Articles of Interest
Hawaii Public Radio News - Hawaii Legislature Prepares To Conclude. Transparency Advocates Cry Foul
Friday is the final scheduled day for the Hawaii Legislature’s 2020 session. The coronavirus pandemic forced lawmakers to close public access to the state Capitol, end in-person testimony on legislation, and broadcast all legislative hearings for remote viewing.
Sandy Ma with the good governance watchdog Common Cause Hawaii says the remote viewing system has been problematic, having observed audio quality too distorted to understand, camera angles making it impossible to identify speakers, and scheduling errors resulting in votes and hearings taking place without being broadcast. However, her biggest issue is with the restrictions on public participation. Normally, residents can appear in person to voice their concerns about proposed laws and even answer questions from lawmakers. Ma says that makes for better government and better policy. In the era of COVID, only written testimony was accepted, which she believes is an inadequate substitute.
Bill would make Rep. Takayama eligible to run for Sen. Harimoto’s seat
Twelve days after the death of state Sen. Breene Harimoto, the House Judiciary Committee proposed a change in state election law that would make committee member Rep. Gregg Taka yama eligible to run to serve out the last two years of Harimoto’s term.
Lawmakers say Takayama (D, Pearl City-Waimalu- Pacific Palisades) has privately expressed interest in moving up to the Senate, but under current law is prohibited from seeking Harimoto’s Senate seat because he already filed to run for reelection to the House seat he now holds.
Common Cause Hawaii considers this scheme to be insider dealing.
Honolulu Civil Beat - The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Is Gutting Its Newsroom
In a devastating blow to Hawaii’s largest daily newspaper, leadership at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser told employees it intends to lay off about half of its union news staff by the end of the month.
Thirty-one workers across all departments are flagged for removal: 15 of the newspaper’s 34 reporters, two photographers, three page designers, seven clerks, three graphic artists and a web designer.
Honolulu Civil Beat - The Pay Keeps Flowing For Accused Honolulu Officials On Leave
More than a year after three high-ranking Honolulu officials went on paid administrative leave amid their involvement in a federal investigation, the city won’t say how much longer it expects to continue paying them. The city says it has no policy limiting the length of time an employee can be on paid leave, according to Alexander Zannes, the mayor’s communications director. Investigations shouldn’t be indefinite, said Sandy Ma, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, a nonprofit that advocates for government accountability. The city should consider putting some time limits on paid administrative leave, she said — perhaps six months with extensions when necessary. The city could also allow people under investigation to work in other areas of government, Ma said, especially since the COVID-19 epidemic requires all hands on deck.
KHON2 News - Governor says Navigator and mainland consultants will be funded
Gov. David Ige says he will still fund the recovery navigator and mainland consultants to do most of its work, this after lawmakers cut the $10 million line item from CARES Act spending last week. “Certainly we will look at hiring all of the consultants that we need to ensure that we can move the state of Hawaii forward, that would include the Boston Consulting Group,” Ige said. “We do have adequate resources through various programs.”
“That is a lot of money, and it is also quite disturbing that $5 million was supposed to be used for an outside Boston Consulting Group,” said Sandy Ma of watchdog group Common Cause Hawaii. “I mean it’s not even in Hawaii.”
Honolulu Civil Beat - Legislative Leadership Must Rise To The Occasion
It’s past time for the 2020 legislative session to likewise get back to doing “the people’s work.” Critical items that need to be addressed include screening and testing at airports, and food sustainability. Ensuring health care for the recently unemployed, standing up health screening/testing at airports, supporting local agriculture and food-self sufficiency, implementing remote testimony capability, passing automatic voter registration, and preserving the hard-fought Earned Income Tax Credit and increases in Hawaii’s minimum wage are just a few of the critical items that must be addressed.
