Showing posts with label Office of Information Practices. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Office of Information Practices. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Fraud in HI-5 recycling program, visitors can now get medical marijuana, Chinese hackers breach UH, lawmakers want to stop rail audits, excise tax hike advances, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Worker sweeps up cans at Hawaii recycling plant ©2019 All Hawaii News
State audit alleges cheating in redemption payments in Hawaii recycling program. The state still has not made changes in its HI-5 redemption and recycling program to protect against fraud, and spot checks of recycling companies turned up two cases where records were allegedly altered so the state would reimburse substantially more to a recycler than was paid out to the public, according to a new report by the Hawaii State Auditor. Star-Advertiser.

Audit finds instances of potential fraud at recycling redemption center. The findings of the audit prompted the state Health Department Tuesday to pledge greater oversight and to refer the findings of potential fraud to the state Attorney General’s Office. Hawaii News Now.

Audit Of HI-5 Recycling Program Finds Evidence Of Potential Fraud. Hawaii Public Radio.

Fraudulent receipts found in Hawaii’s Hi-5 recycling program, according to the latest state auditor’s report. KITV.

Read the audit summary.

Read the full audit.


Senate Approves Proposed Tax Increase To Help Public Schools. The measure increasing the statewide general excise tax by 0.5 percent was one of many bills clearing their first chamber as the session’s midpoint nears. Civil Beat.

Senate passes GET hike. The state Senate passed a bill Tuesday increasing the general excise tax to help fund education. Tribune-Herald.

Senate passes bill to increase GE tax half percent. KHON2.


State unveils process for visitors to obtain medical marijuana. The state Department of Health unveiled Tuesday the process by which out-of-state medical marijuana patients will be able to register for medical cannabis while visiting Hawaii. Tribune-Herald.

Out-of-state patients now able to get legal medical marijuana in Hawaii. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii opens medical marijuana registration to visitors. The state Department of Health announced Tuesday that it is also rolling out an online registration system for medical marijuana, allowing qualified patients to quickly obtain an electronic registration card. KITV.

Online Registration Accelerates Access to Medical Cannabis. Maui Now.

Medical cannabis program is expanding. Hawaii's medical cannabis program is expanding to give those visiting from out-of-state the chance to obtain marijuana for medical purposes. KHON2.

Decriminalizing marijuana among measures ‘crossing over’ at the Capitol. The crossover deadline for bills is this Thursday. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii dispensaries sold $12.6M worth of pakalolo for medical use last year. Monthly medical cannabis sales doubled last year, and the number is projected to grow with out-of-state patients now able to purchase it locally. Star-Advertiser.


Who Should Run Hawaii’s Pre-K Program? School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto is arguing DOE needs to be more heavily involved in the expansion of Hawaii’s pre-K program. Civil Beat.

Legislature Approves Nearly 1,000 Bills (No Surprise, Some Propose to Raise Taxes). The State Legislature is at the one-third mark of its 60-day session.  Today, lawmakers met to pass nearly one thousand bills to be sent to the opposite chamber for further consideration. Hawaii Public Radio.

As the 2019 Legislative Session nears its crossover deadline this week, the House of Representatives has passed nearly 500 bills during a productive session focused on good government, homelessness, and education. Maui Now.

Hawaiian Homes Funding Debated In The House. Representative Gene Ward and Finance Chair Sylvia Luke went back and forth on the House floor Tuesday over the budget for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Big Island Video News.

A new bill would require labels on coffee blends to disclose the geographic origins and percent by weight of the blended component coffees. Big Island Video News.


University of Hawaii among dozens of schools targeted by Chinese hackers seeking military research. The University of Hawaii is among more than 27 universities that have been targeted by Chinese hackers seeking to steal maritime technology research being conducted for the military, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. Star-Advertiser.

The University of Hawaii and at least two dozen other universities have been targeted by Chinese hackers as part of an effort to steal military maritime technology research, The Wall Street Journal reported today. Hawaii Public Radio.

The University of Hawaii has been identified among more than two dozen universities around the globe that have been the target of Chinese hackers. Hawaii News Now.

University of Hawaii among the universities hacked by Chinese. KHON2.

Chinese Hackers Target Universities in Pursuit of Maritime Military Secrets. University of Hawaii, University of Washington and MIT are among schools hit by cyberattacks. Wall Street Journal.

Editorial: OIP hinders public access to records. Star-Advertiser.


