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Letters to the Editor
Sunday, December 26, 2004
New buses perform as they shouldI rode the E Transit bus yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to see they finally changed the destination signs from "Downtown-Aala Park" -- where it gives the impression of going down Beretania Street -- to "Chinatown via Ala Moana," and the bus was quite full. Especially coming back, where they changed the sign from "Waikiki" to "Waikiki via Ala Moana," it had so many people on it, some had to stand.
I also saw a No. 8 bus that was the new hybrid bus. I don't know if that was just because of the holiday crowd or not. That bus is always very crowded and I'm sure helped.
Harris' plaques show wasteful spendingAs Mayor Jeremy Harris' term nears its end, the intensity of his waste of taxpayer dollars increases. First there was the half-hour television show touting his achievements, then the $95,000 book. Now commemorative plaques are springing up islandwide. All list the project, date, Harris, his managing director, the City Council members, and project architect/consultant and contractor.
Perhaps the most egregious of these is at the entrance steps to Smith Beretania Park. It shows a completion date of October 2003, and lists Arnold Morgado as City Council chairman and Council members who served when Morgado was chairman. Gary Gill replaced Arnold Morgado as Council chairman on Oct. 12, 1992. Who goofed and why? It was Councilman Jon Yoshimura who secured $8 million in funding in a supplemental budget in early 2001. Why are the architects, consultants and contractors who worked on the projects listed? Is this another way for Harris to pay back those who gave so generously to his campaigns?
Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann and the incoming Council must stop these abuses by enacting an ordinance clearly defining when plaques are to be installed, what their content should be, and prohibiting the use of the architects/consultants and contractors' names on these permanent tributes.
Politicians incapable of running the worldI admire Wilbert Wong's optimism in wishing to obtain world peace via a "one-world government with highly principled leaders possessing high intelligence, common sense and humility" (Letters, Dec. 23). But I suggest that before he puts any more work into this laudable plan, he might want to meander down to the Legislature or City Council and observe actual politicians in their native habitat proposing such absurdities as a Koko Head Crater landfill.
If people were angels, we would have no need for government.
World government would be disastrousThe letter by Wilbert W.W. Wong in the Dec. 23 Star-Bulletin said that a one-world government would bring world peace. In reality, a one-nation government can't even stop gang warfare, so how is a world government going to stop tribal warfare? And Wong says that a world government can be led by "highly principled leaders possessing high intelligence, common sense and humility." More likely, a world government would be lead by a corrupt person possessing excessive arrogance. If you thought Hitler or Stalin were scary ruling one nation, just imagine someone like them ruling the world!
Grocery stores should accept recyclablesHow refreshing that Hawaii is finally joining the other progressive states in providing cash back for recycling bottles and cans. This time-tested policy has worked wonders in states like Oregon and New York, where beverage container litter has virtually disappeared. And with the recent landfill debate on Oahu, the start of this new program couldn't come at a better time.
But it is frustrating to see that the major grocery stores on Oahu will not be participating in the redemption or recycling of the bottles and cans that they sell. The state Web site on the bottle law (www.hi5deposit.com) lists only about 20 locations run by various recyclers. Why aren't Safeway, Foodland, Times, Costco and others participating in the program? Under Hawaii's law, apparently, these chain stores have the option to provide redemption, but they are not required to take back empty containers as they are in Oregon and New York and many other states. This is ridiculous. Do they really want to cause this much hassle for their customers?
You might not consider yourself an environmentalist, but we all know that our space is limited and our beautiful land will not survive without conservation and reduction. Customers need to do their part by recycling and grocery stores need to be good corporate citizens and do their part by making recycling easy.
Deposits should be exempt from taxLife would be grand and I would be very happy to place all my beverage containers in the city's new blue bin, except the collection procedures are in dispute and my bin is already full. Additionally, I am being nickel-and-dimed by the state's container deposit program, which has no convenient return system, if one actually exists.
Meanwhile, merchants are collecting the general excise tax on the deposits. Why are we taxed on container deposits? Was that intended when the law was written, or could it be that state officials are purposely turning a blind eye to this added revenue windfall?
Shifting the container deposit program to the counties is one step to cleaning up and coordinating recycling efforts. New legislation should also clarify that these deposits are exempt from GET. If deposits are already tax-exempt, then shame on the state for encouraging, or at least allowing, merchants to collect the extra tax.
Watermen would make Duke proudThe Duke would be very proud of the po'oke'la (champion) watermen who call Duke Kahanamoku Beach their workplace.
In October the "Bruhn Brothers" Koa and Ka'ai were members of the winning Lanikai Canoe Club's "miracle team." They won the Molokai Hoe, the Molokai-to-Oahu six-man outrigger canoe race that Tahiti or New Zealand was favored to win. Waikiki Beach Activities is honored to have Koa as its director of safety and service and Ka'ai as a beachboy captain.
A few weeks later, Clyde Aikau placed 13th in "The 20th Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational" surf competition held on the North Shore. Clyde is over 50 and still competes with the 20-year-olds in what is Hawaii's most dangerous waterman event, involving huge waves often more than 30 feet high. Clyde is owner of C & K Beachboy Services located on Duke's Beach and, like his brother Eddie, is a long-time icon in the water world.
Duke Kahanamoku is Hawaii's most famous and accomplished waterman, and if he were alive today he would surely praise these three Hawaiian watermen for their integrity, their courage, their love for the sea and their recent accomplishments.
The rest of us who work at Duke's Beach are very proud of these three very fine gentleman who represent the best of watermen virtues.
