Friday, April 23, 1999

Stop ignoring need
to build new prison

Bullet The issue: The state wants to build a prison to relieve inmate overcrowding.
Bullet Our view: The Legislature must end its foot-dragging and address the need to act on a new prison.

THE 1999 legislative session may end without action on building a new prison. The finance committees of both houses have deleted from the budget $130 million in general obligation bonds sought by Governor Cayetano to relieve prison overcrowding by building a 2,300-bed institution on the Big Island near the Kulani Correctional Facility.

This might not prevent the administration from proceeding. The state could contract with a private company to build the prison. The governor objects that it would cost more that way because the state can borrow money more cheaply than a private business.

But House Speaker Calvin Say is concerned about adding to the state's debt burden on top of the $1 billion capital improvement budget approved two years ago at Cayetano's request to stimulate the economy.

The other problem is location. Big Island Sen. Andrew Levin opposes a prison on his island and has used his position as co-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee to block prison funding.

Now there is discussion of putting the prison elsewhere -- on Kauai or in Arizona.

Kauai Rep. Ezra Kanoho is exploring the possibility of locating the prison on the Garden Island. Cayetano indicated he is open to the idea provided the community supports it. But he is also considering Arizona, which originally came up last year after the proposal to locate the prison in the Ka'u district of the Big Island was shot down.

Expressing interest in a Kauai location, Cayetano indicated he might give up on the Big Island because of lack of support from the community. "We can't just be debating this thing forever," the governor said.

No, we can't. But the Legislature can't seem to grasp the urgency of the situation. Nobody wants to live near a prison, but it has to go somewhere.


Duffy for appeals court

Bullet The issue: James E. Duffy Jr. has been recommended for appointment as federal appeals judge.
Bullet Our view: Duffy is a deserving candidate.

HONOLULU lawyer James E. Duffy Jr. is Senator Inouye's choice to fill one of 28 seats on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Hawaii has been unrepresented since Judge Herbert Choy reached senior status 15 years ago. Hawaii's presence on the federal appellate court is important, and Duffy, a respected attorney with strong political ties, would be a good choice.

Duffy, who earned his law degree from Marquette University, has practiced law in Hawaii since 1969. He has been honored by his peers by election as president of the Hawaii State Bar Association in 1981 and to the board of governors of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America a year later.

As a protege and longtime law partner of the late political power broker Wallace Fujiyama, he is known as much in a political context as a legal one. Not known as a criminal defense attorney, Duffy has been there when politicians have confronted civil or criminal charges. His clients have included then-Reps. Wayne Metcalf and Karen Horita (drunken driving), then-Sen. Steve Cobb (prostitution solicitation) and former Mayor Frank Fasi (sexual harassment).

However, Duffy has not necessarily been a defender of the status quo. As the special master appointed to review the operation of Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate, Duffy in 1992 issued a report describing a "disturbing situation" in which education seemed to have been given a secondary role to the estate's economic growth.

Duffy's ultimate selection to the 9th Circuit spot is hardly assured. California maintains muscle on the panel, which covers nine Western states, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

He may have a lengthy wait before donning a black robe.


America’s Cup

Bullet The issue: The Hawaii Tourism Authority rejected a request for financial assistance by the sponsors of a Hawaii entry in the America's Cup yacht race.
Bullet Our view: The rejection was a mistake but the Legislature should not interfere.

THE Hawaii Tourism Authority has decided to provide $957,000 to assist 25 sports events, but none of the money will go to the Hawaii entry in the America's Cup yacht race. That seems like a mistake. The opportunity to have a Hawaii boat competing in the world's foremost sailing event for the first time -- with the prospect that if Hawaii won, the next competition could be held here -- should not be missed.

It's hard to believe that all of the 25 events awarded funding by the Tourism Authority were more worthy than the America's Cup. But the board concluded that the prospects for promoting Hawaii tourism through the event weren't strong enough to justify funding.

The America's Cup promoters requested $3 million, but would have settled for a smaller figure. In fact, they intend to continue their efforts despite rejection by the authority, and we hope they succeed in getting their entry into the water and into the race.

Although we disagree with the authority's decision, an unfortunate precedent would be set if the Legislature provided funding independently, as it may do. The Senate has set aside $1 million and the House of Representatives $500,000 for this purpose.

The Tourism Authority was established for the express purpose of serving as the semi-autonomous instrument for promoting tourism with state funds. The Legislature should let the authority do its job without interference or circumvention of its decisions.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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