Lawmakers aim to scale back state scrutiny of rail. House lawmakers gave preliminary approval Tuesday to bills that scale back the role of the Hawaii State Auditor in overseeing the Honolulu rail project, which is now the subject of a federal investigation. Star-Advertiser.

Federal Probe Has State Looking To Pull Back On Rail Audits. Proposed legislation would repeal the requirement for more audits. But added scrutiny has already led state finance officials to withhold $40 million from HART. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Board of Education offers open forum for public comments. The state Board of Education will offer an open forum at the end of its general business meeting Thursday at Mililani High School for members of the community to offer their thoughts. Star-Advertiser.

New proposal aims to strengthen crossing laws. Pedestrian fatalities are on the rise this year. With so many deaths, the city council is looking into ways to further protect pedestrians crossing the streets. KHON2.

Navy continues work on broken water main. U.S. Rep. Ed Case, who on Monday inspected the site of a break in a 42-inch pipeline that provides the main source of water for Pearl Harbor and other Navy properties, said he is urging senior Navy officials at the Pentagon to immediately implement an already appropriated replacement project. Star-Advertiser.

'Afraid for our lives’: The ocean is eating away at a major road in Hauula. Hawaii News Now.

Builder sues Kakaako developer for unpaid work. The developer of Ward Village is embroiled in another legal dispute over construction of a condominium tower in Kakaako. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Island

The Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation in Kailua-Kona Monday evening held the first of several public hearings planned across the state to discuss fee increases at Hawaii small boat harbors and some other facilities. West Hawaii Today.

Leilani sees progress in effort to stymie squatters. The president of Leilani Community Association and the chairman of a committee formed to deal with squatters and resultant crime say progress has been made since they and police united late last year to clear illegal occupants from vacant homes in the lower Puna subdivision ravaged by Kilauea volcano’s lower East Rift Zone eruption. Tribune-Herald.

Mohouli Heights development enters third phase. Construction started on a project that will double the size of a Hilo housing development for low-income seniors. Tribune-Herald.

Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood Phase 3 Begins. 92 additional low income senior rental housing units are now under construction, officials say. Big Island Video News.

No future likely for popular Kainaliu turnaround. A petition signed by about 200 people is asking Mayor Harry Kim’s administration to reopen a popular Kainaliu turnaround that helped drivers negotiate left turns on busy Mamalahoa Highway. West Hawaii Today.


The Maui County Department of Public Works expects to complete resurfacing a portion of South Kihei Road by March 6, 2019, and help relieve recent traffic impacts. Maui Now.

The Maui County Department of Parks and Recreation is accepting applications for park security officer jobs until Sunday, March 10. Maui Now.


Retired Las Vegas police captain selected as new Kauai police chief. Todd Raybuck, a former Las Vegas Metropolitan Police captain, has been hired as the new Kauai police chief, the Kauai Police Department announced today. Star-Advertiser.

New police chief selected. The Kauai County Police Commission selected Todd Raybuck, a former Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Captain, as the new KPD police chief. Garden Island.

Kauai Police Commission selects a Las Vegas captain as new police chief. Hawaii News Now.

Kauai's new police chief comes to garden island from ninth island. KHON2.


Kuleana lots on Zuckerberg estate draw crowd. People from all over the state — attorneys, politicians, activists, journalists and curious residents — arrived at an entrance to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 700-acre estate on the North Shore for an opportunity to look at the four kuleana lots scattered across the property to be sold at public auction later this month. Garden Island.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Commentary: The public has a right to tsunami inundation maps

wikipedia commons
1946 Hilo Bay tsunami PC: Wikipedia Commons
Tsunami maps drawn by scientists or tsunami maps drawn by the government?

I chose the former. And you should, too.

I am almost at the end of a more than four-year wait for copies of Hawaii Island's tsunami inundation maps, after the state Office of Information practices on May 10 overturned the then state Department of Defense's denial of the records. The opinion, No. 18-02, has not yet been posted online.

UPDATED June 10, 2018: Opinion No. 18-02 can be found here.

Almost at the end of the wait, that is, unless the state Emergency Management Agency decides to request reconsideration or appeal. The agency has until May 24 to ask OIP for reconsideration; it has until June 9 to appeal to circuit court.

The state argued an exemption under the state Uniform Information Practices Act that the records must be confidential in order to avoid the frustration of a legitimate government function. Releasing the maps, state officials said, would only "confuse" people. I argued there is no confusion exemption in the UIPA, and the public has the right to see maps purchased with their tax dollars.

