DUIs PUNISHED TOO LIGHTLY
With the holidays behind us, I have to address the issue of drunk driving. Alcohol is a (unfortunately) legal drug, and in my opinion the worst drug of all. More people die from alcohol use than from all illegal drugs combined - often over decades (liver, heart, arteries, kidneys, dementia, etc.), but also often immediately when driving under the influence, killing innocent bystanders and other drivers as well or maiming them for life. BUT alcohol brings billions in taxes to counties, states and the federal government. Talk about hypocrisy...
While drug dealers and often users are getting long prison terms (and deservedly so), DUIs are treated by the courts as a "gentleman's offense." Reading about the "punishments" meted out, one wonders.
Driving drunk is tantamount to shooting with an automatic gun into the dark, not knowing if somebody is out there. Here in our paradise, it is even worse, because we also have a lot of visitors who break the law. It is worse than involuntary manslaughter, because the offender knows when he/she gets drunk and does not get drunk by accident.
Having read the convictions by the Lahaina District Court, I have to speak out. A first offense should carry a minimum of six months in prison and a restriction on your license for two years, only allowing you to drive from and to work. (In West Maui you can easily get to work most of the time by using the bus.) Punishments only get harsher when somebody is actually killed or seriously injured, but by driving drunk the driver endangers EVERYBODY he/she encounters. If by pure luck there is no accident, or the driver is stopped and fails the field test, it's no consequence at all or a slap on the wrist in comparison to the offense.
Because of the (fortunately) strong tourist industry in West Maui, we have a much higher percentage of drunk drivers on the road than the national average. The punishment should fit the crime, and driving drunk IS attempted manslaughter/murder. A second offense - if carrying a mandatory five-year prison sentence - would make you think twice before getting behind the wheel after drinking, and you would take a taxi or designate a driver.
And we always wonder why justice is depicted with a blindfold! Our laws need a serious overhaul. By just fining the offender a few hundred dollars and suspending the license for six months is like saying. "It's no big deal really; just don't do it again." A car is like a weapon, and a driver's license like a permit to carry a gun.
So our legislators should - no, MUST - enact tougher laws that can be applied by our courts.
With this, I hope everybody will have a safe and healthy New Year. And until we have appropriate laws on Maui and in all of Hawaii, when you see somebody trying to drive drunk, take away the keys and/or call 911!! You may just save one or more lives...
JOHN BLAHUTA, Lahaina
WHY AMERICA IS GOING BROKE
On Jan. 2, the U.S. Government released the cost for making the penny and nickel for the year 2011. Hope you are sitting down on this - the cost to make a cent was 2.14 cents, and the cost of making the nickel was 11.18 cents. The loss to American taxpayers was $116.7 million.
There is also $1.3 billion sitting in the Federal Reserve with coins nobody wants to spend. These would be the Presidential $1 coins and the Sacagawea (Native American ) $1 coins.
The Fed had to build, at a cost of $600,000, extra space to house these coins at their big bank. At a cost of $8 million, they have to ship them from the other 11 federal branches back to the main Federal Reserve Bank.
It is always good to know where and how they spend our tax dollars. Have a Happy New Year!
STEVE SUTHERLAND, Napili
CLEAN UP YOUR FIREWORKS TRASH
This letter goes out to the residents of Napilihau. Resident Manager Steve Sutherland and our groundskeeper, John Vasquez, work extremely hard to keep our community groomed and clean of rubbish.
So, you people that set off fireworks in Napilihau, please have the decency to pick up your garbage after you are done.
SU CAMPOS, Napili
HIGH RENTS DRIVE UP RESTAURANT PRICES
I concur with Arsene Gadarian's complaint and request ("Tip servers well!" in the Dec. 22 issue). Waiters/waitresses work for an undeserving small salary!
However, if I already have got to pay above $10 for a burger, which equals one hour of salary myself, then it is tough to leave a 20 percent tip in addition.
Again, it is not deserved, because those poor fellows and gals work hard for the so little they make.
It's a rat's tail to be haunted from another end: commercial properties are available in mass, but rents are astronomical. I have been for long in search for a unit in Lahaina to (re)open my own business, but I experienced landlords make more profit by "losing" than by renting. They leave properties vacant! My old unit I rented from 1996 to 2002 is STILL vacant!! For a decade already! Why? Because the landlord there asks way too much rent, instead of giving willing investors and entrepreneurs a chance.
That's why restaurant prices are so high. It's not the food itself, and certainly not the meager money those workers make, it's the exorbitant rent demanded!
