Thursday, April 19, 2001

One strike down;
and one to go...

The issue: The settlement with the
university faculty should ease some of the pain
generated during the strike, but much healing
remains to be achieved.

THE END of the strike by the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly brings relief to faculty members and students, the state administration and legislators and to the public watching this disturbing tableau unfold.

The animosity that emerged during the days of pickets and harsh exchanges should be purged because opportunity lies ahead. UH is about to get a new president, Evan S. Dobelle, who will start here July 1. He will need the help of everyone to create a fresh atmosphere. He has the support of Governor Cayetano and has impressed lawmakers and the business community.

Some faculty members who reserved judgment on Dobelle have in recent weeks acknowledged that his leadership elsewhere has been admirable. UHPA's agreement to a system of merit pay also signals a willingness as educators accept some accountability for job performance.

That acrimony lingers can be perceived in remarks and whispers from political and university observers who pointed to the scene Tuesday night when Cayetano announced the settlement. Notably missing from the smiling faces at the news conference was J.N. Musto, the feisty executive director of UHPA, who had been prominent on the picket lines and throughout the contract talks. Some speculated that he had been asked to step aside as the settlement came close because of his conflicts with the governor.

Musto should be recognized for his strength of conviction in getting the best contract he could. In the same vein, Cayetano should be acknowledged for holding to his purposes despite caustic criticism and scathing personal attacks. He should be credited with doing what he thought was right, a rare characteristic among politicians.

Meanwhile, the contract stalemate with public school teachers continues to damage the community. The governor has said the UHPA settlement gives momentum to the negotiations with the Hawaii State Teachers Association. Clearly, working out a deal with the HSTA should be a top priority.

After that, refurbishing Hawaii's entire educational system will be the big task.

The good, the bad
and the troubling

The issue: The news that has been
washing over Hawaii this week has been in turn
heroic, troubling, constructive and questionable.

THE TWO policemen who were wounded in the line of duty, Robert K. Steiner Jr. and Aaron Masami Bernal, are due the gratitude of the community for their courageous performances late Tuesday afternoon in a shootout near Waipio. Prayers for their swift recovery are in order.

The episode once again raises the question of gun control. Many police officers, including many in Honolulu, say that new laws are not necessarily the answer to the flood of weapons with which their lives are put into jeopardy every day. But they do argue, with considerable conviction, that the gun laws on the books should be rigorously enforced.

As the investigation of Tuesday's shootout goes forward, we hope the police will tell the community how the gunman obtained his weapon and whether the gun laws were violated as he did so.

Drugs and school:

The Bush administration has decided to enforce -- try to enforce would be more accurate -- a law that the Clinton administration chose to ignore, for the most part. The 1998 law says that if a young person has been convicted on a charge of illicit drugs, he or she may be denied federal financial aid for college.

For one conviction, financial aid may be denied for a year. For the second conviction, the denial could be for two years. A third conviction brings indefinite denial.

The first provision sounds too harsh. Plenty of young people make mistakes and find ways to straighten themselves out. They should be encouraged, not penalized. If a young person has gone through rehabilitation and can have that certified by a doctor or other appropriate authority, he or she should be given a pat on the back and a boost up the ladder.

The provisions for the second and third convictions are far less troubling. The real problem: How to enforce a law that might apply to 10 million applicants a year.

Lead emissions:

After getting beaten about the ears by environmentalists for several earlier rulings, President Bush has decided to maintain strong controls over lead emissions that were initially put in place by President Clinton. The administration has also decided to retain rules intended to protect wetlands.

The ruling on lead is intended to reduce cases of lead poisoning that can be the consequence of emissions from 9,800 factories such as metal smelters and makers of electronic equipment. Environmentalists have given grudging approval.

Mercury contamination:

State health officials appear to be patting themselves on the back for their handling of mercury contamination that unnerved the community, but they leave themselves open to further criticism if the mercury is not removed quickly.

Health director Bruce Anderson said his department's response to the contamination at the Puuwai Momi housing complex averted health hazards. The state's claim that it moved quickly to clean up the contamination makes the removal of the source of the mercury no less urgent.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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