Wednesday, May 12, 1999

City Council reshuffle
should end bickering

Bullet The issue: Mufi Hannemann's proposed city budget has cost him his job as City Council chairman.
Bullet Our view: The public wants less wrangling and more cooperation between the mayor and the Council.

THE proposed city budget unveiled by City Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann last week not only had Mayor Harris quivering with rage. It also angered Hannemann's colleagues so much that they have tossed him out as chairman. Hannemann, who has made no secret of his ambition for higher office, has overplayed his hand in the latest round of political poker.

His successor apparently will be Jon Yoshimura, leader of a new majority that includes Rene Mansho, Andy Mirikitani, Duke Bainum, Steve Holmes and John DeSoto. Yoshimura said he would take over as chairman next week.

Out in the cold with Hannemann are Budget Committee Chairman John Henry Felix and Zoning Committee Chairwoman Donna Mercado Kim. Felix is to be replaced as budget chairman by Mansho, Kim at zoning by DeSoto.

Hannemann, announcing $18 million in cuts to the mayor's budget last week, proposed to eliminate most of the deputy department heads appointed by the mayor and their assistants, as a way to save money. Harris argued that the cuts would cause chaos. The Council chairman also rejected Harris' proposed fees for refuse collection in favor of increased bus fares.

Hannemann hinted that he was open to negotiations with Harris on his budget proposals, suggesting that his controversial cuts were a bargaining ploy. But the gambit backfired, with Harris encouraging Yoshimura to form a new majority group.

Yoshimura said he would not be a rubber stamp for the mayor but vowed to work with him to craft an acceptable budget. Yoshimura said he expected to restore the deputy directorships and other jobs that Hannemann wanted to eliminate.

Harris welcomed the change, saying he could work better with the new leadership. That should please the public, which wants less posturing and more cooperation between the mayor and the Council in dealing with the city's very real fiscal problems.


TWA 800

Bullet The issue: The FBI clung to its theory that a bomb or missile caused the explosion of TWA Flight 800 after receiving a report that a mechanical flaw was the cause.
Bullet Our view: The FBI's suppression of the report could have led to other catastrophes.

CONSPIRACY theorists were quick to conclude that the explosion of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in July 1996 was caused by a bomb or missile, but the FBI was not believed to have been among the gullible. The agency's suppression of a report that mechanical problems accounted for the blast indicates otherwise.

Soon after the 230-fatality disaster, Internet surfers, including Pierre Salinger, former press secretary for President John Kennedy, alleged that a Navy missile shot down the airliner. The FBI dismissed the "friendly fire" theory but charged ahead with its own view that a bomb or missile was the cause.

The FBI maintained that theory even after receiving a report prepared by fire and explosive experts from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms concluding that the blast appeared to have been caused by a flaw in the center fuel tank. The FBI seems to have been flustered by the report because its investigation was not yet complete.

FBI officials say they forwarded the BATF report to the National Transportation Safety Board, although with a cover letter calling it "an extraordinary violation of investigative protocol." Board officials say they have no record of having formally received the report, although they obtained it "over the transom."

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, says the FBI's "blind fixation on finding evidence of a bomb or missile" despite the contradictory report made it hard for the safety board to persuade the Federal Aviation Administration to take corrective steps. The FBI's slowness in accepting physical evidence disproving its missile theory could have stalled steps to prevent other planes from meeting a similar fate.

Adversarial behavior by federal agencies involved in such an investigation -- in this case, the FBI's -- should not be tolerated.


Aviation safety

Bullet The issue: An airline pilot cut short his flight because crew members didn't get sufficient sleep in a cramped bunk.
Bullet Our view: The airline's decision to support the pilot underlined the importance it places on safety.

ROSCOE McMillan took a chance when he landed his Delta Air Lines MD-11 plane in Portland, Ore., rather than continue on a flight from Atlanta to Japan. The 59-year-old McMillan, who has more than 30 years' experience with Delta, could have been reprimanded or even dismissed if the airline had concluded he diverted the plane as a protest. He was due to retire in less than a year.

McMillan said he landed the plane for reasons of safety because the two relief crew members didn't get sufficient sleep in the cramped bunk provided. Federal regulations require airlines to provide on-board sleeping quarters for pilots on flights of 12 hours or more. Four crew members take turns at the controls.

Delta investigated, interviewing McMillan and the other crew members. It concluded that his decision was justified. An airline spokesman commented, "He said it was based on safety concerns, and safety comes first." The airline is now working on a design for roomier sleeping quarters.

Delta pilots may soon be resting easier on long flights. Delta's passengers may also be resting easier, knowing their pilots are getting enough sleep.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

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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