Friday, November 16, 2001

Aviation security helps
isle tourism

The issue: Federal aviation security will
help prospects for Hawaii's tourist industry.

CONSUMER confidence of aviation security is an essential element of Hawaii's tourist industry, and legislation that was expected to be sent to the White House today for President Bush's signature is an important step toward the industry's recovery. Hawaii tourist numbers remain dismal more than two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, but a calming of travelers' nerves could lead to a gradual improvement.

Americans' anxiety about what has been described as the nation's new normalcy will not disappear overnight. New security standards at airports and aboard commercial flights will help ease concerns, as will military successes in the war against terrorism. A healthy tourist industry also requires that vacationers feel the comfort of economic security. As in the past, Hawaii stands to benefit from a recovering economy on the mainland.

Kenneth Mead, the U.S. Department of Transportation's inspector general, may have given the congressional effort a nudge on Wednesday by reporting that nearly 90 security breaches had occurred at airports since Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced a "zero tolerance" policy on Oct. 30. Private security companies that gained low-bid contractors from airline consortiums and paid their employees minimum wages have been ridiculed as sieves.

The airlines will gladly rid themselves of the responsibility for security, which they regarded as an onerous expense with no profit. The screening system will be placed under the control of the DOT instead of the Justice Department, as the Senate bill envisaged. Federal operation will be financed by a $2.50 fee for each leg of a passenger's plane trip, with a limit of $5 per fare.

Congressional conferees agreed on a bill that largely embraces the Senate plan to turn over the screening of passenger baggage to 28,000 federal employees, with better salaries and qualifications than those employed by private contractors now doing the job. At Honolulu Airport, Keahole Airport on the Big Island and 100 other airports in 34 states, federal employees will take over the duties of International Total Services Inc., which filed for reorganization bankruptcy after the September attack. The nationwide transition is expected to take up to a year.

The bill also includes requirements for reinforcement of cockpit doors, more armed federal air marshals and a goal of screening of all checked bags for explosives by the end of next year.

A wide assortment of positive signs of military success, economic stability and domestic security could restore Americans' confidence in the nation's well-being and their personal situations. In the meantime, economic stimuli such as tax credits for travel may be needed to ignite the travel industry.

Iolani Palace flag flap
was unnecessary

The issue: Raising the U.S. flag at the
palace and then apologizing
stirs further conflict.

The attempt to express unity by flying the American flag over Iolani Palace after the Sept. 11 attacks has instead opened a rift between those who saw the flag's display as a demonstration of national pride and those for whom it symbolized the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.

Now comes an apology for the flag's unfurling from Alice Guild, executive director of the Friends of Iolani Palace, a clumsy attempt to smooth over divisiveness that itself has sparked further discord. This quarrel should end now. Nothing is gained by arguing about symbols if the core of the disharmony remains unresolved.

The conflict that evolved should be a lesson for the Friends of Iolani Palace. In an atmosphere of heightened emotions, rational acts -- in this case to honor those who died in the terrorist attacks and to show national unity -- could be misunderstood. The Friends board, knowing that the palace itself is a symbol to many Hawaiians, should have considered the flag-raising with more sensitivity. Further, the executive director should have anticipated the critical reaction her subsequent apology would generate.

At the same time, Hawaiians and others who were critical of the flag's display should look beyond their sentiments to recognize the board's more far-reaching intent of paying homage to the people who lost their lives and the police officers and firefighters who served selflessly and tirelessly. It was an honorable gesture and should unequivocally have been seen as such.

The Hawaiian flag has been the banner over the palace since 1969 as part of seeking historical authenticity. Immediately after the terrorist attacks, the Hawaiian flag was lowered to half staff. Then, from Sept. 28 to Oct. 28, the American flag was flown as a patriotic gesture. Similarly, Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii's last monarch, flew the American flag over Washington Place in honor of Hawaii's soldiers killed in World War I.

The American flag is a powerful symbol. In times of crisis, its display can be inspiring and comforting. It is often exploited, as witnessed by the myriad cheap red, white and blue trinkets for sale everywhere these days. However, neither flag-waving -- nor flag-burning, for that matter -- measures patriotism. Patriotism runs deeper. It means cleaving to the nation's principles. For Americans, for Friends of Iolani Palace, for citizens of Hawaii, then, patriotism should encompass the tolerance and good will to look at what unites and not at what divides.

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

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

Richard Halloran, editorial page director, 529-4790;
John Flanagan, contributing editor 294-3533;

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