Letters for Saturday — October 01, 2005

• Legislating tax matters

• Pushing their luck

• Answering the challenge

• Kudos to Ka’auwai

Legislating tax matters

A key issue in the case of the County of Kauai’s lawsuit against itself relating to real property taxation is whether the County Council has exclusive power to legislate on tax matters. The County is contending that tax issues are simply too important to be entrusted to the people who pay them. As one council member awkwardly put it, “It is inappropriate to leave tax decisions up to those who don’t have the financial picture of the whole government. All you got to do [sic] is get some conservative people come into play and say, ‘Look, we don’t want to pay taxes anymore.'”

That kind of egotistical thinking should not exist in the minds of our governmental officials. I think the County Council underestimates our citizens; it apparently believes that voters have the intelligence to elect their representatives but anything else is beyond their comprehension. I have to think that our citizens have a great deal of common sense and would never accept any measure whether offered by “conservative people” or not that didn’t provide funds to pay for necessary government services. And, of course, having “the financial picture of the whole government” is puny as a criterion compared to the best interests of the County.

It’s not as though our elected representatives have made a success out of the real property tax system; its deficiencies are quite obvious to all, and, despite recognition that reform was needed (In 2003 a Real Property Tax Citizens’ Task Force was formed to make recommendations.), the Council has ignored the recommendations made, and its stop-gap measures adopted have been uncoordinated and inadequate.

When our Kaua’i government fails to act responsibly and thoughtfully about public needs, citizens can and must have the ability to correct the situation and help direct the County out of its financial pratfall. It’s of urgent importance to all of us that this power of the citizens prevails. If our current Council members can’t understand this principle, maybe we should elect some who can.

  • Joe Watson

Pushing their luck

Need to mention that over the years, I have often seen Kaua’i tour helicopters flying in weather conditions that are, in my opinion, unsafe, while I am at work at the U of H Experiment Station by the Wailua Reservoir, which is pretty close to the mountains, and also during my daily afternoon walks at the Marriott.

I know the danger, because I have a lot of experience flying in helicopters in close-quarter, mountainous terrain, when clouds, wind, and rain can suddenly appear out of the blue in good flying conditions, which would force the pilot, on several occasions, to quickly locate a clearing on the ground to land to avoid the danger of crashing, since the rotor blades of helicopters, and the general construction of helicopters, in comparison to airplanes, are not designed to withstand strong, heavy winds and rain.

It is my opinion that Kaua’i tour pilots often push their luck flying tourists in unsafe, or borderline-unsafe weather conditions for helicopter flights, and it sometimes just amazes me that the air traffic controllers on Kaua’i give them the fly go-ahead.

  • Hank Soboleski

Answering the challenge

I write in response to several recent letters on evolution and intelligent design, most recently Dr. Saker’s letter of Sept. 27. Criticizing the teaching of evolution theory in schools, Dr. Saker wrote, “I challenge you … to give me just one example of an increase of genetic information within a given species. It has never been observed with living organisms or in the fossil records.”

Dr. Saker’s challenge is one commonly posed by creationists. While “genetic information” is perhaps a deliberately vague term, scientists have indeed documented the evolution of increased and novel genetic material, including mutations that produce new features.

Most notably, the duplication of genes is largely responsible for the evolution of new gene functions. Once redundant gene copies are available, mutations may accumulate in one of the copies, thus creating a new gene, while the other copy can continue carrying out the original function. The biological literature is full of such examples including the evolution of the hemoglobin/myoglobin proteins, the immunoglobulin superfamily, odor receptor proteins, the blood coagulation proteins and the homeobox gene family which is critical in development.

There is no question that our current understanding of the mechanism of evolution remains incomplete. No mainstream scientist would argue otherwise. However, the debate is now more subtle than “evolution” vs. “creationism.” Current evolutionary theory seeks rather to understand the relative importance of random mutation and natural selection (classic Darwinian evolution), among other factors such as neutrality, meiotic drive, niche construction, genome structure, the ordered behavior of genetic regulatory networks, the emergence of autocatalytic networks. After all, Darwin himself wrote, “I am convinced that natural selection has been the main but not the exclusive means of modification.” Many respected voices in the scientific community are actively studying these alternatives to unadorned natural selection.

The theory of evolution by natural selection does have observable facts and repeatable experiments to support it. (Examples include the process of mutations, gene flow, genetic drift, adaptation and speciation.) In contrast, proponents of intelligent design have never published supporting research in any peer-reviewed scientific journal. In an August 2005 interview, Dr. Michael Behe (father of the intelligent design theory) conceded, “You can’t prove intelligent design by experiment.” Intelligent design theory therefore lacks the requirement of falsifiability and cannot represent a serious scientific explanation. The absence of evidence cannot be considered evidence of absence!

  • Amy Brock, Ph.D.

Kudos to Ka’auwai

Huge thanks to officer Joe Ka’auwai of Kauai Police Department for the time and effort he puts in daily at the Hanama’ulu bypass intersection on Kuhio Highway.

Joe shows up daily, strategically places traffic cones and stands there (putting his life on the line) in a very busy intersection and supervises the flow of traffic so that east-side motorists no longer have to wait in long lines to get through the light. Because of Joe, hundreds of us have cut about 10-15 minutes off our trip home every day and saved expensive gas.

Mahalo to Chief Lum of KPD and to Steve Kyono and Glenn Yamamoto and others at the state Department of Transportation for enabling the change. I’m sure this initiative took collaboration of State and County resources and staff.

Good job, everyone. Thanks, Joe!

  • Jo Manea

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