Letters to the Editor

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Pretty landscaping doesn't hide flaws

In his March 21 letter, Pete Dyer decries the dismantling of a few of former Mayor Harris' beautification projects by Mayor Hannemann. He states that "now it (Honolulu) is a beautifully kept city."

Please, Mr. Dyer, look beyond the superficial. Ask yourself: Does a beautifully kept city have the worst maintained roads in the nation? Does a beautifully kept city allow so many sewage spills that environmental groups sue in federal court? Does a beautifully kept city incur a debt service that becomes the largest expense in the city budget? I suggest that a beautifully kept city is one that is healthy on all levels, not just the superficial. Remember, "All that glitters is not gold."

John Pritchett

Clean elections idea passes judicial muster

In a last minute attempt to derail the groundbreaking reforms in the proposed Hawaii State Clean Elections (public campaign funding) legislation HB 1713, HD1, SD1, the Hawaii Christian Coalition and other misguided groups now argue that the law is unconstitutional. Such an argument is frivolous and should be disregarded.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Buckley vs. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976), expressly endorsed the constitutionality of public funding election systems. The Arizona public-funding election system, which is very similar to Hawaii's proposed legislation, has been challenged multiple times and always upheld.

Public funding of political campaigns does not infringe on any person's religious exercise or freedom of speech -- it is a content neutral law designed to give all citizens equal access to the democratic process.

Not only is HB 1713 constitutional, its passage is essential to give true meaning to the our nation's ideal of political equality. No candidate for governor or the state Legislature should be forced to be wealthy or have access to wealth to get elected.

Colin Yost

'Clean' elections work very well in Maine

Dan Morin's letter (Star-Bulletin, March 20) asserts that Maine's innovative public funding system failed to "dam up every avenue for special interests to influence an election," and that "there has been no change" in reducing money ties. I don't know anyone who makes such a grand claim that the program would rid politics of all money, or that it is perfect.

Yes, it is true that some publicly funded candidates also run PACs (political action committees) on the side, typically to finance runs for leadership positions. It is in conflict with the ethos of publicly funded elections, which is why several bills were introduced this session to tighten and/or close this loophole. We've never claimed that we have a perfect system in Maine, but each election cycle we learn something new and adjust accordingly.

Even if we don't close this loophole, public funded elections have already been a huge success in Maine in terms of increasing the number of contested elections as well as the fact that the vast majority of publicly funded candidates do NOT have a PAC on the side.

We are also looking at tightening up the rules on what constitutes legitimate campaign expenses. Yes, we continue to fine tune the regulations, but making improvements does not mean that publicly funded elections are not working in Maine. Just the opposite -- they are working very well, and the more people who use that option, the more we learn about how to improve on a great idea!

Ed Suslovic
Maine House of Representatives 2002-2004
Portland, Maine

Access to information must be unfettered

Freedom of information rights don't mean much if the law can't be enforced. Or if high fees for public records block access. But it's happened in Hawaii.

The state Office of Information Practices issued an opinion that Mayor Harris' vision teams must follow the sunshine law. But when the mayor disagreed, OIP was blocked from enforcing the law, though they administer it.

When Environment Hawaii was researching a media story on state plans for an irradiation facility, the Department of Agriculture required a $4,200 up-front payment before releasing the documents. That's too much to pay even for the news media, much less a citizen.

It was only after OIP got involved that the department lowered the access fee to $190. To their credit, this was done voluntarily. But we shouldn't have to rely on voluntary actions to lower exorbitant fees.

Fortunately, there's a bill still alive at the Legislature to fix these problems and uphold the public's right to know. But the House Judiciary Committee must approve the bill by tomorrow's legislative deadline.

Please call Judiciary Committee chairwoman Rep. Sylvia Luke to request a public hearing for SB1551.

Peter Bower
President, Citizen Voice
Robin Loomis
President, Hawaii Pro-Democracy Initiative
Beverly Keever
Chairwoman, Right To Know Committee
Jean Aoki
Chairwoman, League of Women Voters Legislative

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