The county uses the scientists' inundation maps to create evacuation maps, which are made public.

"The requested documents are used for the development of emergency management and/or emergency response plans, which include instructions to help ensure the safety of the public. The disclosure of the tsunami inundation maps, which are not disclosed to the public, but are used to help establish tsunami evacuation zones, would endanger the life and/or physical safety of members of the public who may be confused by the difference between the inundation limits and the tsunami evacuation Lines developed by the county," the state argued.

OIP said that's not enough reason to withhold the maps. All of the other states bordering the Pacific Ocean publish the maps online, OIP said in its opinion.

Here's how California does it. The state even allows the public to download the spatial data, so they can make their own maps.

"OIP understands the tsunami inundation maps to be essentially factual, representing the current scientific understanding of how a tsunami would affect the area mapped, whereas the tsunami evacuation zone maps represent a governmental policy decision as to what portions of the area mapped should be evacuated in the face of a tsunami warning," OIP said in its opinion.

"CDD's argument that, in essence, the public cannot safely possess such factual information about the likely horizontal measurement of the path of a tsunami, contradicts the purposes of the UIPA," the opinion added.

I wanted the maps in order to compare what scientists thought were critical inundation areas to what the government ultimately created as evacuation zones.

I'm not saying our own government would do this, but I can imagine a scenario where an important official or major campaign donor could be left out of a zone. A slight wiggle of the map lines here or there could translate into millions more dollars in property resale value or thousands less in property insurance.

The most common conflicts of interest in local government happen when officeholders face a vote on real property/land use issues that affect their own holdings, according to the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics program in Government Ethics at Santa Clara University.

Bottom line, the public has the right to compare the two maps. With the current volcano and earthquake emergency on the Big Island, it's more important now than ever that we know where inundation zones are.

Major mahalos to the nonprofit Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest and its director, Brian Black, for helping me with this appeal. The Law Center, incidentally, is the 2018 winner of the Big Island Press Club's Torch of Light award, given to an individual or entity who brightens the public’s right to know.

Government records belong to the public, not the government. We have a right to know.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sunshine Week: Big Island press club announces annual lava tube, torch of light awards

John Cole
Sunshine Week government secrecy Cartoon: John Cole
State Office of Information Practices awarded Lava Tube dishonor;
Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest earns meritorious Torch of Light award

The Big Island Press Club awards its annual meritorious Torch of Light Award to Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest and the Lava Tube dishonor award to the state Office of Information Practices (OIP). The Torch of Light award is given to an individual or entity who brightens the public’s right to know, while the Lava Tube dishonor is given for a lack of communication and keeping the public in the dark.

Lava Tube Dishonor

The Lava Tube is awarded to the state Office of Information Practices (OIP) for the average length of time it takes to issue a decision on a public complaint about access to government information, according to reports published by The Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest (CBLC) in February 2017 and again in February 2018. The study found despite OIP having more attorneys and staff per capita than any other state with a similar office, “OIP has the longest delays for public access disputes among its peer agencies with available information.” The most recent study found that only three of the 46 decisions issued by OIP between 2015-2017 were done so in less than two years. The study also found that similar offices in other states typically rendered decisions within three to six months, with some states able to do so in even less time.

OIP quickly responded to CBLC’s latest report by stating most matters it handles doesn’t require a written opinion and in 2017 resolved most the same day through its Attorney of the Day service. It also stated, “CBLC’s motives are suspect,” and asked rhetorically, “Without OIP to provide (Attorney of the Day) service, would there be more clients for a ‘public interest’ law firm to choose from?” That’s basically a suggestion that a nonprofit law organization that takes cases strictly on a pro bono basis is seeking to poach clients from OIP.

Senate Bill 3092, which would give OIP a hard deadline of six months to render big decisions, was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 13, but no hearings have been scheduled since.

Since its founding, the Big Island Press Club has protested any absence of transparency or accountability within the halls of state and county government in Hawaii. This Lava Tube award is especially unfortunate, as OIP is the state agency tasked with ensuring state and county government organizations in Hawaii abide by two state laws--the Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA), which is the state’s open-records law, and the Sunshine Law, which is the state’s open-meetings law. BIPC’s officers agree with the statement in CBLC’s most recent report: “Forcing the public to wait two years or more for resolution of public access disputes at OIP is unacceptable.”

