Last Sunday, The Advertiser editorial page presented an interesting contrast.
The paper's editorial stated that "Hawai'i has a government that's bigger and costlier than its economy can reasonably support, mostly because of generous pay and benefits for workers and inflexible work rules that hamper efforts at efficiency." It could have added that our Legislature keeps intruding government in our lives, obviating the need for common sense — witness the driving and cell-phoning prohibition.
But on the same page, a letter from Linda Umsted berates Republicans for opposing national programs that supposedly work very well. Ignored is the fact that, while the programs may be popular, they come at a cost that the nation cannot afford, as should be painfully obvious from our nation's dire financial straits.
The Democrats, ensconced in the White House and Congress, are bent on creating new entitlements, which will no doubt be popular in some quarters and garner votes, but grow the size and cost of government.
thomas j. freitas | Honolulu
CLOSING OFFICES NOW MAKES LITTLE SENSE
As a freshman legislator, I have tried to do more listening than talking in my first term, but I must speak out to disagree with Rep. Lynn Finnegan's opinion piece ("Republicans offering common-sense ideas," March 22).
In the name of common sense, she defends the governor's plan to close all public assistance offices with the exception of one in Hilo and one in Honolulu, resulting in not only the firing of more than 200 child protection and welfare workers, but placing in jeopardy children who are abused, neglected and at risk for their lives.
This makes no sense. When it becomes clear that we are allowing our most vulnerable people to drop through the safety net, this administration will be long gone. What makes sense is to do a pilot project, verify that new procedures work and implement changes over time, not ripping out the heart of a statewide program and fire so many local people.
Although counter-intuitive, when times are tough, that's when you need government services to handle the increase in unemployment, domestic violence, and other issues related to increased poverty and homelessness. The times call for true leadership, not political bickering.
Rep. Denny Coffman | (D-6th) North Kona, Keauhou, Kailua, Kona, Honokōhau
GOVERNMENT MUST NOT CONTROL SCHOOLS
Abolishing the state Board of Education will not in any way improve education. Rather, it will clear a path for politics to corrupt our public education system even more; anger parents, students and teachers and silence the voice of the students.
We cannot allow the governor to control and monopolize education through an appointed BOE or cabinet-level DOE superintendent. We cannot allow government to grow more powerful so as to control the welfare of our students in their schools. An appointed BOE will only be accountable to one person: the governor.
Abolishing the BOE will not solve our current education crisis. In fact, if Gov. Lingle had her way, students and teachers would be furloughed for 36 days for two years, instead of 17.
As a public school student at Wai'anae High School, I cannot trust my education or welfare in the hands of an appointed BOE under the eye of the governor. Someone once said, "That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves."
Mark Dannog | Wai'anae
GENDER EQUITY STILL AN ISSUE IN ATHLETICS
I am deeply saddened to learn that girls' softball players on Maui are suffering the same sort of gender discrimination that I did 42 years ago.
"Find and pay for: your own coach, your own transportation, your own uniforms; and, figure out how to schedule your own games. Then, you can have a girls' team," said my high school principal when I pressed him to explain why the girls had no basketball team at my high school in 1968.
So, my girlfriends and I determinedly accomplished all those demands, to our astonished principal's great dismay. Our team was the very first girls' interscholastic team established at my high school.
But the principal failed to mention that the team we organized would have to begin all practice sessions at 9:30 p.m., after the boys' wrestling team, the boys' junior varsity basketball team and the boys' varsity basketball team.
When the boys were done, then, and only then, were the girls were allowed to step into the high school gymnasium to practice. Boys come first; a lesson I never forgot and I never accepted.
Pam Garrison | Kailua
FURTHER QUEST CUTS WILL BE INEFFECTIVE
The state administration needs to recognize that if we keep cutting benefits for Quest patients and adding administrative burdens and cutting fees for doctors, we must reach a line below which Medicaid recipients will be unable to obtain access to effective care.
Below that line we are not getting further savings and we are turning all the money we spend on Medicaid into waste, because the goal of providing health care to beneficiaries has been lost. The rope is simply too short to reach the drowning man.
Based on front-line observations of the number of Quest patients who can't find any doctor willing to treat them, and the number of doctors who tell me they are no longer accepting Medicaid patients, we are apparently already at or a bit below that line, especially for the Medicare-Medicaid (QExA) program.
From here on, we won't accomplish anything by further cuts; we will only create a catastrophe for this most vulnerable population. We must consider other models for Medicaid financing and care delivery.
The most cost-effective Medicaid program in the Country is Community Care of North Carolina. It was developed by doctors and hospitals, without insurance companies.
Dr. stephen b. kemble | Honolulu
LAW ENFORCEMENT SPREADS PROPAGANDA
It is no coincidence that law enforcement is mounting a propaganda campaign to convince Hawai'i legislators and the public that opening medical marijuana dispensaries is a bad idea ("L.A. police say marijuana dispensaries a failed idea," March 19). This is the first year amendments to Hawai'i's 10-year old medical marijuana law have progressed in the Legislature.
Opening dispensaries to provide registered patients with safe and legal access to marijuana was the number one recommendation of the Medical Cannabis Working Group. Our law permits qualifying patients to use this medical herb without providing a legal supply — thus forcing patients to go the black market to obtain their medicine.
Hawai'i has the opportunity to design a program from scratch using the best models available to serve patients' needs and potentially provide revenue to the state and counties from tightly regulated sales.
We are disappointed that California flew in three officers from Los Angeles to Maui and O'ahu for a one-sided "update" excluding all proponents. Instead of listening to scare stories about the problems in L.A., stemming from lack of regulation, Hawai'i law enforcement officials should be working with us on drafting fair and workable rules for the proposed compassion centers.
Pamela Lichty | Co-chair, Medical Cannabis Working Group, and president, Drug Policy Forum of Hawai'i
FUNDS FOR BAND, BUT NOT FOR SYMPHONY?
Your informative article on the Royal Hawaiian Band indicates that the city has budgeted $1.9 million for it in the coming fiscal year. ("Royal Hawaiian Band plays on," March 23).
While the band is good, our fabulous Honolulu Symphony has been allowed to die, partly because of a lack of city support.
The symphony, composed of outstanding musicians, is essential to the cultural life of the city and for the continuation of quality opera productions.
The band has a royal legacy, started in 1836 during the reign of Kamehameha III. It plays concerts at 'Iolani Palace. Why isn't the band supported by the state or the Office of Hawaiian Affairs?
The symphony and opera make use of and pay rent at the city's concert hall. If the city can only afford one, band or symphony, the symphony should prevail.
jack gillmar | Honolulu