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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

Keli`i Akina Launches Campaign for Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee-at-Large

Keli’i Akina, Ph.D. has been certified as an official candidate for Trustee-at-Large in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a state-wide position for which all registered voters in Hawaii are eligible to vote.

Keli’i Akina with his mom as he files papers for OHA.

Keli’i Akina with his mom as he files papers for OHA.

Dr. Akina, who garnered approximately 93,000 votes in his 2014 bid for OHA Trustee-at-large is slated to be the leading challenger to the incumbent in the race.

Akina says,  “The people of Hawaii know it`s time to reform OHA. We have to preserve the Aloha Spirit, equally advancing the interests of both native Hawaiians and all people in unity.”

Dr. Akina has been the major voice in calling for OHA to stop wasting millions of dollars on the creation of a federally recognized race-based nation, something which most native Hawaiians and all residents don`t want.  Instead, Akina states, “OHA should spend its public funds on housing, jobs, education, and health care for those in need, rather than squandering it on a failed political agenda.”

Akina is the President/CEO of Grassroot Institute and on the adjunct faculty of Hawaii Pacific University. He is also a plaintiff in the US Supreme Court case Akina v. State of Hawaii which stopped a race-based election in 2015.

To learn more about Keli`i Akina, visit and leave a message on his Facebook site:  https://www.facebook.com/AkinaForOHA/?ref=hl

 

Big Island Press Club Luncheon on Grassroot Institute’s Transparency Initiative

The Big Island Press Club invites the public to a luncheon talk on Thursday, June 18, from noon until 1:30 p.m. at Restaurant Kenichi to hear about The Grassroot Institute’s Transparency Initiative.

Keli'i Akina

Keli’i Akina

The Grassroot Institute’s transparency initiative has broken new ground in shedding a light on holding government in Hawaii accountable. Through a series of open records requests, and with the help of the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest, and the Office of Information Practices, Grassroot President Keli’i Akina and policy analyst Joe Kent will review the work that Grassroot Institute has done for a better government, economy, and society in Hawaii.

Joe Kent

Joe Kent

Grassroot has been able to uncover amazing information, which will be uploaded for journalists and the public at OpenHawaii.org.

Among the findings:

  • The top ten highest state public pensions for retirees last year.
  • The average pension and base salary for every state department.
  • The salaries, overtime, and bonus pay, and other information for every county.

The Grassroot Institute also will share the struggles with attempting to advance transparency in Hawaii, especially with regard to Hawaii County, which has been one of the least transparent counties in terms of salary and overtime pay. In addition, the speakers will review their transparency work with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and the Employee Retirement System, among other agencies.

“A society built on democracy rests on an informed public. Now more than ever, it’s important that we say “E Hana Kakou let’s work together,” toward an open and transparent government.,” Akina said.

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is a nonprofit 501(c)3 public policy think tank, dedicated to advancing individual liberty, the freemarket, and limited, accountable government.

Reservations are required. The cost of the buffet lunch (chicken katsu, furikake panko salmon, yakisoba, salad, vegetable, beverage) at Restaurant Kenichi, 684 Kilauea Ave., Hilo, is $20.

Register with a credit card at https://bipcgrassrootinstitute.eventbrite.com ($2.09 processing fee) or contact Robert Duerr surf77@mac.com or 808-937-9104.   Those interested may also send check to BIPC P. O. Box 1920, Hilo HI 96721, to arrive no later than June 16. Parking is available at Aupuni Center, across the street, for 25 cents per hour.

The Big Island Press Club has been dedicated to journalism and the public’s right to know about the workings of government, business and communities on Hawaii island since 1967.

Grassroot Institute Announces Big Island Tour in October

Today, Grasssroot Institute of Hawaii announced two exciting new events on the island of Hawaii. The events will feature Grassroot President Keli’i Akina, former Representative Charles Djou, and Hawaii Shippers Council President Michael Hansen and will honor the legacy of Freddy Rice as well as discuss the local damage caused by the Jones Act.

Grassroot President Keli'i Akina

Grassroot President Keli’i Akina

On Friday, October 4th, Grassroot Institute will present a Jones Act Reform Night at Hilo’s Naniloa Volcanoes Resort. There, Dr. Akina and Michael Hansen will explain what the Jones Act is and why it is harmful to Hawaii’s future.  The event is part of Grassroot’s mission to educate the public as well as political leaders and to lead the charge in bringing about a much-needed reform of the Jones Act. This event is sponsored by the Conservative Forum of Hilo. For more details, please go to https://grassroothilo.eventbrite.com/.

On Saturday, October 5th, Grassroot will be at Kona’s Mauni Lani Golf Course for an event entitled “Upholding the Legacy of Freddy Rice.” There, Mr. Rice, a longtime defender of liberty and the free market in Hawaii, will be presented with the Grassroot Institute Legacy Award and Dr. Akina will speak on how Mr. Rice’s example can lead us to a better Hawaii. In addition, former Representative Charles Djou will address how it is possible to “shift the tide” on the Jones Act. For more information on the Kona event, go to https://grassrootkona.eventbrite.com/.

“We are delighted that Grassroot Institute can continue to serve residents of the Big Island and all neighbor island counties,” stated Keli’i Akina, President of Grassroot Institute. “Across the state, there are countless freedom-loving individuals who are banding together to build a better Hawaii for all.  They represent the real hope for the future of Hawaii’s economy, government and society.”