Letters | 5-13-14
We must support new ethics bill
Once again the Hawaii County Council has refused to pass Mayor Billy Kenoi’s ethics bill No. 181. The mayor has been trying to pass this bill since 2009. This time the bill was defeated by Brenda Ford, Gregor Ilagan, Dennis Onishi and Zendo Kern.
So what? Does it matter? The short answer is yes, it matters a lot. The four council members who scuttled the ethics bill disgraced themselves by standing up for county officials and employees to continue providing goods and services to the county through their own, or their families, private companies. In all U.S. states, these practices could trigger investigations into conflict of interest, nepotism or fraud. In Hawaii County, these practices appear to be legal, routine and have been for years, according to Kenoi.
These practices have long been outlawed in most of the developed world. But, our beautiful island home has a government that operates like a miniature banana republic with political insiders taking advantage of our own citizens. Some council members and county officials appear to believe that we are too dumb to notice that they are playing games with our money and undermining the credibility of our government. I feel sorry for the vast majority of county employees who are very honest people, but must work in a system where some employees are more equal than others.
Fair and open competition in contracting is the best way for the county to obtain high-quality goods and services at a fair price. But how can any private contractor or vendor believe that he can compete, fairly, for business with the county? The existing County Code of Ethics allows the county to award contracts to its employees or their families.
Do contractors waste time and money on a bid that they can’t win? Or do they seek assistance from an insider and “pay to play”? The best contractors may decide to not participate at all. This behavior undermines the contracting process, lowers the quality of county projects and results in cost overruns or numerous no bid contract extensions.
Our County Code of Ethics, as it stands, is probably a very corrupting influence on normally honest and law abiding citizens. This is a terrible example for our children. Do we leave them with this awful legacy and allow them to think that this is fair and normal human behavior in our country?
Finally, we all know the cost of living in Hawaii is too high, especially for the poor and those on fixed incomes. The Jones Act may be part of the reason, but corruption and abuse of authority increases the cost of government. These costs are always passed on to taxpayers, which makes it more expensive for all of us to live here.
We need to support Kenoi in cleaning up this harmful oxymoron called the County Code of Ethics. The voters should help four county council members find new jobs, because they don’t understand the contracting process, the need for fairness and the negative economic impacts of corruption on their constituents.
Judiciary Complex site is the best available
I am writing in response to the May 6 letter to the editor about the selection of the site for the Kona Judiciary Complex. We would like to take this opportunity to clarify the process that was used in selecting the final site for the new courthouse.
The original site selected for the Kona Judiciary complex was on state-owned land near the West Hawaii Civic Center. An endangered uhi uhi plant was subsequently discovered on property adjacent to the site. Accordingly, based on federal law prohibiting removing or relocating this endangered plant, developing this site was no longer viable.
Fortunately, during the original site selection process, a detailed environmental review was conducted on seven possible sites. The final environmental impact statement ranked the current Makalapua site as a desirable alternative. Makalapua’s landowner, Queen Liliuokalani Trust, agreed to provide the land for use as a courthouse at a nominal price. Combined with the adjustment made for land acquisition costs and QLT’s potable water credits for future developments, we anticipate that the development costs will be $1.2 million less for Makalapua than for the original civic center site. Accordingly, this appears to be the best value for the state.
The new courthouse will allow Judiciary operations to be consolidated in a modern facility that will best serve the people of West Hawaii for generations to come.
Hawaii State Judiciary spokeswoman
Doctor responds to HMSA CEO
With all due respect regarding HMSA’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Gold’s response — the critical question should be — not how do we shut down the fed’s mandate but how do we ensure that everyone needing care in Hawaii is covered? So many people fall through the gaps.
In a resort community such as Kona, it is the part-time workers who have two or three part-time jobs. They don’t qualify for HMSA or anything. Workers cannot afford the family coverage option as cost of living is so high and wages low.
I saw so many heart-breaking incidents, I eventually burned out. Young women with advanced cervical cancer and as students they had no care. An ill man who lost his job the day before his wife was to go to surgery for breast cancer — oops — no coverage. Many part-time workers who had no insurance. My own fiance in 2010 went to a community health care center in Kona with chest pain, throat pain and shortness of breath and was sent home with an appointment for the next week. He died waiting.
Our first question should be not how do we fight the feds but how do we ensure every person needing care can access it? It is not hard. Most other industrialized countries do this on a daily basis, including Germany, Japan and Finland. How can we partner with all plans and payers to work out a model instead of sitting self-satisfied when this does not work for so many? I had a young 19-year-old, a hit-and-run victim, who spent months in The Queen’s Medical Center and then came home in a wheelchair with a $2 million bill. The impact on the families is tremendous — the parents divorced and he was left with no future. This occurs time and time again.
Let’s add the more than 40-year-old woman dying of a terrible cancer, which was eating her right arm nerves out, in terrible pain on hospice, but her Kaiser Permanente insurance would not cover her medications since her husband divorced her and left her here with no drug coverage. She had intractable vomiting. Only our going and begging for the only medication that was quite expensive then — and was effective – helped her. Caring for underinsured, poorly insured and not insured patients is something physicians can not turn their backs on.
My heart goes out to everyone less than insured and not insured and this CEO should start trying to find workable solutions for people in Hawaii. Stop arguing and obstructing and self-aggrandizing and find a way with these federal initiatives to treat every last man, woman and child the best you can — or resign.
Dr. Lora Lee Aller