Wednesday, February 26, 1997

Harris’ plan to restore
Natatorium is overdue

THE mayor's proposal to restore the Waikiki Natatorium - and complete the job by mid-1998 - deserves full support by the City Council and the community. The crumbling condition of the Natatorium - a memorial to Hawaii's war dead of World War I - is a disgrace and a blight on one of the most valuable public areas on Oahu. It has been closed as a safety hazard since 1979.

In the past Mayor Harris has supported a campaign by the Friends of the Natatorium for private funding to rebuild the swimming pool and offered to float revenue bonds to cover part of the cost. The Friends have been working for a decade to make up with private efforts for the shameful neglect of the Natatorium by both the state and city governments.

The state has approved the plans for restoring the salt-water pool, bleachers and arched facade and the cost estimate of $11.5 million, but put off construction for lack of funds.

Harris proposes to turn over the Natatorium to nonprofit operators - presumably the Friends - to run aquatic shows and other programs.

Critics have questioned the water quality in the pool, but the Friends insist that a flushing system in the restoration design will maintain the quality at an acceptable level.

As for a rival proposal to fill in the pool with sand and convert the facility into a volleyball stadium, the Friends point out that the Natatorium is on the National Register of Historic Places and could not be drastically altered without proving that faithful restoration was impossible.

The Natatorium was opened on Aug. 24, 1927, the birthday of Duke Kanahamoku, but fell into disuse and disrepair after World War II. The Friends' goal has been to reopen the pool on Duke's birthday in 2000, but Harris wants to move up that date. The sooner the better. The City Council ought to get behind this attempt to rid Waikiki of a dreadful eyesore.

Immigration snafus

IF averages hold true, the Immigration and Naturalization Service naturalized more than 30,000 felons as U.S. citizens from August 1995 to last September because of bureaucratic negligence. The INS finally seems to be taking action to prevent further systemic failure, but the harm already is immense.

Congressional Republicans allege the surge in applications was motivated by the Clinton administration's desire to swear in probable Democratic voters before last year's elections. The increase came at a time when Republicans were pushing through Congress restrictions on the benefits available to legal immigrants. That is a more likely explanation for the tripling of applications, but the lapse in criminal checks was inexcusable.

South Korean scandal

SOUTH Korea is in the throes of another corruption scandal, this one involving associates of President Kim Young-sam. The president's immediate predecessors, Roh Tae-woo and Chun Doo-Hwan, are serving prison sentences for accepting bribes on a massive scale as well as for their roles in a 1979 coup.

With one year to go in his term, Kim Young-sam faces a host of troubles. The United States must be concerned with the effects of Kim's internal problems on his ability to deal with the unpredictable North Korean regime.

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