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Legislators need to let in some sunshine

Instead of exempting the county councils from the state open-meetings law, as proposed in Senate Bill 314 (Star Bulletin, Feb. 19), the Legislature should amend the bill and make itself subject to the Sunshine Law.

Our elected officials are supposed to represent us. Doing so in an open manner is part of the job. If this ill-conceived, anti-citizen-participation bill survives, we can look forward to backroom deals, meetings called on one or two days notice instead of the current six, and last-minute changes in wording of legislation.

Instead of griping about "inconveniences," Council members and legislators should think positively and work within the law. It can be done.

All it takes is the will to do it.

Lynne Matusow

Who let the weeds grow at Lake Wilson?

The infestation of Salvinia molesta in Lake Wilson begs the questions: Why does crisis management seem to be the preferred management style in Hawaii, and why is the 11th hour the favorite of our politicians' day? It costs us dearly.

Who was asleep at the switch? If you've got Internet access, you will learn quickly that salvinia has been a well-documented menace for years. There are various field-tested means of dealing with it before it reaches Lake Wilson proportions. The Kawainui wetlands are right behind.

We don't have to re-invent the wheel; others have done the work for us. But our government "experts" had better start devoting more attention to salvinia -- and quickly.

Gary Meyers

We're willing to pay for better schools

Governor Lingle and our legislators should live up to their campaign promises on public education. Although Lingle proposes structural change to the Department of Education, meaningful solutions -- such as decreasing the teacher-student classroom ratio and raising teachers' pay -- also are needed. Some of these measures will cost money, but I and many others are willing to pay for them. Legislators should pass a tax increase designated solely for measures to improve education. An average annual taxpayer increase of $240 would raise our per-pupil spending to the national average.

Because Lingle has vowed to veto tax increases, legislators are probably reluctant to pass a tax hike. However, they should put our money where their mouths were and pressure Lingle to do the same.

Tracy Murakami
Wailua, Kauai

Hawaii still comes up short on SAT scores

Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto claims that 2002 SAT test scores "dispel the mistaken notion that Hawaii public school students cannot meet national standards" (Star-Bulletin, Feb. 6). Well, not so fast.

The national standards -- average performance for public school students nationwide -- require that 54 percent of students score "average," and 23 percent score "above average," in both reading and math. The challenge for Hawaii is to match or exceed national standards in both math and reading, and to match or exceed national standards in both the "average" and "above average" categories.

Hawaii falls short, but the Department of Education ignores that fact. To disguise Hawaii's failure to reach national standards, the DOE deliberately glosses over the need for 23 percent or more of Hawaii students to score "above average" in reading and math.

In 2002, Hawaii public school students at every level -- third, fifth, eighth and 10th grades -- failed to reach national standards requiring 23 percent "above average" performance in both reading and math. This means, contrary to what Hamamoto said, that Hawaii public school students cannot meet national standards.

The truth hurts. But when DOE officials argue that our public school system isn't broken, we must ask them to confront the truth, however painful that confrontation may be.

Rep. Galen Fox
Waikiki-Ala Moana-Kakaako

One-house Legislature would save tax dollars

Governor Lingle's honeymoon with the state Legislature seems to be over. All administration bills are being killed in the various Democratic-controlled committees.

Perhaps now is the time for Lingle to suggest reducing the size and cost of the Legislature. Hawaii is too small to afford 608 paid permanent and temporary staff members in the Legislature, plus 51 paid representatives and 25 senators. Two weeks ago, Lingle signed her first bill covering the yearly cost of the state Legislature; it was $20.6 million.

Since Hawaii is practically broke and it would not be advisable to raise taxes, I believe Hawaii should consider a bi-partisan unicameral legislature. Nebraska has a single-house legislature with a population of 1.7 million; Hawaii has a population of 1.2 million people.

Reducing the Legislature by one-half would result in considerable savings. Another beneficial result would be a more favorable ratio of Republicans to Democrats in the Legislature.

