Friday, December 12, 1997

Bishop trustees’ switch
may come too late

FIVE days after Lokelani Lindsey publicly accused President Michael Chun of poor leadership of the Kamehameha Schools, the Bishop Estate trustees have "confirmed the empowerment" of Chun in what appeared to be a dramatic about-face. The trustees also said they would abandon the practice of designating a "lead trustee" for the Kamehameha Schools. Lindsey has held that position since her appointment to the board. She has enraged the Kamehameha alumni, parents of students and faculty with her heavy-handed ways to the point that much of the Hawaiian community has been in revolt against the trustees.

The board's decision to take that job away from Lindsey is a victory for her opponents and a vital step toward ending the turmoil at the schools. Michael Chun has been under siege and his survival as president in doubt as Lindsey assumed much of the schools' policymaking functions at Chun's expense. By reducing Lindsey's role the board may have taken the pressure off Chun.

The trustees announced that they had agreed to adopt substantially all of the recommendations in the report of retired Judge Patrick Yim, who was commissioned to investigate conditions at the schools in the wake of the protests against Lindsey. Yim's report has been submitted but not yet made public. The trustees' announcement appeared to be an attempt to soften the impact of the report's contents when they are released. They seemed to reflect Yim's recommendations, which evidently included support for Chun and removal of Lindsey as lead trustee for the schools.

The trustees' statement also said they have decided to hire a "professionally qualified, nationally recognized expert to conduct a complete financial and management audit" of the schools. They said they would improve personnel practices so teacher contracts could be issued more promptly, resume "talk story" sessions with faculty and staff and relinquish their own campus offices and parking spaces. These points presumably are all addressed in Yim's recommendations.

Last week the trustees also reversed themselves with regard to the report of the court-appointed master on the Bishop Estate's financial affairs. After criticizing the report as inaccurate and misleading, the trustees agreed to accept the recommendations of the master, Colbert Matsumoto, to improve the reporting of the estate's finances.

Do these remarkable reversals of position mean the battle over the Bishop Estate is over? No. There are major allegations of wrongdoing that are under investigation by the state attorney general. The federal Internal Revenue Service is conducting a separate investigation that could affect the estate's tax-exempt status. There is the movement to have the probate court remove some or all of the trustees.

This fight has a long way to go. The trustees seem to have finally come to the realization that their posture of arrogant defiance had to be abandoned. But their attempt at damage control may have come too late. They have discredited themselves in the eyes of the community and may be held in violation of their fiduciary responsibilities.

Bishop Estate Archive

Global warming pact

THE global warming agreement reached in Kyoto, Japan, is being described as historic, but that is no more a certainty than the facts of global warming themselves. The treaty faces at best an uncertain fate in the U.S. Senate but in its present form would probably be defeated. The Senate earlier adopted a resolution on a 95-0 vote warning that it would not accept a treaty that did not require the developing countries to commit themselves as well as the industrialized nations to reduce so-called greenhouse gas emissions. The treaty as negotiated in Kyoto doesn't bind the developing countries, including China and India, which have the world's largest populations and vast potential for increasing emissions.

President Clinton is crowing about the agreement, but even if it's approved he won't be around to face the difficult task of implementing it. Under the pact, the United States would be required to reduce greenhouse emissions by 7 percent below the 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. This is a tougher standard than the U.S. wanted, but not to worry. Like the predicted bankruptcy of the Social Security system, this is too far in the future for most people to focus on seriously.

Uncertainties abound as to whether the Earth's temperatures are in fact getting warmer and if so whether man-made emissions are the cause. As previously noted on this page, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration says it isn't sure whether the Earth will get warmer and doesn't know whether sea levels will rise.

The economic cost of reducing greenhouse emissions is also uncertain. Some economists warn it could bring back the hard times of the 1970s, caused by soaring oil prices. Others argue that the reduction can be made virtually painless by conversion to more efficient technology and nonpolluting energy sources.

Hard-line environmentalists, of course, don't think the agreed reductions are deep enough and consider the exercise a sham. These people are sure disaster awaits unless we take steps that would bring the industrialized economies to a halt.

In addition to exempting the developing countries, who are free to pollute the atmosphere without limit, the conference failed to decide how to enforce the agreement. That's supposed to come later, but it seems likely to be a lot tougher to make this treaty effective than to win token agreement on reductions that may never be made.

It would have made more sense to hold off on a global warming treaty until the facts about the greenhouse effect were clearer. The president mollified the representatives of other governments by accepting deeper reductions, but at the expense of lessening the treaty's prospects for ratification. As it stands, the pact is likely to be dead on arrival in the Senate.

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