Monday, July 12, 1999

Interim trustees
are performing well

Bullet The issue: The five new leaders of the bishop Estate appear to be making positive improvements to the massive and once-chaotic trust.
Bullet Our view: We applaud these exemplary four men and one woman for all they are doing to improve Kamehameha Schools and the education of Hawaiian children.

IT'S been two months since five Bishop Estate trustees lost their jobs either by being removed by a judge or resigning after a nearly two-year battle to hang onto their posts. Stepping in as interim leaders have been five individuals with sterling business and community reputations, who have been quietly but boldly making major changes to the trust's governance. The fact that state officials, Kamehameha School leaders and Bishop Estate employees seem collectively pleased with their efforts affirms the positive effect that they've made thus far.

The interim trustees are an eclectic bunch: retired Iolani headmaster David Coon, former Honolulu Police Chief Francis Keala, retired Adm. Robert Kihune, attorney Ronald Libkuman and Constance Lau, treasurer of Hawaiian Electric Industries. They have reportedly made tremendous progress in working with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS almost revoked the 114-year-old charitable organization's nonprofit status because of questions over its previous management by Richard Wong, Henry Peters, Lokelani Lindsey, Gerard Jervis and Oswald Stender.

As their predecessors are appealing to get their jobs back, the interim trustees have been shaking up the estate. Most significantly, they have reversed the previous board's elimination of successful outreach programs, have restored Kamehameha Schools President Michael Chun's authority to run the campus, and have terminated controversial contracts with local politicians and friends of former trustees.

Of all these accomplishments, however, none may be more appreciated by the Kamehameha ohana than the new board's willingness to meet with concerned people and listen to their ideas. "The new board members have been a breath of fresh air. People feel that this is a new beginning for all of us," said Toni Lee, president of the Na Pua alumni group. That is high praise considering all the unhappiness and chaos that engulfed the Bishop Estate just a few months ago.


Close the Internet gap
between rich and poor

Bullet The issue: Access to the World Wide Web is growing at a fast pace, but the gap between affluent whites and the poor and minorities is growing.
Bullet Our view: Greater efforts should be made to make the value of Internet usage more understood throughout society.

AS computer prices fall and the amount of business, communication and research conducted on the Internet mushrooms, online usage should become more universal. However, that has not happened. In the past two years, the chasm between Internet usage by whites and minorities, and by the poor and rich, has actually grown. That disparity can be expected to continue, but efforts are needed to reduce it as quickly as possible.

Telephones went through the same transition toward "universal usage," but even that is a fallacy. Families with incomes of less than $20,000 trail the national average in phone ownership, and many Americans living in poverty cannot even afford one.

Computer ownership last year reached 42 percent in the United States and in Hawaii, according to the latest report by Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Among families earning between $15,000 and $35,000, one-third of whites and more than 42 percent of Asian Americans but only 19 percent of blacks and Hispanics owned computers.

The relative figures reflecting Internet usage are similar. From 1997-98, Internet access rose nationally from 18.6 percent of American households to more than 25 percent but the numbers were much smaller for minorities, the poor and rural people. Sixty-two percent of urban households with incomes of more than $75,000 were online, while only 2.9 percent of poor rural households of $5,000 to $10,000 had access to the Web, the Commerce report said.

During that same one-year period, Internet access by whites leaped from one in five households to one in three. Access among black households grew from 7.7 percent to 11.7 percent, and among Hispanic households from 8.7 to 12.9 percent. While access by each of the three groups increased by 50 percent, that resulted in a larger gap between usage by whites and minorities. For example, the percentage difference between online white households and online black households increased from 13 percent to 20 percent.

This is not merely a view of luxury haves and have-nots, because Internet access is fast becoming as much a necessity as a telephone. The report indicates that poorer people who were able to gain access to the Web used it to find jobs and seek education.

"While we are encouraged by the dramatic growth in the access Americans have to the nation's information technologies, the growing disparity in access between certain groups and regions is alarming," said Commerce Secretary Bill Daley.

The Clinton administration has launched an ambitious campaign to bring Internet access to the nation's schools and libraries. The more that the value of going online is understood, the narrower the gap in usage among various segments of society will become, but don't expect it to disappear.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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