Torch of Light

BIPC has selected Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest for its Torch of Light award for the research between 2015-17 that brought the time lag between complaints and the time it takes OIP to issue decisions on weighty public access issues.

The CBLC, according to its website, is an independent, nonprofit organization which offers “free legal advice, and representation on a select basis, to members of the media and the public who need help with issues involving government transparency.”  It seeks to forge “solutions that promote transparency in government to better serve the people of Hawaii” and, as in the case of OIP, “investigating questionable government activity, advocating for corrective action, and, if needed, enforcing corrective measures in the courts.”

Funded by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar, Civil Beat Law Center is a different entity than the news website Honolulu Civil Beat.

The Big Island Press Club, the state's oldest press club, founded in 1967-- has awarded the Lava Tube and the Torch of Light annually since 1997 on Freedom of Information Day, March 16. This day also marks the birthday of our nation’s fourth president, James Madison. Born in 1751, Madison was the principal architect of the U.S. Constitution, and one of the three authors of the Federalist Papers; he is recognized by historians as one of America’s earliest and foremost advocates for open, accountable governance.

Previous Lava Tube Dishonorees
2016 Former Mayor Billy Kenoi
2015 State Land Board Chairwoman Suzanne Case
2014 Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago
2013 Democratic Party House District 5 Council
2012 State Sen. Clayton Hee
2011 Governor Neil Abercrombie
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
2016 West Hawaii Today reporter Nancy Cook Lauer
2015 State Sen. Lorraine Inouye
2014 USGS HVO Scientists
2013 Mayor Billy Kenoi
2012 County Councilwoman and state Rep. Helene Hale (posthumously)
2011 State Judicial Selection Commission
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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Commentary: In recognition of Sunshine Week. When the government won't talk to you, the documents will. Eventually.

 “We are always secretive. It’s part of being a legislator.”

Those unapologetic words this week from Hawaii House Speaker Joe Souki show the Aloha State still has a long road ahead in making government more transparent. The quote, reported by both the Star-Advertiser and Civil Beat, couldn't have been timelier, coming in the middle of Sunshine Week.

Launched in 2005, Sunshine Week has grown into an "enduring annual initiative to promote open government and push back against excessive official secrecy," according to its website. It's sponsored by the American Society of News Editors and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, with support from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Gridiron Club and Foundation.

Considering everything happening on the federal level, it's easy to see why Sunshine Week is more important than ever. But access to government doesn't stop in Washington, D.C.

Not just the media, but everyday citizens have a right to ask for, and receive, government documents. They have a right to ask -- no, demand -- that their government work in the open, in the sunlight of public scrutiny. They have a right to know how taxpayer money is spent.

Yet, more and more, government is drawing a screen over that important access. Government, at the state, national and local level, seeks to provide the public only the information, or in some cases, misinformation, that it wants the public to know about.

Our leaders  need to be reminded that sunshine is the best disinfectant, that citizens are more likely to understand and trust the workings of government if they can see it at work and that there is no embarrassment exemption in the Freedom of Information Act.

I have encountered resistance at the county, state and federal level as a reporter for a small daily newspaper, way out in the middle of the Pacific. Here's my story.

It took five years for the federal Transportation Security Administration to respond to my FOIA request for a list of items confiscated during a 12-month period at our five major airports. By the time I received them, they were literally old news.

On Oct. 17, 2013, I requested copies of tsunami inundation maps created for the state Emergency Management Agency by the state university. Yep. Still waiting. The state claims the maps will "confuse" the public if they're released. My appeal is being considered by the overworked and under-staffed Office of Information Practices.

In another case, it took five years of regular requests for records of our county mayor's taxpayer-paid purchasing card. Once someone apparently outside official channels finally provided me a document, I discovered the card was used for such personal expenses as hostess bars, where young attractive hostesses sit on your lap in exchange for overpriced drinks.

Our mayor was ultimately indicted by a grand jury for what turned out to be a continuing practice of using the card for private expenses -- a surfboard, a bicycle and lots of hefty bar tabs. He was cleared of theft charges by a jury after he proved he repaid the expenses, so there was no intent to steal. Funny thing though, many of the repayments came just after FOIA requests were submitted.

