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xochi Donating Member (191 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-19-09 08:21 PM
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Repug gov no friend to education, social services, homeless
Hawaii dimmed by education, election, health cuts

By MARK NIESSE, Associated Press Writer Mark Niesse, Associated Press Writer Sat Dec 19, 2:15 pm ET

HONOLULU Hawaii public schools are closed most Fridays, rats scurry across bananas in uninspected stores and there may not be enough money to run the next election.
. . .
Hawaii now has the shortest school year in the nation after the state and teachers union agreed to shutter schools for 17 days a year, leaving 171,000 students without class on most Fridays. Negotiations to reopen them collapsed last week.
Food establishments often go uninspected, a fact highlighted by an Internet video showing rats roaming freely across produce in a Honolulu Chinatown market. The state has just nine health inspectors on Oahu to handle nearly 6,000 markets and restaurants.
The state Elections Office said it may not be able to afford a pending special election, which would leave half of the state's population without representation in the U.S. House of Representatives until September 2010.
Homelessness is on the rise as mental health, child abuse, welfare and daycare programs run short on cash.

And next year may be even worse because tax revenues continue to plunge with the economy.

. . . Hawaii stands apart in how its government shrinkage has ripped into what are generally considered to be core functions: education, public health, elections and services for the disadvantaged.

"This is not good government," said Larry Geller, the Internet blogger and political watchdog who posted the rat video. "Other states are struggling with the same problems, and many of them are making difficult decisions. But Hawaii ... I think the choices have been poorly made."
. . .
Meanwhile, services to poor and disadvantaged populations are dropping off when they are most needed, said Alex Santiago, executive director of PHOCUSED, a consortium of nonprofits.
. . .
The homeless who camp in tents along a stretch of Waikiki beaches are giving tourists from around the world a glimpse of the financial and social problems that Hawaii is facing. But many homeless families have been forced out far west to the Waianae Coast.

"The homeless situation is right in your face. Almost everywhere you go now you see people who are absolutely devastated and have nowhere else to turn," Santiago said. "We've allowed our responsibilities to slip."

Limits imposed on the amount of time mental health patients can get help from specialists will lead to more relapses, crime and hospitalizations, said Poka Laenui, executive director for Hale Naau Pono, the largest provider of community health services on Oahu's Waianae Coast.

"Half of the problem is a financial problem," he said. "But there's another problem, and that's a lack of leadership. . . . Leadership is looking at specific programs and setting appropriate priorities."

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