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Letters for Sunday, August 10, 2008

• ConCon shenanigans

• For a successful long-term care commission

• We all ‘have’ and ‘have not’

ConCon shenanigans

Over the past few weeks I’ve written about several issues that, hopefully, will encourage you to vote “Yes” on the Constitutional Convention question in the coming election. I have always closed by reminding you of the 1996 Supreme Court ruling that requires you to vote either yes or no on the question. A blank vote, by direction of the courts, counts as a “No” vote. This decision was the result of a suit filed by special interest groups and legislative action to prevent a con-con. Here’s how:

In the 1996 election the people voted 164,000 to 160,000 in favor of a con-con. Some 45,000 voters did not mark their preference. By this count and normal election procedures, the measure was approved. A special interest group consisting of unions, state officials and others challenged the count in the state Supreme Court. They won and the 45,000 votes were deemed as no votes.

In 1997, another group in favor of a con-con filed suit in the federal 9th Circuit Court claiming the ruling violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The court issued a stay (stop order) and, ultimately, reversed the state court’s decision in March of 1998.

Between the issuance of the stay and the Supreme Court’s final decision, the Legislature jumped into the issue. Two months before the Supreme Court’s final decision and, knowing that the Hawai‘i court’s ruling was likely to be overturned, they placed a second con-con referendum on the November 1998 ballot. The original group, meanwhile, had petitioned the U.S. Circuit Court for a re-hearing. In June, while the U.S. Court was considering their petition the governor signed the bill into law (Act 131). The following day, the U.S. Courts denied the re-hearing petition and affirmed their original decision. Unfortunately, the state had managed to circumvent the court’s decision, violated your First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and rendered the Supreme Court’s decision moot (meaning they never officially published their final reading).

Fed up with the whole mess, in November of 1998 the voters rejected the second con-con referendum. Screwed again by the representatives you elected. You can, however, introduce an amendment correcting the Hawaii Court decision but only if you first vote “Yes” on the con-con.

But remember, under current law you must vote “Yes.” If you don’t vote on the issue, it counts as a “No” vote. An interesting aside is that should the same thing happen this year, another group filing to overturn the vote would likely win again in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Al Rabold


For a successful long-term care commission

In response to the Aug. 6 letter to the editor, “Time to act on long-term care”:

Work is already underway on the Long-Term Care Commission. The administration, the Legislature, and AARP are collaborating on who is best to serve. In addition, we’ve discussed the need to develop a plan outlining how the $100,000 in funding, if released, might be spent.

All of this preparation is important to ensure that the commission is successful and able to produce a plan that will make a difference to Hawai‘i residents and their families.

It’s important to remember that the commission only became law four weeks ago. In addition, the Legislature inserted deadlines in the law of Sept. 30 for appointments and no later than Nov. 1 for the first meeting. We expect to meet these deadlines with time to spare.

Once in place, the commission will build on the progress the Lingle-Aiona administration has made to increase care for our elderly, including at-home-care. This includes the Going Home Project that the Department of Human Services started in 2003 to give Medicaid recipients who require immediate and skilled nursing care the choice to transfer from hospitals to home-based or community-based settings. The Going Home Project has saved taxpayers more than $78,000 per patient per year in Medicaid funds and frees up much-needed hospital space. Also, Next February, DHS will begin QUEST Expanded Access which will improve the health of our seniors and disabled Medicaid clients by providing them with a comprehensive and coordinated system of managed care.

Jill Cooper, policy analyst

Office of the Governor

We all ‘have’ and ‘have not’

It seems like there has always been a divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” For someone who perceives himself to be a “have-not,” no amount of explanation will assuage his feeling of deprivation when faced with those who “have” something he doesn’t have, and wants. Someone who is a “have” may or may not think about the “have nots” and how their own wealth — even when garnered through hard work — may impact other people. Sometimes a “have” feels threatened by a “have-not.” Sometimes a person others would perceive to be a “have” feels internally like they are a “have-not.” It’s all relative.

This is another polarizing issue. So many people work 60 to 70 hours a week, don’t buy new cars, and still don’t have the option of buying even a primary residence on Kaua‘i, much less a retirement home. So they have a difficult time empathizing with those who have enough wealth stored up that they can afford to buy a second home and let it sit empty 10 months out of the year, or those who can afford to take two months off per year and fly off to a holiday home somewhere nice. Sometimes those feelings of anger, deprivation and envy spill out into the public eye, and sometimes really nice people, who haven’t committed any heinous crimes, get their feelings hurt as a result. That’s a shame, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the aloha spirit has disappeared on Kaua‘i. I see it in action every day. People here are extraordinarily generous with their time, money and help.

There is one thing that I don’t understand, and that is why visitors resent being asked to stay in “designated tourist areas,” or why they would resent visitor developments being restricted by zoning to certain areas. In their home towns, are there large visitor developments in residential neighborhoods? Are there so many short-term tourist accommodations in residential neighborhoods that locals can’t find affordable long-term rentals? Is this the case in Syracuse, N.Y, for example? How would these visitors feel if a 200-room hotel was built on their home block and there were suddenly 200 more cars driving down their street each day? What about living on a block where the community has been eroded by temporary residents occupying most of the homes? How do some (certainly not all) visitors develop a sense of entitlement to the whole island?

As a visitor to Kaua‘i, before I moved here, I stayed in a resort down in Wailua, one of the “designated tourist areas.” I didn’t feel discriminated against. It was clean, on the beach, and staffed by some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I thought it was great. It was the first time I’d ever had a vacation like that, since our family would usually camp somewhere, or stay with family. For a week, I was a “have,” and I enjoyed it to the max while being fully aware of the people working around me who may not have ever had that experience.

I am still a “have” and so is everyone who lives on Kaua‘i, even though we may not have a barrel of money. We “have” a rich lifestyle compared to most of the world. We “have” the beauty of this island, the aloha of the residents, and sometimes, the appreciation of the visitors. We “have” what millions of people want so badly that they will fly here by the droves to pursue it.

Do I “have” a solution to this dilemma? Nope. Except that we can all try to be a little more caring, a little more tender with each other, and a little more understanding when we feel like we are either a “have” or a “have-not.”

Peggy Kemp



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