A study of more than 300 of those who seek (or provide) public records, released March 12 by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, found half of those surveyed said access to public records has deteriorated over the past four years, and nearly nine of 10 predicted access will continue to get worse under our new president, according to “Forecasting Freedom of Information," by David Cuillier of the University of Arizona School of Journalism and Eric Newton, of Arizona State University, as consulting editor.

After encountering so many roadblocks trying to get my questions answered, I've adopted a new mantra: "When the government won't talk to you, the documents will."

I'm adding this caveat: "Eventually."

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Tourism continues upward trend, cafe owner takes down anti-Trump sign, 'fake monks' harass Waikiki visitors, Hawaii County bill would outlaw government alcohol purchases, 50 nene killed in two years on Kauai, new campus for Maui charter school, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

copyright 2016 All Hawaii News all rights reserved
Waikiki beachgoers © 2016 All Hawaii News
With 2016 all but in the books, Hawaii’s tourism industry is looking forward to 2017 and what could be a sixth straight year for record tourist arrivals and spending. Star-Advertiser.

Total visitor spending in Hawaii for the month of November was $1.2 billion, an increase of 5.6 percent compared to November last year, according to preliminary statistics released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii residents hoping to ring in the New Year while dining on sashimi are in luck, as the “catch has been good.” Star-Advertiser.

The Office of Information Practices, the state agency that oversees Hawaii’s laws on public access to government information and meetings is reducing its backlog of cases, according to its annual report released Wednesday. Civil Beat.


Cafe 8 1/2 co-owner Robert Warner on Wednesday took down a sign on the Italian restaurant’s front door telling people who voted for President-elect Donald Trump he does not want them there, but offered no regrets or apologies for putting it up in the first place. Star-Advertiser.

Millennials Make A Stand In Honolulu’s Chinatown. A few blocks from the bustle of open-air markets, the arts district gets an infusion of restaurants and other new businesses. Civil Beat.

Kmart is closing its Halawa store in mid-March as part of a nationwide strategy to unload unprofitable locations. Star-Advertiser.

Long lines outside of Iolani Palace Wednesday night for the first of just two-nights of special evening tours. The special tours are to commemorate Queen Kapiolani’s birthday. KHON2.

Daniel Grabauskas, who once headed the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, which oversee the more than $9 billion rail transit project, has found a new job in New York as an independent transportation consultant, he confirmed to Pacific Business News.

On the sidewalks of Kalakaua and Kuhio avenues in the past month, men in orange robes are hitting up tourists and workers for donations -- sometimes aggressively. Some call them "fake monks." Hawaii News Now.

The new owner of Outrigger Hotels and Resorts is moving ahead with a $90.7 million plan to redevelop the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, Pacific Business News has learned.

President Obama spent another day teeing off at the Kapolei Golf Course before dining at a new restaurant in the Ward Village area. Hawaii News Now.


Stricter limits on taxpayer-funded alcohol could soon become law, under a bill to be considered next week by a County Council committee. West Hawaii Today.

The Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority is offering up a 1.3-acre lot for “eco-friendly” developers along what the county believes will be a major road in West Hawaii’s future. West Hawaii Today.

Like so many coastal areas in Hawai‘i, the once plentiful waters off North Kona have seen a decline in marine life over several decades.  As the state wrestles with how to manage these natural resources, some communities are stepping forward with a plan of their own. Hawaii Public Radio.

Kamehameha Schools will seek a new tenant for more than 10,000 acres of eucalyptus forest it owns on the Hamakua Coast following expiration of its current lease agreement. Tribune-Herald.

The superintendent for the West Hawaii Complex Area and the principal of the area’s largest school are both embracing the Department of Education’s new strategic plan, a plan they say finally puts more focus on educating “the whole child.” West Hawaii Today.


The South Maui Learning Ohana will break ground Friday on a new building and central campus for Kihei Charter School, which has been spread out across three separate locations for more than a decade. Maui News.

Maui Electric Co. officials tried to clear up confusion over the utility’s optional rate program, which varies charges based on time of use, because of differences in the rates published in its October rollout and those on letters recently received from the utility by those who have signed up. Maui News.

Maui Memorial Medical Center has reopened its oncology unit after 16 months of construction, the hospital said Tuesday. Maui News.


Eight nene were recently killed by vehicles along a two-mile stretch of Kaumualii Highway in Kekaha, and the state is urging drivers to slow down in that area. Garden Island.

Though the tradition of busting firecrackers is long here in the Aloha State, one must purchase a permit to ignite them on New Year’s Eve. Garden Island.