Waikiki Beach Activities
Wish for happy, stable year in IraqHere is my wish list regarding Iraq for 2005:
» The upcoming elections in January will go smoothly with all ethnic, tribal, and religious groups participating, and with no instances of violence.
» The majority of Iraqis will vote, then embrace a democratic form of government.
» The elected national assembly will take the initiative to provide security throughout the country and stabilize the situation.
» The trial of Saddam Hussein will be finished and that the dictator's sentence will assure that he will no longer be a threat to the Iraqi people.
» Our troops and the coalition troops will leave the country and hope for the best to the new leaders there. Get our troops out of harm's way and safe back home for a well-deserved rest.
» May it be a happy new year!
Roy E. Shigemura
Military activities bring hazards"Communities in the Line of Fire," a pamphlet published in 2002 by Military Toxics Project of Lewiston, Maine, reveals a shocking review of environmental damage and exposes health risks caused by the activities of 10 U.S. military bases. The following is just one quote from their findings:
"Since 1940, the U.S. Navy has used three-quarters of the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, for bombardment, munitions disposal and other activities. There is strong evidence that heavy metals and other munitions toxins move in the air from the bombing range to the civilian areas. The toxic explosive compound RDX was found in drinking water supplies in civilian areas. ... Vegetables and plants growing in civilian areas are highly contaminated with lead, cadmium and other heavy metals. ... Children aged 10-19 were 256 percent more likely to contract cancer." Furthermore, the report cited that Vieques residents are 73 percent more likely to suffer from heart disease than the residents of mainland Puerto Rico and have a greater than 50 percent risk to contract hypertension and diabetes.
The Big Island has also been used by the military since World War II, with more than 50 known past and present military sites. In June 2004, the U.S. Army refused to test air downwind from their activities at Pohakuloa by denying there was a problem. It is time to identify just what the hazards are on the Big Island caused by military activity before they build up and bring the Stryker Brigade here. We must test the Big Island's air, water and soil for toxic metals. Get involved, before our Big Island communities experience the same terror as the residents in Vieques, Puerto Rico, experience. Contact Hawaii Koa at (808) 895-6787.
Hawaii Koa Moku O Keawe
Property taxes need to come downRecent substantial increases in property tax assessments will have a significant financial impact on all of us (property owners, renters, lessees, business owners and consumers). This impact will be especially felt by individuals on fixed income and lower-income families.
Mayor-elect Hannemann and the Honolulu City Council must promptly address this issue and take immediate action. The following are some suggested actions:
» Immediately reduce property tax rates.
» Increase exemptions to property owners.
» Limit property tax increases to no more than the annual Consumer Price Index (which is pegged to the inflation rate) or limit annual property tax increases to no more than 5 percent of the average prior three years' property tax assessment.
Thomas H. Yagi
Music review was necessarily honestRegarding David Tucciarone's criticism of a Dec. 10 music review by John Berger (Letters, Dec. 22): I am thankful that Berger pointed out that the strings are "tinny." As a musician (electronic and acoustic), I like to be warned if an album relies on stock synth sounds.
A lack of budget is hard, but there are many creative ways around it. More importantly, a reviewer who curtails his criticism due to the financial situation of the industry is a puppet, not a reviewer. CD sales are awful due to the Internet providing free electronic distribution, the perfect blessing to musicians "having to cut corners."
The community should thank people like Berger and Tucciarone for being an active part of the local music scene. However, the music scene will not move forward until the industry (especially the musician) stops worrying about CD sales and does something a little more creative -- like embracing electronic distribution. Surely, the musician of today lives in frightening financial times. But which is more important for musicians to make -- music, or money?
Mark S. Williams
City was wrong to publish bookI am appalled and offended that the city has spent $75,000 on 5,000 books that the city managing director, Ben Lee, says if they sell it will go to the general fund. Please give us a break. The city went ahead and printed them at the further expense of the taxpayers.
How dare the city spend my money on this final display of misspending. There are roads, schools, etc. that are more in need of this money than a book on Mayor Harris' accomplishments.
We see every day the spending that Harris and the city has done at our expense. Was this final deed really necessary?
Adrienne L. Wilson-Yamasaki
Act 51 won't have intended effectWhen Act 51 was passed earlier this year it was hailed as the law that would reinvent public education. Unfortunately, it now appears that Act 51 will have only a nominal effect.
At the heart of Act 51 is the weighted student formula, which is supposed to distribute funds to schools based on the number of students enrolled at each school and the needs of individual students. In addition, Act 51 is supposed to give principals much more discretion in deciding what schools purchase with their funds.
Currently, bureaucrats in the Department of Education decide how the bulk of the funds appropriated for public education are spent. These bureaucrats have little direct experience with the conditions faced by the schools. Since principals are much more knowledgeable about their schools, it makes sense to give them more authority to decide what to purchase. But making this kind of change is not as easy as it might seem because it involves taking power away from one group and giving it to another. Power is seldom relinquished without a fight.
Act 51 is intended to allow principals to decide how to spend 70 percent of the funds appropriated for public education. A committee has been established to determine the details of how the formula will work. According to an informative article by Ruth Tschumy (Star-Bulletin, Dec. 5), the committee is considering a plan that would divide the 70 percent in discretionary funding for principals into a 58 percent portion and a 12 percent portion. Principals would have discretion in spending the 58 percent portion, but not in spending the 12 percent portion. As a result, the 70 percent discretionary spending for principals would be effectively reduced to 58 percent.
In Hawaii, it looks as if the education bureaucracy is winning the fight over who decides how education funds are spent. The big losers are the children of Hawaii.
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