[ OUR OPINION ]
needed to thwart suit
LEGISLATION providing federal recognition of Hawaiian sovereignty has been made more imperative by a lawsuit challenging the Kamehameha Schools' Hawaiians-only admissions policy. Unless the legislation authored by Senator Akaka is enacted, the lawsuit could result in dismantlement of the schools as envisioned by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. Hawaii's congressional delegation should work to overcome opposition tactics that have stalled the bill.
A lawsuit alleges that Kamehameha Schools' policy of admitting only Hawaiians violates a civil rights law against racial discrimination.
The Akaka bill was approved by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on May 14, but Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who opposes the bill, has put an indefinite hold on it, preventing the bill's advancement to the Senate floor. Under the Senate's peculiar rules, a single senator can block a bill's consideration by the full Senate unless 60 members vote to force it to the floor. If Kyl refuses to drop his hold, Senators Akaka and Inouye should work to assemble enough senators to allow a vote.
The lawsuit alleging racial discrimination was filed in federal court by Big Island attorney John Goemans and Eric Grant, a Sacramento, Calif., lawyer. Goemans was the attorney for Harold "Freddy" Rice, whose lawsuit led to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that the Hawaiians-only restriction in the voting for trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was unconstitutional racial discrimination.
Constance Lau, chairwoman of the Kamehameha Schools Board of Trustees, said they "intend to vigorously defend our policy of giving preference to applicants of Hawaiian ancestry, and we are confident that we will prevail." Her confidence is unwarranted.
The high court's ruling in Rice vs. Cayetano clearly said that selection of Hawaiians is based on race, since they lack the tribal status afforded to American Indians and Alaska natives. In other cases, the court has ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against any race -- not just African Americans, whom it was primarily intended to protect -- by a private school, regardless of whether the school receives federal funds. Together, those rulings provide formidable legal artillery for Goemans and Grant.
Another lawsuit pending in federal court alleges racial discrimination by OHA and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. A hearing on the state's motion to dismiss that suit is scheduled for September.
BACK TO TOP
Isle tourism depends
on revitalized Waikiki
WAIKIKI, long the icon of Hawaii tourism, is showing its age and for seasoned travelers, the thrill of its beaches and Diamond Head has dwindled. Even so, it remains the hub of the industry on Oahu and, as such, deserves the special interest of city officials and the state's new tourism czar.
The city is moving to make Waikiki more attractive and Governor Lingle is directing her new tourism chief to make the area a priority.
While the city has been focusing on sprucing it up and luring local people, Marsha Wienert, whom Governor Lingle appointed as her tourism liaison earlier this month, will concentrate on drumming up more visitors, whose numbers have been decreasing. The two go hand in hand.
The city recognizes that if residents find Waikiki attractive, so will tourists, and that visitors nowadays are increasingly drawn to places where they can interact with residents. Its Waikiki Livability Project aims to restore and preserve the so-called "sense of place" and re-cast the quarter to make it more hospitable. The plan is to increase parking with reasonable fees, improve residential areas and traffic flow, and make Waikiki more appealing to pedestrians.
Suggestions include eliminating a traffic lane on Kuhio Avenue and widening its sidewalks, turning Kalakaua into a plaza for big events and converting part of the road to a walkway at night, adding bicycle paths along the Ala Wai and returning one-way streets to two-way flows as they had been until the early 1970s.
The project has been in the works for more than two years but whatever the final plan, some will resist the changes. Nonetheless, Waikiki and Oahu continue to lose tourists, as in May when the island drew 16.1 percent fewer visitors than in the previous May, while Maui's and the Big Island's numbers were up 4.2 percent and 2.1 percent respectively.
Although recent renovations have improved the appearance of parts of Waikiki, other retail centers and hotels also need refurbishing. The city aided Outrigger Enterprises by condemning private land so the company could expand one of its properties, but Lingle's veto of a tax credit for the hotel and other commercial areas may set back those plans. Be that as it may, Outrigger's proposal to beautify the Lewers Street segment should be encouraged.
Lingle turned down Outrigger's credits because of the state's revenue crunch, but she has directed Weinert to make Waikiki, with its heavy dependence on Japanese tourists, a marketing priority. It won't be easy, but Waikiki still is Hawaii's premier destination point and restoring its sheen for residents and visitors will help.