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Friday, March 27, 1998

Subtract taxes from gasoline and price seems realistic

In all the furor over our way too high gas prices, has anyone bothered to notice that included in the price is 51.25 cents in taxes? Just checking.

Only then, when you subtract the taxes, does the price of gas seem remotely reasonable.

Once again, Hawaii's "Tax Hell" reputation hits us where the sun don't shine.

James Ko
(Via the Internet)

Legislature shares blame for high pump prices

I read the Star-Bulletin's reports on the high cost of fuel in Hawaii with great interest. I feel you took the politically correct way out and failed to look at one of the main differences in the costs of fuel between Hawaii and the mainland: the Hawaii state Legislature has added more than 30 cents per gallon in gas taxes.

The oil compaines were accused of "price-gouging." That may very well be.

But before the Legislature investigates, its members need to look at themselves and their tax-and-spend policies first.

My wife, a part-Hawaiian born and raised in Hawaii, and myself, a former Honolulu police officer, moved to the Seattle area for numerous reasons; taxes were one of the reasons. We currently pay about 99 cents per gallon.

We miss home, family and friends, however, one plus of living on the mainland is that I just filled my car up for the first time for 10 bucks!

Scott Slagle
Redmond, Wash.
(Via the Internet)

Governor's tax plan will really benefit the poor

There has been criticism that the general excise tax (GET) increase would hurt the poor.

However, after carefully reviewing the governor's tax proposals, we believe people who are on welfare, as well as the working poor, will be better off with the tax package proposed by the governor.

The tax proposal reduces income tax rates and establishes a refundable low-income tax credit. This will benefit the poor by giving them more money to spend and less income tax to pay.

How does this work? The average welfare family is a single adult with two children. If this household has no income, it receives $570 a month in cash assistance. Under the current tax system, this family would pay no tax and receive $81 (3 times $27) as a food tax credit.

Under the governor's proposal, instead of receiving that $81, the family would get $130 for each household member or a total of $390 (3 times $130) as a low-income tax credit. The increase in the GET from 4 to 4.75 percent would result in this family paying an additional $56 in taxes (adjusted for pyramiding).

The net result is plus $252 for a welfare family with no earned income and an annual benefit of $6,840. This additional money would go into our state's economy.

Susan M. Chandler
Department of Human Services

The Rev. Frank Chong
Executive Director
Waikiki Health Center

Give state workers five-day, no-pay Christmas vacation

If pay cuts for state employees are necessary, then I think it is time for legislators to look at some creative ways to do it.

For example, why not shut down state government between Christmas and New Year's Day? All state employees not in essential operations could take off five days without pay between these two holidays, or possibly at another time in December as determined by each department.

As a state employee in the public library system, I know that the libraries have a slow period in December when people are Christmas shopping. If we closed when the students are not in school, it would have less effect on them.

Since the schools are already closed for Christmas, the state could cut teachers' pay by five days, and then shorten their school year by five of the extra days that they recently added on.

Any cut like this is going to affect both state employees and the public, but perhaps this would have some benefits for all, while recognizing that we all have to do our part to help the budget crisis.

Personally, I would rather have five days off all at once at Christmas, which would be of some value to me, rather than a meaningless day off here and there. Let's try for a win-win solution, rather than a win-lose plan.

Jeffrey Eldredge
(Via the Internet)

Homosexuals are a wealthy, uptapped tourist market

Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has targeted a new group of tourists to improve its stagnant tourism and improve its desirability as a vacation spot.

The city has made itself unappealing to the underage college students who made spring break hell with drinking, marauding, trashing and vandalizing rooms, and indulging in promiscuous sex.

Homosexual couples are usually DINK's (double income and no kids). About 500,000 gay people visited Fort Lauderdale last year, each spending an average of $1,000, according to Jack Latona, the city commisioner.

Ads are being placed in gay publications and tour agencies are receiving 500-800 calls a month from consumers looking for a "gay friendly" vacation destination. They are the fastest-growing segment of the travel industry.

Cultivating this group might help to jump-start Hawaii's horrible economy.

Marilyn Moe
(Via the Internet)

No shady deals were made on behalf of Home Depot

Many letters to the editor have expressed sincere and informed concerns and opinions by your readers. Too many, however, are nothing more than self-serving trash. The March 23 letter by Lei Bernades, if written by her, was an example of the latter.

The implication that I have participated in some sort of shady deal with Mayor Harris to assist Home Depot to buy city property borders on libel.

Consider the facts: Home Depot responded to a Request For Proposal to purchase the Pearl City Junction property with an offer of $17.5 million, $5 million more than the other bidder.

Home Depot plans to spend $13 million to construct the store. That's $30.5 million of mainland money that will come to Hawaii.

The Home Depot purchase will eliminate $1 million per year in city debt service payments, money which leaves Hawaii, and it will pay $250,000 in new property taxes, which stays in Hawaii, plus employ 250 local residents.

I fail to find the "sweetheart deal" -- except possibly for taxpayers.

As for my participation, the city is the applicant for the zoning, not Home Depot. Home Depot hired me to help the city with the zoning application because that's the kind of thing I do for a living, and I am good at it.

Sure I do polling for Mayor Harris. So what! I'm also good at that. There is no connection.

