Wednesday, September 22, 1999

Traffic-slowing device
should increase safety

Bullet The issue: The city is installing a "roundabout" at an intersection in Makiki.
Bullet Our view: Such devices should be placed in many neighborhoods.

Preventing traffic accidents on neighborhood streets is a somewhat different problem than dealing with major thoroughfares and highways. One strategy is to force motorists to slow down by creating physical obstacles. Used on the mainland, in Europe and Australia, they're called "traffic-calming" devices.

This technique is being applied by the city in the form of a "roundabout," a raised, landscaped circle that will be placed in the center of the intersection of Keeaumoku and Heulu streets in Makiki. The first installation of its kind in Honolulu, it will force drivers to make their way around it in a counter-clockwise direction.

Speeders may find it a nuisance, but it should be a big plus for safety. One resident said the roundabout will mean that cars "cannot fly up and down the street at 40 to 50 miles an hour." The legal limit is 25 mph.

Mayor Harris says traffic-slowing measures are planned in every council district.

Another roundabout is planned for the Salt Lake area. The city also intends to install "bulb-outs" -- extensions of the curb into the street, which shorten the distance pedestrians must cross and force drivers to slow down as the street narrows. Bulb-outs are planned at another Makiki intersection and in Kaimuki. Mililani will get a raised median/pedestrian crossing island.

The Keeaumoku-Heulu intersection is bordered by a day-care center and school, a church, an apartment building and a house. There have been 13 accidents, one major, in the last two years.

This appears to be a good place to test the effectiveness of roundabouts. They should work better than stop signs, which are sometimes ignored.

Roundabouts, bulb-outs -- whatever it takes to reduce traffic accidents, we're for. Let's have more of them.

Russian corruption

Bullet The issue: Alleged laundering of money through the Bank of New York has made some politicians leery of future aid to Russia.
Bullet Our view: Western aid to Russia should continue but with closer scrutiny and stricter conditions.

CORRUPTION has sidetracked Russia's economic reforms to such an extent that the withdrawal of Western support has become tempting. Russian gangsters allegedly laundered billions of dollars through the Bank of New York, and the illegality may have extended inside the Kremlin. The reports have increased the desire to quarantine this Frankenstein of a nation at a time when greater Western involvement is needed.

Republican leaders have denounced the Clinton administration's policy of supporting aid to Russia. Vice President Al Gore's active role in U.S. relations with the Kremlin has become a liability to his presidential bid.

The administration erred not in its support of financial aid but in its failure to assure responsible handling of the money. Future assistance will require strict oversight to be effective.

Cutting off aid and writing off Russia as too corrupt for reform "would inhibit our ability to promote democratization and it would raise the risk that the United States and the West would be labeled as scapegoats for Russia's failure to address its problems," Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers told Congress.

Summers says the administration will propose a number of measures to strengthen enforcement of laws against money laundering and apply them to a broad range of criminals, including government officials.

He said the International Monetary Fund already has acted to assure that billions of dollars in loans are used for legitimate purposes. Swiss banks have frozen $16.8 billion in Russian accounts believed to be linked to the Bank of New York case.

Questions remain about whether the illegal activity has involved high-level Russian officials. Investigation and prosecution of Russian gangsters -- inside or outside of government -- should be one of the conditions for further Western aid.

Kamehameha statue

Bullet The issue: The statue of King Kamehameha I on the Big Island will be restored, but it's not been decided whether to go with the original bronze or to repaint it.
Bullet Our view: Bronze is better.

THE original statue of King Kamehameha I has had a stormy history -- literally. Cast in Paris, it was being transported to Hawaii when the ship carrying it sank in 1880 in the South Atlantic off the Falkland Islands.

Insurance for the loss was used to cast and ship a replica to Honolulu, where it was installed at Aliiolani Hale, now the Supreme Court building, across South King Street from Iolani Palace.

But the original statue was recovered intact, except for a broken hand and spear and a hole in the cape. The original was placed at Hawi, near Kamehameha's birthplace in Kohala.

For more than a century, the statue has been exposed to strong winds, high humidity and airborne chlorides. A conservator who examined it says the damage is extensive.

Restoration is planned for next year, with work to begin in June 2000 and to be completed by June 2001. Layers of paint applied over the years must be removed in order to repair corrosion. Kohala residents will participate.

Still undecided is whether the statue should be restored to its original bronze or repainted, as has been the custom. We prefer the bronze, but the main thing is to restore the statue.

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