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Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Saturday, February 17, 2001

Legislator should resign
after 2nd DUI

There's no denying that state Rep. Noboru Yonamine is a nice guy. He's also been a conscientious legislator since 1989, according to testimony by about 30 of his constituents Thursday night during a hearing in his district.

But none of that should excuse the Pearl City politician from stepping down from his elected post after he was busted, for the second time in his life, for driving under the influence of alcohol.

There's no refuting Yonamine's remorse over the Feb. 7 incident. In fact, his instinctive response was to announce his resignation from office at the close of the current session for his lack of judgment and for possibly jeopardizing other drivers on the road.

Perhaps partially due to his commendably quick offer to step down (a far cry from the drawn-out Clintonesque defense of deny, deny, deny to the bitter end), many Pearl City residents are standing by their man. No, Yonamine should NOT quit, they say, because other than the DUI he is a doing a good job at the Capitol.

More important than the nature of his soul, however, is the nature of his role. Yonamine is a public servant. He is charged with the heady task of making the laws that the rest of us must follow or face punishment. As such, not only must he obey the rules but he should show, by example, that he is not exempt from the consequences of intentionally breaking them.

Is his sin more forgivable because no one was hurt or killed this time? Is showing sympathy for him more important than demonstrating to all public officials that we expect them not to be scofflaws?

Yonamine had it right when he offered to leave public office before summer, so a replacement could serve out the remainder of his two-year term. He himself told his small gathering of constituents on Thursday that, as an elected official, he should be "held to a higher standard."

Maybe, maybe not. But at least he should be held to the same one.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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