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Surcharges on cars, parks would fix budget

In their "Price of Paradise" essays (Star-Bulletin, Dec. 1), City Councilman Charles Djou writes that you don't balance the budget by raising taxes, you do it by raising the economy; Councilman Gary Okino states that taxes will have to be raised and programs such as Sunset on the Beach be cut. I would add the Vision Team program to the cut list.

We will have to wait and see what kind of revenue-producing ideas the mayor will propose to meet the city's projected $159 million revenue shortfall. I have a few ideas. Let's assume there are 500,000 cars and drivers on Oahu. I see them all when I drive between town and Wahiawa. An annual $100 surcharge on each car equals $50 million.

Ditto for an annual driver's license -- another $50 million.

Need more money? Let's charge a fee to all users of city parks: joggers, walkers, skateboarders, restroom users, and so on. How much to charge and how to do it? I'll leave that for others to figure out. Just hire young, gung-ho intellects like Djou and give them their orders. Merry Christmas.

Walter Chung

Judges should get tough with criminals

I felt sick to my stomach as I read Rod Antone's article about car thefts (Star-Bulletin, Dec. 4), as earlier in the day my new Ford F-150 was broken into at the Pali Highway's hunter check-in station. Do I keep anything in my truck? No. Did these scumbags get anything out of my truck? No. Did this ordeal cost me? Yes, approximately $475 in repairs. What a wonderful Christmas this will be!

I have some suggestions about how to curb this problem. First, breaking into cars is punishable by up to five years in prison, so let's make these scumbags do every day of the maximum sentence. Let's also restrict their privileges until full restitution is paid to the victims. Make prison a place where people just don't want to go, rather than the day camp that it seems to be. As for probation, just get rid of it.

Judges often let the guilty parties serve sentences concurrently for 10 or 15 different charges. Where's the justice in that? Perhaps it will take a few more judges' cars to be broken into before some real sentences are handed out.

Daniel J. Bryant

Sex ed too important to be voluntary

While I agree that in a perfect world parents should be responsible for the sex education of their offspring, we all know that this is not happening. Sexual "problems," as one letter writer called them, such as AIDS, other STDs and unplanned pregnancies that could result from having sex are, indeed, "eternal" (Letters, Star-Bulletin, Dec. 1). This is a very good reason that sex education should be mandatory.

The letter writer is correct in declaring that people need to be educated properly to save their lives. But can our school system really afford to keep on staff "health professionals" to provide information and other services, and then only on a voluntary-access basis? Will our children even use these services if they don't know how, or when to, or if they are too ashamed to?

Mandatory sex ed taught by informed educators (or better yet, peers) would at least educate all students as to when and how to access these types of services; it would help them to feel comfortable getting the help they need in case no one else is there for them.

The "voluntary" part of the equation should lie with them and what they choose to do with the information they have gotten; let's not deny them information that could very well save their lives.

Vincent Fernandez

Poor parade planning trapped motorists

Auwe to the Honolulu Police Department for the poor traffic control at the Kaimuki Christmas parade. Rather than blocking off 10th Avenue between Harding and Waialae avenues, it was left open only to be blocked on the Waialae side by parade spectators. Motorists were blocked in for more than 45 minutes because the HPD solo bike officers would not allow any of the cars to pass.

Perhaps HPD will have more common sense and block off the Harding Avenue side the next time a parade is held.

Michael Morioka

Navy sonar program kills marine animals

In the midst of war plans and other troubling developments, something that has received little attention is the U.S. Navy's plans to deploy Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) in 75 percent of the world's oceans.

LFA sonar is designed to detect "quiet" submarines by emitting an extremely loud, low-frequency noise across hundreds of square miles of ocean. At 235 decibels or higher, this is one of the loudest noises man has ever made.

Every exercise involving LFA sonar has resulted in fatal hemorrhaging in the brains, eyes and ears of whales and dolphins, including the deaths of 12 whales and more than 200 dolphins off the coast of Greece in 1996 and a mass stranding in the Bahamas in 2000.

The Navy does not even need LFA sonar; the program is an obsolete relic of the Cold War. The Navy has at least two passive sonar systems that are not harmful to marine mammals.

The late Rep. Patsy Mink had the vision and courage to speak out against the deployment and funding of this destructive technology. I hope our next congressperson and the people of Hawaii continue Mink's progressive legacy.

Jeffree Pike

Suffering dog deserves 'pardon'

Chocolate, the dog suffering from cancer, should be let out of quarantine to die at home.

If the governor can give pardons to criminals, why can't it be done for a sick and dying dog who never hurt anyone, unlike the criminals who have been released?

Just because she did not pass her second blood test (due to the fact that she has terminal cancer), doesn't mean she can potentially be carrying the rabies virus. Second blood tests have been proven to be unnecessary after a dog has been vaccinated and shown to have the antibodies from the results of the first blood test.