Robert M. Lowe

First, stop the smoking in school restrooms

Our public high schools can't even control the rampant smoking in their restrooms and on campuses. What makes legislators think drug-testing of students (Star-Bulletin, Jan. 16) will solve anything?

Let's address and enforce the "no smoking" and tobacco problems at all the high schools first before trying to solve other problems. The state would only be wasting its time and money.

Alvin Wong
Pearl City

Bank should take coach into account

How about the Bank of Hawaii establishing a June Jones account for the University of Hawaii football coach to keep him from being tempted by other job offers?

UH fans from babies to Grandma, from teenagers to Grandpa, could walk up to any BOH bank branch and say, "I'd like to make a deposit in the June Jones account."

They could deposit 25 cents to $1 to $5 or whatever. (Only deposits -- no withdrawals, except, of course, by Coach Jones.

The bank could possibly realize deposits up to a million dollars or more if it is done right. It could give each depositor an official June Jones receipt with his photo and UH football schedule (with deposit amount and current balance).

This would help the bank, June Jones, the state of Hawaii and football fans. But BOH had better act fast, as other job offers are tempting the coach.

Jerry J. Gschwind

Protesters play right into Saddam's hands

I unequivocally hate war. Been there, done that -- Korea and Vietnam.

I understand where all the anti-war, peacenik, French, German, Belgian, Russian and Chinese folks are coming from. I just can't stand them. Their dissent makes Saddam believe he has an out.

We risk going to war a helluva lot more because of these people -- not in spite of them.

If we had all hung in there together, Iraq would have been forced to fold because of unified world pressure. I will personally blame all the anti-war folks for getting us into war with Iraq.

Frankly, I believe World War III started on 9/11, and anything to do with Iraq and the terrorists is not pre-emptive.

Don Neill

Shame on media for pro-war manipulation

Why is it we have not seen any public opinion polls on this war against Iraq? Could it be because the American people can see through the political ploys. Could it be that what is really going on is:

>> President Bush is riding on the wave of national pride and unity after 9/11?

>> We are going to war to change the government of Iraq so we have more control of the world's oil; i.e., the world economy?

>> We have the technology to find Osama bin Laden, but it makes more sense to keep him alive as a common enemy?

>> If we start to have unrest and dissension among our people, all that is needed to unite us once again is another terrorist attack?

>> Bush has the public in the palm of his hand? Are we so easily manipulated? If so, this is so reminiscent of another time in history.

Shame on the media, and shame on the public for allowing ourselves to be manipulated so easily. It is time for the American people to pursue and discern the truth. It is time to override these masculine values of control, aggression and war in favor of spiritual righteousness and universal values of equality, honoring each other and building bridges between cultures and religions, and cooperation through understanding. In the Hawaiian way, this is ho'oponopono, making one's self right with self and others before God. It is time to express one's truth before man and God.

Karen Kimura

President should focus on terrorism, not Iraq

President Bush should keep his focus. Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for 9/11, not Saddam Hussein. This is not butt-kicking time. He should ask Iraq to help find al-Qaida. Don't be like the terrorists; have mercy on innocent lives. The real enemy is the devil when he gets hold of anger.

David Burton

Insulting words show senators' ignorance

I am angry, frustrated and disgusted with the behavior of the representatives in the state Senate last Wednesday ("State senators get into heated debate over Iraq," Star-Bulletin, Feb. 20). I am especially saddened that my own representative was one of the worst. How dare these men equate my horror of President Bush's plan to attack Iraq with a lack of patriotism and support for my family and friends who serve in uniform.

The idea that Americans should slavishly support a war simply because a leader says he "has more information" is far too reminiscent of the regimes of the Cold War USSR. Do these senators not realize it is un-American to follow blindly?

Last weekend, Bush dismissed the voices of millions of peace marchers. The nation and world are shaking with the will of the people. Watching local politicians support the war policies of an unelected president is shocking, especially when compared with the voices of our congressional representatives in Washington. Hawaii does not support Bush; we support America and American values.