Donald Clegg

Mayor Yamashiro doesn't care about will of people

On Nov. 14 of last year, about 200 people spent the entire day convincing the Land Board that we did not want state-owned lands along the Hamakua Coast to be planted for wood pulp. It agreed, and now plans are in the works for farming and forestry on these lands.

But apparently Mayor Yamashiro has devised a way to thwart the desire of the people. He has proposed swapping these lands with the Bishop Estate for other lands they own on other parts of the island.

Bishop Estate is currently planting about 16,000 acres on the Hamakua Coast with wood pulp trees, so we can expect the same will be done with county lands, if it gets them.

The mayor has a single-minded obsession with growing wood pulp on county lands. The fact that most people on the Big Island don't want this makes no difference to him.

I thought that in a democracy, the will of the people had some bearing on what the government did. The form of government in which the will of the people is meaningless is called a dictatorship.

David A. Caccia
Honokaa, Hawaii

Three things to do to improve Hawaii

Here are some solutions to everyone concerned about the economy and about the poor performance of our Legislature and other elected representatives in the past decade:

1) Every time you see an article, letter or commentary that your representatives should see, fax or mail it to them. You can find their phone numbers and addresses in the white pages in the phone book.

2) Vote! Our Hawaii population exceeds 1.2 million people. Yet in our 1996 general election, only 544,916 registered to vote. Of that group, only 370,230 voted. If it requires 51 percent of the vote to win, then 188,817 people decided the fate of 1.2 million residents. In some cases, incumbents squeaked by to gain re-election.

3) Don't start thinking about the election in November. Start now. Every time you read about an idiotic proposal, find out who sponsored it. Every time something passes or fails in the Legislature, find out how your representatives voted.

And, please, don't simply vote by ethnicity. Just because someone is the same race as you doesn't mean he or she thinks like you do. They should be representing the best interests of your family and Hawaii in general.

Beth Terry

Political patronage has damaging effects

It's interesting that the Bishop Estate trustee most criticized for the management of education at Kamehameha Schools was once a superintendent at the state Department of Education, which is now inundated with criticism over its management.

The problem with political patronage is that people are put in positions for which they may have no expertise or ability. This then becomes a detriment for the recipients of that program or service.

Charles M. Ka'ai'ai

Bishop Estate Archive

Don't blame police officers for misdeeds of others

It's nice to know that former gang members like Malakai Maumalanga can grow up, leave the gang, go to college and attempt to be a contributing member of the community ("Rant & Rave," March 3).

However, it is quite distressing to see him label members of our Honolulu Police Department as "gangstas." It is even more upsetting for him to defame our officers as having a propensity for brutality, and to insinuate gross distortions of the truth regarding the recent incident at Mayor Wright Housing.

Maumalanga indicated that he knew Benedict Manupule, who wasn't a violent person. Did Maumalanga know Manupule while he was intoxicated? Toxicology tests indicated that Manupule was extremely drunk, and we all know that people behave differently while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

Could this have been a factor which contributed to Manupule's out-of-character behavior?

G. Ikaika Loo

American students excel despite poor test scores

On Feb. 24 your newspaper reported that U.S. kids ranked near the bottom among students from 21 countries tested for math and science. This is no surprise. As long as I can remember, we have usually scored near the bottom.

Even so, we continue to surpass the world in new technologies and economic power. How can this be?

Education is important and we need to do better, but let's give credit where credit is due. Our free market economy and enterprising spirit have carried the day.

Quentin M. McKenna

L.G.'s office is useless, a waste of taxpayer money

Why do we have a lieutenant governor? In these tight money times, we should not be spending $2 million (as reported in your newspaper) for an office that has no functions -- except to campaign full-time for re-election, and that is definitely not my idea of what is meant by "public funding" of campaigns?

I cannot think of a single governance situation that couldn't be solved by cell phone and fax. In the case of a true tragedy, a senior elected official could step in until the next election. No problem.

Ultimately this will take a constitutional fix but, in the meantime, there is no requirement to fund this frivolous office. Until then, you would hope that any honest candidate for this office would be honored to serve for $1 a year, plus parking.

Let's get real and give this money to Kalaheo High School for books, or to social services for post-natal care, or to something worthwhile. To keep wasting millions on this anachronism is shameful.

Richard Rice

Lawyers' credibility is subject to doubt

President Clinton is not only the leader of our great country, he is first, last and always a lawyer.

Attorneys are knights in armor, riding white horses, pillars of any community. These are the people who run the country, put criminals in jail, make our streets safe.

They are honest without question, never telling a lie. Nor do they cloud facts with innuendoes. They work hard and with little compensation for their time.

Yes, sir, when a lawyer says something you can take it to the bank, it's the God-awful truth.

P.S. I also believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.

Bruce Tetreault

Presumption of innocence is lost in Clinton case

I'm really mortified and mystified about our American justice system. What has become of "innocent until proven guilty?" The president seems to have been judged guilty by his detractors in the media and those who are sponsoring witnesses against him.

I haven't read that a witness has ever observed any of these allegations. Where's the proof? Just think what kind of justice it would serve if these allegations were leveled at a person with no resources?

The president should have the recourse to sue these people, from the lawyers on down, if they cannot prove their case. The grand jurors should also resign their positions for accepting these ridiculous and frivolous charges, if the president is found not guilty.

These circumstances make you wonder about our American justice system. We are so focused on sex that more heinous crimes are not being subjected to this same scrutiny and prosecution.

Chris Hatico
Pearl City

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