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Friday, November 17, 2000

Case dares
Democrats to
change their ways

Bullet The issue: State Rep. Ed Case, D-Manoa, has left his leadership role in the House because fellow Democrats have rejected change.
Bullet Our view: Democrats in Hawaii may be forced to change or lose control of state government.

DEMOCRATS in the state Legislature have received a wake-up call of considerable importance, but whether it is recognized as such is questionable. State Rep. Ed Case says his party must shed itself of strings pulled by public employee unions. Democrats should heed his warning or lose any identity they might have claimed as a progressive party.

Case, a lawyer and four-term legislator representing Manoa, has abandoned his party leadership role because of disagreement with House Speaker Calvin Say and other top Democrats. Case wanted Say to change the chairmanships of the Finance and Labor committees, but Say replied that he would only review suggestions from Democratic House members.

Case says that's "lip service" to changes needed to pass legislation in the next session. He regards key issues during the session to include civil service reform, the rising cost of approving union pay raises and the state pension's health fund, and complying with a federal court order to improve services for special-needs children in the public schools.

In sounding the alarm, Case merely did the math: Eight years ago, only four of the 51 House seats were occupied by Republicans. In the next Legislature, the GOP will have a record 19 seats.

Case is not alone is recognizing the growing public support for change from a government that has been controlled by public employee unions and dedicated to the interests of state and county employees. Governor Cayetano has challenged the unions over future benefits of public employees and funding an arbitrator's award of a $200 million pay raise for county and state workers. Mayor Harris earned the wrath of unions by trying to privatize some city services.

Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono has chosen to gamble on the past, aligning herself with the unions in breaking with Cayetano on the issue of the arbitrator's award and supporting the re-election of union sycophant Brian Kanno to the state Senate.

While Kanno narrowly retained his seat, the public employee unions' power at the polls is waning. Harris avoided a run-off in his re-election by winning a majority of votes in a three-way race, even though the two chief public employee unions -- the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the United Public Workers -- endorsed the mayoral candidacy of City Councilman Mufi Hannemann.

Hawaii's Republican Party can only hope that Democratic legislators will remain entrenched with the unions. It will then be only a matter of time before the GOP becomes the majority party in the state.

Stability in

Bullet The issue: Yugoslavia's new president has restored diplomatic relations with the West.
Bullet Our view: Western assistance may be needed to assure peace and stability in the region.

A large coalition of democratic forces last month toppled the regime of Slobodan Milosevic and replaced it with a government headed by former law professor Vojislav Kostunica. The new president has taken care in trying to create stability in that war-torn area the Balkans, but long-term peace is anything but assured. Restoration of diplomatic relations with the West should help.

Milosevic has restored relations that were broken off with the United States, Germany, France and Britain during last year's bombing campaign in the Kosovo region of Serbia. During the campaign leading up to the September elections, Kostunica declined to embrace the West, which many Serbians continued to resent.

However, upon his rise to the presidency following the Oct. 5 uprising, Kostunica has recognized the need to end Yugoslavia's isolation and find acceptance in the West. It quickly rejoined the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Achieving domestic tranquility may not be so easy. Kostunica's candidacy resulted from an 18-party coalition known as the Democratic Opposition of Serbia. Kostunica's party was a small member of that coalition. It was dominated instead by the Democratic Party, whose leader, Zoran Djindjic, shares a mutual mistrust with Kostunica.

Djindjic is said to be displeased with Kostunica's slow pace of changing the government. Kostunica looks to Dec. 23 parliamentary elections to put a permanent government in place. Then, he says, a parliamentary commission could dismiss Milosevic functionaries who still head the police, the secret police and the army. "Now," he says, "it would be quite irresponsible, at the moment when we are controlling things, to start experiments with the police and the secret police."

Another problem is that Montenegro, Serbia's tiny sister republic, broke with Serbia during the Milosevic's rule. Kostunica is urging Montenegro's president to forgo independence, partly to avoid demands for Kosovo's independence.

The various debates within the victorious coalition are not likely to subside any time soon. Kostunica may be an ideal mediator in this situation, but he will need support from abroad to bring a lasting peace to the Yugoslavia.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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