In Hawaii especially, many people are not able or inclined to rally in the streets; we tend to show our dissent with our phone calls, our private conversations, our letters ... and then we vote, something all elected representatives should keep in mind.

Süs Shawhan

Anti-Americanism can give us strength

To those Americans bothered by all the anti-Americanism being witnessed in protests across the globe, I would like to say that as a Christian I know about being hated. But does that bother me? No, because Christians have been persecuted for more than 2,000 years and it still has not stopped us. And it never will.

Clifford Ishii
Waimea, Kauai

Wal-Mart's low prices not worth the trade-off

As columnist Rob Perez says, the massive Wal-Mart/Sam's Club "superblock" project "will have a major effect on the surrounding community" ("Raising Cane," Star-Bulletin, Feb. 16). And beyond, I would add. No wonder some cities have wisely enacted store size limits of 100,000 square feet or less.

But we also need to ask ourselves what kinds of corporate behavior we are willing to tolerate in our community. Eleven hundred Wal-Mart jobs are projected, but how many jobs will be lost in the community? We don't know, but communities nationwide have reported a net loss of jobs when Wal-Mart moves in, with local businesses closing or cutting back. And Wal-Mart jobs are the lowest-paid in the industry, with no benefits and a fiercely anti-union environment. Some Wal-Mart employees have reported being pressured into working extra hours off the clock because of company policy against overtime pay.

And then there are the sweatshops, mostly in China but also in other countries, even the United States. Wal-Mart is by no means the only seller of sweatshop products but it is the biggest, and, unlike many others, it refuses to reveal the locations of its factories. Wal-Mart was removed last year from the Domini 400 Social Index because of its labor practices.

People are drawn to Wal-Mart by its low prices. Wal-Mart customers would do well to give thanks to all the above-mentioned folks for making this cheap shopping trip possible.

William Bailey

Hostility will drive off preferred visitors

A few weeks ago, my family and I visited Oahu, and it was astoundingly beautiful. Unfortunately, there is a pervasive and rotten attitude toward outsiders that kept revealing itself. I was challenged to a fight by a tanned white kid while I was crossing the street; he was yelling that he'd kick my haole a--. Some locals made fun of my family at the beach. We dealt with snide remarks and dismissive attitudes in shops and restaurants.

There are obvious issues of ownership on your islands. The Hawaiians vs. the longtime residents vs. tourists. Everyone wants the place for themselves. I would like to point out that if you respond to visitors with negativity and hostility, only the negative and hostile visitors will visit, and eventually stay.

In New Mexico, we have had the same experience in Santa Fe, where the city is now inhabited by snotty, hostile white people who don't mind living among snotty, hostile Native Americans who wanted to keep the place for themselves. Like begets like, says karmic law.

Ironically, I am exactly the kind of person you would want to visit and, yes, even stay in your islands. I am deeply committed to conservation and have a great deal of respect for diversity and varied cultures. However, the hostility I encountered makes me think twice about ever coming back.

Patrick Mulkey
Albuquerque, N.M.

Republicans should do better by the poor

I have been following closely the news and editorial opinions concerning the provision of medications to the needy. Apparently our governor has devised a scheme for the Weinberg Foundation to pay for a system to solve the problem. Seems like Weinberg has agreed -- $3 million worth. That looks really nice -- on the surface. But the money is going to the Hawaii Medical Association, not to those who need the help or those who do help. It will go to an already established private group of the very rich.

I do not wish to deny or delay any assistance to those who deserve and need medical help. Therefore, I suggest that the Weinberg funds be given directly to Patient Assistance Programs through the pharma- ceutical manufacturers. This system works and is not all that complicated. I know of non-profit groups on Oahu that are already doing it every day on a charitable basis ("A Helping Hand," Star-Bulletin, Feb. 11).

I am a longtime Republican, and I'd really hoped for better from the new administration. But again, it is clear that elected Republicans prefer to rob the poor to help the rich. And they don't care about the day-to-day, hour-by-hour needs of the poor. This is really sad for Hawaii.

John James

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