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BIPC Honors Waimea Community Association, Calls Out Governor Ige

March 18, 2021, 2:44 PM HST
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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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