Tuesday, July 16, 1996

Richard Port has been a
lively party chairman

CHAIRMEN of the Hawaii Democratic Party are usually inconspicuous. Their party has been in power for 40-some years, and there has been no shortage of Democrats holding high elective office to speak for the organization. Consequently there has been no perceived need for the party chairmen to speak out. But Richard Port, a retired Department of Education official who has been chairman for two years, broke the mold.

Port has used his position to promote his own political agenda, in a very public and vocal way, stepping on some big Democratic toes in the process. He raised a number of eyebrows recently by rebuking Democratic leaders of the Legislature for failing to produce auto insurance reform and an end to the much-criticized "high three" pension system. He has testified at legislative hearings on several issues. His justification is that he speaks for the party's rank and file and in defense of the party's principles.

Now Port has announced his resignation, citing health problems. If someone else in his position had given such an explanation for stepping down, it would be viewed with skepticism. Port has made powerful enemies in the party, such as Sens. Milton Holt and Donna Ikeda, and it would be easy to speculate that he was being forced out. But he has been so candid in his public statements in the past that we take him at his word.

Port took what had been a low-profile, mundane job and used it as a platform for criticizing his own party, serving in a sense as the party's conscience. It's unlikely that future Democratic Party chairmen will be similarly outspoken. But it has been interesting while it lasted.

The Marcoses again

FERDINAND Marcos died in Honolulu nearly seven years ago, but his dark legacy continues to cast a shadow here long after his remains were removed from a Windward Oahu cemetery and transported to the Philippines. Thousands of victims of civil rights abuses during the Marcos regime filed suit in federal District Court here to recover damages from the dictator's estate and won an award of nearly $2 billion.

The lawsuit seems to be much ado about nothing. In any case, even the Marcoses aren't rich enough to satisfy all the claims against them.

Same-sex marriage

IT was the first time ever that Congress has voted on same-sex marriage, and the results showed that acceptance is only a distant goal. By an emphatic 342-67, the House approved the Defense of Marriage Act, which would allow states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states. There is no substantial reason why government should not recognize unions of people of the same sex. Hawaii may become a national laboratory for observation of how same-sex marriage works. In time we predict it will be viewed as not the threat to morality that it is now said to be, but that time may be far off.

Deadly attraction

WHEN a rock musician died of an apparent heroin overdose, other drug users in New York flocked to buy the brand that killed him. The idea, narcotics investigators explained, was that the drug must "deliver a better high" if it's that powerful.

People who think that way aren't going to be deterred by health warnings on cigarette packages. What will it take to persuade them to stop killing themselves?

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