Letters for Sunday — April 23, 2006

• Gas cap law is ‘idiotic’

• This plot too thick to ignore

• Better process is needed

Gas cap law is ‘idiotic’

My husband and I live in Lihu’e. My husband has been a resident of Hawai’i since 1962, and I have been a resident since 1975. In all our years in this state, we have not seen a law enacted by the Hawai’i Legislature that makes less sense than the gas cap law.

Since September 2005, we have watched gas prices on the Garden Island wildly fluctuate, based on what is happening each week 2,500 miles, or further, away from the gas pumps here, rather than the All-American free enterprise system. It has gotten to the point where we are wondering how anyone at the Legislature is able to justify keeping the law on the books.

We just got home from getting gas and groceries. We spent much, much more on gas than on groceries! We filled our half-full tank and spent more than $38. Do we have a SUV, or some other gas guzzling vehicle? No, we have a minivan! Fortunately, we get good gas mileage.

Many people here on Kaua’i, as you know, rely on their vehicles to get to work, school and places where the bus does not run, which is actually most of the island. Most of these people are currently already working two or more jobs to be able to afford housing, food, clothing, insurance, vehicles, medication … I’m certain that you get the point. What people here do not need is paying exorbitant prices for fuel.

By the way, one definition of exorbitant is “not coming within the intended scope of the law.” I believe that is an apt description of the gas cap law.

Seniors who are on fixed incomes find it more and more difficult to decide what they need most: food, medicine, housing, or fuel for their car to get to and from family, doctors, etc.

In our opinion, this law, while initially intended by some lawmakers to help the consumer avoid high fuel prices and “price gouging” by oil companies, is stupid and has had the opposite effect.

Instead of oil companies “gouging” us, we are getting “gouged” (I would love to use another word, but I am too polite) by our government. When a thief robs you at gunpoint, at least you recognize him, or her, as a thief.

I would rather pay prices for fuel that are based on futures prices on the open market. Having our Hawai’i legislature set gas prices by passing such an idiotic law is an insult to the intelligence of the populace. Did anyone there stop to figure out the long-term consequences for Hawai’i’s people?

Whenever government interferes with the free enterprise system, especially in such an isolated location as Hawai’i, invariably the consumer, elderly and poor pay a terrible price.

  • Jack & Kristi Stephens

This plot too thick to ignore

To all those Forum letter writers supporting Mike Ching and Chief Lum (particularly the learned Dr. Chuan) and can see through this conspiracy to get K.C. Lum fired, I say Bravo! Also I congratulate The Garden Island for its keeping this super-hot-button issue before the public as our paper, under the leadership of a new editor, is really the “court of last resort” in getting the truth to the people.

The factual evidence is so over-whelming for this conspiracy, coverup, or witch hunt (take your pick) that there is really no doubt in anyone’s mind who has looked at ALL the evidence what is going on. Is there any question that since the police commission is the only body that can hire or fire the chief, that the government powers that be, led by the Board of Ethics (BOE), must find at least three people who will vote to fire him? So they force Mike Ching to resign with some utterly nonsensical charges (his lawyer had some pretty harsh words for our Council in Lester Chang’s article today — 4/20) and now this “Unethical” Board has their sights set on Carol Furtado, Police Commission chair, since she too had the wisdom to vote to make K.C. Lum our Chief.

And, remember that Ms Furtado voted AGAINST the nomination of Lum for interim Chief so no one (except the BOE) can accuse her of partiality — she weighs the facts and votes her conscience.

And most disturbing is the fact that the BOE failed to send the TOTAL arbitrator’s report to the Council — a report that basically exonerated Mike Ching from any Charter or Code violations — and yet the Council made a negative decision against Ching and Lum without having the most important part of Judge McConnell’s report — conspiracy or pure conjecture, you citizens be the judge.

There are many more parts to this “plot” that will continue to surface showing support for Mike Ching and Chief Lum. So please continue to follow this ongoing saga of those who wish to destroy the reputations of two or maybe three people who have been dedicating their lives to making Kaua’i a better place to live.

  • Glenn Mickens

Better process is needed

The community should take a long, thoughtful look at the process that the county used to prosecute (persecute?) former police commissioner Michael Ching. My purpose is not to be judgmental about whether any misconduct occurred, but rather only to seek if the steps taken were fair and reasonable.

The county has adopted in its charter a Code of Ethics and created a board of Ethics to consider its application. In a dubious enactment by the county council violations of the code are made subject to criminal sanctions. (The charter authorized the douncil to adopt “complementary” provisions to the code. Is the installation of sanctions complementary or supplementary?)

Complaints heard before the Board of Ethics are conducted in secret. This is inconsistent with American Constitution which says “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial..”

The charter makes officers and employees of the county subject to the cCode’s requirements. Members of the county’s boards and commissions, although uncompensated volunteers, are included in the definition of officers.

Determinations by the Board of Ethics are made by a majority vote and, as was the situation in the Ching case, may be based on the findings of an hearing officer whose conclusions were founded on a preponderance of the evidence he heard, and not the beyond a reasonable doubt standard that should apply in criminal cases.

The legal provision that Mr. Ching was found to have violated reads “No officer or employee of the county shall use his official position to secure a special benefit, privilege or exemption for himself or others.” A law that imposes penalties for its violation must be intelligible, specific and unambiguous. Merely reflecting on this language and asking if voting for or making an appointment is a violation should expose the questionable nature of the provision.

The process is completed by the council’s act to approve or reject the proposed findings and to set the penalty. This decision is to be made by a body that did not hear the evidence and is not given the whole record of the proceedings. In the Ching case one key document — the teport of the hearing officer — was withheld from the council on the debatable grounds stated by Deputy County Attorney that it should be considered confidential. Confidential from the body that is to make the ultimate decision?

Other deficiencies in the process could be noted. As conducted, its aroma is unmistakable. We need to find a better way.

  • Walter Lewis

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