Wednesday, July 22, 1998

Fees aren’t appropriate
for outdoor city areas

HONOLULU City Council members are understandably concerned about fees charged last month for admission to the City Hall courtyard during Easter Seal's Taste of Honolulu charity event. Admission fees are appropriate for entertainment venues such as the Neal Blaisdell Center and the Waikiki Shell, but not for the expansive grounds surrounding Honolulu Hale.

During previous Taste of Honolulu events, Easter Seal raised money solely by sharing the proceeds from food purchases at restaurant-sponsored booths. It was an acceptable practice that should have been continued. Instead, and in the absence of any policy, the Harris administration allowed the Easter Seal Society of Hawaii to charge $2 per person to enter the fenced-off grounds of City Hall.

That fee may have been disruptive for residents accustomed to using the outdoor environs for weekend relaxation. According to Lynne Matusow, a member of the Downtown Neighborhood Board, people who live in the area regularly do so.

Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann plans to introduce a bill that would give the Council, not the city administration, the authority to decide whether fees can be charged for admission to city property. Whether the Council or administration has the final say, the city should think twice before allowing a private entity to charge the public for admission to generally accessible city property.


Palace uprising

IF the now public feud between James Bartels, the longtime curator and former managing director of Iolani Palace, and Abigail Kawananakoa, president of the Friends of Iolani Palace, were likened to a battle, it is Bartels with the army of troops amassed behind him. On Monday, the volunteer docents -- who lead the guided tours and foster a sense of appreciation for the palace's history -- met with directors of the Friends support group to share their sentiments and to express their support for Bartels.

He was not at the meeting and has not made any public statements since resigning his post after a disagreement with Kawananakoa. The parting was sparked by an incident in April, when Kawananakoa sat on one of the thrones at Iolani Palace at the behest of a magazine photographer, despite being warned by Bartels not to do so because of possible damage to the aged threads on the seat. It was a battle of wills, and Bartels lost the war.

Throughout the brouhaha, Kawana-nakoa has maintained that she is irreplaceable in her position as president of the Friends, and that as a descendant of Hawaiian royalty she has a duty to stay on. Visibly miffed by the show of support by the docents, she offered, "Maybe we'll open it up and not have docents, just have security guards and volunteers. We'll make more money."

It is that very attitude that has alienated Kawananakoa from Bartels, the docents and some directors as well. Docent Cindy Bauer acknowledged that while Kawananakoa is indeed an important person in the community, the bottom line is what is best for the palace. And Bartels, as Bauer and others have pointed out, not only is one of the most knowledgeable experts in the islands regarding the Hawaiian kingdom, but treats the docents with respect and kindness. "We are not the servant class," Bauer said.

The Friends of Iolani Palace board is scheduled to meet again at 4 p.m. tomorrow. At the start of Monday's meeting, the volunteer docents offered a Hawaiian prayer asking for "humility, forgiveness and love." There is a distinct absence of these traits in this very sad and ongoing controversy.


Internet indecency

REBUFFED by the U.S. Supreme Court in its attempt two years ago to remove smut from the Internet, Congress is developing new legislation to keep pornography away from children. Its past attempt amounted to censorship, but one of the measures approved by the Senate yesterday is both sensible and constitutionally sound.

The Communications Decency Act of 1996 prohibited transmitting or displaying not only obscene material but "indecent" or "patently offensive" communications over the Internet. The Supreme Court last year declared the vague and sweeping ban to be unconstitutional.

One measure now under consideration by Congress would require schools and libraries receiving federally subsidized Internet hookups to install screening software on computers. The software would prevent children from gaining access to indecent material on the Internet. Use of the software is appropriate for computers to be used by children, and the government has the right to order its use in federally funded facilities.

A second proposal approved by the Senate, however, fails to take into consideration how the Internet works. It would require that Internet companies restrict young people's access to pornographic and other material that is "harmful to minors," specifically those under 17 years of age. Violators would be subjected to fines of up to $50,000 and up to six months in jail. Similar to the 1996 legislation, it is vague about what is forbidden and would try to censor the Internet in a way that is both misguided and impractical.

Internet companies operate in much the same way as the telephone company, as conduits for transmission of information. They should not be held responsible for what one user transmits to another. The legislation also fails to account for the fact that 40 percent of material on the Internet originates abroad, beyond the reach of federal legislation.

Congress has a role in requiring installation of screening software in government-funded computers or computers in government-funded facilities. But it should resist the temptation of censoring the Internet under the guise of protecting children.

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