May 2004



HONOLULU Magazine’s annual roundup of the best in local products and services.

Our library staff was delighted that your writers selected the Hawaii State Public Library System’s free electronic database, the Auto Repair Reference Center, as the “Best Auto Repair, Self Help Division.” We were also pleased to read about the University of Hawaii’s Hamilton Library being named as “Best Library.” The hard-working staff at Hamilton richly deserves the praise. We would, however, like to clarify statements made pertaining to the Hawaii State Public Library System in that article.

While it is true that our library system had to reduce public service hours in May 2003 due to a $500,000-plus budget restriction and hiring freeze, our libraries have made an effort to be open to the public whenever possible. On Oahu, every public library offers at least one evening of open hours, and several are open two to three evenings per week. More than half of the 23 libraries on Oahu offer either Saturday or Sunday open hours. A complete listing of the library hours can be found at www.librarieshawaii.org.

In a customer survey conducted in November 2003, 81 percent of the 4,700 customers surveyed gave Hawaii’s public libraries an “Excellent” or “Good” rating for overall quality of service. We are proud that our staff has been able to earn a high rating from the public under circumstances of insufficient funding and escalating staff vacancies.

Jo Ann Schindler, State Librarian



A. Kam Napier’s article on what the next mayor of Honolulu will need to accomplish.

I was disappointed, and then angered, [to learn from] A. Kam Napier’s well-researched and well-written article that the City and County of Honolulu is still trying to extend the bounds of the Chinatown Special District to Aala.

Aala is an area very familiar to me, as my family ran a business there and we lived above the store from the late ’20s through the ’50s. It was a major shopping and service area made up primarily of Japanese residents, merchants and shoppers. Historically, Aala has a long connection with the immigrant Japanese, for many spent their first days in Hawaii at the Japanese hotels in the area before going on to the plantations. Aala was also where they congregated during the 1909 and 1920 strikes; where many of them settled when they left the plantations to seek independence and opportunities; where they started businesses to serve the community that developed; and where they brought up their sons and daughters—many of whom have become leaders in the greater Hawaii community.

Aala was not part of Chinatown, as you can see, but primarily a Japanese community. As residents of Aala, we used to say, “I’m going to Chinatown,” when we crossed the Nuuanu Stream bridge. Including Aala as a part of Chinatown is a distortion of history. It should never be so designated.

Jane Komeiji, Honolulu



Alex Salkever’s article on a shortage of medical specialists in emergency rooms.

“Scary Shortage” addresses the unpredictable availability of specialists, particularly gastroenterologists, in emergency situations. It states, “the problem has cropped up at all of the state’s major hospitals that render intensive and emergency care.” That is not accurate. Straub Clinic & Hospital, where I practiced from 1987-2003, always has a gastroenterologist on call for emergencies—days, nights, weekends and holidays. Currently, three gastroenterologists, who practice exclusively at Straub, share that responsibility. I certainly emphasize with your writer’s concern that similar services are not so readily available at some other Oahu hospitals.

Incidentally, patients with internal bleeding, a common problem requiring the urgent services of a gastroenterologist, do not “cough up blood,” [as your article describes]—they vomit blood, often in copious quantities, and, in such situations, time may indeed be of the essence.

Michael D. Kaye, D.M., F.R.C.P.



John Heckathorn’s piece on the idiosyncrasies of Island drivers.

Dr. Robert Spicer states that the cause of most accidents is that drivers believe that they can drive better than they actually can and that the solution is to retrain drivers annually with “professional coaching and driving simulation practice.” Spicer mentions speeding on H-3 as an example of drivers being overconfident about their ability to drive, but there are several other forms of driving that are seen regularly on Oahu that reflect the overconfidence that Spicer describes, namely, competitive street racing, tailgating, failing to signal turns and lane changes and using cell phones while driving. All of these forms of behavior involve drivers incorrectly assuming that they can react in time to avoid accidents, while their ability to do so is reduced by [those very behaviors].

Street racing, however, is the most obvious case of drivers who are overly confident of their skills. By treating other cars on the road as mere posts in an obstacle course, drivers weave though traffic at high speeds with disrespect for the lives of those they pass along the way—all the while thinking that they will be able to react in time to avoid an accident. The gruesome accident that took place on H-1 on February 13 illustrates what can result from such overconfidence and lack of respect for others.

Spicer advocates retraining drivers, something that we are not against, but there are other measures that we all can take to reduce the number of accidents on Oahu that do not require formal retraining: slow down, leave more space in front of us, signal before turning or changing lanes, avoid using cell phones while driving and, above all, have respect for the safety and lives of others.

Ken and Haruko Cook, Kailua