Baggage Fee Revolts and Charter Changes

A Baggage-Fee Revolt?

If you fly even occasionally, you’ve probably given up grumbling about baggage fees. Like leg cramps, turbulence and only getting half the soda, you’ve accepted them as an unavoidable air-travel annoyance. And that’s exactly how the airlines want it. For them, baggage fees are big money. How big? According to data from the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, U.S. airlines have collected more than $2.5 billion in baggage fees so far this year, a 23 percent increase compared to the same period last year. Delta was by far the fee-collection leader, raking in $733.2 million. Hawaiian was near the middle of the pack with a still-staggering $40.3 million.

“These ancillary revenues are making airlines profitable,” an industry consultant told CNN. “But it’s the name of the game. People are paying it, people aren’t revolting, and so they’ll be there forever.” Considering the borderline-revolt passengers are engaged in over TSA’s invasive screening procedures, that almost sounds like a dare.

Charter Group:

Abolish LC Board

This week, the West Maui Charter Working Group—a collection of residents “from diverse professional, political and social backgrounds”—released a set of recommendations for amending the County Charter. Among them: do away with the Department of Liquor Control’s Adjudication Board.

The Adjudication Board, as anyone who follows our LC Watch column knows, considers the cases of bars and restaurants brought up on rules violations (over-serving, serving to a minor) and doles out punishment, while the Liquor Commission deals with rule-making and licensing matters. “Currently the Liquor Adjudication Board and Liquor Control Commission are primarily composed of members who were previously members of the other board, some alternating in this fashion several times,” wrote the West Maui group (this “revolving door” phenomenon is something we’ve also noted in the past). “This eliminates the primary purpose of separating these functions [and] produces redundancy and inefficiency.”

Some of the group’s other recommendations include: doing away with countywide voting for the County Council and creating nine single-member districts (an idea that was brought forward by Councilmember Jo Anne Johnson earlier this year before being quashed in committee); handing administrative duties for the county over to a County Manager and making the Mayor the “ceremonial, non-voting” chair of the Council; and creating a new office, separate from Corporation Counsel, to offer legal advice to the Council and various boards and commissions.

For more information on the West Maui Charter Working Group and its proposals, visit westmauicharter.org.

No Justice For State Judiciary?

As a new gubernatorial administration takes the reins on Oahu, the state Judiciary is crying poor. The court system’s slice of the general fund has been slashed by nearly $20 million, or 13 percent, according to a report released this week. “These reductions have had substantial negative effects throughout the judicial system, by reducing, delaying and in some cases eliminating important services,” wrote Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald in the report, unsubtly titled “Justice in Jeopardy.”

The report also points out that general fund appropriations go disproportionately to one branch of government: the legislature and courts get about 3 percent, with the remaining 97 percent going to the executive branch.

The lack of money impacts everything from divorce proceedings to civil complaints to supervision of paroled criminals. “Adequately funding the state court system is an investment in justice,” concludes Recktenwald, “and an investment in our democracy that should not be compromised even during tough economic times.”

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