.
Jesus once said, "When you are caring for your brothers, you are caring for me." Very few of us are willing to sacrifice our own lives in order to save the lives of the others.
But we all can afford to make a small sacrifice to help out those who are urgently in need of our assistance.
Let the Sept. 11 terrorist attack be a spiritual wake-up call for all of us -- that we need each other's help when tragedy strikes. Since we cannot take our accumulated fortune with us when we die, we may as well use it wisely to help those in need.
Kindness begets kindness when we least expect it. Therefore, let us observe this Christmas season and the coming New Year with a loving and caring humanitarian attitude.
Don't encourage hate on the playing fieldI want to take issue with the Kalani Simpson column in which he urged Hawaii football fans to "hate BYU" and "not feel bad about it."
Is this really the kind of feeling we want to cultivate in this state supposedly renowned for its aloha? He says this isn't the bin Laden kind of hate, but hate is hate. It leads people to commit acts of anger and violence. Haven't we learned anything from Sept. 11?
St. Louis and Kahuku also have a long-standing football rivalry, but do we want to encourage the teams to hate each other? Would that really be productive? True, there was some scuffling on the field during their last game, but it was gratifying to see a St. Louis player offer a hand to a Kahuku player whom he had just tackled and to see opposing team members embrace each other after the game. This is more in keeping with the aloha spirit.
Ruth Ann Smith
Government can cash in on surveillanceInasmuch as politicians are intent on trapping and fining citizens using "1984"-style camera enforcement, here are a few more high-tech suggestions to further enrich the state's coffers:
>> Install mandatory breath-alyzers in every car (make the owner pay for it, of course). Design the unit to send an automatic summons when the driver's alcohol level exceeds what's legal (owner of the car would be required to snitch on whoever was driving).
>> Install cameras in restrooms to insure everyone washes their hands and flushes (name and Social Security number tattooed on private parts could provide the needed identification).
>> Install cameras on parking meters to snap a license plate photo when the meter runs out -- no grace time, of course, so the money for the city can really pile up.
Require another mandatory ID tattoo on each citizen's forehead so cross-walk cameras can identify pedestrians who walk against the light.
The forehead tattoo requirement would also be useful for politicians to identify the people of Hawaii who vote them out of office next election.
Cameras will create more uninsuredI read the Dec. 20 letter from Rep. Cynthia Thielen on the traffic cameras and agree with her totally. You can tell this is a "show me the money" scheme by the location of the vans during this test period. The Pali Highway is a prime example, in locations where the speed limit is either 35 or 45 mph and the majority of traffic goes 5 to 10 mph faster.
I drove to town from Kailua on a recent morning at 10 a.m. I drove at exactly the speed limit posted. I did not pass one car and in fact almost every car on the Pali passed me. They were not driving dangerously or in excessive speed for the traffic conditions at that time.
You do not see the vans on the freeway looking for the drivers going 75, or the racers. I have no problem with the cameras at the traffic lights if they are set correctly.
You may have also noticed that all the vans being used are brand new. You know the state is stuck with this contract or will have to pay damages to cancel. Those who approved this plan should be voted out of office.
More than 9,000 tickets in 11 days? Who will have insurance after the insurance companies drop these drivers? Who will be able to afford insurance?
Gary G. Osterman
Traffic cams target the wrong vehiclesIt's typical government mentality -- to catch the real criminal, make everyone a criminal. The statistics look better and make people believe that the government is accomplishing something. Well, guess what? Who will ultimately pay for the traffic camera violations? Who is really the target?
Let's see ... mainland cars (such as those from California) are not required to have front license plates, therefore they won't get cited. Many government owned cars are not required to have license plates, so they won't receive citations either. Others who won't get nabbed are driving new vehicles (paper plates), motorcycles, vehicles with dirty plates and, of course, those without front license plates at all.
Stolen cars (is the owner liable?), borrowed cars, transfer- pending cars, and the list goes on.
Gee, it looks like the everyday law-abiding person is targeted again. Since the citations are being issued starting at a little more than 5 mph over the limit, and at $30 a crack with more than 1,000 issued a day, the revenue for the company is more than $10 million -- our dollars. Or just take your front license plate off and deal with a paltry $55 that only police officers enforce.
'Gotcha' attitude must be put aside in pursuing Felix goalsDespite allegations of fraud and abuse, I am proud that the staff of the Department of Health and our many service providers remain undeterred in their commitment to serve children with special needs. In the atmosphere of distrust created by the Felix Investigation Committee, their steadfast devotion to the children they serve should be acknowledged.
In 1999, Judge David Ezra was understandably very frustrated with the lack of progress in complying with the Felix consent decree. Despite a dismal track record over the previous five years, he had faith that new leadership in the departments of Health and Education could do the job. It has been difficult for everyone involved to make progress in a system that resists change, but we have done our best.
Since then, new programs have been developed and service capacity has been dramatically expanded to meet the needs of the growing number of children identified who require mental health services to benefit from their education. This has happened at a much faster pace than any manager would like under difficult circumstances. Nevertheless, we are at a point where we have met the benchmarks set forth by the court, and we are poised to complete the job.
We have more to do. The DOH must continue to refine and further improve services we offer to children with intensive needs. It takes time to develop effective programs, and mistakes have and will be made along the way. Today, however, it's important that we move forward and look optimistically toward the future, not spend our time and energy dwelling on mistakes made years ago that have long since been corrected.
Despite months of intensive scrutiny of hundreds of contracts by a team of auditors, I have not seen any specific examples of actual abuse or fraud that involve the Health Department.
We would never have met the benchmarks required without the "special powers" conferred by the court. Even with these powers, we respected the process and took all necessary steps to assure that there was no opportunity for abuse, including the review of all contracts by the Attorney General's Office.
The only specific example of alleged fraud identified by the legislative auditor was that a service provider billed the department for 127 hours in one day. This was identified as a billing error through our own internal review more than a year ago within a month of the billing. There was no fraud or abuse in this case; the error was made by a provider unfamiliar with our electronic billing system and was immediately corrected.
Unfortunately, the auditor never gave us the opportunity to explain the situation before it was presented as an example of abuse. The "we gotcha" attitude prevailed.
I have no doubt that, when we comply with the consent decree, we will have one of the most outstanding special education systems in the country -- one we can all be very proud of. When this is accomplished, it will be because of the dedication of those individuals who have committed their lives to providing these services.
Bruce S. Anderson
Hawaii Department of Health
The Star-Bulletin welcomes letters that are crisp and to the point on issues of public interest. The Star-Bulletin reserves the right to edit letters for clarity and length. Please direct comments to the issues; personal attacks will not be published. Letters must be signed, must include a mailing address and daytime telephone number.