Letters for Friday, May 25, 2007

• Everything’s connected, right?

• Be safe, have fun

• Remembering Mundon

• Elemental change

Everything’s connected, right?

So how can we talk about the Phase 3 bike path alignment through the Wailua-Kapa‘a corridor without also talking about traffic and visitors and shopping?

While watching the bike path consultant’s narrowly focused presentation the other evening, I couldn’t help seeing the bike path decision as an opportunity to think more carefully about how these things are connected here in the center of our Eastside community.

For one thing, cyclists like me always seek to avoid high traffic areas, yet this alignment would force cyclists to cross Kuhio Highway at two of its most dense traffic bottlenecks (at Kinipopo and at Kaua‘i Village). Those bumper-car drivers will dislike cyclists even more when we come wheeling up and press a button for the stoplight.

For another, this alignment swings mauka to bypass Coconut Plantation — one of the most densely populated visitor areas on-island. This will leave these visitors the choice of taking the “spur” along the beachfront or jumping in their car to get to Foodland — the same option they have today.

And for another, this alignment gobbles up a key portion of the precious right-of-way that we could use instead for a “backage road” to relieve traffic on the highway. This is something I’ve advocated for many years to give mauka residents an alternate route to the shops without getting on Kuhio. Could we at least consider the possibility of combining the bike path with some kind of vehicle access to the backside of this commercial strip?

The funny thing is, when I joined with others years ago to push for a bike path, the place I was most anxious to see an alternate route — from Moanakai to Coco Beach — still won’t have one in this alignment. They’ll put us on the sidewalk. Uh, we can do that now.

Maybe we should stop right here and think again about how the bike path could be a more integral part of a larger solution for the current and future mix of mobility needs on the Eastside.

OK, so they have already held four community meetings on this. Still, one more meeting from this more integrated perspective just might offer a breakthrough solution that gets us where we want to go.

Ken Stokes


Be safe, have fun

I attended an excellent presentation on Kaua‘i beach safety by Pat Durkin and Dr. Monty Downs on Wednesday — sorry more of you weren’t there.

A startling fact is the over two-thirds of those who drown on Kaua‘i are visitors. Everyone who has friends and family expecting to visit Kaua‘i can do them a great favor by having them look at an outstanding Web site: kauaiexplorer.com.

On that site, they can see great views of many of Kaua‘i’s beaches along with descriptions of their characteristics, both favorable and troublesome. As most locals know, our surf areas can be dangerous at times. Visitors now have an opportunity to be safe and have fun with reliable, up to the minute, local knowledge. More knowledge equals a better beach experience.

Doug Wilson


Remembering Mundon

Thanks for the article on Annette Mundon (“Mundon put family first,” A1, May 16).

She was my first cousin and we grew up in a small community named Ivan in Louisiana. She met her husband in Shreveport, home of the Louisiana Hayride. I was in Kaua‘i four years ago and met Annette, one of her daughters and one of her granddaughters. I am so glad we had gotten together. Thanks again. Bless the family.

Peggy Shealy

Bossier City, La.

Elemental change

Katy Rose wrote about the hidden costs of low prices (“Big Box vote approaches,” Forum, May 23). She cites Wal-Mart’s “dismal record on workers’ rights.” She also suggests that “stringent rules” are needed about wages and working conditions and workers’ rights to organize unions.

This is a fallacious argument.

Federal and state laws protect workers from adverse working conditions. These laws are enforced. Federal and state laws set minimum wage criteria. These laws are enforced. Federal and state laws protect workers’ rights to organize free from interference by any entity. These laws are enforced.

On Kaua‘i the unemployment rate is the lowest in the state, and among the lowest in the nation. The starting wage on Kaua‘i has been going up steadily to attract workers. This phenomenon is driven by the marketplace, not government intervention. Government sets minimum wage criteria. Business, whether small or large, sets its wages according to market economy. The concept is simple: fewer workers available plus more workers needed to run business equals higher starting wages.

Kaua‘i’s growth has resulted in more businesses starting up.

More businesses means more jobs, usually above minimum wage. Simple math, nothing “hidden” about it.

Look in any community on the island. There are signs everywhere advertising jobs. The paper is full of help wanted ads.

This is a workers’ market.

Costco’s current starting wage is $11 and up. Wal-Mart’s starting wage is about $9 to $10. Big Save’s starting wage is the current Hawai‘i minimum wage, $7.25.

Hawai‘i state law sets health benefits requirements, which all businesses must meet, without regard to the size or profitability of the business. In order to keep good employees, many businesses, large and small, exceed the requirements set by government.

Very few businesses offer free medical benefits to employees. For years, I have had to pay a portion of my medical benefits. My portion is miniscule compared to the actual cost of health care in the country. If I wish to add my husband to the plan, then my portion is higher. This is right and fair.

I don’t expect my employer to completely pay for my medical coverage. I have a good-paying job.

My employer expects me to work hard. This, too, is right and fair. I was raised to give my best to each task to which I set my hand.

This nation was built on freedom from tyranny. Much comment has been made about “corporate greed.” It is true that some entities within corporations have been “greedy” at the expense of others. In many cases they have been prosecuted and punished.

People who complain about “corporate greed” seem to be uninformed about how business works: A person or group has an idea for a product or service. They believe their idea is sound and that others will want to buy that product or service. They don’t have enough money to really sell their idea. They seek capital. Sometimes that capital comes from the bank.

Sometimes the public gets involved by buying “shares” in the newly formed company. This is how capital is raised to grow a business.

Those who believe that government should “protect” the “small and weak” from the “big and strong” show a decided lack of understanding. People shop where they want. If they want lower prices, they will shop where they find that.

Large does not mean “bad.” It is in the best interest of any business to treat its employees well, or they will leave.

Money paid to employees by Costco, Wal-Mart, Home Depot and other “big box” stores stays on Kaua‘i. Employees live here, not at corporate headquarters. “Big Boxes” pay significant taxes to the county, state and federal governments. Even federal tax monies find their way back to Kaua‘i in the form of federal grants and programs of all types.

Change is inevitable. It happens, with or without our permission. We are born, live and die. This is change at its most elemental.

Kaua‘i is, and always will be, a special place. Most of the island is inaccessible to development. Most of the island is protected by federal and state law to remain undeveloped.

Kristi Stephens



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