Saturday, August 14, 2004


Charter question gives
voters chance to weigh
in on ethics


The City Council has voted down an amendment that would have given the Ethics Commission power to fine violators.

THE City Council's reluctance to allow voters to decide on increasing powers for the Ethics Commission need not be the final word on the issue. The public still has a chance to give the commission the authority to assess civil fines for ethics violations, though the process might take longer. By voting to convene a charter commission, the public can still propose an amendment that would accomplish what the Council refused to do.

At present, the city Ethics Commission can only recommend that Council members place sanctions on someone who the panel has determined violated ethics provisions. It has no enforcement powers unless criminal prosecution or other legal action is justified.

The Council had preliminarily approved asking the public to vote on a charter amendment that would have permitted the commission to impose fines, but members rejected the proposal.

Councilman Charles Djou suggested that the change of heart was the result of objections from the Hawaii Government Employees Union, which contends that the amendment runs counter to collective bargaining agreements.

To avoid that conflict, Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi revised the plan so that it would apply only to elected and appointed officials. Still, the Council majority -- Kobayashi among them -- turned away the measure.

However, the Council did clear a proposition that will be placed on the November ballot, asking voters whether they want a commission to review the City Charter for possible changes.

This will give the public an opening to push for a sorely needed amendment, providing the ethics panel with an enforcement tool independent of politicians. This would not guarantee ethical behavior, but will make latent scofflaws think twice.


Gaining market niche
in China is crucial
for Hawaii tourism


Hawaii has obtained a business license with the Chinese government to market and promote tourism.

HAWAII tourism officials have achieved an important step toward gaining a share of visitors from China, projected to be the world's sixth-largest source of tourists by 2020. The Chinese government has agreed to allow Hawaii to have a business license that allows direct marketing and promotion of the islands as a tourist destination, working with Chinese agencies, airlines, tour operators and other businesses.

Hawaii is among numerous tourism destinations scrambling for a foothold in the Chinese tourism market. Nevada received similar permission in June to market itself in China. On Sept. 1, China will begin allowing its citizens to travel to 32 European countries.

The world's most populous country also has the fastest-growing economy. Last year's outbound Chinese tourists totaled 20.2 million, a 21 percent increase over the previous year and, for the first time, exceeding international travel from Japan. The World Tourism Organization projects that outbound Chinese tourists will reach 100 million a year by 2020.

China has good reason to allow the tourism. Beijing will be the site for 2008 Olympic Games, and China is promoting itself as a tourism destination. Indeed, China is projected to lure some 130 million international arrivals yearly by 2020, more than four times the current number.

Chinese visitors accounted for less than 1 percent of Hawaii's travel market in 2002. The biggest obstacle for expanded tourism from China is the visa requirement. The process includes background checks of prospective visitors, along with facial photographs and digital scans made necessary by today's security concerns. That is likely to remain.

Hawaii and Nevada are seeking to be added to the 28 "approved destinations" for group tours by Chinese, even though the United States has not applied for the designation. The competition among those approved destinations is fierce.

The Philippines is busily preparing tour packages and various promotional material to market itself in China. Britain wants to double the number of visitors from China by simplifying the visa application process.

A 2000 agreement allows China to issue passports to residents of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong province for 15-day group tours of Japan under relaxed Japanese visa requirements. The program, which has drawn 30,000 tourists to Japan annually, will expand next month to four other provinces.




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