[ OUR OPINION ]
Dont trash bottle law
before testing it out
GOVERNOR Lingle's goal to repeal the state's new bottle collection law is puzzling because the program has been designed to pay for itself and will lessen pressure on landfills. Her solution to pay community groups to pick up litter and to burden the counties with the problem instead will do little to clear Hawaii's landscape of discarded beverage containers.
The governor wants to repeal the state's new container recycling program.
Lingle is misinformed when she contends the program "will drastically increase government bureaucracy and drive up the cost of living" without alleviating the problem. She's right in that millions of dollars will be spent. She's wrong, however, to imply that the money will come from slim government coffers.
The program is set up to be self-supporting with the deposits on containers paying for all its costs. The law, passed last year, is set to take effect in 2005, the delay giving the program time to build up an operating fund. Since October, consumers have been paying a half-cent per container toward that fund and retailers have seen little evidence that the half-cent has hurt beverage sales.
When the full program kicks in, consumers will place a 5-cent refundable deposit on each glass, metal or plastic container when they buy beverages. If they want their money back, they take the bottle to a retailer or to a recycling center for a refund, so the assertion that the law will drive up the cost of living isn't necessarily so.
The $300,000 of taxpayer money she wants to give community groups to pick up litter likely would be far less than what they could make through collecting unclaimed containers and getting the refunds themselves. Moreover, if added bureaucracy is the objection, Lingle must factor in administration of a program that would have to set criteria, decide fairly which groups would qualify for how much, and distribute the money.
All four counties and 70 percent of respondents in a Health Department survey strongly support the law. Lingle would give the counties a total of $2 million to handle the problem, not much when divvied up four ways.
She argues that containers make up only 2 percent of wastes going into landfills. Her measure, however, is by weight; in volume, containers -- about at 800 million pieces a year in Hawaii -- make up 7 percent of landfill wastes that could be recycled instead.
The container law doesn't stand alone as the answer to Hawaii's litter and landfill problems, but it is one of many efforts that should be applied. This market-based approach, which is expected to boost recycling businesses, would seem to fit well in Lingle's agenda. She should allow the program to go forward. If it doesn't work, she can make a change.
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INS has left country
vulnerable to terror
AMERICANS who may have felt safe from foreign terrorists since the privatization of baggage screening was completed continue to be at risk because of bureaucratic complacency. A scathing report by the Justice Department has exposed a deplorable degree of negligence by immigration officials responsible for protecting the nation's borders at airport terminals. Tom Ridge, the new secretary of homeland security, should crack the whip at the Immigration and Naturalization Service when the agency comes under his control in March.
An audit has found continuing flaws in immigration practices at U.S. airports.
A review of 42 airports in 1999 and a new review of a dozen airports following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks found every terminal to be deficient. "As a result," says a report by the Justice Department's inspector general, "airports continue to be vulnerable to illegal entry, escapes, injuries and smuggling of aliens and contraband into the United States."
The names of the airports reviewed are not named in the public version of the audit because of security sensitivity, but the problems described are systemic and can be assumed to exist at Honolulu Airport. However, the blame belongs primarily at INS headquarters, where officials neglected to inform airlines, airport officials or even the agency's own airport staff of the deficiencies exposed in the initial audit.
When foreign visitors' eligibility to enter the United States is unclear, INS inspectors take them to secondary areas for interviews, examination of travel documents and, if needed, further detention. Justice's initial review revealed that inspection areas were poorly designed and constructed and had numerous monitoring, surveillance and communication deficiencies. INS officials blithely told auditors they were unaware of any instances of escapes, assaults or injuries caused by inadequate inspection areas. In fact, the initial audit had noted "seven instances of escapes, abscondings, injuries and death resulting from such inadequacies."
Airlines and airport authorities are supposed to pay for improvements of those areas. The initial report had recommended that the INS impose sanctions, such as prohibiting a resistant airline from using a particular gate or from deplaning passengers anywhere at the airport. The INS's assistant chief inspector "cited the political and economic ramifications of closing down airports or gates" and "the airlines' powerful lobby" as reasons for not forcing the airlines to comply.
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