Honolulu Star-Advertiser - Off the News: Police Commission must open up
Today, the commission was to hold its second meeting out of public view and involvement. This, despite Gov. David Ige’s proclamation stating that boards take “reasonable measures to allow public participation consistent with social distancing practices, such as providing electronic notice of meetings, allowing submission of written testimony on agendized items, (and) live streaming meetings.”
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Editorial Board supports Common Cause Hawaii's position that these commission meetings must be open to the public. Please click on the link to read more of about Common Cause Hawaii's position on these meetings.
Honolulu Star-Advertiser Island Voices Column - Expand options for distance learning
David Miyashiro, founding Executive Director of HawaiiKidsCAN and a Common Cause Hawaii Board Member, advocates that the State DOE must establish real-time two-way communication with the public and families for clarification and transparency.
Honolulu Star-Advertiser OpEd Column - Protect democracy by restoring open government in Hawaii
OpEd by Common Cause Hawaii's Sandy Ma and others commends our elected leaders for recognizing the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and taking action to protect the health, safety and well-being of Hawaii’s people, but they find it disappointing that Gov. David Ige suspended our state’s open-meetings and open-records laws in his March 16 Supplemental Emergency Declaration.
Based on Common Cause Hawaii advocacy, Maui Lawyer's Draft Open Letter to Maui Mayor on Open Government Requirements During Emergency
The letter expresses concern about the State Governor's recent suspension of the operation of certain open government laws and their potential affect on Maui Council meetings and operations.
Honolulu Civil Beat - More Groups Call On Ige To Bring Transparency Back Into Government
The Hawaii governor suspended state laws that allow citizens access to public meetings and records while officials struggle to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Common Cause Hawaii spearheaded the effort by a diverse coalition of more than 40 organizations and individuals calling on Hawaii Gov. David Ige, the four county mayors and state legislators to be more transparent as they struggle to contain the growing coronavirus pandemic.
Hawaii Public Radio - Some Hawaii Agencies Get Creative To Keep Public Involved, Others Abandon Participation
Civic participation is a challenge during the time of coronavirus. Some agencies are finding ways to still include the public, despite Gov. David Ige's emergency order suspending the requirement among other state laws.
The good governance watch dog group Common Cause Hawaii, has come out strongly against the suspension of the Sunshine Law. On Tuesday, the group’s Executive Director Sandy Ma sent a letter to Gov. Ige, the state Legislature, all four county mayors, and the county councils urging them to restore the government transparency rules.
Honolulu Civil Beat - Suspension Of Hawaii’s Open Government Laws More Extreme Than Other States
Gov. David Ige has alarmed government watchdogs with his proclamations that shut the public out of public meetings and eliminates the release of public records.
“Democracy, accountability and transparency still matter during these crucial times,” said Sandy Ma, the executive director of Common Cause Hawaii. “So much is happening so quickly, and it needs to because we are in a crisis situation, but we also need to document what is happening for the future good so that we can look back and see what we did right and what we did wrong.”
Honolulu Star-Advertiser Editorial: Government must be open to scrutiny
The governor’s decision to suspend the state’s Sunshine Law, the requirement that government agencies conduct business in open meetings and with advance notice, as well as the law that makes government records open and available, could have consequences that the beleaguered public, distracted by other woes, has not imagined and must work to avoid.
It does appear that some agencies are making an effort to that end. Sandy Ma, executive director of the good-government nonprofit Common Cause Hawaii, noted that the state Ethics Commission has provided a call-in option for anyone wishing to “attend” the meeting, set for Friday, by teleconference. Another example: the state Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 has been livestreaming its hearings on how the state is dealing with the pandemic. That’s encouraging.
However, the governor’s order says only such access provisions may be made “at the sole discretion of the department or agency.” That should not be the case.
Common Cause Hawaii Email to the Hawaii Senate Committee on COVID-19
While Common Cause Hawaii commends the Hawaii State Senate’s formation of the Senate's special committee on COVID-19, we are unclear as to why the meetings are not open, transparent, and televised to the public on 'Ōlelo.
