BIPC Honors Waimea Community Association, Calls Out Governor Ige
The Big Island Press Club (BIPC) on Tuesday handed out its highest honor alongside its worst rebuke.
James Hustace and the Waimea Community Association won the BIPC’s annual meritorious Torch of Light Award, while the group dubbed Hawai´i Governor David Ige the recipient of its Lava Tube dishonor award. The Torch of Light award is given annually to an individual or entity for brightening 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.
The awards are announced yearly on March 16, Freedom of Information Day, the birthday of James Madison, who was widely regarded as the father of the US Constitution and the leading advocate of openness in government.
Torch of Light
BIPC has selected James Hustace and the Waimea Community Association, where Hustace currently serves as president, as its Torch of Light awardee this year for keeping the islandwide community informed during a pandemic and an election year.
In April, the organization hosted a virtual townhall meeting on Facebook with Lt. Gov. Josh Green, Sens. Dru Kanuha and Lorraine Inouye, Reps. Richard Creagan, Nicole Lowen and David Tarnas, and County Council members Maile David, Rebecca Villegas, Karen Eoff and Tim Richards to discuss the latest with COVID-19.
Fine-tuning that virtual event, in May, over a period of three days, the community association hosted three candidate forums that included all of the mayoral primary candidates. Becoming the gold standard for how Zoom meetings were rebroadcast over Facebook on the Big Island, these well-attended virtual forums included informing viewers of how they could participate in the primary and election process. The Waimea Community Association added additional live streaming content over the year, connecting constituents with campaigners and elected officials islandwide well beyond the borders of Waimea.
Hustace led the technological charge at the community association to bring these virtual events to life. Other entities, including the Big Island Press Club, applied the learning gained from these early webcasts to produce other pandemic-friendly programming such as BIPC’s mayoral debate, which aired on YouTube and Facebook in addition to a live radio broadcast.
Lava Tube Dishonor
On March 16, 2020, Gov. David Ige imposed what Civil Beat called “one of the most extreme anti-transparency measures executed in the US” when he suspended Chapter 92F, HRS, the Uniform Information Practices Act in a supplementary proclamation signed that day.
“It’s sadly ironic that the Governor did this on March 16, Freedom of Information Day” said Big Island Press Club President Nancy Cook Lauer.
The Big Island Press Club understands that some government services had to be delayed in the early stages of reacting to a pandemic. But in the ensuing year, this ban on public records access has been only partially lifted, despite urgent calls to lift it by media, journalism groups and members of the state Legislature.
The Big Island Press Club believes the ability of one branch of government to unilaterally slam the door on access by the public to their own public records is something that should be taken seriously.
The press club’s Vice President, Michael Phillips, said, “We applaud our state senator from Kona, Dru Kanuha, for sponsoring a bill prohibiting such gubernatorial action in the future and note that his bill, SB 134, has cleared the upper chamber and was sent to the state House.”
As part of its mission statement, the Big Island Press Club believes public records belong to the people, not the government.
“The hunger for fact-based information is never more intense than during an emergency, and when that information is hard to come by, people often resort to rumors and speculation, “ added Lauer. “One would think that’s the last thing the government would want in a declared emergency.”
Previous Torch of Light Honorees
2019 Peggy Farias, W. H. Shipman
2018 Sue Lee Loy, Hawaii County Councilwoman
2017 Brian Black of the Civil Beat Law Center
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
Previous Lava Tube Dishonorees
2019 Army Garrison Hawaii Pohakuloa Training Area Public Affairs Officer Michael Donnelly
2018 Hawaii County Civil Defense
2017 Hawaii Office of Information Practices
2016 Former Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi
2015 State Land Board Chairwoman Suzanne Case
2014 State 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