Kaua‘i’s ice war being fought in Washington

As Kaua‘i Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste and Roy Nishida, the county anti-drug coordinator, head to O‘ahu this week for Lt. Gov. James R. “Duke” Aiona Jr.’s three-day drug summit, Kaua‘i’s congressmen are busy in Washington trying to secure federal funds to combat the crystal methamphetamine problem on the island.

Both U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawai‘i, U.S. Rep. Ed Case, D-rural O‘ahu-Neighbor Islands, have worked to get federal funds to Kaua‘i for multiple areas of the war on drugs, from bringing the highly-successful Hawai‘i County Comprehensive Methamphetamine Response program to Kaua‘i, to laboratory training and environmental clean-up funding.

Although the bills have not passed yet, both lawmakers are optimistic about “ending Kaua‘i’s ice age,” as the mayor’s bumper stickers say.

Inouye has been instrumental in getting the Senate Appropriations Committee to earmark $6.5 million specifically for the war on drugs for the 2004 fiscal year; $4.5 million of that is to expand the Big Island program to Kaua‘i, Maui, and Lana‘i.

The Hawai‘i County program provides drug treatment and youth rehabilitation for its addicts. The other $2 million is to coordinate law enforcement from all islands and the federal government to stop the flow of drugs into, within, and out of the state, said Inouye in a statement.

The bills are in House/Senate conference committees to reconcile differences between versions of the appropriations bills. They would then head to the full Senate and full House for approval, said Mike Yuen, a Inouye staff member.

Case, on the other hand, co-sponsored a bill called “Clean, Learn, Educate, Abolish, Neutralize, and Undermine Production of Methamphetamine Act” in February.

The bill, which is pending in House committees, is geared to fight ice on a national level, said Randy Obata, Case’s spokesperson. Of the measures in the bill, there would be grants available for treatment centers, advanced police training, and environmental clean-up.

Meanwhile, the mayor and Nishida are excited about the upcoming summit, “Hawai’i Drug Control Strategy: A New Beginning,” from Monday, Sept. 14, through Wednesday, Sept. 17, at the Sheraton Waikiki.

“We want to find out what (Aiona’s) plan is,” said Nishida.

The summit will “bring together more than 400 community partners, law-enforcement agencies, human-service organizations, substance-abuse and treatment providers, and federal, state and county officials to develop cohesive strategies and meaningful solutions to combat the state’s growing drug- and alcohol-abuse problems,” said Aiona in a statement.

Nishida said he is very interested in hearing the results of Aiona’s statewide “talk-story” sessions, where the lieutenant governor gathered information from all types of people on the prevalence of ice in Hawai‘i’s communities.

Nishida also wants to hear new ideas on “coordinating new legislation to help the war on drugs,” such as wiretapping laws, and the civil “public nuisance” law that has allowed law enforcement access to places where neighbors had complained about traffic and noise in a certain house or area.

“The aim of the Hawai‘i Drug Control Strategy is to cultivate community capacity and improve the quality of life in the state of Hawai‘i by reducing illicit drug use,” said Aiona.

Staff Writer Tom Finnegan may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 226).

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