Sunday, June 02, 2013


Star-Advertiser editorial opposes city budget item to fund public toilets in Chinatown

by Larry Geller

Hard to believe. I had to read it twice. The Star-Advertiser editorial today opposes a City Council budget item for public toilets in Chinatown. 

In a list of appropriations from Bill 11, the proposed budget, the editors singled out three items, including this:

>>$100,000 for the “maintenance and security of public restrooms in Chinatown.”

I suppose one could object to the manner in which the “earmarks” were inserted into the budget, but please, Star-Advertiser, think of how your editorial is going to be read.

The time for improving public toilets is now, the City Council has put the possibility on the table for discussion. That’s remarkable enough, let’s leave it there.

Incredibly, the editors follow with a miss-statement of the scandal in the Legislature that resulted in a revamping of how the lege handles grants-in aid. They wrote:

The Council might take a page from the state Capitol annals and learn from it. In 2008, state Rep. Michael Magaoay was under fire for the way he managed grantmaking at the Legislature, with the final result that a more formal process was set up to review applications.

What the Legislature dealt with (in 2007, actually) was one of its members soliciting contributions from charities that would receive grants that he controlled. There is no such accusation here, and as far as I know, public toilets are a public service, not a charity (hmmm… maybe there should be some kind of advocacy organization, it is a health matter…).

This is a snip from one report at the time:

People with ties to six of the 10 nonprofit groups that have most benefited from the grants system since Magaoay became a key player have contributed to his campaign. By contrast, [Rep. Blake] Oshiro in the same four-year period did not receive any contributions from people associated with those 10 charities. Among the top 75 organizations (based on appropriation amounts), Magaoay received contributions from individuals with ties to 25 of those groups; Oshiro got support from people linked to three. In some cases, Magaoay received donations from three, four and five people with ties to the same organization, mostly board members.

[Honolulu Advertiser, Hawaii House grants job a lucrative post, 12/24/2007]

The Ethics Commission ultimately ruled that solicitation broke no ethics laws (see: Magaoay cleared of ethics violation during fundraising, Honolulu Advertiser, 4/26/2008).

Among other revelations, the scandal identified a potential need to revise Hawaii’s ethics laws.

If the editors think that soliciting campaign contributions are somehow related to the issue of providing more public toilets, well, the problem might not be with the City Council.

I also assume that, during the course of a hard day of editorial writing, the editors can just mosey down the hall when they need to use the facilities. Perhaps next trip they might think about the rest of us.


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