Friday, April 24, 1998

Niihau residents’ OK
for missile launch sites

HAWAIIAN activists have frequently opposed military operations, arguing that they damage historically significant sites or wrongfully use lands formerly held by the monarchy. But the residents of Niihau think differently. As a Star-Bulletin reporter found, they support the Pentagon's proposal to install missile launch sites on their isolated island.

Their reasoning is that the project would provide jobs that would help them to survive economically and maintain their unique Hawaiian life style. The Niihau Ranch, owned by the Robinson family, has ceased operations after years of losses. Most of the people on Niihau are unemployed and rely on welfare payments. They welcome the chance to earn some money.

The Niihauans are trying to adjust to their circumstances without abandoning their cultural heritage. The missile launch sites would be operated infrequently and would not constitute a major disruption of the islanders' lives.

Thousands of other Hawaii residents are employed by the armed services directly or work for companies that do business with the military. They too have a strong reason to support the military presence in the islands. Recently the Navy announced plans to eliminate much of the repair work contracted out to private shipyards, which could cost several hundred jobs.

The activists' efforts to deprive the military of areas needed for training could result in the loss of jobs of their neighbors as the Pentagon looks for ways to cut spending further. But the Niihau people will have nothing to do with their protests.


Filling OHA vacancy

OHA logo IT was a telling commentary on the bitter division on the Board of Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs that the board was unable to agree on an appointee to fill the seat of the late Billie Beamer. Governor Cayetano reluctantly accepted that task when the board failed to break its deadlock.

Cayetano's choice, Gladys Brandt, is widely respected within and without the Hawaiian community. Equally important, perhaps, is her lack of interest at age 91 in running for a seat in the next OHA election in November. That limits the governor's involvement in OHA's internal politics, which was no doubt his intention. Perhaps that intention also explains why he did not make his selection from a list assembled by the board.

Brandt is a former principal of the Kamehameha School for Girls. She was one of the five authors of the sensational "Broken Trust" article last August that attacked the current trustees of the Bishop Estate and their management of the Kamehameha Schools. She is also a former chairwoman of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents.

Her appointment ends the current 4-4 split on the board, but it could emerge again. Abraham Aiona says he may soon resign from the board for reasons of health. OHA sorely needs an election that would provide a clear majority on the board.


The tax man goeth

MANY years ago, a public relations genius at the Internal Revenue Service decided April 15 would be an opportune day to intimidate taxpayers with information about its zapping prowess. It became routine to issue news releases on that day about charges of tax abuse being leveled at lawyers, accountants, business executives and other prominent "examples" from which tax-fearing citizens could learn. The IRS was not counting on the likes of Johnny Johnson.

Johnson, an insurance executive in Galveston, Texas, erred in his 1974 and 1975 returns and paid $3,500 less than he owed in federal income taxes. He admitted his mistakes, pleaded guilty in 1981 to evading taxes and thought that would be the end of it.

It wasn't. Sure enough, on tax day of that year, the IRS issued a release headlined, "Insurance executive pleads guilty in tax case." The notice violated a plea agreement in which the IRS agreed not to issue a news release about the case. Johnson complained, the IRS made some minor changes and then issued the same release again.

Because of the publicity, Johnson was asked to resign his vice presidency at American National Insurance Co., and his career as an executive came to an end. He moved to Missouri and became an insurance agent or, as he quoted his attorney as putting it, "went from being a three-star general to being a buck private."

Johnson then did the unthinkable. He sued the Internal Revenue Service for dragging his name through the mud and destroying his career. Twice -- once before a jury and, after the IRS's successful appeal, a second time before a judge -- Johnson was awarded verdicts of more than $10 million.

Although a second IRS appeal succeeded, the agency has wisely chosen to settle the case with a $3.5 million payment to Johnson. The experience should set an example for other tax collectors tempted to flex their muscles in public.


Philippine election

THE Roman Catholic archbishop of Manila disapproves of the leading candidate in the Philippine presidential election campaign, Joseph Estrada. So he suggests that some of the other 10 candidates in the race should drop out and unite behind a single candidate, who would then presumably have a better chance of defeating Estrada.

The archbishop, Cardinal Jaime Sin, said in a pastoral letter, "The most probable winner may be the most probably disastrous for the country." Everybody knew he was talking about Estrada, who was favored by 30 percent of respondents in the latest poll. His three closest opponents were far behind with 13 and 12 percent respectively. Estrada, whose name is a household word as a result of a career in the movies, is out of favor with the church because of his reputation for womanizing, gambling and drinking.

As a Catholic, the cardinal believes in miracles, and he may need one. It would be a miracle if the main contenders united behind a single challenger to Estrada.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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