Better bond rating is boon to Honolulu
On Dec. 6, the City and County of Honolulu announced that the rating agency Standard and Poor's improved the city's latest bond rating from AA- to AA. The news drew little attention from the media
, and many people may wonder "What's the big deal?"
Mayor Mufi Hannemann has said all along that one of his priorities is restoring financial accountability to the city. When he met with bond raters early last year, he asked them what needed to be done to improve our bond rating, and he made it clear that it was going to be our goal to upgrade our rating.
The removal of the minus sign from the rating means that investors in future bond issuances will view Honolulu's bonds as being "less risky" relative to other municipal bonds with lower ratings. When a municipality such as Honolulu improves its bond rating, the city benefits by being able to borrow at a lower rate due to its lower financial risk. The municipal bond market is very crowded with other offerors and the advantage gained with the rating upgrade will translate into real dollar savings over the near and long term.
According to bond experts, this seemingly simple change, the removal of the minus, would have saved Honolulu more than $2.2 million in lower interest and insurance costs in its last two major bond sales, which totaled more than $730 million. The rating upgrade also puts Honolulu in the unusual position where its credit rating is better than the state of Hawaii's bond rating.
Under the Hannemann administration, the city doubled its "rainy day" fund and will continue to add to it in anticipation of the inevitable slowdown in the economy. The mayor also instituted monthly meetings with all city agencies to exercise tighter control over all spending and cancelled $60 million in unnecessary capital contracts. The proposed development of a rail transit system would spur economic growth for at least 15 years. These are all factors cited by Standard and Poor's in announcing the upgrade in the rating.
This upgrade proves that we can have an administration that is honest about our state of affairs and financial position, strong on the management of city services, and committed to solid financial control.
Some people were concerned that the mayor's public candor about the condition of our streets and aging sewer system would affect our bond rating. I believe that this upgrade demonstrates that the city is indeed well managed and is looking out for the financial well-being of its residents today and into the future.
Mary Pat Waterhouse
City Department of Budget and Fiscal Services
Army is better off without Watada
I have wondered whether 1st Lt. Ehren Watada's decision not to go to Iraq was motivated by sincere antiwar feelings or by his desire to avoid a dangerous situation. Your Dec. 19 story
about his transferring from Punahou School to Kalani High School to "escape academic pressures" and enjoy his high school years answers that question. It is hard to give the benefit of the doubt to a man who has a history of rationalizing his way to the easy and convenient course of action.
It is sad that there is another U.S. Army first lieutenant in Iraq because Watada refused to go. However, it is a very good thing that he is not in Iraq responsible for the lives of the men and women who would have served under him. He is clearly not a person to trust with that kind of responsibility.
I really don't have strong feelings about the man himself. He will spend some time enjoying the attention of small groups of people who, with little understanding of the concepts of duty, honor and commitment, will use him to gain publicity for their purposes, and then he will then fade away. In the end, the U.S. Army and our country will better off because of it.
Joseph T. Kiefer
Watada is a hero in his own right
Before last evening, I supported Lt. Watada, in theory, for refusing to deploy to Iraq on the grounds that he came to believe that the invasion and subsequent war there are illegal. After hearing him speak Tuesday at the Church of the Crossroads, I plan to take a more conscious role in his defense (Star-Bulletin, Dec. 20
The young lieutenant was eloquent beyond words as he laid out his struggle. He did volunteer out of passion for his country. When he became an officer, he did not turn a deaf ear to why we invaded Iraq nor the unfolding of events. Would that every military person would open his/her mind and heart to the underlying truths about this horrible war in Iraq. Granted, it is filled with complexity!
If you were not there to hear the young officer, get a transcript of his speech or find it on tape. He will expand your mind to the true duty of military service. When he took the military oath it was to defend the country against all enemies "foreign and domestic." It is the defense against the "domestic" that we need pay close attention. Is our military bound to carry out orders that are based on distortions or even lies?
Watada has raised the bar for all citizens of this country. Hawaii can add Watada to its heroes. He may not make the history books today or in his lifetime, but he will be there for our children to honor and hopefully emulate. This young man does not belong in prison!
Jo An Gaines