Sunday, September 23, 2001

Federal agency
should take over
aviation security

Remember 9-11-01

The issue: Heightened airport security
measures have proven inadequate since
the terrorist attack on New York
and Washington.

REPORTS of airport security operations designed to fail and continuing ineptitude since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack are galvanizing support for federal takeover of the system. A single law-enforcement agency is urgently needed to provide the highest level of aviation security possible in an integrated system that covers everything from check-in to sky marshals in-flight to arrival.

Sens. Earnest F. Hollings, D-S.C., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, respectively chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's Aviation Subcommittee, support turning responsibility for nationwide airport security over to the federal government.

Duane Worth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, says a government-financed Federal Aviation Security Agency should be given the job. Others have suggested the responsibility be assigned to the U.S. Coast Guard, which traditionally has performed civilian tasks during peacetime and military duties during times of war.

The Federal Aviation Administration has begun recruiting air marshals to preserve the safety aboard airliners. However, continued enforcement of security by private companies from curbside to the airplane's door leaves aviation security fractured.

Studies for years have lamented the porous security at the nation's airports. The system of airline consortiums hiring private security companies at the lowest bid has resulted in minimum-wage workers with little training operating scanners and wands. Many of the employees of International Total Services Inc., assigned to provide security at Hawaii's airports, are recent immigrants who speak little English.

One employee told the Star-Bulletin's Tim Ruel that nine trials were made with fake hand grenades taped to wheelchairs that were to pass through checkpoints at Honolulu Airport. The grenades went undetected in seven of the nine trials; in one of the two attempts in which the grenades were spotted, one had fallen from the tape.

State and company officials on Thursday displayed 1,500 items that had been seized from ticketed passengers at Honolulu Airport since the terrorist attack, but we wonder how many knives, scissors, syringes and other potential weapons went undetected. At large airports across the country, passengers who have tested the heightened security have found that they could pass through checkpoints freely with such items.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has appointed two task forces on security -- one for airports and the other for airlines -- to make recommendations by Oct. 1. A single task force would have been more appropriate in arriving at a decision to install a seamless aviation security system.

OHA logo

Another change
in leadership won’t
help OHA

The issue: Trustees of the Office
of Hawaiian Affairs are again engaged
in internal squabbles that have
plagued the agency.

AT A TIME they need to present a unified front, the trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs are once again locked in an internal struggle that can only lead to further damage to the agency's reputation. The public's perception of OHA as an ineffective body is understandable as trustees continue their petty push and shove for power while doing little toward improving the condition of ethnic Hawaiians.

Five of OHA's nine trustees are seeking to dethrone current board chairwoman Haunani Apoliona and replace her with former chairman Clayton Hee. The change would be the fifth leadership shuffle since 1997, when Hee replaced retired trustee A. Frenchy DeSoto.

The catalyst for the latest squabble is a ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court earlier this month, which invalidated a 1990 law that calculates how much the state must pay OHA in ceded land revenues. The state in negotiations with OHA had offered $251 million and 360,000 acres of ceded land, but OHA balked.

With the ruling, it now must seek relief from the state Legislature, which may be reluctant to come up with a formula to provide OHA with funds.

Hee, who is leading the challenge, blames Apoliona for the mess, criticizing her and her board allies for not accepting the state's offer. The long-time trustee, who has said he will run for lieutenant governor next year, has clearly been uncomfortable with a secondary role on the board.

At a board meeting earlier this week, Hee was again critical of his fellow board members, saying, "OHA cuts its own throat." He is exactly right. His ally, trustee Rowena Akana, says what OHA needs new leadership. She is exactly wrong. What OHA needs is real leadership, period. None of the trustees appears to have a clear vision of OHA's mission. None seems to be able to get past the infighting.

The court's ruling put OHA -- already reeling from challenges to its constitutionality -- on even shakier territory. The board must find common ground. How can it expect to argue its case for funding and for a new formula on assistance from the Legislature while its house remains in disarray.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs

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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