July 2008

May 2008 issue

“Grading the Public Schools”  05/08
Our biannual report card ranked 258 schools statewide.

I was very disturbed with the article “Grading the Public Schools.” I was curious as to how many teachers, parents and students were surveyed, because, being a parent of two students in the public school setting, I didn’t complete a survey nor did my two children. Upon reading the School Quality Survey reports I realized that only a very small population was surveyed. Now I’m questioning who was surveyed and how the subjects were selected. Wouldn’t this make a huge difference in the results of the survey and the results of your grading system?

Editor’s note: We’re reporting data provided by the Department of Education. For information on these School Quality Surveys, visit http://arch.k12.hi.us/school/sqs/sqs.html#. Click on the district you’re interested in, and the school name to get survey results, including how many parents, teachers and students participated.

“Scrapyard”  05/08
The Big Island’s City Council voted to ban smoking at the island’s parks and beaches. Is such legislation necessary, statewide?

Thank you for the article regarding banning smoking  on the beaches. Yes—let’s do it. It’s horribly offensive and yes, we can get up and move, but I think the inconvenience should be put on the smoker, not the non-smoker. So—yes—for the sake of keeping our beautiful beaches beautiful and our precious animal kingdom alive and healthy, (not to mention offending tourists who do not smoke) let’s get going on this. Mahalo for writing articles and letting folks read and ponder the idea. All good  things start with a great idea.  

“Politics in Hawaii:  Is Something Broken?”  05/08
University of Hawaii law professor Randall Roth wrote an essay on what is in our state government—a lack of transparency and accountability. 

Please, more stories like this one by Randy Roth! As you know, Hawaii needs to wake up. We have fallen in so many ways due to corruptness within the state. Thank you for stepping up with this one.

A great big hurrah to HONOLULU Magazine for publishing Randy Roth’s essay, and to Roth for identifying and confronting the main problems and their negative effect on state governance. The state is run like a fiefdom with the power brokers manipulating a very passive and ignorant population. The system is rigged with a power base that can only be shaken by a responsible public. Are we blowing in the wind? As Roth points out in his closing statement, “If not us, who?  If not now, when?”

Thank you so much for publishing Randy Roth’s very important article. You have provided a real service to the Hawaii community. I agree with all Roth’s points, with the single exception of his position on Act 221. I have lived in Honolulu since 1973, and worked in the downtown business community, until the end of 1999. Past and present, I have been involved in many nonprofit organizations, primarily business related. I have been president or chairman of many of them. 

I have observed the ongoing provincialism here. And the stubborn resistance to change. What I call “micro kuleanas,” people on the Mainland call silos. A frustrating and perplexing culture.

I hope you follow up with a series on Roth’s theme. Perhaps you can find a way to circulate Roth’s article beyond the pages of your excellent magazine. The message is that important. I fear that the rest of the world is passing us by.

Bravo for Randy Roth’s article on the lack of transparency in Hawaii’s government. The TV and print news media have dropped their investigative coverage of our government so that they can report on more car accidents. It’s shameful. Our politicians and judges seem to feel the public does not pay any attention to complex government issues, and they are right. The public does not care and no politician has been voted out of office for making things less transparent and accountable.

The public only cares about the “D” after their name on the ballot, or only votes for names they recognize. This gives them a carte blanche to do whatever they wish—serve themselves and special interests—with no repercussions.

It’s a sad thing to say, but we’re getting exactly the government we deserve.

Roth suggests that our state’s governance is “broken” and cites Chief Justice Moon’s “virtually absolute” control over the judiciary’s resources, calendar and staffing as a key problem. Roth, however, overlooks the fact that the chief justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court is, based on longstanding statute, the administrative head of the judiciary. By law, he must assign calendars, control the preparation and administration of the judiciary budget, programs, plans, and expenditures and perform all acts necessary for the judiciary’s administration. Given these legislatively imposed responsibilities, Moon must discharge the precise duties that Roth complains about.

Roth further claims:  “[W]hen the long-time staff person at the Judicial Selection Commission (JSC) decided to retire, Moon insisted on naming her replacement … Moon refused to back down: the new staff person would be of his choosing, or there would be no new staff person.” Roth, a law professor, is factually and legally mistaken about how and why the JSC staff person was selected. This position is subject to civil service laws. We suggested that, if the JSC wished to exercise exclusive authority in hiring its staff person, it should seek to legislatively exempt the position from civil service laws. The Legislature did not grant the exemption; the judiciary remained responsible for filling the position.  

Roth’s statement that Moon “insisted on naming [the JSC staff’s] replacement” is wholly untrue. At issue was the process by which the person should be selected so as to comply with the law; the issue was never who should be selected. That process included convening a three-person selection panel. The JSC was offered, and declined, a position on this panel. The panel interviewed all qualified civil service applicants and made recommendations to the administrative director. I know firsthand that Moon had nothing whatsoever to do with the selection of the JSC staff person.  He was not told who was interviewed and was not involved with either the panel’s deliberation or the ultimate selection of the JSC staff person.

Roth decries the lack of transparency and accountability in state governance but is not immune from those very ideals. As law professors advise their students, one’s position should be grounded in established fact and valid law. Accountability, transparency and professional responsibility require no less. 

“The Yard”  05/08
Senior editor Ronna Bolante explored the past and present of the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, which celebrated its centennial anniversary in May.

The article about Pearl Harbor brought tears to my eyes. My father, David Melville, a retired Navy man and veteran of WWI, was a leadingman shipfitter at Shop 11, Pearl Harbor, at the time of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack. On the night of Dec. 8, while approaching the USS Pennsylvania to go aboard with the skipper, Capt. Charles Cooke, he fell 50 feet into the solid, debris-laden cement of Drydock No. 1. He told us that the gangplank he had been using all day had been removed from its original spot. I learned in later years that a classmate’s cousin had operated the hammerhead crane that rescued him. My dad had two broken legs, a punctured lung that had to be removed and 18 stitches on his head. He was at the Naval Hospital at Pearl Harbor, where he remained for three weeks. I always considered him an unsung hero of WWII, as I do all defense workers who were at Pearl Harbor on that fateful day. I could never understand why they, too, were not classified as “Pearl Harbor Survivors.”

Editor’s note: A 1943 graduate of Roosevelt High School, Virginia Cowart also worked for the Navy during World War II. She was at the Registered Publications Issuing Office, Pearl Harbor.

"Field Guide: Laie”  04/08
We covered some of the attractions of this sleepy town.

You have an error in your April magazine concerning the Laie LDS Temple. This was not the first temple built outside of Salt Lake City. Temples were built in both Manti and St. George, Utah at the same time as the Salt Lake Temple. The Hawaii temple was the first one outside of Utah proper, but not outside of Salt Lake.