Council Selections and Iraq Deployments

Council Keeps It Off the Record
“It’s like being a high school student gossiping in the halls.” That’s outgoing Councilmember Jo Anne Johnson, describing the way the Council chooses its chair and assigns various committee positions. The process—which concluded last week—is done behind closed doors, and Johnson said it’s largely a game of “he said, she said” that “leads to a lot of misinformation and hurt feelings.”

“I always wanted everything to be out in the open, transparent,” Johnson told us. “What you say privately, why not say it in public?” She said she tried to change things during her decade on the Council, but found, “people don’t want to rock the boat.”

Johnson did add that, while she doesn’t like the secrecy, she’s pleased with this year’s results, which saw Danny Mateo keep his chairmanship and Joe Pontanilla take over as vice chair while holding his post as head of the Budget and Finance Committee.

“This next budget is going to be rough—experience and continuity are extremely important,” Johnson said.

Gladys Baisa and Mike Victorino, veteran Councilmembers who missed out on the chair- and vice chairmanships, will head up the General Plan and Water Resources committees, respectively. Other chair assignments include: Riki Hokama, Policy Committee; Bob Carroll, Land Use Committee; Elle Cochran, Infrastructure Management Committee; Mike White, Economic Development, Agriculture and Recreation Committee; and Don Couch, Planning Committee.

Relearn What You Have Learned
Are Hawaii’s high schools preparing students for college? Not adequately, according to a report released this week, which found that nearly 40 percent of state public high school graduates who enrolled in the University of Hawaii system in 2009 had to take remedial English and math classes—essentially relearning things they should have already been taught.

The picture on Maui is no rosier. Baldwin (35 percent remedial math, 30 percent remedial English) and King K. (41 percent remedial math, 31 percent remedial English) were close to the state average. Meanwhile, at Maui High a whopping 48 percent of grads were lagging in both subjects, according to the figures from Hawaii P-20.

High schools shouldn’t shoulder all the blame; education is a cumulative process and knowledge gaps only widen with time. But the numbers underscore a fact that’s already clear to most teachers, parents and casual observers: our schools—and our keiki—need help.

Happy Christmas (War Isn’t Over)
The Iraq war may be over, but don’t tell the 800 Hawaii-based troops who are being deployed there this week. The soldiers, stationed at Oahu’s Schofield Barracks, will join almost 4,000 members of Hawaii’s 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team currently carrying out “Operation New Dawn.”

Granted, thousands of U.S. forces have left Iraq and the ones still there are supposedly focused on “non-combat” duties. But five members of Stryker Brigade have been killed since September, including Sgt. David Luff, Jr., who died this week “of wounds sustained from enemy small-arms fire” during “advisory operations” in Tikrit, according to a military release.

So when will the war really be over? By the end of 2011—maybe. That’s the date the Obama Administration has set, but earlier this month Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he’d be “open to discussing” a longer stay if Iraqi forces aren’t ready to take the reins. Calls to mind the words of Aristotle: “It is more difficult to organize a peace than to win a war.”