Wednesday, November 5, 1997

Daily direct flights
from Tokyo to Kona

HISTORY was made today with the arrival of a Japan Airlines 747 at Keahole Airport in Kona. It inaugurated the first daily service to a neighbor island by an international carrier. This is a milestone in the development of direct flights to the neighbor islands, which is likely to be a major part of the future of Hawaii tourism.

Japan Airlines began with two direct flights a week from Tokyo to Kona in July 1996, increasing to three in October 1996, four early this year and five in August. Hawaii County and tourism officials estimate that the direct flights will bring 100,000 visitors to the Big Island in 1998, twice the projection for this year.

The availability of direct flights is a convenience for visitors, sparing them the bother of transferring planes in Honolulu or taking a hotel room in Waikiki when they would rather be in Kona, Maui or Kauai. Many repeat visitors to Hawaii have seen Honolulu previously and are interested primarily in experiencing the neighbor islands.

This trend can be expected to continue. It should be encouraged because Waikiki is crowded and there is more room and need for development of tourism on the neighbor islands. One of the keys is improvement of neighbor island airports to enable them to handle the big overseas airliners.

Isolated trustees

THE three-member majority on the Bishop Estate Board of Trustees finds itself more isolated than ever before. Trustee Gerard Jervis, who had previously given hints that he had broken with the majority, has publicly joined Oswald Stender in opposition. Their joint petition in probate court charging that they have been denied information and excluded from decision-making on the board is another blow to the credibility of the majority.

The board is already under attack by faculty, alumni and parents of students at the Kamehameha Schools for its oppressive management policies and by five distinguished members of the community who have accused it of irresponsible and possibly illegal actions in handling the estate's investments. These charges have led to an investigation by the state attorney general. There are also reports that the Internal Revenue Service is looking into the estate's business operations.

The action by Jervis and Stender amounts to an internal revolt within the board, adding a dimension to the estate's problems. Jervis told the Rotary Club of Honolulu, "It is unacceptable for some trustees to make decisions unilaterally without the participation of the others or for information to be made available to only three." This is another allegation of improper action and, considering its source, must be taken seriously.

Richard Wong, Henry Peters and Lokelani Lindsey still have the votes to control the board, but their support beyond their own votes has virtually disappeared. The question is whether they will continue to stonewall all attempts to hold them accountable or whether they will finally accept the reality that they have lost the confidence of the community -- Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians alike -- and relinquish their positions.

Bishop Estate Archive

Privatization ruling

SINCE the state Supreme Court last March invalidated the privatization of a Big Island landfill operation, the movement to privatize government operations in Hawaii has been stalled. Now some movement has been regained through a decision by a judge on Kauai. But action by the Legislature is still needed to revise the civil service law and enable state and county officials to transfer government operations to private firms when it can improve efficiency.

In the Kauai case, a state decision to contract out services for mentally and physically disabled adults was upheld by Circuit Judge George Masuoka. The case was brought by the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the United Public Workers when the state announced plans to privatize the state Health Department's Hale Hauoli services on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island. ARC of Kauai was awarded a $500,000 state care contract for Kauai. Nine civil service workers at Hale Hauoli in Kapaa lost their jobs, but two were hired by ARC and the others found other employment.

Masuoka ruled that a 1995 state law privatizing the Waimano Training School and Hospital on Oahu could be applied to the Kauai agency. The judge noted that the law mandated privatization to qualify for federal matching funds that would allow the agency to serve more people.

The ruling is welcome, but the unions might sue in another jurisdiction, hoping for a more favorable ruling from another judge. Even if the decision goes unchallenged, it applies only to a small part of the privatization issue. Action by the Legislature still is needed to permit privatization of other government operations where justified.

Energy Dept. lies

THE government said so, therefore it must be true. Right? Not exactly. Under Hazel O'Leary, employees say, the Department of Energy routinely manipulated statistics to inflate the former secretary's record on contracting with small businesses and businesses owned by women or members of minorities.

At a 1996 conference on minority business development, O'Leary displayed a chart claiming that the Energy Department had increased the number of dollars invested in minority businesses by 59 percent during her tenure.

But that result was achieved by comparing different sets of numbers. The real increase was 42 percent. Charges of misuse of figures are being investigated by the Energy Department's inspector general.

This isn't the only time government lied to make an official look good, of course -- but this one has been documented. We can only hope that such dishonesty has not infected most government statistical reports.

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