Friday, June 25, 1999

No July 4 carnival at
Ala Moana Park

Bullet The issue: A carnival was proposed for the Fourth of July at Ala Moana Park.
Bullet Our view: The park is too crowded with beach-goers and fireworks spectators to accommodate a carnival.

THE people who proposed to hold a carnival at Ala Moana Park on the Fourth of July ought to have their heads examined. Their intentions were good -- to benefit the Variety School for learning-disabled children and help pay for the fireworks show over Magic Island and a concert at Ala Moana Center. But it was terribly impractical.

The park is always crowded on holiday weekends, and the fireworks draw thousands of spectators. Adding a carnival to the mix would have created chaos.

On Wednesday Mayor Harris first said he favored holding the carnival, but later in the day announced the school was withdrawing its application to use the park.

A public hearing on the issue had been set for June 30, but city attorneys said the city would then have to wait 10 days for new rules to take effect for the carnival to be held. Harris explained there wasn't enough time to go through the rule-making process.

Aside from that technicality, the fact remains that the proposal was wholly inappropriate. A carnival at Ala Moana Park on the Fourth of July would have created a traffic nightmare.

Despite the cancelation of the carnival, the general manager of Ala Moana Center, Dwight Yoshimura, dismissed an earlier warning that the program would be in jeopardy if the carnival was called off. Yoshimura said the fireworks display would go on and the center's merchants should be able to raise the money to stage and televise the concert.

The fireworks display is in its eighth year and has become a tradition for the holiday, for which Ala Moana Center deserves thanks. But no carnival, please.

Unions for doctors

Bullet The issue: The American Medical Association has endorsed the formation of a national union for doctors.
Bullet Our view: With so many doctors working as salaried employees of HMOs and hospitals, unionization is inevitable.

THOUSANDS of doctors are already members of unions, but the vote by the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association to support the formation of a national union puts the profession solidly behind the movement.

The main purpose of union organization is to give doctors more leverage in dealing with managed-care companies, known as HMOs. These companies have grown rapidly in recent years and now occupy a prominent place in the nation's health-care system.

A primary objective of HMOs is to control soaring health-care costs. But doctors employed by HMOs complain that their decisions on treating patients are subject to restrictions imposed by people with no medical training, on the basis of budgetary concerns.

Nationwide, an estimated 38,000 to 45,000 doctors, many of them interns and residents, now belong to unions, up from only about 25,000 two years ago. This is roughly 6 percent of the nation's 600,000 practicing doctors.

A national union would support the formation of local bargaining units for doctors who work full time for HMOs or hospitals. About half of the nation's doctors now work in such salaried positions, with 80 percent of recent graduates taking such jobs.

Federal law bars doctors who are not employees from forming unions in the traditional sense. However, legislation giving self-employed doctors collective-bargaining rights is now pending in Congress.

Many doctors have difficulty reconciling trade unionism with their professional status. However, AMA policy forbids doctors to strike, which makes the AMA's support of unionism somewhat more palatable. Some contended that the AMA had to act to maintain its credibility when doctors are organizing unions in any event.

With so many doctors drawing salaries and complaining about their employers, unionization was bound to come to medicine. Their patients may also benefit.

Desecrating the flag

Bullet The issue: The House has approved a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to prohibit desecration of the American flag.
Bullet Our view: The proposed amendment is an assault on the First Amendment and should be rejected by the Senate.

SINCE the U.S. Supreme Court decided a decade ago that a state could not criminalize desecration of the American flag, misguided politicians have called for changing the Constitution to allow Congress to enact such a statute.

To do so would for the first time in history limit individual freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. For those who propose such a constitutional amendment, the flag seems to have become more important than the liberties it symbolizes.

The high court in 1989 overturned a Texas law that banned flag desecration and a year later held that the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech prevented the conviction of demonstrators for flag burning in violation of a federal law.

For the third straight Congress, the House has voted to amend the Constitution to make an exception to the First Amendment by criminalizing flag desecration.

Such an amendment would be not only reactionary but probably unenforceable.

Sponsors of such an amendment profess a high degree of patriotism. However, their love of country is misdirected toward protecting the most important symbol of freedom at the expense of the very freedom itself.

The Senate must again act to protect the country from this attack on the Constitution by rejecting the proposed amendment.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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