Letters to the Editor

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Hawaii's voters know their ballots count

As election day approaches, we should be thankful for Hawaii's fair and secure voting system. Other states are using easily hacked electronic voting machines with no paper trails to verify the count. Florida and other states tried to unfairly take people off the voting lists and to discourage voting by intimidating get-out-the-vote community organizations.

In Hawaii, we have good voter lists and electronic vote counting with paper ballots for verification. After minor problems the first year because of misinformation from the voting machine company, we have had quick and fair counts that have withstood every challenge.

Stories about illegal voting and other irregularities were proven false. Nevertheless, Republicans continued to attack Chief Elections Officer Dwayne Yoshina and tried to remove him. Good thing they failed. When you hear the complaints from other states after the elections, you will appreciate that we have a good system.

Larry Meacham

Help was offered to Wahiawa merchants

America was in recession in 2000, then came the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Several units of the 25th Division from Schofield were sent to Iraq in 2003. In 2004, the 411th Hawaii Army National Guard and some Army Reserves were deployed. Now the 29th Brigade from Hawaii will be sent to Iraq in 2005.

Since January, Wahiawa businesses have been saying they were losing customers because of the absence of the military.

During the 2004 legislative session businesses in Wahiawa and several in Kaneohe were urged to testify for help at the committee hearings. Only one or two showed up. Programs to help the affected areas, such as low-interest loans, were passed unanimously by the Legislature. A loan program was accepting applications in Wahiawa in July, but only three businesses showed up. Businesses must be doing very well in Wahiawa.

So, Wahiawa businesses, next time if you don't take the initiative and participate in your survival, don't complain about your "hard time."

Paul Fung

Human drinkers and monkeys don't mix

Wow. Monkeys are being kept in a bar (Kokua Line, Aug. 22)? That sounds about as crazy as sending a bunch of drunks into the jungle. Can't we all just live in our natural habitats?

Marie Scott

Unions help workers and the country

As we celebrate Labor Day, it seems appropriate to ask the question: "Why a union?"

The answer is that unions promote fairness by leveling the playing field between workers and management. A strong contract is the best way to ensure workers share the fruits of their labor. Americans need unions more than ever:

» The U.S. Census Bureau reported last month that nearly 36 million Americans -- 12.9 million of them children -- live below the poverty line. The percentage of the U.S. population living in poverty rose for the third straight year to 12.5 percent. More than 17 percent of children live in poverty.

» The number of Americans without health insurance increased to 45 million, or 15.6 percent of the population. In 2003, 1.4 million people lost their insurance.

Unions created America's middle class, which turned our nation into the greatest economic power in history.

In September 1997, The New York Times studied the effect of union membership and found:

» Union workers make 20 percent higher hourly wages than nonunion workers.

» Union workers have 2 to 4 times more fringe benefits.

» 85 percent of union members have employer-provided health care, as opposed to 57 percent of nonunion members.

The Times concluded, "Turning a nonunion job into a union job very likely will have a bigger effect on lifetime finances than all the advice employees will ever read about investing in their 401(k) plans, buying a home, or otherwise making sure of what they earn."

So take a moment to thank our working men and women. And if you do not belong to a union, ask yourself why not.

Russell K. Okata
Executive Director
Hawaii Government Employees Association


BOE member, candidates
pass on reverting to appointed
school board

Name recognition doesn't mean BOE win

I disagree with the Star-Bulletin's Aug. 31 editorial ("School board positions should be appointive") calling for the governor to appoint the Board of Education.

The 13 members of the board elected in 2000 and 2002 received 1.3 million votes. With an appointed board, each member would receive one vote only. At a time when education issues are already muddled with politics, a board appointed by a governor -- Republican or Democrat -- would politicize our public schools.

Stellar candidates are running for the board this year, and they shouldn't be dismissed by relating their electability to simple name recognition. Cec Heftel hasn't been in the public eye for 18 years. His name is no longer a household word, yet he is willing to offer his expertise in government and business to help the public schools.

Robert Midkiff is not simply banking on a kamaaina name; his business acumen, community service and selfless support for early childhood education make him an ideal candidate.

And I don't think many voters confuse Charles Toguchi with Garrett Toguchi. The former superintendent is widely known as much by his first name, Charlie, as his last. Could it be that board incumbent Garrett Toguchi is known in his own right for his unfailing advocacy for students and parents, especially with regard to special education services?

Many of the other candidates also bring respectable and valuable credentials into the Oahu- at-large race, as well as the other board races.

This election is likely to generate a record amount of interest. Why, now, would the voters want to give up their right to elect the board?

Karen Knudsen
Member, Board of Education

Hawaii voters clearly want an elected board

I wonder if you are aware that the Hawaii Constitution, which went into effect Aug. 21, 1959, provided for an appointed Board of Education confirmed by the Senate.

In 1966, the people of this state adopted an elected form of the Board of Education. The last elected Republican governor of Hawaii, before the 1968 Constitutional Convention, was able to convert an appointed form of the BOE to the current elected version.

There were continued discussions during the 1978 Constitutional Convention regarding local school boards as well as reverting back to an appointed form. Neither proposal won out.

I surmise that the governor feels education reform through a Republican majority in the Legislature is doable as compared to convincing 100-plus Constitutional Convention delegates to see things her way.

Frankly, many of the proposals of the CARE Committee are not reform but retrofitting, regression and devolution. The appointed form of the BOE was given a chance to succeed for seven years, and then the people spoke through their lawmakers. Now let's try to make this elected form of BOE succeed, or call a "Con-Con" and reform it properly.

Arvid Tadao Youngquist
BOE At-Large Candidate

Appointed boards have their problems, too

We all know that something is not going well and should be improved in the Hawaii educational system. One option is to change the structure of the Department of Education. The Star-Bulletin recommends an appointed Board of Education.

No one solution is fool-proof. The governor appoints the Board of Regents of the University of Hawaii, retaining control and responsibility. We recently have learned this method of governance can be damaged by personality conflicts.

The governor has proposed a different solution. She would replace the single statewide board, believing that seven localized elected boards will reduce the large bureaucracy in the DOE and improve local accountability for results.

But we still need a statewide BOE to set the educational curricula, standards for learning and equitable funding for every child.

The passage of Act 51, authorizing many reforms for the school system and giving new authority and responsibility to the school superintendent, gives us an opportunity to improve student achievement throughout the state. The BOE will play an important role with new strategic planning, setting new priorities and benchmarks and measuring results.

You cite name recognition as a key factor for success in this election, spelling my name correctly, but with minor factual inaccuracies. I invite you and your readers to open www.bobmidkiff.com to see how I have earned name recognition.

Robert R. Midkiff
BOE At-Large Candidate



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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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