By Star-Bulletin Staff

Saturday, March 21, 1998

Green Party vows to take to sea to halt whale tests

Unable to get the court to stop the Navy's sonar testing off the Big Island, the Hawaii Green Party will try to do it from a whale's-eye view.

"We're going to keep people in the water to get them to stop," Lanny Sinkin, the Green Party's attorney, said Friday after a federal judge denied the party's motion to temporarily suspend operations.

Sinkin, who said the Navy can't test with humans in nearby waters, had argued that the Navy violated its permit by ignoring the connection between tests and unusual behavior in whales, dolphins and sharks.

U.S. District Judge Alan Kay ruled that the Green Party didn't show the low-frequency tests caused the behavior, which included frequent breaching by whale calves, gatherings of hammerhead sharks and diminished whale numbers.

"The connection between sonar testing and their behavior is attenuated and speculative," he concluded.

But he also said the court had "grave concerns" that the tests were causing distress, particularly in whales. He also said the court would continue to respond to complaints.

Kay on Wednesday denied a similar request by a Hawaiin group to temporarily suspend tests on grounds that that whales were sacred.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor denied a motion by Earthjustice for a long-term suspension of the testing.

Gillmor ruled that the Navy's need to develop its future antisubmarine technology outweighed the need to stop the sonar experiments involving whales near the Big Island. She also had denied a motion in February to try to stop the tests.

The Navy, which began testing Feb. 26 after Gillmor's ruling and expects to conclude in about nine days, is studying behavioral change when whales are exposed to low-frequency sounds. Such information may be used for antisubmarine technology.

During yesterday's hearing, Kay had asked if the Navy could include observers from the Green Party on its boat.

Navy representatives agreed, but Sinkin declined, saying observing from their boat would be legitimizing the Navy's position.

"I don't think that sitting on a boat that you know anything," Sinkin said.

He had argued that the court should accept the observations of island residents, who have years of experience watching marine life and behavior.

Libery House may not emerge from Chapter 11 until next year

Liberty House Inc. may not emerge from bankruptcy protection until next year, an attorney for the retailer said.

But in the meantime, the company -- the state's largest and oldest department store chain -- said it hopes to continue business operations uninterrupted.

Bruce Bennett, Los Angeles-based attorney for Liberty House, Friday said the isle retailer won't be able to tell if sales are returning to normal levels until after this year's fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter typically is a busy period for retailers due to the holiday shopping season.

But Bennett said the company experienced an "unexpected drop-off" during the recently completed fourth quarter due to the economic crisis in Asia, which hurt Hawaii's tourism and retail markets.

"I think it's unrealistic to project (a recovery) until after the Christmas season," he said.

Bankruptcy Judge Lloyd King said he was surprised by the length of time that would be required in the reorganization. But King yesterday approved several motions sought by the company to operate its business.

King approved company payments for vendors, payroll taxes and excise taxes and severance pay for workers who recently were laid off. He also ruled the company could continue to run its popular "LH Perks" frequent-shopper program.

The company, meanwhile, said it anticipates no changes while it is in reorganization, and it expects to keep the same store hours and offer the same merchandise and services that it had prior to the reorganization.

Lindsey sued for denying special-ed services

The parents of a Maui girl who was denied special-education services in the public schools have sued Lokelani Lindsey, a former Maui district superintendent and now Bishop Estate trustee.

Bill and Lucy Cope, parents of 13-year-old Aimee Cope, claim in their lawsuit that Lindsey "knowingly, intentionally, deliberately and maliciously" denied services which the child -- then 7 and in the second grade -- was entitled to under federal disability law.

"This is a case where Lokelani Lindsey simply refused to certify her so (Aimee) could even qualify for services that existed at the time," said Eric Seitz, the Copes' attorney.

He called the federal suit the first step in holding accountable those required to provide services mandated by law.

Lindsey was district superintendent from July 1982 to February 1993, according to the suit.

Her attorney, William Harrison, said in a statement that "it's safe to say that this lawsuit would exist in relative obscurity were it not for the media frenzy surrounding Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate."

'Miss Saigon' considers plan from symphony

The spotlight has been turned on the producers of "Miss Saigon" to help resolve the scheduling conflict with the Honolulu Symphony over use of the Blaisdell Concert Hall next year.

That is the opinion of city and symphony officials after a meeting Friday in city Managing Director Bob Fishman's office.

The symphony formally submitted its proposal to give up use of the concert hall in September and October 1999, symphony Executive Director Michael Tiknis said.

"We had a very productive meeting," Tiknis said. "We are working toward a mutually agreeable solution which probably will include some dates (for the symphony) at Hawaii Theatre."

The symphony normally begins its classical season in September.

"I think we're moving forward," Fishman said. "Right now we're down to a matter of a few weeks' overlap."

"Miss Saigon" promoters had expected to stage the musical at the concert hall through November.

A key issue is whether the show can be financially viable running only through the end of October, Fishman said. An alternative would be for it to begin its run earlier than a scheduled Sept. 20 opening night, he said.

The production will be coming to Hawaii following a run in Costa Mesa, Calif. Fishman said he did not know when that run is supposed to end.

Officials with the musical are still exploring other issues as well, such as whether it can have the concert hall converted for the symphony on off-nights between "Miss Saigon" showings, Fishman said.

GOP rebuffs forum on campaign bill

Senate Democrats may be trying to offer an olive branch to Republicans over a controversial campaign finance reform bill.

But Republicans say the offer is more like a fig leaf, to cover up a "transparent attempt to shut down the money to one party."

The political posturing is over a House bill which puts new limits on the amount of money political parties can receive and give to candidates.

The bill is an attempt to regulate so-called "soft money," a loophole in the law which allows donors to give more money than allowed under campaign-spending limits.

But Republicans have dubbed the measure the "Stop Linda Lingle Bill" because it would change the rules for the upcoming election.

They say the timing of the measure would unfairly affect the amount of money Maui Mayor Linda Lingle can raise in her campaign for governor.

Gov. Ben Cayetano has nearly $2.3 million in his campaign fund, while Lingle has raised $263,000.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Friday, Co-Majority Leader Mike McCartney (D, Kaneohe) proposed holding a public forum with the leaders of Hawaii's political parties to "talk story" and try to reach a consensus on campaign finance reform.

"It's an opportunity to get away from finger-pointing and mistrust," said Judiciary Co-Chairman Avery Chumbley (D, Kihei).

Republicans called the idea "bogus."

State GOP Chairwoman Donna Alcantara said the Senate Judiciary Committee should simply hold the campaign finance bill in the interest of fairness.

She said the proposal for a forum is an attempt to diffuse public outrage over the measure.

"I think they want to take the focus off of the fact that this is an odious bill," Alcantara said.

See expanded coverage in Saturday's Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
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