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Gov. David Ige’s secretive decision-making during the coronavirus crisis has caught the attention of journalists throughout Hawaii, including Michael W. Perry, the state’s most popular radio personality, who yesterday, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2020, interviewed Grassroot Institute of Hawaii President Keli’i Akina on his “Perry & The Posse” program.
 
Hear the interview below. A full transcript follows.

8-27-20 Keli’i Akina on “Perry & The Posse,” KSSK AM and FM

Michael W. Perry: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is a wonderful organization. It’s run by a guy named Dr. Keli’i Akina — Dr. Akina, I’ve known him for a long time. He’s one of the smartest people I know. Dr. Akina, welcome to the program.

Keli’i Akina: I always love being here with you, Mike. Good morning to you and your listeners.

Perry: Morning. I have here something from May 22nd that you wrote. It was a Grassroot Institute white paper on the “Roadmap to prosperity: How Hawaii can recover and even excel after the coronavirus lockdown.” This is from May! And here we are again. What’s going on?

Akina: Well, when it comes to the coronavirus lockdowns, Mike, it’s deja vu all over again, as you say. After a clampdown in March, then a gradual reopening, we’ve now got even stricter lockdown measures imposed this week, and they are promised perhaps through mid-September or later. That’s quite a bit for people to handle.

Perry: Well, we’ve been through a lot, and a lot of businesses are obviously never going to open again. Most people have generally gone along with the government restrictions because we tend to trust government, but this one’s getting mixed reactions and I’m seeing a lot of people going, “This makes no sense, this makes no sense”; “It seems so arbitrary”; “What’s up here?” Would you agree?

Akina: Well, absolutely, Mike. To call the public’s reaction mixed would be an understatement. [Chuckles] Some people are worried that we’re on the cusp of a very serious wave of infections and deaths. Some people, especially business owners, are worried that our economy can’t weather the impact of another lockdown. And some argue that the state isn’t equipped or competent to follow through with tracing and other methods. Here’s the bottom line, Mike: The public is losing confidence in our government leaders.

Perry: Yes, why do you think? I mean, what are the reasons for losing confidence other than the seeming arbitrariness of being able to walk on the sidewalk but not on the beach? What’s this all about?

Akina: Well, Mike, I think at the bottom line, it’s the trust factor. Government is telling us what to do and what not to do, but they’re not explaining why. There’s a huge amount of confusion. To make it worse, the governor waived Hawaii’s transparency laws, something virtually no other state has done. I know that bothers you because you’re in the media, and he’s refused to let media like The Associated Press see his basic COVID communication with various departments. Hawaii residents deserve to know the basis for government actions. They deserve greater transparency. Without that, there’s a huge amount of mistrust that takes place.

Perry: Absolutely. OK, I’m going to put you on the spot. What does Grassroot Institute … and by the way, what’s the website? grassrootinstitute.org, is that it?

Akina: Absolutely: grassrootinstitute.org.

Perry: Got it. What do you say we do? What’s the cure here?

Akina: I don’t criticize the government for taking strong action. It needs to be concerned about public safety and health. First, I would say be more open and transparent about how health care decisions are made. Give people the confidence that the best data and theory are being used. Secondly, don’t throw the economy out with the bathwater. While we recognize the role of government in protecting health, the state must also reduce non-essential spending, reduce taxation and lighten the burden on Hawaii’s entrepreneurs and families. More transparency will go a long way toward bringing us together to end this crisis.

Perry: You know what else would go a long way? If everybody at the square building on South Beretania would have to give up as much money as the rest of us are giving up because of the lockdowns and everything. That might have some effect, don’t you think?

Akina: We need to know that our leaders have real skin in the game. We need to know that they’re going through exactly what we are in the public.

Perry: Dr. Akina, thank you very much. Once again Grassroot Institute, you’ll hear a lot of common sense coming up from Dr. Akina and read a lot from the things he sends out every year. I think I get something every couple of days from you now, grassrootinstitute.org. Thanks Keli’i, appreciate it.

Akina: Mahalo, Mike. Aloha.