Letters for Wednesday • May 3, 2006

• Recalculating the odds

• Commendations and questions

• Charter secrecy should go

• Waste to Energy — What a waste

Recalculating the odds

When political insiders heard that Congressman Ed Case planned to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka for one of Hawai‘i’s two seats in the U.S. Senate, many believed Case was getting in over his head. But, when Time Magazine last week released its survey of the Senate’s five worst Senators, Hawai‘i’s own Daniel Akaka was at the top of the list.’

The unflattering assessment of Akaka, one of Hawai‘i’s most beloved politicians, is powerful ammunition for his underdog opponent and a source of embarrassment for the entire state.

Suddenly, Case, looks like a political genius instead of an ambitious upstart. Time’s article is bound to make voters skeptical of returning the 81-year old Akaka to Washington for another term when his Senate report card — according to the widely circulated poll — is the worst in the nation.

Akaka supporters will be tempted to label the magazine’s report more editorial opinion than objective journalism, but it has a distinctive ring of truth that is corroborated by the Senate record. Case, meanwhile, might feel obliged to include Time Magazine on his list of financial contributors — such is the clout it confers in his uphill battle against the incumbent Akaka. And, while Akaka remains the favorite, you can bet the odds are being recalculated.

Is the Time poll a wake-up call for the Hawai‘i electorate or will it be muted by Akaka’s indisputable popularity? One thing is certain; this year’s Democratic primary will be the first real contest that Akaka has had to face since winning his Senate seat in 1988.

  • Fred von Wiegen

Commendations and questions

I would like to congratulate you on your April 28 editorial concerning the county council’s attack on The Garden Island newspaper in the case of Police Chief Lum. Your use of the terms “arrogance” and “ignorance” was apt. I was pleased to see you plainly call a spade a spade, and hope you will continue to be an advocate for the citizenry in this matter. I also hope you will address on our behalf the following questions that need to be answered.

Firstly, what is the real reason why K.C. Lum is so desperately disliked by the powers that be? There are a lot of people on this island who think that it is because he has been willing to go where angels have feared in the past to tread. Specifically, the word around is that he has pursued wrongdoers whoever they might be. That would include those with family/friends who have “connections.” Voters seem to strongly support the police chief’s efforts in this regard. Perhaps the power structure does not. Should this be discussed in a public forum such as your newspaper, or continue to be brushed under the carpet?

Secondly, with regard to former Commissioner Ching, why has he been singled out to be treated so badly in this affair? While it is not totally clear what it is he is accused of doing, nor whether indeed he did it (whatever it is), the charges against him seem to relate to some sort of “cronyism” in support of Police Chief Lum’s appointment. What is amazing to anyone who has at all observed how the political system works on this island — at least anyone who has lived elsewhere where things are done differently — is how cronyism seems to be a modus operandi of public life here. There are many euphemisms spun to soften the impact, but they do not change the facts on the ground. Why is a time-honored practice so acceptable when carried out by some people, and so unacceptable when perceived to have been carried out by others?

  • Gertrude Long

Charter secrecy should go

At one extreme is the press, armed with its First Amendment free-speech rights and an American foundation of an open judicial system and open government.

At the other extreme is an antiquated Kaua‘i County Charter provision that mandates closed quasi-judicial hearings and the withholding of information and reports.

When the two extremes clash, in America secrecy is going to lose most of the time, and it should. The press and electorate tend to have a healthy suspicion that secrecy and the withholding of information and reports implies something is being hidden, and it is.

Secrecy in government often gives the appearance that something improper is being hidden, even if it is not.

The Charter provision, mandating secrecy, has a 19th-century mentality. Maybe it’s time for the Charter and Kauai County government to join the 21st century.

  • Jack Stephens

Waste to Energy — What a waste

We’re all so disgustingly prescriptive in our solutions these days. The proposed Waste to Energy Facility recently selected by KIUC is a glaring example of that. Currently we have a very real solid waste problem on this island. We spend too much money moving and piling up too much trash. So what’s the easiest thing to do? Burn it! It’s not going to save us any money, or reduce pollution, but we can avoid the embarrassing and otherwise inevitable declaration that Mount Wal-mart in Kekaha has become a significant landmark on updated USGS maps. This is a terrible idea, Kaua‘i. The much bigger threat from our waste is not its visual impact, but its actual toxicity. Once burned, we can’t responsibly just sweep this leftover ash under the rug. We’ll have a much less visible but much more toxic problem to deal with.

Let’s wake up and remember that we need to solve the PROBLEM. The WTE Facility is a diet pill, not an exercise regime. It’s time we start talking about reducing our waste. The idea of implementing a ‘Pay As You Throw’ system for the island, advocated by JoAnn Yukimura and others, is a great starting point. This system puts the burden where it belongs, in our own hands. It would encourage all of us to separate our own trash from recyclable items. In my household, this amounts to about 40% of what we throw out. Most of the rest of the trash we generate is paper. This paper waste could easily be funneled into the other proposed renewable energy facility on the boards, that being the biomass facility by Green Energy Hawaii. Let’s not build an entirely separate facility just so we don’t have to deal with our own trash. ‘Pay As You Throw’ represents the exercise portion of our trash diet regime. After that we only need to start doing what makes sense on any diet…eat less junk! Right, Wal-mart?

  • Ben Sullivan Vice Chair, Apollo Kauai

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