I am in Asia, and for the love of God, I want to return, but property owners do little to support one courageous man who is willing to put it all on the line!
Who suffers? The poor waiters and waitresses, the tourists who pay horrendous prices (and probably don't return to Maui the next year), and those who are willing to risk everything they have saved and wage it on the hope to establish something where people call it paradise: Maui.
DR. GEORG WOODMAN, Taiwan/Kihei
BIKES SHOULD BE ALLOWED ON PATH
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua has officially decided to criminalize the act of riding a bicycle through their property.
After riding my bike on the short route that connects the end of the lower road with Fleming Beach for years now, I was summoned to a stop the other day. The employee informed me in a non-compromising manner that I must walk my bike the remaining 100 yards. She also kindly offered to show me the signage that prohibits the heinous act of riding a bicycle. I mentioned the irony that they recently hosted the XTERRA World Championships, a mountain bike-centric event. That was then, this is now, I was told.
This is the same route that the lower road once maintained, easily taking locals and visitors alike directly to "Stables" beach. But the developers managed to conveniently eliminate this portion of the road because it simply didn't fit their plans. Apparently, neither does riding a bicycle.
Cycling is a significantly beneficial act on many levels. Rising health care costs suggest it should be encouraged, not forbidden. The Ritz-Carlton has every right to enforce a no-bike-riding policy. The fact that they choose to is disappointing and should not go unnoticed.
BRAD FITKIN, Kahana
THANKS FOR BUYING ROTARIANS' TREES
Thank you to our revered 'ohana and visitors alike for selecting fresh Christmas trees locally from the Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunrise. We take great pleasure in bringing you the best fresh-cut, refrigerated nobel fir trees direct from the Pacific Northwest.
Profits from this popular fundraiser are planted back into our community in support of worthy West Maui projects: July 4th music on the library lawn; Andy & Elmer elementary ethics teachings; new dictionaries supplied to all West Maui third-graders; Lahaina Town and school beautification ventures; educational scholarships; and annual support for the Lahaina Complex Tutor Program to name a few.
All this is possible because you cherish the season and choose to support the efforts of our club. Your purchase generates funds, permitting your Rotary Club to carry out many tasks. We trust your lovely tree brought into your home much beauty and grace to build laughter and memorable moments.
Special thanks to Lahaina Cannery Mall, Ala and Sherri at KPOA/Pacific Radio Group, Service Rentals, Lahainaluna Interact Club, Todd at Gilbert & Associates, and Robyn Downer at Klahani Travel, whose generous contributions of time, talent and resources help make this effort effortless.
Those interested in getting involved with Rotary and/or enhancing support for club projects can visit our website at www.lahainasunriserotary.org or join us Tuesday mornings at the Pioneer Inn. We meet from 7 to 8 a.m. and enjoy a hearty breakfast for $10.
ROTARY CLUB OF LAHAINA SUNRISE
LAHAINA CHIEFS APPRECIATE SUPPORT
The Lahaina Chiefs Junior Peewee Division, which consists of eight-, nine, ten- and 11-year-olds from Lahaina, had a great season! The team placed third on Maui and traveled to Oahu to play against the Village Park Warriors. Even though they were not the champions (as they were last year), the team did an awesome job, and we are proud of each and every one of them.
All of this would not be possible without the help of volunteers from the community. On behalf of all Lahaina Chiefs Divisions, we would like to thank everyone who helped make this season successful. We would like to extend a special thank you to the following for going above and beyond for our team: Duke's Beach House, Ed and Famous Dave's, Kamuela from Bad Ass Kennels, Chris and Malcolm with Sniffen & Sons, Wal-Mart, VIP Foodservice, Kula Produce, Island Froyo, Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton, Willie's Sticky Ribs, Maui Fair Alliance, Love's Bakery, Quality Groceries, County of Maui-Westside Division, Valley Isle Monuments & Sandblasting, 808 Trophies, Automatic T-Shirt Printing, First Hawaiian Bank-Lahaina Branch, Takamiya Market, Maui Pop Warner Referees, Lahainaluna High School, Lahainaluna Football, Hawaiian Airlines, Wet N' Wild, Media Systems Inc., Andy Alavazo (our Lahaina commissioner), H.L.A board members, Joe Apolo, Lori Salter, Maile Sombelon, Kalei Apolo-Awai and Shane Awai.
Lastly, we cannot forget to thank our coaches, who volunteered so much of their time to help the youth of Lahaina.
Once again, mahalo to everyone who helped prepare our kids for a brighter future!
IMUA LAHAINA CHIEFS!