[ OUR OPINION ]
Gambling vote edges
closer to legalization
GAMBLING proponents who realize they have no chance of persuading Hawaii legislators to legalize gambling will try the more subtle strategy of seeking a nonbinding referendum among voters. Gambling interests are well-schooled in referendums, which they regard as an investment toward future legalization. Hawaii voters and legislators already know from numerous opinion polls that people are sharply divided on the issue.
Two state senators have proposed that the issue of legalized gambling be put to voters in the form of a nonbinding referendum.
Senate President Robert Bunda, who has supported legalized gambling, explains that a referendum would simply gauge the public's opinion. Sen. Willie Espero, a cosponsor of the proposal, says opponents fear a massive public relations blitz by the gambling interests to influence voters. He is right. That is precisely what the industry has done repeatedly all across the country, spending large amounts of money to sway voters.
Former Gov. Ben Cayetano favored opening up Hawaii to gambling, but Governor Lingle is unequivocally opposed. That means that gambling proponents, who never have won a majority in the Legislature, would need two-thirds of legislators' votes to override a veto of a bill legalizing gambling. The odds of that happening are off the table.
Legislators last year refused to put the question on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. The next best hope for gambling proponents is that it be put forth as a nonbinding referendum in the next election, intended as the precursor of a constitutional amendment the following election.
Numerous polls have shown significant opposition to legalizing gambling in Hawaii. The most recent Star-Bulletin/KITV-poll less than a year ago showed that 47 percent of residents oppose any form of gambling, while 24 percent would support some form of gambling and 25 percent "might" support it. A breakdown of the last two groups showed that a lottery was most acceptable, and even then by fewer than a third of the "would" or "might" respondents. Another poll, in the form of a referendum, is not needed.
A referendum would provide an opportunity for the gambling industry to fashion the issue in a way that it could get its foot in the door in Hawaii. Once winning legalization in the least offensive manner and degree, the industry would seek to expand its presence, along with all the problems that it creates for individuals, families, businesses -- especially the tourism industry and society.
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Proceed with caution
in traffic-cam redux
WITH great courage or short memories, state legislators are proposing a return of traffic cameras to Oahu's roads, but aimed at motorists running red lights instead of those speeding. The state may have learned much from its mistakes in last year's failed experiment with "talivans" trying to catch speeders, but privacy and other issues will remain troublesome.
Some state legislators are proposing that the state revive the red-light enforcement part of the traffic camera project.
Linked with sensors buried in the pavement at the front edges of intersections, cameras have been effective in catching motorists running red lights. The state Department of Transportation had planned to install cameras at as many as 30 intersections around the state but dropped the idea after the experiment with speed cameras went up in flames. In April, then-Gov. Ben Cayetano halted the entire program.
State transportation officials should know by now that any contract with a company operating the cameras should provide for a flat fee rather than a commission on each ticket issued. Hawaii officials encountered problems because they ignored a court ruling in San Diego that threw out hundreds of red-light tickets partly because the company was paid for each citation, creating an incentive to catch more offenders. Hawaii repeated the mistake.
The intersection camera snaps photos that include license plates, but identifiable photos of drivers are more difficult to achieve, and that causes more legal problems. Opponents of the cameras used against speeders complained that judges were asked to assume that the owner of the vehicle was the person driving. The same legal challenge can be expected to be made against red-light citations.
Some motorists tried to interfere with the procedure by putting coverings over their license plates to blur the images. If authorization of the red-light cameras were to stipulate that the vehicle's owner was responsible, it would have to prohibit that tactic in order to be effective.
Intersection red-light cameras have been adopted in at least 15 states and have been successful. A study conducted in the Los Angeles suburb of Oxnard, Calif., a city of 170,000 people, found that traffic-light violations at all of the city's 125 intersections fell by 29 percent after red-light cameras were installed at 11 intersections. The question is whether it is worth the legal hassle and public irritation.
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