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BLNR wins Lava Tube Award dishonor from Big Island Press Club

MEDIA RELEASE

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources is this year’s recipient of the Big Island Press Club’s negative Lava Tube Award for running afoul of the state’s open meetings law.

The state Office of Information Practices ruled late last year that the Land Board violated state law when it proposed amendments to state boating rules.

The club is also awarding its annual positive Torch of Light Award to Kona resident Chuck Flaherty and others members of Citizens for Equitable and Responsible Government for their successful proposal of an amendment of the Hawaii County Charter requiring greater openness in the process of redistricting County Council seats.

The Big Island Press Club gives the Lava Tube and the Torch of Light awards every year on Freedom of Information Day, March 16, the birthday of James Madison. Born in 1751, Madison was author of the U.S. Constitution and the foremost advocate for openness. The Big Island Press Club was founded in 1967 and is the oldest continually active media organization in the state of Hawaii.

LAVA TUBE

The Board of Land and Natural Resources receives the Lava Tube dishonor for a meeting on Aug. 14, 2009, in which proposed amendments to the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation’s administrative rules were only vaguely described in the meeting agenda. Laura Thielen was the Land Board chair at the time.

The state Office of Information Practices found in December 2010 that the meager description in the agenda “does not reasonably allow a member of the public to understand what rule amendments the BLNR was discussing.”

Translation: BLNR changed the rules and left the public in the dark.

The club considered giving the Lava Tube award to the state Land Department, which is the staff which prepares material for the Land Board. However, the club decided that the board has the ultimate responsibility, and its members cannot escape responsibility by saying they were only following what the staff told them.

The Press Club is also giving Dishonorable Mentions to two former Hawaii County Council members — Kelly Greenwell, for his anti-Sunshine Law resolution, and Guy Enriques, for his opposition to public hearings in his district over the proposed sale of a segment of Kamaoa Road.

Both council members lost bids for reelection, but the Press Club feels that the citizens should remember that there continue to be public officials who forget their duty to be public servants.

TORCH OF LIGHT

The Press Club also honors Chuck Flaherty and Citizens for Equitable and Responsible Government (CERG) for pushing for greater disclosure in the Hawaii County Council redistricting process. Voters in November 2010 approved a Hawaii County Charter amendment requiring these changes: public hearings in each of the nine council districts prior to completing a draft of the plan, public hearings in East and West Hawaii after completing a draft of the plan, and a report filed with the plan to explain the Redistricting Committee’s reasoning for the plan.

In short, CERG is protecting the public’s right to know and have a say.

Honorable Mentions for this award include the Hawaii Police Department for ongoing efforts to improve media relations and public awareness, state Sen. Les Ihara for his support of open meetings in the state Legislature, and KAHU radio station founders Vicki Fiege and Wendell Ka‘ehu‘ae‘a for providing a vital public service in the remote Ka‘u district.

Previous Lava Tube Dishonorees
2010 Hawaii County Council
2009 Noelani Whittington, county Department of Public Works
2008 Mayor Harry Kim and Hawaii County Council
2007 State Board of Education
2006 Honolulu, Kauai, and Hawaii County Councils
2005 District Judge Matthew S.K. Pyun
2004 State Land Board Chairman Peter Young
2003 State Sen. Cal Kawamoto
2002 University of Hawaii Board of Regents
2001 University of Hawaii Board of Regents
2000 State Rep. Eric Hamakawa and Hawaii County Councilman James Arakaki
1999 Hawaii County Council
1998 Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano
1997 Hawaii County Councilman Elroy Osorio

Previous Torch of Light Honorees
2010 Hawaii County Civil Defense and other departments
2009 Legislature, Gov. Linda Lingle
2008 Les Kondo, Office of Information Practices
2007 West Hawaii Today
2006 Lillian Koller, State Department of Human Services
2005 Retired Circuit Judge Paul de Silva
2004 UH Manoa Journalism Professor Beverly Keever
2003 U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink (posthumously)
2002 Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim
2001 Hawaii County Clerk Al Konishi
2000 Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano
1999 Jerry Rothstein and Judith Graham
1998 Environment Hawaii and Common Cause
1997 Society of Professional Journalists, Hawaii Chapter

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