Monday, September 14, 1998

HPD should
continue to patrol
the airport

STATE and city officials have reached agreement on a two-year contract to continue the Honolulu Police Department patrol at Honolulu Airport. There had been talk of using state security personnel instead of the department because of high police overtime costs. This could have created coordination problems for law enforcement. Sticking with HPD avoids that.

The new agreement calls for the addition of five police positions for the airport detail, making the total 27. The number of sergeants will increase from three to five. The change may not save money but will spread overtime more evenly. The airport budget for police service for this year is $1.895 million.

The state had been concerned that high overtime payments to a few officers were being used to increase the basis for their pension benefits. With the increased staffing, said airports administrator Jerry Matsuda, "What we'll be getting is better service. The new positions will give us a fresher police force."

Moreover, as Police Chief Lee Donohue notes, the airport gets "the support of the whole department," including communications and investigative services. This makes more sense than putting the airport under a state police force.


Open meetings

ONE of the most secretive "quasi-governmental" organizations in the state -- the Hawaii High School Athletic Association -- has finally seen the sunshine. It has decided to open its board meetings to the public beginning next year. That is good news for student athletes, their parents and supporters, all of whom are obviously interested in the administrative entity that oversees and plans state high school sports tournaments.

Keith Amemiya, the HHSAA's new executive director, sent a press release about the decision to the Honolulu Advertiser, but not to this newspaper. Apparently he is upset at Star-Bulletin sportswriter and columnist Pat Bigold, who has aggressively covered the closed-door decisions of the board.

The HHSAA has steadfastly deemed itself to be private and not subject to the sunshine laws, despite its acceptance of state funding and office space. Amemiya has not returned repeated phone calls from Bigold.

This pettiness on the part of Amemiya partially shrouds his attempts to shine some light on the HHSAA's activities. Nevertheless, the move is long-needed. Even Amemiya acknowledged, "The public has the right to know what decisions we make and why." The HHSAA is finally following the lead of other statewide athletic associations across the country, which hold open meetings even if they deem themselves to be "private" in nature.


Takushi’s explanation

STATE Human Resources Director James Takushi cited the First Amendment regarding a recent "informational meeting" of state and city union employees at which Governor Cayetano asked for the workers' support in his campaign for re-election.

In a response published last Friday to a Star-Bulletin editorial, Takushi said the state law permitting county and state employers to give their workers two hours off to attend such meetings does not "allow the employer to censor, prescreen or authorize what information the union will impart." He said the unions have taken the position that, "because of the First Amendment, there are freedom of speech considerations."

The First Amendment is indeed a precious instrument of democracy, but its relevance in this instance is questionable. The issue is the governor using this "informational meeting," which was held at taxpayer expense, to ask for support. He pledged that he would resubmit union contracts to the Legislature for funding next year if re-elected.

The Hawaii Republican Party has filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission, charging that "In reality...the gathering was a campaign event aimed at bolstering the re-election efforts of Governor Cayetano."

Takushi may not have known in advance what would transpire at the meeting, but his boss, the governor, certainly knew what he was doing. The taxpayers should not be required to subsidize a Democratic campaign rally.


Human rights victims

SURPRISINGLY, the victims of human-rights abuses during the Marcos regime seem to have struck a deal with President Joseph Estrada. The newly elected president was a supporter of Ferdinand Marcos before the dictator was overthrown in 1986. It seemed unlikely that he would be receptive to a proposal to settle the claims of the 10,000 human rights victims who won a $1.9 billion judgment in federal court in Honolulu four years ago.

Now it appears that Estrada has decided to cooperate. The attorney for the victims, Robert Swift, said the president had agreed to work for the release of $170 million in settlement. This is a far cry from the $1.9 billion in the judgment, but the victims seem to accept that they cannot hope to get that much.

The Philippine government has its own claims on the Marcos fortune, conflicting with the victims' claims. Without a compromise, the dispute could have dragged on for years with the victims receiving nothing.

The money will be drawn from an estimated $550-$600 million deposited by Marcos in Swiss banks. Switzerland has transferred the money to an escrow account in a Manila bank.

Swift said release of the money would require the consent of the Marcos family; Estrada said he would discuss it with them. Marcos' widow, Imelda, has indicated she would go along with $150 million, "out of compassion, not guilt."

Swift said he hoped the victims could receive their awards in a couple of months. "We would like to be able to give (them) a Christmas present," he said. That would be great, but it could take longer.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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