Community Policing

The police need help on this one, too (June 30, 2018)

We have asked the Honolulu Police Department to solve a problem that given the current resources available is unsolvable. (“Law Enforcement’s Struggle To Help Honolulu’s Mentally Ill“) We have put the responsibility of taking care of our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, parents and neighbors squarely on the shoulders of HPD, because we don’t know how to help them.

Access to treatment is extremely limited and the best way in is through the court system. Our mentally ill family members are not criminals but because we can’t figure out how to get them services; they are becoming criminals out of desperation.

In-patient treatment is the only way to help some of our more challenged citizens so let’s help them and not arrest them. We should be working with HPD not hiding our heads in the sand hoping the problem goes away. It doesn’t, it only gets worse.

— Sheryl Lynch, Pearl City

Union Blues

It’s not only about the money (June 29, 2018)

I am a retired member of the American Federation of Teachers. (“Supreme Court Deals A Major Blow To Public Sector Unions“) There were a few faculty who did not believe in collectively bargaining. They did not have to join the union, but they did have to pay dues. Over time most of them saw the merits in
belonging to the union and joined as well.

I think the Supreme Court decision will have the greatest impact on new collective bargaining agreements (workers trying to bargain collectively for the first time). Management’s argument will be “you don’t have to join and pay dues.”

— Richard Bidleman, Pahoa

Union strength provides many benefits (June 29, 2018)

Michael Ford writes that “Long ago unions certainly served a purpose and we all benefit from safety rules, hours and conditions laws and such but all those are now codified into law.” That is a common misconception, as only some of the most basic rules have been codified.

As an example, years ago when I was in an exempt government position my unit was transferred into a small office that only had one way in and out and was several floors high. We inquired about fire code safety regulations as a fire near the door would trap us all, but were informed that multiple exits are only required if you have more than 25 staff members assigned to the space. We did not. If we were part of a union, we would have had a formal way to try and fight for a a different space or the creation of a secondary exit.

Another example, do you know the legal minimum break between shifts that a government employer is required to give someone? It’s zero. That is why unions always negotiate that minimum break period as part of their collective bargaining agreement.

Another example is the paying of overtime. Federal overtime law exempts employees from OT who are “employed as bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales employees.” Many government employees are considered to be in administrative positions. Yet they currently are eligible for OT thanks to the unions’ negotiating efforts.

The Janus decision can be debated on its merits, but falsely claiming that the unions are useless to modern day public sector employees is not accurate.

— Bryan Mick, Honolulu

Taxi Driver

The difference between taxis and ride-hailing (June 30, 2018)

I’ve operated a taxi here in Honolulu for 12 years. Yesterday I drove a visitor who came from the Bay Area. As we parted he said, “You are a good ambassador for Hawaii.” It felt good to be appreciated.

It does not feel good to face unfair competition. Uber and Lyft are flooding our streets. Some say there are 7,000 of them. Who knows? Is government keeping track?

The state and city give these drivers unfair advantages in lower taxes, lower insurance, and lower requirements for various permits, including the airport. Uber/Lyft drivers pay a much lower General Excise Tax rate compared to taxi drivers — 0.5 percent versus 4.5 percent. If I were paying 0.5 percent I would save over $2,000 a year.

Many Uber/Lyft drivers are part-timers. Do they even have GET licenses? Do they even pay GET at the reduced rate? Can anyone in government answer these questions?

— Richard A. Desmond, Honolulu