Friday, August 17, 2001

HSTA-state combat
moves to new ground

The issue: The fight over terms of
the teachers contract shifts to the labor
relations board and maybe the courts.

The latest salvos in the continuing battle between the state and the Hawaii State Teachers Association confirms that the union's decision to place the dispute before a third party was the right thing to do. The bickering has become tiresome even though the disparity about the terms of the teachers contract is no trivial matter.

Unfortunately, even with the matter in the hands of the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, a settlement appears a long way off.

After a brief lull in the war of words, Governor Cayetano returned from the mainland this week to reiterate his position that there was no agreement in the recently negotiated HSTA contract to pay teachers with advanced degrees bonuses for two years. The union repeated its position that there was.

The governor again said he is open to continued negotiations with the union. HSTA officials echoed that, saying they would welcome talks. Negotiating, however, means giving a little and neither the state nor the union showing any indication of backing off. All of these moves are just verbal volleys of hot air.

Meanwhile, teachers in the trenches may have to wait a long time before they see increases in their paychecks. The labor board hearings will be time consuming and even after a ruling is made, the fight will probably continue in the courts. Cayetano says if the board rules for the union, the state will go to court to appeal. The union says if it loses, it will appeal. The HSTA also has lobbed another bomb, asking the labor board for damages including interest for the delay in implementing the contract.

So in the months to come, the public can look forward to more wrangling as each side attempts to gain higher ground. The HSTA's recitations that teachers deserve respect and better pay will boom on. The governor will persist with remonstrations that the bonuses will come at the expense of student programs and other social services.

When this skirmish is over, stay tuned for more. A fresh round of talks for the union's next contract is set to begin later this year. With all the acrimony that has accumulated from the time the teachers went on strike last April through the present, the battle could escalate to the detriment of the state, the teachers and, most of all, the students in the public schools.

Honolulu and state
earn online plaudits

The issue: The city and state have
won praise for their Internet presence,
while the state judiciary remains in hiding.

INTERNET Web sites maintained by the city and the state have received national recognition for using new technology to provide more efficient service to the public. The city and state deserve praise for improving access to government by computer. In contrast, the state judiciary continues to build barriers. Hearings should be conducted to bring about the philosophical changes needed to bring Hawaii's legal system up to speed.

The city and county's Web site -- -- was selected last week as the best in the country among cities with comparable budgets and employees. It ranked third among 224 cities with populations of more than 100,000.

The Civic Resource Center, a California company specializing in e-government research, rated the Web sites for information delivery, technology, policies and online services.

The state executive branch's site -- -- was slow to develop, ranked 49th in the country last year by the Center for Digital Government in the category of electronic commerce. This year's survey rates it 15th following an effort spearheaded by Kathy Matayoshi, director of the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

In contrast, the state judiciary has been recalcitrant in putting information online. It has adopted a policy of creating "inconvenience" for the public by creating the "face-to-face necessity of requesting a hard copy file" as a desired "deterrent to inappropriate uses of personal information." The court system, which is not bound by state laws covering public access, decides arbitrarily what is "inappropriate."

The courts' Internet policy is an extension of its practice of taking extraordinary measures to avoid the public eye. For example, the courts currently have kept secret hearings and filings involving the Estate of James Campbell. The American Civil Liberties Union has joined the Star-Bulletin and KITV-4 News in trying to gain access to information that should be available not only at the courthouse but through your home computer.

The judiciary claims that the restrictions are intended to protect the privacy of people in legal proceedings. However, the broad practice of closing hearings and records is derived more from the inveterate belief that it is more comfortable to conduct the public's business in private.

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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