Friday, November 12, 2004


Courts might have to settle
condo land sales dispute


The City Council has given preliminary approval to a bill to repeal the condo leasehold conversion law.

THE repeal of the controversial condominium leasehold conversion law is likely to draw challenges that could mire the city in lawsuits for years to come. The City Council's preliminary approval to reverse the ordinance this week advances that scenario.

While no one welcomes further legal entanglement -- which would prove costly to taxpayers and to the parties involved -- the Council has so far been unable to sort out the dispute and it might be best to allow the courts to reaffirm the state law that has sanctioned leasehold conversion or to clarify the issue of public purpose.

The law allows condominium owner-occupant lessees to petition the city to use its condemnation powers to compel a landowner to sell the fee interests on their units at prices determined by a third party. The city ordinance governing condominium property is based on the Hawaii Land Reform Act, which was aimed at powerful land trusts and is predicated on the belief that home ownership is good public policy.

However, in recent years, small landowners and trusts have contended that the law has exceeded its purpose. Some, like the Queen Liliuokalani Trust that uses leasehold income to fund more than 300 social service programs, reasonably argue that its services offer a far broader public good than allowing a condo owner to buy its land. In addition, the trust's Hawaiian heritage places a spiritual value on the land.

Supporters of condo conversion have a grounds for concern. It appears the Council, which could give the bill final approval next month, has enough votes to override a veto should the current mayor, Jeremy Harris, reject it. If the Council clears the measure after he leaves office Jan. 1, the bill would go to Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann, who has said he supports repeal.

Council member Charles Djou had hoped to avert legal entanglements by giving lessees a year to get their conversion proposals through the approval process, but his amendment was rejected. In all likelihood, the plan would have just postponed reckoning.


‘Private Ryan’ victim
of indecency war


KITV joined other ABC affiliates in dumping a realistically violent war movie from its Veterans Day schedule.

SKITTISH broadcasters appear to have scared themselves into self-censorship when they pulled from their Veterans Day line-up a movie that depicts the 1944 Normandy invasion and the heroism of American soldiers in World War II.

Though most ABC affiliates had aired "Saving Private Ryan," Steven Spielberg's Academy Award-winning film, in 2001 and 2002, a score of them -- including Hawaii's KITV -- refused to do it again yesterday, succumbing to an unwarranted fear of the Federal Communications Commission.

Broadcasters pointed to a shift in the cultural climate, particularly the presidential election "where moral issues were cited as a reason people voted one way or another," said Citadel Communication president Ray Cole. Others said a recent FCC ruling that a rock star's use of an expletive during a televised award show violated federal law made them antsy about the same word being uttered repeatedly in the movie.

KITV said that after the FCC fined CBS-owned stations $550,000 for Janet Jackson's Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction," it had a fiduciary duty to ban the movie.

KITV and other stations were needlessly fearful.

In 2002, the FCC defended "Private Ryan" as neither profane nor indecent when a conservative group complained about its broadcast. In fact, L. Brent Bozell of the Parents Television Council, another watchdog group, endorsed the film, saying its violence and profanity are "not meant to shock, nor (are they) gratuitous."

Spielberg's deal with ABC disallows editing, but contains repeated warnings about content. Parents who don't want their children to see the realistic portrayal of the horrors of war could change the channel or simply tune out.




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