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Letters for Monday — March 20, 2006

• Something to ponder

• The Pila’a mess

• Support needed for two bills

Something to ponder

Has anyone had thoughts that potentially Pflueger has again involved himself with the dam eroding to this degree? The past directives from him resulting in the landscape tragedy of pristine Pilaa and it being irreparably impacted raises this question.

Also, that it just so happens, after 100-plus years of the reservoir’s clean record existence, this huge problem developed. In fact, radio reported that Pflueger stated the reservoir had been ‘worked’ by his directive in the recent past, but not in the breached zone.

This statement not only raises several other questions of believability with regard to this now human tragedy, but many other red flags as well, and that to me, absolutely warrants further investigation.

  • Debra Kekauala

The Pila’a mess

It took three and a half years of litigation for a number of parties and Mr. Pflueger to agree to a Consent Decree, as reported in The Garden Island on Friday, March 10, under which Mr. Pflueger agrees to repair the damages to the land and water in the Pila’a region during a storm event in November 2001.

As president of Limu Coalition, the lead NGO (non-government organization) to file the lawsuit under the federal Clean Water Act, I wish to express our appreciation of the significant roles played by governmental agencies and individuals in what the newspaper reported to be the largest case of its kind ever.

Foremost among the governmental agencies who participated in the lawsuit are various groups within the Environmental Protection Agency — from Honolulu, San Francisco and Washington — who brought to Hawai’i not just the vast resources — technical, organizational and legal — at their command, but, ultimately, the deep personal dedication of their devotion to the protection of the environment of our lands and waters. Limu Coalition’s legal representation was provided, pro bono, by Earthjustice and one of its hard-working attorneys, David Henkin.

For a small NGO like us, even the relatively modest initial retainer fee would not have been affordable but for the prompt and generous financial support of some of our members when we filed our lawsuit in September 2002.

And then there are the almost inevitable unsung heroes behind every major event, the ones who are not present at the press conferences and award ceremonies. Initial reporting of the catastrophic events at Pila’a in November 2001 would not have been timely and effective but for the cries of the Marvin family whose home was inundated by the mud flow into their home on Pila’a Beach.

The Marvins’ call brought to the scene of devastation Gary Ueunten of the Clean Water Branch, Kauai office, of the State Department of Health. Mr. Ueunten’s timely, highly professional and meticulously prepared investigative reports formed the hard core evidentiary basis for the lawsuit.

Afflicted with the seemingly incurable disease known by lay people on this island as atfipitis which reputedly derives from the letters ATFP which allegedly stand for the term “after the fact permits”, County officials had been too busy issuing ATFPs to have noticed what was going on at Pila’a and other locations on the east shore that were also hit by the same storm of November, 2001, with damages to the land and water as bad as, if not worse than those that were inflicted at Pila’a. Once the lawsuits began to be filed, however, the County was quick to get involved and collect its share of fines.

It may take years to remediate the damage wrought at Pila’a. With the signing of the Consent Decree we of the Limu Coalition are confident that Mr. Pflueger and his associates will exercise their best diligence to restore Pila’a to its former beauty and glory.

We also hope that responsible County officials will take lesson from this event and exercise due diligence in the future to assure the protection of the delicate resources of this Garden Island.

  • Raymond L. Chuan, President
    Limu Coalition

Support needed for two bills

Why is our Department of Education (DOE) resisting efforts to ensure that blind and visually impaired children in Hawai’i have the same opportunity to learn to read and write Braille that sighted children have to learn to read and write print? DOE publicly claims support for the intent of Braille literacy bills that have been introduced in the State Legislature: HB1839 and SB2732. Yet, it proposes amendments that would have the effect of significantly weakening if not destroying this critical (to the blind) legislation.

The original legislation contains language which says “The legislature finds that it is crucial to ensure that each blind or visually impaired child has the right to learn to read. This right includes provisions for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille appropriate to the child’s current and future literacy needs.”

In amending the legislation, the department strikes this language, replacing it with the following: “assist blind and visually impaired children by (1) Establishing standards of Braille proficiency and instruction.”

The DOE weakens the bill even further by deleting provisions that would “Require materials to be provided in a computer-accessible format capable of Braille reproduction,” and “Require the certification and recertification of teachers in accordance with Braille literacy standards.”

We are astounded at the DOE’s efforts to remove the following important provision from the Braille literacy legislation:

“§302A- Teacher certification. As part of the certification and renewal process, teachers certified in the instruction of blind and visually impaired children shall be required to demonstrate competence in reading and writing Braille. The state agency responsible for such teachers may not issue or renew a license to teach the visually impaired unless the applicant demonstrates, based on standards adopted by the National Library Service of the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress, that the applicant is proficient in reading and writing Braille.”

In light of the foregoing, we are compelled to ask whether or not our Department of Education is truly interested in a bright and promising future for our blind and visually impaired youngsters. Education for blind children is vital. They too have a right to a full life filled with hopes and dreams of a future filled with a good education allowing them the opportunity to move on to higher education and ultimately a good paying job, living as competent, integrated taxpaying individuals.

National statistics show that only 10 percent of blind children in this country are being taught Braille. Seventy percent of the adult blind population is either unemployed or under-employed. Of the 30 percent who are employed, 90 percent read Braille. Is this not proof enough of the criticality of Braille to the success of our blind youngsters?

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has been in existence for over 65 years. Its leaders and the majority of its members are blind. Through the Federation’s efforts, 33 states have already passed laws that ensure the right of blind children to quality Braille instruction. The Hawai’i affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind believes that it is high time for Hawai’i’s education system to follow the lead of these states.

  • Nani Fife, President
    National Federation of the Blind of Hawai’i

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