• Follow on Facebook

  • what-to-do-media
  • RSS W2DM

  • puako-general-store
  • Cheneviere Couture
  • PKF Document Shredding
  • Arnotts Mauna Kea Tours
  • World Botanical Garden
  • Hilton Waikoloa Village
  • Hilton Luau
  • Dolphin Quest Waikoloa
  • Discount Hawaii Car Rental
  • 10% Off WikiFresh

  • Say When

    August 2017
    S M T W T F S
    « Jul    
     12345
    6789101112
    13141516171819
    20212223242526
    2728293031  
  • When

  • RSS Pulpconnection

  • Recent Comments

Guest Commentary – Audit the Honolulu Rail Project

What does it say about the state of governance in Hawaii that endorsing basic standards of fiscal responsibility is a revolutionary act?

Ever since the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii launched its campaign to “audit the rail,” we’ve heard lots of excuses and evasions as to why an independent, thorough audit of Honolulu’s over-budget and behind-schedule rail project isn’t necessary.

But we’ve also seen that the public wants answers about the system and isn’t happy with the political foot-dragging.

Now, we’re finally seeing some results.

Trevor Ozawa, Honolulu City Councilmember for District 4 (Ala Moana to Hawaii Kai), has introduced a resolution calling for an, “economy and efficiency audit” of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), in order to discover the causes of the project’s significant and troubling cost overruns.

Click to read the full resolution

Noting in his resolution that the estimated cost for the rail is now more than $10 billion — up from $5.1 million in 2012 — Ozawa points out that HART has not updated its financial plan “to reflect the rail project’s current financial condition”; that the semi-autonomous city agency has not been maintaining accurate and complete financial records; that its management, operations and maintenance plans are “outdated and unreliable”; that it lacks the proper tools to administer contract payments; and that the actual costs of the rail project are not being properly managed against budgeted costs.

Most of these failings aren’t news to anyone who has followed the rail controversy, but it is encouraging to see a key Hawaii policymaker finally demanding answers.

The resolution even states that the audit should both identify the causes of inefficient and uneconomical practices and investigate whether the “entity audited has complied with laws and regulations on matters of economy and efficiency.”

The resolution notes that in June, “certain HART board members indicated that the HART board would not fund a special audit that would examine the cost overruns for the rail project.” But, the resolution adds, “there must be a higher level of transparency concerning the reasons for the cost overruns.”

We agree.

It may have taken some time, but our message is getting through.

So let’s keep up the pressure. Ask your friends and family to join the campaign to audit the rail. If they haven’t already, they can add their names to our online petition at AuditTheRail.com.

E Hana Kakou (Let’s work together!),

Keli’i Akina, Ph.D.
President/CEO Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

Commentary – How Lawmakers Can Deal With “Annoying” Citizens

Dear Damon,

This was the year when we learned how “annoying” the public can be to government agencies, what with their constant demands for transparency, sunshine, and access to government records.

In fact, some state agencies were so annoyed that they sought help from the legislature, which responded with a bill to limit the rights of “vexatious records requesters.” That bill (HB1518) is still alive, but fortunately the latest version requires a decision from a court before stripping government watchdogs of their rights.

The funny thing is that if anyone is entitled to feel “vexed” by the state’s transparency laws (and process), it’s the public. According to Civil Beat, state and city officials have regularly tried to hide records or withhold them by charging ridiculously high fees to the person requesting them.

The Grassroot Institute frequently requests public documents, and our researchers could share a few stories about the tactics agencies use to delay or avoid a response. When we worked with Judicial Watch to gain a copy of the Native Hawaiian Roll — a public voter list — we even had to go to court to get the records released.

Ironically, there’s a shockingly simple solution that would make everyone happy: just be more transparent.

It’s perfect. Requesters would get the documents they want and state workers could be spared the stress of coming up with reasons to avoid handing them over. In fact, if agencies were more open in their operations, some of those requests wouldn’t even be necessary.

There’s even a proposal already in place at the legislature. HB165 (now headed to a Conference Committee) would modernize the existing Sunshine Law by requiring electronic posting of public agency meeting notices and minutes and making board packets available for public inspection.

It’s an important step forward for transparency in Hawaii and a common sense way to reduce the work associated with records requests. After all, there’s no need to make a request when something’s already online.

Of course, several state agencies oppose HB165 and have testified about why they would find it difficult to comply with the bill. It’s almost as if they prefer being “vexed.”

Still, we hope that the legislature will embrace greater openness in government and take advantage of the internet to make more records publicly available. They could even think of it as a public health service. Because all that stress and vexation can’t be good for our state workers.