Honolulu Civil Beat: Don’t Keep The Public From Participating In Public Policy During A Crisis
Senate Bill 2038 would exempt boards from Hawaii’s Sunshine Law on meetings when emergencies like COVID-19 are in effect.
Honolulu Civil Beat: Honolulu Agrees To Post Financial Disclosures Online
The Honolulu City Clerk’s office said it would post financial disclosure records on its website after the city ethics commission received blowback for removing that information from its site.
Government accountability advocates had criticized the removal of this information. Sandy Ma of Common Cause Hawaii had called it “extraordinarily troubling.”
Honolulu Civil Beat: Honolulu Ethics Commission Scrubs Financial Disclosures From Website
Public records in which Honolulu officials disclose their business interests, real estate holdings and family ties are no longer posted on the Honolulu Ethics Commission’s website, and disclosures from past years have been deleted.
"It is extraordinarily troubling that the commission would make it harder for the public to access the records," said Sandy Ma, executive director of the government accountability nonprofit Common Cause Hawaii.
KHON2: Kauai Councilman Arthur Brun indicted for federal drug offenses
More legal trouble for Kauai Councilman Arthur Brun, who’s now been indicted for federal drug offenses. He was one of twelve people arrested in a sting operation. Brun faces more charges than any of the other defendants, including the most serious offenses like conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
“Mr. Brun should have to abide by the same laws too and we want to make sure that the people are represented and Mr. Brun is not distracted by the pending charges,” said Sandy Ma, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii.
Honolulu Civil Beat: Caldwell Took In $155,000+ From Territorial Bank in 2019
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell did well for himself last year.
In addition to his $186,432 city salary, he pulled in at least $155,638 from Territorial Savings Bank – a result of his earnings as a bank director and exercising stock options, according to his recently filed financial disclosure form. “We would like his full attention to be devoted to being mayor,” said Sandy Ma, executive director of the government accountability nonprofit Common Cause Hawaii.
Honolulu Civic Beat: Free Lunch From A Contractor Is Annual Tradition at Honolulu Hale
The Ethics Commission is considering a zero-tolerance policy on “tokens of aloha.” Honolulu ethics guidelines say city departments shouldn’t accept any gifts from those doing business with their agencies. That includes contractors.
Photos from the Impeachment Support Rally on Oahu on 17 December 2019
Some photos are shown here from this spirited event, co-sponsored by Common Cause Hawaii. Go here to our Facebook Page for more.
AP News: Gabbard faces heat back home for present vote on impeachment
Longshot presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is facing some heat in her heavily Democratic home state of Hawaii for voting “present” on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Common Cause Hawaii Executive Director, Sandy Ma, said Gabbard’s votes aren’t representative of the people in her district and added Gabbard “shamed herself.”
Honolulu Civil Beat: Why Corrupt Public Employees In Hawaii Keep Their Pensions
For those convicted of abusing public office, the pension payments don’t stop at the guilty verdict.
Honolulu Civil Beat: Lawmakers’ Financial Disclosures Don’t Always Paint A Complete Picture
Lawmakers financial disclosures do not provide much detail or precise depictions of legislators’ financial interests.
Honolulu Star-Advertiser: David Shapiro: $350M Aloha Stadium plan has flies on it already
Common Cause and the League of Women Voters last week awarded the 2019 Legislature its “Rusty Scalpel” award for using the deceitful gut-and-replace tactic to provide $350 million for a new stadium
Critics Question Former Council Chair’s Ties To North Shore Project
Some residents ask whether campaign contributions and a job factored into Ernie Martin’s support for a controversial Pupukea project.
The Maui News: County paid for council members, staff to stay at Wailea hotel for HSAC
Six Maui County Council members and six executive assistants stayed at the Wailea Beach Resort – Marriott Maui during a conference in June and were reimbursed in public funds to the tune of just over $11,000, according to documents obtained from the county Finance Department.