BIPC Gives Torch of Light and Lava Tube Awards
The Big Island Press Club has awarded its annual Torch of Light and Lava Tube awards. Each year since 1997, the awards have been given on Freedom of Information Day, March 16. Freedom of Information Day is also the birthday of James Madison, the author of the U.S. Constitution, a “Federalist Papers” author, and an advocate for government openness.
Each year, the Torch of Light Award is given to an individual or organization that brightens the public’s right to know, and the Lava Tube dishonor is given for lack of communication and keeping the public in the dark.
This year, the BIPC awarded the Torch of Light Award to the team of scientists at USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and the Lava Tube dishonor to state Chief Election Officer Scott Nago.
According to the BIPC, HVO scientists receive this year’s Torch of Light Award for their tireless efforts to keep residents and the media updated with accurate information pertaining to the June 27 lava flow.
The BIPC commended the team’s ability to take a complicated, and unpredictable situation and provide clean and precise information that provides easy-to-understand information to residents who were overwhelmed and stressed by the event.
In addition to providing accurate and clear information, HVO scientists have been accessible to the public, providing speakers at daily media briefings and weekly public information meetings.
BIPC members honor the HVO scientists, which include about 24 individuals, including geologists, geochemists, geophycists, seismologists and technical and administrative support crew, who have gone above and beyond on numerous occasions.
HVO was founded in 1912 by Thomas Jagger. The observatory monitors and researches the volcanoes of Hawai’i and collaborates with emergency response officials to protect people and property from a variety of natural hazards.
According to the BIPC, Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago received this year’s Lava Tube Dishonor for his lack of communication during the 2014 Primary Election.
On Primary Election Day, Aug. 9, approximately 8,000 voters were either without electricity or physically unable to get to the polls for voting because of Tropical Storm Iselle.
Two of the polling locations, Hawaiian Paradise Park and Keonepoko Elementary School, were both closed, with just a handwritten sign on the entrance stating the poll was closed.
On Aug. 8, it was announced that the polls would be closed during a televised press conference. It was at that point decided that voters would be given the opportunity to makeup their votes through mail within three weeks. Just days later, Nago announced voting for individuals whose polls were closed would occur through walk-in voting. The decision was to be made through mail, which some people were unable to get to.
Nago said during the incident that whether or not voters would be informed of the change was up to the U.S. Postal Service.
Many people in areas hit hard by the storm were unable to vote on the makeup day, Aug. 15, because they were not registered at either the HPP Community Center or Keonepoko.
BIPC members say that Nago ignored the fact that many voters in the Puna District were denied the chance to vote, and therefore have a say in local, state, and the nationally important election for United States Senate because of the impact Iselle had on the community.
Founded in 1967, the Big Island Press Club is the oldest active media organization in the state of Hawai’i that remains continuously active.