Friday, March 16, 2012

Spotlight on Sunshine Week: Gov. Neil Abercrombie 'wins' Lava Tube award


(News release) The Big Island Press Club this week gave Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie the dubious honor of naming him the recipient of the club's 15th annual Lava Tube award for a number of his actions last year. Like the lava tube itself, the award recognizes the year’s most notable offense for keeping the public in the dark.
The Press Club also honors the best efforts to promote openness in Hawaii with the Torch of Light award, which is also presented annually since 1997. The Torch of Light was awarded this year to the Judicial Selection Commission for releasing the names of Abercrombie's judicial nominees when he refused. An Honorable Mention went to the Star-Advertiser for its efforts, including litigation, to obtain release of the names.
It takes only one "indictment" for an elected or appointed official, commission or board to be dishonored with the Lava Tube, but, in Abercrombie's case, BIPC settled on two:
  •  Abercrombie refused to name his list of nominees to fill a state Supreme Court vacancy, forcing the Star-Advertiser to sue, saying the secrecy violated the state's Uniform Information Practices Act. The state Supreme Court agreed. When the Office of Information Practices -- the state's watchdog agency charged with overseeing open records and public meeting laws -- opined in the Star-Advertiser's favor, Abercrombie replaced the agency's acting director.
  •  The governor created, in secret, an emergency declaration suspending for five years dozens of regulations protecting shoreline access, historic preservation, air and water quality and other environmental and land use laws in order to begin removing military ordnance with no notice to the public.
The Lava Tube award is announced each year on March 16, Freedom of Information Day, honoring the birthday of James Madison. Born in 1751, Madison was author of the U.S. constitution and the foremost advocate for openness.
"Freedom of Information Day is a great reminder that the public's right to know is just that, a right. It should not and will not be compromised," said BIPC President Yisa Var. "The Big Island Press Club is happy to use these awards as a way to bring into the foreground those governing bodies that have done the best and the worst at upholding this freedom."
Established in 1967, BIPC is Hawaii's oldest continuously active press club. Learn more at http://bipc.wordpress.com/.