Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, October 21, 1996

Who said there's
nothing we can do?

SIGN-TOTING, loudly chanting citizens gleefully set fire to several American flags during a rally at the state Capitol on Friday. The staged torchings - to protest the convictions of Makua Beach trespassers - won attention, since it's hard to ignore the beloved symbol of this country going up in flames. It hurt just to watch.

But it hurt only on the inside, folks, which is why - God bless America - those demonstrators had the right to express their irritation, albeit in such a fiery manner. Meanwhile, those who disagreed were forced to simply grit their teeth, scowl, mutter and/or unhappily look away.

Lately, this seemed like the standard operating procedure for other disturbing trends in our community. See something sickening? Suffer, since your hands were tied. Tough luck, because it was none of your business.

Not anymore, buster. Here are three examples of progressive action and akamai thinking in Hawaii - innovative programs tackling societal banes such as unbuckled-up keiki, gang graffiti and a hootched-up Halloween:

Keeping children safe. Kids under the age of four must ride in child safety seats when being transported by car. The law was enacted to save their little lives in case of accidents. But some motorists must have Superman complexes, since they motor around with young tykes standing on seats and obviously unrestrained. A sudden braking could send these youngsters flying through windshields like human cannonballs.

Want to help prevent that from happening? Anyone seeing such a situation can dial 1-800-868-7300, the number for the state Health Department's new "Hug Me Love Me Buckle Me" hot line. After the caller reports the license number, location, date and approximate time of sighting, the owner of the offending vehicle gets a letter explaining the importance of using child safety seats.

Busted! Now, please, buckle those babies up.

Keeping signs clean. Is this Honolulu or L.A.? It's getting harder to tell these days with the unsightly growth of gang-related graffiti grungying up the freeways. The latest affront to taxpayers is that it will cost thousands of dollars to remove the ugly white desecration from H-1's huge green signs.

The state Department of Transportation does NOT want this to happen again. Its workers have begun installing wire mesh at the base of freeway signs to deter would-be taggers from climbing onto the scaffolding and doing their mischief. But if these hooligans do manage to shimmy up there, they'll get acquainted with some black, sticky tar. Hah, maybe that will get them to clean up their act.

Keeping holidays sober. When did Halloween lose its identity as a holiday for youthful trick-or-treaters and degenerate into an excuse for getting drunk? Every October, supermarkets and liquor retailers bring out giant cardboard cutouts to promote beer as a celebratory necessity.

No more, if the national campaign called "Hands off Halloween" is a success in Hawaii. A coalition of local supporters is currently asking businesses not to use those garish, life-size signs of Elvira holding a six-pack, while students are scouting stores to learn which are catering to young drinkers. Shoppers can get involved, too, by voicing their displeasure with such inappropriate promotions directly to managers.

Imagine, there's no way to stop flag-burning but there are mechanisms to make these streets cleaner, safer and definitely more sober. Is this a great country, or what?

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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