Three cheers and one jeer for local news media

A cheer for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s lawsuit challenging Governor Abercrombie’s refusal to release the names of nominees for judicial appointment, which was announced in today’s newspaper. It is the second “right to know” lawsuit filed by the newspaper in that past month. The earlier case seeks to force disclosure of 911 tapes from a June 3 shooting that started in Kaimuki and continued on the freeway, leaving one person dead.

It’s a welcome switch to a more aggressive stance in seeking disclosure of public records. Could it also signal an improved financial situation and a little extra cash flow for Oahu Publications, which owns the Star-Advertiser and several other island publications? All would be welcome news, I think.

Another cheer for Civil Beat, which managed to unearth a Judiciary report on deplorable conditions at the state’s former Alder Street Detention Home. The report, dated two-years ago today, August 24, 2009, had been “buried” by the courts before finally being disclosed in response to a request by Civil Beat. They deserve credit for prying it loose and making it available for public inspection.

And another nod to CB for calling out administrators of the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund for hiding from reporters and the public.

EUTF Administrator Barbara Coriell has been on the job since at least January. Assistant Administrator Sandra Yahiro was acting director even before that. Yet neither of their names are included in the automated employee directory reached through the main EUTF phone number (808-586-7390).

After dialing zero to connect to an operator, we asked to speak with Coriell.

They said no. Calls cannot be transferred to the administrator.

Why not?

“It’s our policy.”

Even after being told it was a reporter calling, the answer was still the same: No.

Is it a written policy that we might look at?

“No, it’s just our office policy.”

Is anyone in the administration embarrassed by this?

Yet another cheer, this time for Pat Tummons’ Environment Hawaii for calling attention to a sunshine law violation that forced the new Public Land Development Corporation to cancel its first meeting, which had been scheduled for this past Monday.

EH described what happened in an email to subscribers:

The meeting was set for August 22 at 2:30 p.m. Environment Hawai`i learned
of it just a few hours in advance of its scheduled start. A call was made
immediately to the state Office of Information Practices, alerting it that
the meeting, if held, would be in violation of Section 92-7, HRS, because
no agenda had been mailed to members of the public who had requested such
notice. By law, agencies must provide such notice to anyone requesting it,
as Environment Hawai`i had in mid-July.

OIP attorney Jennifer Brooks discussed the issue with staff at the
Department of Land and Natural Resources and with a deputy attorney general
handling DLNR issues. (The PLDC is administratively housed within the

Less than an hour before the meeting was to start, the DLNR notified
Environment Hawai`i that the meeting had been tentatively re-scheduled for
Monday, August 29.

The agenda for the cancelled meeting called for the five-member board to
discuss hiring of an executive director and staff and possible rules, among
other things.

Unfortunately, a look at the official state calendar for the 29th still doesn’t list the PLDC meeting.

So much for the media cheers.

Now, a complaint.

Gov. Abercrombie got a lot of glowing coverage of his announcement yesterday of the ““Hawai’i Broadband Initiative,” along with his announced goal of statewide 1 gigabit per second connection speed by the end of his second term, should he be reelected. But when I looked for details about specific actions or policies this would require, they weren’t there.

Along with the governor’s press release, there’s a somewhat more detailed outline of the initiative available.

About all we’re told is this:

DBEDT is creating financial incentives to attract investment from providers and forging public-private partnerships that will allow greater access to broadband services. DCCA is working with federal, state and county agencies, broadband providers and private stakeholders to create and implement a plan to achieve the goals of the Hawai’i Broadband Initiative and is working with the Legislature to identify and address statutory barriers.

Did any reporters stop to ask for specifics? After all the talk and goal setting, what is being done and how is our money going to be spent? Who is deciding? Will this be a public decision-making process? Within DBEDT, will the creation of “financial incentives” be done administratively or will it pass through one of the department’s many public agencies with opportunities for public review and input along the way?

Aren’t these questions among those that should have been asked yesterday?

Oh, I forgot. This may have been another of those tightly controlled public announcements in which the governor appears but does not permit questions from reporters, if any were present.

6 responses to “Three cheers and one jeer for local news media

  1. Hi Ian,

    Thanks for bringing up the broadband news. You weren’t the only one looking for more details in the press conference.

    Today, an intiative for improving tech infrastructure is inherently late out of the gate. Like a sewer backing up or potholes in the roadway, substandard web infrastructure needs action more than vision. From my reading, all the ‘key action items’ in the initiative still sound too much like aspirations, visions.

  2. Ian,
    Thank you. I had forgotten about the SA’s effort to get those 911 tapes and am pleased they are trying to hold Governor Abercrombie to the same standard Governor Lingle was held regarding judicial appointments. It is sad that taxpayer dollars have to be spent “defending” these public officials from releasing information that should be readily available.

    The “broadband initiative” was such a non-event that it didn’t occur to me to even look for specifics. Who wouldn’t like faster internet? As for helping our schools, I think our schools would be better served by roofs that don’t leak, AC in hot classrooms. And getting the substitute teachers paid the money they are owed.

    As for getting faster internet, it is a matter of calling Time-Warner and asking them “how much?”

    “forging public-private partnerships that will allow greater access to broadband services. DCCA is working with federal, state and county agencies, broadband providers and private stakeholders to create and implement a plan to achieve the goals of the Hawai’i Broadband Initiative and is working with the Legislature to identify and address statutory barriers.” As far as I know, there are no “statutory barriers” to faster internet.

  3. I’m afraid, very afraid that we will wake up the morning after Abercrombie and Carlisle leave their offices that we have to send our taxes to investors’ collection in New York or Beijing.

  4. Just a follow-up cheer in this vein regarding the S-A’s coverage of the policy issues underlying concussions and student-athletes. You had lamented — as had I — the absence of a doscussion of these issues ionthe reporting on the particular athlete whose injury would seem logically to have prompted such a discussion.

    Well, the S-A did such a piece yesterday — 4 days after the injury — that addressed the larger issues and did a decent job of it, too. So, maybe it took longer than we would have liked but it appears they put some work into it and advanced the discussion to the broader issues from just reporting on one particular incident.

    Credit where at least some is due.

  5. If we see more and more instances in which the Star-Advertiser listens to constructive critique — rather than ignoring, whining and fighting — then credit truly will be due to the SA staff and management in these harsh times for the journalism business.
    That’s why we push them.

  6. The lawsuit is one example of why it is good to have at least one newspaper in town.

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