E hana kakou (Let’s work together!),

Keli’i Akina, Ph.D. – President/CEO Grassroot Institute

Hawaiian Aha Convention Does Not Represent the Public

Despite a Supreme Court injunction that halted the race-based election sponsored by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission, government contractor Na’i Aupuni unilaterally transformed the election into an “everybody wins” scenario, seating everyone who had been on the ballot.  The resulting convention–the stated intent of which is to formulate a government for Native Hawaiians–begins today amid continued controversy over the actions of Na’i Apuni and OHA and whether any tribal entity developed from the meeting will be able to pass legal muster.

Hawaiian Activist Walter Ritte escorted out of a meeting.

Hawaiian Activist Walter Ritte escorted out of a meeting.  Click to view video

The lawsuit against the election is still ongoing and currently before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In addition, Native Hawaiian activists continue to protest the political aims of Na’i Apuni and OHA, questioning OHA’s management of funds intended for the betterment of Native Hawaiians.

“The Aha convention clearly does not represent the voices of Hawaii’s citizens in general nor of Native Hawaiians in particular,” stated Keli’i Akina, Ph.D., President of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii and a plaintiff in the case against the election. “Whatever document or governing organization the delegates come up with will have no more force of law or moral authority than a wish list put together by any group of 150 or so individuals.  The participants in this convention have been misled by organizers if they believe that they are able to start a viable race based government. Their efforts are also at risk as the status of the Na!I Aupuni  process is still an open case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals”

Dr. Akina continued, “The more than 6.5 million dollars of public funds that have been wasted on the Native Hawaiian roll and Aha convention have robbed Hawaiians of money that should have been spent on housing, education, jobs, and health services.”

A list of documents and filing associated with the case of Akina v. Hawaii can be viewed at:  http://new.grassrootinstitute.org/2015/10/akina-v-hawaii-the-documents/

Click here to watch a video of Walter Ritte protesting the process.

At DOI Hearing, Grassroot Institute Disputes Department’s Authority to Recognize a Hawaiian Nation

Grassroot Institute offers comments questioning legality of and support for a Hawaiian government

Today, the Department of the Interior held the first of a series of public meetings intended to solicit comments on a proposed rule that would, “facilitate the reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community.”

Hawaiian Sovereignty Sign

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii was one of several groups to offer comments and testimony on the proposed rule. In its written comments, the organization urges the Department of the Interior not to pursue the proposed rule, pointing out that there is no historical basis for a Native Hawaiian government as envisioned by the rule; that there are serious questions as to the legality of the nation-building process; that there is a distinct lack of support among Native Hawaiians for the creation of a Hawaiian nation; and that the Department does not have the authority to recognize a Hawaiian government.

In commenting on the question of recognizing a Native Hawaiian government, Keli’i Akina, Ph.D., President of the Grassroot Institute, emphasizes that the only such historical relationship was with the Kingdom of Hawaii, a multi-ethnic state that would not qualify as a race-based tribe:

“[T]he Supreme Court has been clear that tribes are political and not racial entities. The procedure for recognizing a tribe does not include the creation of one where no such entity existed.  While the historical circumstances of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy may be cause for debate, it is undeniable that there has never been an exclusively Native Hawaiian tribe or government either at the time of the overthrow or in the 120 years since.”

In addition, Grassroot pointed out the lack of participation in the Native Hawaiian Roll process as evidence of a general lack of support among Native Hawaiians–especially given the fact that the majority of those enrolled were imported via other lists. Moreover, there remain serious questions about the constitutionality of the race-based Roll process and the concept of a race-based tribe or government in general.

Disputing the authority of the DOI to act in this matter, Dr. Akina commented that:

“The Department of the Interior does not have the authority to recognize a Hawaiian government because the Constitution gives Congress the power to ratify treaties and recognize tribes. Neither the Executive Branch nor the states have the power to create or recognize a tribal government, which thereby makes both the existing nation-building process and any action by the Department of the Interior vulnerable to legal challenge.”

Dr. Akina, who was present at today’s hearing for the purpose of reiterating the Grassroot Institute’s written comments, was optimistic about the outcome of the DOI hearings.

“Though we believe the Department’s proposed rule to be precipitous, unconstitutional, and unwise, there is a silver lining,” he stated. “To date, many of the questions about the formation of a Native Hawaiian government have been ignored. While we may be no closer to getting answers to our concerns, we do have a forum to voice them. The expensive, time-consuming effort to tribalize Native Hawaiians has done little to help the state or the Native Hawaiian community. This is an excellent opportunity for the average citizen to have their voice heard on a critical issue that threatens to divide and reshape our state.”

Grassroot Institute’s written comments on the proposed rule can be read in full here: http://new.grassrootinstitute.org/2014/06/grassroot-institute-comments-on-proposed-doi-rule/