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LETTERS for July 18 issue

By Staff | Jul 18, 2013

Speed sign helps promote awareness

I read “Voices of Maui” recently about Kaanapali and was so glad to see you reflect on the positive additions to our beloved resort area. However, I was a bit taken back by one small, yet significant, statement: “The only negative is the new speed sign on the parkway.”

In October of last year, my son, Jake, 10, was hit by a car in the crosswalk at Kaanapali Golf Courses. He was obeying all the rules of crossing a road properly and was waved on by the first car, only to be struck by a speeding second car. Thankfully, by the grace of God, he only suffered a lost tooth, scrapes, bruises and a great deal of fear. We are equally thankful that his two friends were unharmed.

Walking throughout Kaanapali, I am sure that you notice the unbelievable amount of speeding that occurs – and, frankly, still does, despite the very tastefully installed radar signs.

Everyone – from tourists, to employees and busses – ignores the 25 mph limit. Neither Tom nor I asked KBRA or KOA to work on making these changes, but we were thrilled at their desire to establish awareness.

You may have seen bumper stickers throughout the island that say, “Hey! Slow down – this ain’t the Mainland.” This is just a classy way of trying to keep drivers – both kama’aina and visitors – in check and cognizant of their driving speed.

I am assuming you were unaware that there was some significant rationale for the installation of these signs.

Your “one negative” is really nothing but a positive in many ways, in my opinion. Anything that may contribute to keeping our roads safer for all that use them should be praised. And again, we thank KOA and KBRA for being diligent in this regard.

ELIZABETH BELL, Director of Marketing, Hawaiian Hotels and Resorts


Asbestos-ridden material should be carefully managed

Back in June, The Maui News reported on an asbestos claim at Hale Mahaolu Lahaina Surf. It was reported that “88 percent of the 112 living units have asbestos.”

Lahaina Surf is one of the few affordable housing apartment complexes that families and seniors can reside in comfortably without paying an exorbitant amount of rent.

There are generations of residents, from kupuna to keiki, and it frightens and saddens me to know that the asbestos removal company would leave a container filled with asbestos-ridden material in an area that is frequented by residents daily.

The container sits right outside one of the apartment complexes. A sign states, “Respirators and Protective Clothing Are Required In This Area.” With that important safety precaution printed in black and white, is this equipment being provided for the residents and employees who must pass the area to get to their homes or vehicles, or are they living and working there “at their own risk?”

One concerned resident has already called the Department of Health and received the answer that the company doing the removal is “certified,” and they are “following protocol.” Okay, good job on the company… but shouldn’t EVERYONE INVOLVED be doing their part to be sure this material is not just sitting out in the open?

They should be thinking of the health of the residents, not the money that will be made.

KIM CHANG, Lahaina


Transparency you can’t believe in

This year’s graduating seniors entered college just before the Obama administration began. But while these successful graduates are now ready to move on to the next stage in their lives, the administration hasn’t achieved the same kind of progress on one of its signature initiatives: creating open government.

On his first day in office, President Obama committed his administration to creating “unprecedented levels of openness in government.” And even though his record on open government issues has been far from spotless, particularly in areas of national security, his administration has at least pushed for substantive change.

For example, the administration helped launch the Open Government Partnership, a multinational effort encouraging governments to take concrete steps toward making themselves transparent and accountable. And, with input from civil society organizations, it has developed a National Action Plan that includes 26 commitments and is aimed toward achieving 18 goals. However, there’s a wide gulf between the administration’s actions and its own open-government goals.

To put it in terms in which recent graduates might relate, the Obama administration turned in some great assignments, but its coursework for core classes remains incomplete.

As part of the plan, the U.S. set out to improve Freedom of Information Act efficacy. The public should be able to use the FOIA to obtain timely access to government information. Yet despite the plan and the administration’s much-heralded policy statements on FOIA, the government hasn’t made much improvement over the secretive Bush administration in carrying out the law.

Many people must still turn to the courts to obtain access to information that should have been turned over in the first place. The public also must wait in line to get records that should be made routinely available by agencies without a FOIA request.

Increasing transparency in government spending was another goal laid out in the plan. In the wake of the 2008 economic collapse and the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the administration developed a new model for helping the public know where their tax dollars flowed and for what purpose. We should be translating lessons learned from that experience to a system that allows the public to fully track funding, but we’re nowhere near that goal.

We face an enormous backlog of information that should already be declassified. The administration made a commitment in the plan to create the National Declassification Center. But while the center has done good work since its creation, the U.S. won’t be able to move through the backlog of almost 400 million pages of historical records by the deadline set by the president in 2009.

A focus on declassification is also woefully inadequate, and the administration has yet to act on recommendations made to transform classification – in particular, those made in November 2012 by the Presidential Public Interest Declassification Board.

It’s time for President Obama’s open-government commitment to graduate to the next level. The president can’t fix all of these issues without the help of Congress, but it’s within his executive-branch authority to resolve many.

This fall, the administration will release a new version of its National Action Plan. The president should use this opportunity to be bold and include commitments that will create real, lasting transparency that makes the grade.

AMY BENNETT, OpenTheGovernment.org