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Friday, March 14, 2003



[ OUR OPINION ]

Tighter controls
needed on city land


THE ISSUE

The Health Department has expanded its probe of illegal dumping to a second site.

DISCOVERY of another site where refuse material may have been illegally disposed of raises concerns about how well the city keeps track of land under its control. Mayor Harris, who has pledged to investigate the problem, may have to conduct a wider review of what goes on at city properties. In addition, as the mayor moves ahead with a new curbside recycling plan, city officials should make sure that contracts for disposal of the materials are in place before they begin the project.

Earlier this month, an environmental group reported to the state Department of Health that old household appliances had been dumped and buried at a former incinerator site in Waipahu. Officials found more than 30 tons of crushed "white goods" -- water heaters, washers, stoves and the like -- and construction debris, apparently discarded in violation of federal and state law. They also found in the same area thousands of empty propane containers, which the city stored while it sought contracts for their disposal.

The old appliances had been left at the incinerator site after a metals recycling company stopped accepting them in January 2001 in a dispute over how much the city would pay the business to take them. However, under no circumstances should the appliances have been buried. The site is not an approved landfill, and it now appears that far more than the initial 30 tons of waste already removed from the Waipahu location has been dumped there.

This week, more construction debris was discovered in Waianae near a city refuse center, resulting in the state's expansion of its inquiry.

How all of this refuse came to be left at the two locations is alarming. The city could be fined as much as $10,000 a day for as long as debris was left at the sites, a cost taxpayers can ill afford as the city faces significant budget constraints. Harris has promised that city officials "will get to the bottom of this," and the state will certainly demand they do.

The city has had nagging problems with waste disposal, and Harris hopes to ameliorate the difficulty with a recycling program. However, officials have not yet contracted with recycling companies to take the tons of newspaper, plastics and glass they hope to keep out of landfills. The city should make sure it has its ducks lined up before it begins the collections or it could encounter the same kind of troubles it now has in Waipahu.


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Hawaii unfairly cited
for low voter turnout


THE ISSUE

State and county officials have removed the names of many past voters from voter registration lists.

PURGING more than 100,000 names from the state's roll of registered voters provides a more realistic look at the number of people who registered with the intention of voting. Hawaii will still retain the ignominious citation by the U.S. Census Bureau for having the lowest turnout rate of eligible voters. However, that reported rate is based on flawed numbers. As a consequence, Hawaii unfairly has been given a bum rap as being derelict of civic duty.

State and county officials have removed 103,792 names of people who had no forwarding address and who did not vote in 2002 or 2000, reducing the rolls to 591,507 from 676,242. States and counties had been required by the 1993 National Voter Registration Act to retain the names of people who had not voted in the recent elections. The removal will allow the state to determine more accurately how many people are legitimately registered to vote, but it does not correct the misinformation spread by the Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau reported a year ago that only 44.1 percent of Hawaii's 771,000 eligible voters who were counted in the 2000 census had actually voted in the 2000 election. The bureau is better at counting people than votes. Its estimated turnout was based on the incorrect information that only 340,000 Hawaii residents had voted in that election, although the state Elections Office counted 371,378 actual voters, or 48 percent of those eligible.

The percentage was only slightly less than the national turnout rate of 51 percent estimated in the 2000 election by the nonprofit Committee for the Study of the American Electorate. The Census Bureau pegged the national turnout rate at 59.5 percent. That raises the question of whether the bureau inflated other states' turnout rates while Hawaii's rate -- 48 percent would still be dead last in the bureau's list -- was deflated.

In last year's election, the percentage of eligible voters in Hawaii casting votes rose slightly, to 48.7 percent. That is based on the Elections Office count of 385,462 actual voters and taking into account the Census Bureau's estimate of a 2.8 percent population growth for the state. It was far above the national voter turnout in last year's election, estimated at 39.3 percent by the nonprofit study committee. The low national figure is consistent with turnout rates in elections at mid-presidential terms.



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

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791; fbridgewater@starbulletin.com
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor 529-4768; mrovner@starbulletin.com
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762; lyoungoda@starbulletin.com

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748; mpoole@starbulletin.com

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