It shouldn't take two weeks or more to find a way to release Chocolate. With the stroke of a pen, Governor Lingle can and should give poor Chocolate an executive pardon.

Jennie Wolfe

No responsible growth for Central Oahu

At the final meeting of the City Council, residents of the Mililani area lost their three-year battle for responsible development in Central Oahu when the Council voted 7-2 to approve the Central Oahu Sustainable Communities Plan.

The approved plan also included the last-minute addition of another 150 acres for development near Royal Kunia; this was added at the Council meeting without any prior opportunity for public comment.

In their statements during the meeting, some of the Council members said that this addition was crucial to the developer getting loan approval to build a much-needed school for those already living in Royal Kunia.

Throughout this struggle, the mantra of the Department of Planning and Permitting has been, "Don't worry, the plan is just a guideline and without adequate traffic infrastructure and educational facilities, zoning for development will be denied."

If your children attend schools such as those in Mililani, whose seven schools have more than 100 portable classrooms in a "master-planned community" and are still over capacity, ask yourself: "Is this how the zoning process ensures adequate school facilities?"

If you live in Central Oahu or the Ewa area, ask yourself as you sit in traffic going to and from work: "Is this how the zoning process ensures adequate traffic infrastructure?"

And finally, ask yourself: "Do I feel confident that the zoning process will work any better in the future?"

Doug Thomas

Exhausted nurses want better patient care

Imagine working 12-hour shifts with no time for breaks, no time to go to the bathroom, and barely time enough for a 15-minute lunch because your primary concern is to make sure your patients get the care they require.

You can't ask your co-workers to watch your patients so you can take a short break because they are all working just as hard. Then, at the end of the shift, you are told that you can't go home yet because you are mandated to work another four hours of overtime to make up for the short-staffing the nursing supervisors knew about several hours, days or even weeks before.

This is the life of a typical staff nurse. We are not out on the picket lines with dollar signs in our eyes. We are hoping that the hospitals will realize how strongly nurses feel about our patients' safety. We would like not to be so overworked, understaffed and underappreciated that we can't spend a few minutes with our patients just talking story and listening to their concerns. We would like to be able to spend the appropriate time caring for our critically ill patients without severely compromising the care of our other patients.

As registered nurses, we are our patients' advocates. We are your voice in health care. Our willingness to strike at Christmas time emphasizes our commitment to improving the care given to our patients.

Bernadette Ildefonso, R.N.

News media treat Rodrigues unfairly

As a lawyer involved in the defense of Gary W. Rodrigues, I have been appalled at the amount of misinformation put out by the media. Although I do not fault reporters who were unable to understand the convoluted and confusing charges, the commentators who did not attend the trial cannot be excused for recklessly spreading falsehoods based on nothing more than their own prejudices.

Of the many falsehoods that are now circulating, one in particular must be corrected: Gary Rodrigues did not steal or misappropriate any money from the United Public Workers or its members, and he was not convicted of doing so.

The evidence at trial established that the UPW health and dental plans are a completely voluntary alternative to the State Public Employees Health Fund plans; UPW members choose the union's plan only if they can see that its rates and coverage are better. The evidence overwhelmingly showed that the UPW's rates were lower and the coverage better than the health fund's.

Consultant fees, such as those received by Rodrigues' daughter, Robin Sabatini, were shown to be a common feature of many employee benefit plans and are a cost carried by the insurance carriers, not the UPW. These fees did not affect the premium rates paid by UPW members.

The evidence was so clear on this point that the prosecution had to withdraw the charge that Rodrigues negotiated inflated premium rates to fund the consulting contracts. Instead, the jury was asked to convict on the vague and largely unexplained theory that he had deprived the UPW of its right to his "honest services."

Whether even this ambiguous charge was really proven, and whether the jury's verdict was justified, will be the focus of future legal proceedings and, if necessary, appeal, the end result of which we strongly believe will be the exoneration of Gary Rodrigues.

Doron Weinberg
Perkin & Faria

Greed motivates condominium owners

As a planner and community infrastructure developer, I have been following the actions of the City Council concerning the proposed leasehold conversions of church, Liliuokalani Trust and other leased lands.

Most of the condominium owners involved are not Mr. and Mrs. Condo Resident looking for some added security for their old age, but a group that consists primarily of absentees, probably ready to participate in time-share development sales should these conversions succeed.

Let's call it what it is: greed. These condo owners already receive exactly what they agreed to accept when they signed their original leases: the right to use the property for an agreed-upon period of time. They do not face eviction and homelessness.

The income from these lands is crucial to a large part of the social fabric of Hawaii, and its loss will ultimately cause a greater burden to taxpayers.

Why did the City Council not rejected these conversion applications earlier? The Council has the duty to contemplate legally presented measures before it. However, given the ownership of the lands in question, for the benefit of the greatest number, the Council had a clear duty to reject these measures as not in the public interest.

Who will be next? The elderly, orphans or absentee owners of Hawaii's property?

