Friday, September 14, 2001

OHA logo

Court ruling should
renew OHA talks

The issue: The Hawaii Supreme Court
has ruled that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs
may not receive a share of airport revenues.

WHEN Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees bolted from negotiations with Governor Cayetano's administration three years ago over OHA claims to ceded land revenue, Chief Justice Ronald Moon warned that the outcome could be "devastating to both parties." The state Supreme Court has issued a ruling that confirms Moon's prediction, but most of the damage has been inflicted on OHA.

Negotiations should resume, and the decision clearly gives the state the upper hand. The Legislature nevertheless should find a formula to provide assistance to OHA without using airport revenues, which Congress and the courts have declared off-limits.

The Legislature passed a law in 1990 that provided for OHA to receive 20 percent of the revenue from land that had been taken over by the federal government with annexation in 1898. The land was transferred to the state with attainment of statehood in 1959 and earmarked for five purposes -- public education, improving the condition of Hawaiians, farm and home ownership, public improvements and public use.

Those ceded lands include Honolulu Airport, from which then-Circuit Judge Daniel Heely in 1996 ruled that OHA should receive 20 percent of the revenue. The judge ruled that it should include 20 percent of revenues from Duty Free Shoppers' Waikiki store, which ships goods through the airport. Heely's ruling, if upheld, would have resulted in an OHA windfall of $200 million to $1.2 billion from Duty Free revenues alone.

However, federal airport subsidies are provided on the condition that all airport revenue be spent on the airport system. The Federal Aviation Administration threatened in 1997 to withhold subsidies for Honolulu Airport unless the state recovered $28.2 million in airport revenue that already had been paid to OHA.

A year later, Congress approved legislation forgiving the $28.2 million debt but prohibiting the use of further airport-related funds to pay for ceded land claims. The 1990 state law contains a provision that makes it invalid if found to be in conflict with federal law. That conflict should have been plain to OHA trustees when they withdrew from negotiations with the state.

In overturning Heely's ruling, the Supreme Court ironically agreed with OHA that Duty Free Shoppers' revenue are airport-related. That clearly means that those revenues also should be used entirely for airport support.

The other irony, of course, is that the high court's rejection of OHA claims to airport revenue came as Honolulu Airport began coping with heightened security demands prompted by the disaster in New York and Washington. Airport expenses can be expected to skyrocket, making the diversion of airport revenue to non-airport purposes both legally disputable and, under today's circumstances, impracticable.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs

America attacked

Terrorists ruffle life,
but not our spirit

The issue: Traffic jams and airport hassles
are small prices to pay for safety.

HONOLULU'S HYPER-SENSITIVE traffic snarled predictably this week when military authorities, on high alert because of the terrorist attacks on the East Coast, increased security checks at entrances to bases.

The delays and disarray on roadways are but one of the myriad secondary consequences Americans will have to endure in the wake of the attacks. Although officials should do what they can to lessen the back-up of vehicles, the public can expect, at least temporarily, that what in the past were normal routines won't be.

Even under ordinary circumstances, traffic jams on Oahu seem to have a life of their own. Because of the huge driving population and a geography that limits substitute routes, the smallest incidents can cause massive gridlock. When big accidents occur, authorities often have been remiss in their duty to restore traffic movement.

With this week's events, however, the military would be negligent if it did not adhere to strict safety measures. Most motorists have been patient and understanding, but frustration levels will likely rise unless authorities are more mindful of the effects of their close inspections. If these checks are to continue indefinitely, military officials should make adjustments to work schedules, add personnel, open more entrances and do whatever else is necessary to avoid jams and interference with emergency situations.

Conventional thought is that Americans should go about business as usual, that if we do not, the terrorists will have accomplished their goal of disrupting our lives. But to pretend they haven't is to ignore reality. Witness the intense security as airports reopened yesterday, as members of Congress hurried down the steps of the Capitol because of a bomb threat. We have been unsettled, but we should not lose our strength of purpose. We should bear traffic delays and long lines at airline check-ins because all of this is for the greater good, the security of our fellow citizens.

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;

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin (USPS 249460) is published daily by
Oahu Publications at 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-500, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.
Periodicals postage paid at Honolulu, Hawaii. Postmaster: Send address changes to
Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.

E-mail to Editorial Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin