Letters to the Editor: February 18, 2021

Why is it?

As reported by West Hawaii Today on Sunday, funding for our under-appreciated and heroic ocean safety officers (OCOs) at Kua Bay State Park ($480,000) and Hapuna State Park ($868,000) will end on June 30.

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Why is it when all state and local governments (Hawaii included) have financial issues, the FIRST thing out of their collected mouths is “it will be necessary to cut public safety” (police, fire, lifeguards, ambulance services, EMTs, RNs, MDs, at county facilities. Note: these claims are strictly SCARE tactics as you never here them say they’re going to cut executive salaries or, heaven forbid, homeless benefits, etc.

The State of Hawaii has a reported 2021 budget of $8.4 billion, as per The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. This article also reports that there isn’t funding ($1.348 million) for the above OCO positions after June 30.

I find it very hard to believe and accept that Gov. David Ige and our legislators can’t find a measly $1.348 million to fund these safety positions. I use the word measly as funding these OSO positions only amounts to an additional 0.016% of Ige’s 2021 entire state budget of $8.4 billion.

If our leaders think $1.348 million is expensive, have they thought or asked: “what is the cost of a human life?” or “what is the cost to defend against a law suit?”

Here’s a very simple solution to funding these very important OSO positions on all of our Islands. Per the State of Hawaii Department of Taxation (files.hawaii.gov) there were 5.1 million tax returns filed in 2018-19. If the state reduced refunds by $1 or added $1 to those who have to pay additional taxes, this would take care of the problem.

If our governor and kegislators can’t or won’t fund these OSO safety positions and can’t cut other departments to make up the difference, I’ll have to quote President Joe Biden and say, “Come on man!”

Tony Poggi

Kona

School closures wreaking havoc

When I hear people say “we’re all in this together,” my response now is, “we’ll all be in this together when both the private and public schools are closed.” Until then there are a couple of different “togethers.”

Parents understood the need to close public schools 12 months ago, when we knew little about this virus and chances were good things could go very poorly here. We understood in late summer when there was a statewide spike in cases. However, Hawaii Island’s daily count has mostly been in the single digits for weeks.

Nationwide, cases are down 50% to 60%. Bloomberg’s Karl Smith recently opined in West Hawaii Today, “From a public health perspective, opening schools is not a difficult call … with proper safeguards, it is largely safe to do so.” Today’s Hawaii News Now headline is “despite CDC’s new guidance for reopening schools, Hawaii DOE has not yet revealed updated plan.”

Schools should therefore be planning to immediately reopen, not cherry-picking the science they want to follow. And yet Waimea Elementary School just notified us our first grader will be losing two hours per week of the very little in-person instruction time she currently has. Was it that difficult for the local DOE to find space around Waimea town to spread students out when this all began? I can think of several such spaces off the top of my head.

Private schools long ago figured this out, as did the Kama‘aina Kids program and others. This is wreaking havoc on working families’ lives and our children’s education. While schools across the country, in states and municipalities with thousands of new daily cases, reopen, we on Hawaii Island continue to dither. It’s unforgivable.

Christopher Hawkins

Waimea

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Letters policy

Letters to the editor should be 300 words or less and will be edited for style and grammar. Longer viewpoint guest columns may not exceed 800 words. Submit online at www.westhawaiitoday.com/?p=118321 or via email to letters@westhawaiitoday.com.