John Schroeder

One month in office gives you lifetime pass

With respect to your editorial of Nov. 29, which questioned why anyone would run for a one-month term in the U.S. Congress, I can think of two good, but selfish, reasons to enter the race.

First, it looks good on one's resume; and second, it gives the short-term holder of the seat a lifetime pass to be on the floor of Congress (except during votes) to talk with legislators.

If an office seeker wants to be a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., representing organizations in Hawaii, this would be the perfect way to start a very lucrative business.

Larry Weis

Other candidates live in 2nd District, too

I take issue with the writer of the Dec. 5 letter regarding her definition of a "major candidate" in the 2nd Congressional District race. There are at least two other candidates besides Senate Majority Leader Colleen Hanabusa who live in the district and who, in my opinion, are candidates with quality.

Hanabusa (D-Waianae) has formidable merits without her supporters resorting to a denigration of the frontrunner, Congressman Ed Case.

Finally, the constitutional amendment passed on Nov. 5, regarding candidate residency, refers to state office holders and not U.S. representatives.

One does not disqualify a pool of 40-plus eligible candidates in the middle of a special election without changing the U.S. Constitution!

Arvid Youngquist

Politicians went too far in honoring Thurmond

Thursday was the 100th birthday of South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, who ran for president against Harry Truman in 1948 as the candidate on the "States-Rights Democrat" or "Dixiecrat" ticket.

Campaigning exclusively upon the preservation of legalized racial segregation and his opposition to voting rights and civil rights for African Americans, Thurmond garnered more than one million votes and carried four Southern states.

Honoring the congressional centenarian on national television this week in Washington, incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R, Mississippi) said, "When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years."

Lest anyone harbor any further illusions about the GOP congressional leadership's commitment to "trust in our government and fairness in every segment of society," as one letter writer wrote on Dec. 6, need one say more?

Donald R. Koelper

Overzealous trimmers ruined Aala Park

The lovely bougainvillea bushes growing in the Aala Park Triangle have been stripped of their beautiful pink flowers. The slender stalks are also damaged by the cutting machine that was used to cut the flowering bushes.

The flowering bougainvillea bushes added their beauty to the surrounding area.

Why did they trim the flowering bushes? Why not leave them to flower to their fullest? It was such a lovely spot.

Mary Makapagal

Nigerians have skewed ideas about morality

In Nigeria, beauty pageants are considered "immoral," but it's OK to stone women to death who have committed adultery.

Tetsuji Ono
Hilo, Hawaii

Parents aren't doing enough for education

Money alone will not help our public schools. We also need to be truthful about the need for parental guidance and influence. I agree with those who emphasize the role of parents in helping children succeed.

That includes, at the very least, sending their children to class rested, fed, ready to learn and behave. The parents' attitude means everything in changing the way kids view school.

Years and years of experimentation, school restructuring, higher teacher standards and more money to the Department of Education still have resulted in a mediocre education for many Hawaii students. While we are quick to blame it on the schools, poor parent and student attitude is also a major factor.

As a former school principal, I have seen parents yell and swear at teachers in front of their children, and argue about teaching styles, methods, curricula and question the need for their children to learn about this and that.

After witnessing some major abuse of teachers, it's amazing to me how some of them can stay in the profession. This sort of behavior is strong in setting an example of disrespect and apathy toward teachers and education in general.

No wonder the teaching profession is not as attractive to college students anymore. Lack of respect and low pay have turned many would-be teachers toward other fields.

There is a saying, "a teacher's influence lasts a lifetime." The same goes for parents.

Pua Tokumoto
Hilo, Hawaii

Airport signs are designed to confuse

Regarding John M. Corboy's Nov. 21 letter, "Airport signs send you in the wrong direction," and airport engineering manager Dennis Higa's Dec. 5 letter, "Airport signs changed for more clarity":

I must agree with Corboy; the signs are confusing. I hear comments from passengers every day: "Who designed those signs?" and "Those signs are confusing."

Higa should have talked with travelers using the airport and not the tenants about what signs would be best. Airport travelers are the ones trying to read and understand the signs for directions.

In my opinion, most travelers understand signs that says "Flight Departures" and "Flight Arrivals" and "Baggage Claim" not "Ticketing" and "Bag Claim."

The lettering for the airlines is much too small; there is more empty space on the new signs than lettering. Place a sign entering the airport informing travelers where the lobbies are for the various airlines. The number of each lobby should be placed on the new signs.

A lot of travelers can pick out their airline by its logo; put the logo next to a larger name. On the far side of the street (running next to the parking structure), put directional arrows directing people where to cross over for the upcoming lobby and airline. And change the background color to white.

Frederick Dowdell

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The Star-Bulletin welcomes letters that are crisp and to the point (150 to 200 words). The Star-Bulletin reserves the right to edit letters for clarity and length. Please direct comments to the issues; personal attacks will not be published. Letters must be signed and include a daytime telephone number.

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