Friday, May 1, 1998

City Council should
stop its bickering

EVEN for the City Council, a body not noted for harmony, the current wrangling over Jeremy Harris' reorganization and layoff proposals is unusually bitter. We agree with Council Chairman John DeSoto, who admonished his colleagues to stop their bickering, urging them to act professionally "and get moving."

A tenuous 5-4 majority has negotiated a compromise reorganization plan with the mayor that supposedly would restore 111 city jobs that were to have been abolished under Harris' original proposal. The revised plan would reduce the number of city agencies to 16 from 29.

One change would preserve the semiautonomous Board of Water Supply, which was slated under the original plan to be absorbed by a department under the mayor's control. This is a welcome change, because it could help to keep water policy decisions out of city politics.

But the big question is finding the money to save the jobs. The four members who were left out of the deal have criticized the five who have now lined up with the mayor. Budget Chairman John Henry Felix says it will require $3.02 million and vows to find the money. But there are many skeptics.

Harris has made no promises, saying only that he was willing to restore the eliminated positions if the Council members could come up with ways to pay for them. Making the situation more difficult is the undisguised hostility between several members of the Council and between Council members and the mayor.

There are points to be made by Council members -- some of whom would like to be mayor -- with the public employee unions by saving city jobs, but not if it means higher taxes. Harris maintains that the city administration must be leaner in these difficult times. His critics have a responsibility to come up with a better plan to deal with the city's financial crisis.

The first question is whether the numbers add up on the new plan. The next question is whether this divided Council is capable of making an intelligent decision on the issue.


Holt’s party guests

BY all claims, Milton Holt was not lobbying state legislators when he picked up the tab at restaurants and hostess bars with his Bishop Estate credit card. The legislators either deny or can't remember the nights out on the town and the estate has denied incurring local lobbying expenses. Those explanations are not easy to accept.

Holt, a former state senator and the estate's special-projects officer, spent a total of $21,000 with an estate credit card at local strip joints, hostess bars and Las Vegas casinos since 1992. That does not include $2,500 that Holt charged on the estate's Visa cards entertaining legislators at local restaurants and drinking establishments between 1992 and 1997.

The Star-Bulletin's Rick Daysog reports that Holt listed Senate President Norman Mizuguchi and Sen. Robert Bunda as his guests on Feb. 10, 1993, at the Crystal Palace hostess bar, where the $540.50 tab was paid with the Bishop Estate card. At the Monte Carlo hostess bar, Holt listed Mizuguchi, Bunda and Sen. Joe Tanaka as his guests for a credit card charge of $751 in August 1992, and Bunda, House Finance Chairman Calvin Say and House Judiciary Chairman Terrance Tom for a $260 tab in April 1993.

Holt listed the lawmakers as his guests in submissions to the Internal Revenue Service, which is investigating the estate's finances. Mizuguchi and Bunda deny being treated by Holt at hostess bars and Tanaka says he can't remember. Tom could not be reached for comment. Mizuguchi's denial prompted Holt to say he meant to write the name of Sen. Richard Matsuura, who died of cancer last year so is unable to deny the allegation.

Holt named Mizuguchi and other legislators as his guests at restaurants at lesser costs in 1995 and 1996. None would admit it, although receiving such gratuities and not disclosing it probably does not violate state ethics rules.

Holt says he has reimbursed the Bishop Estate for all charges he made with the credit card. However, the repayments apparently came only after the estate made a "salary adjustment" that allowed him to do so. The question is whether Bishop Estate was willingly footing the bill for Holt's escapades in the belief that he was lobbying legislators until the estate's trustees began getting heat from the IRS and the state attorney general.

Bishop Estate Archive

IRA’s refusal to disarm

HOPES for the new Irish peace agreement reached April 10 have abruptly faded with a declaration by the outlawed Irish Republican Army refusing to lay down its weapons as called for in the pact. An IRA statement said the deal, which was struck under prodding by the Clinton administration, was a "significant development" and wished its political allies in Sinn Fein success in developing their peace strategy. But it also declared: "Let us make it clear that there will be no decommissioning (disarming) by the IRA."

That drew a retort from the lead British diplomat on the Irish issue, Mo Mowlam, that the IRA would have to disarm if the peace process was to succeed. "People can't pick and choose which parts (of the agreement) they like or dislike," she said.

The leadership of Sinn Fein, a legal party with 17 percent electoral support in the province, has steered the party into what it hopes will be a new era of peace but it has always been accused of links with the IRA. The hope was that Sinn Fein would be able to persuade the guerrillas to lay down their arms.

The IRA's refusal to disarm has been an obstacle for years in the attempts to end the violence between pro- and anti-British paramilitary forces in Northern Ireland. Now it appears that the new agreement is stalled over the same familiar problem.

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