“Just when you think we’d reached the prize, somebody moves our cheese. But what that really shows is a lack of transparency about the tier system.”
That was Keli’i Akina’s response to a question from popular Hawaii radio host Michael W. Perry about the surprising revelation that Honolulu County now has a Tier 5 as part of its COVID-19 lockdown “reopening strategy.”
Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced in early June that the county was now in the strategy’s “Tier 4,” which for the longest time had been held out as the least restrictive tier of social and business activity before all such COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
But then we learned about Tier 5.
“Oh, man,” Perry said. “Tier 4 [was supposed to be] the end. There’s suddenly a Tier 5. I didn’t know there was a Tier 5. Did you know there was a Tier 5?”
“Not until it was announced,” said Akina, who went on to lament the lack of transparency about the reopening plans of both the state and counties.
And “How do we get more transparencies?” asked Perry. “Is there an easy fix to this?”
“First,” said Akina, “we’ve got to reform the state emergency management law to restore the balance of power. For too long, we’ve been living under just one or two people dictating the rules for our lives. But we need to add the voices of the legislative branch and the people as a check against that power. That’s what balanced powers mean.
“In addition, … Mike, we need to put an end to the issuing of never-ending emergency decrees. Remember back in March of 2020, the governor issued the first emergency decree, No.1? …. Now, we’re into emergency decree No. 21, and it’s been 465 days.”
Listen to the entire brief interview below. A full transcript follows.
6-24-21 Keli’i Akina interviewed by MIchael W. Perry on KSSK radio
Michael W. Perry: We’ve talked on this program many times to Dr. Akina. Keli’i Akina runs Grassroot Institute, which is a think tank. I think it’s the only think tank in the state of Hawaii. It’s actually possibly where the only thought goes into things in the state of Hawaii; sometimes it seems that way. Keli’i, good to have you with us.
Keli’I Akina: Well, Michael, delighted to be with you and The Posse all the time. Aloha.
Perry: We have to ask you about Gov. Ige because we criticize some of the things he does a lot, and yet right now it appears that we’re on his side because he intends to veto a bunch of really stupid tax things that the Legislature put through.
Akina: That’s right, this actually passes for good news. It’s not as bad as it could have been, and we’ve been spared some of the worst tax hikes possible, and so kudos to Gov. Ige.
Perry: Very good, OK. We don’t say that very often, and he richly deserves it this time. We just moved into Tier 4 of the county emergency plan. What does that mean? Are we open for business right now? Is there an end to this? Explain this.
Akina: Well, it means we’re almost open, but we’re also confused. The mayor loosened restrictions on social gatherings, events and nightclubs, but there are still a lot of significant limitations. For example, Mike, there are various caps on the number of participants, and they differ from different establishment to establishment. There’s also a requirement that attendees show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, and there’s a requirement to collect contact tracing information. That’s a lot to manage.
Perry: Oh, man. Tier 4 is in the end. There’s suddenly a Tier 5. I didn’t know there was a Tier 5. Did you know there was a Tier 5?
Akina: Not until it was announced. It would be nice if there were no more tiers, so to speak. But the government announced last week that at the end of Tier 4, when we finally hit 60% vaccination rate, there was a brand new tier, Tier 5. Just when you think we’d reached the prize, somebody moves our cheese. But what that really shows is a lack of transparency about the tier system.
Perry: Who moved my cheese — yes, the tracks of our tiers, right? We may come to an end of this some time. Look, it seems sometimes like we’re left in the dark. These arbitrary numbers, we can’t figure out why we have Tier 5. We can’t figure out why we have 70% and not 68% as a goal for whatever that is now. These sound like really arbitrary round numbers. What does this say about transparency in government? We didn’t know where these numbers came from.
Akina: Well, if you want to build trust in people and you want them to cooperate and abide by the rules, you’ve simply got to be open about the decision-making process. Government has to tell us who’s making the decisions, and more than that, why those decisions are being made. But also, historically, when we lack transparency, it sometimes goes along with corruption or scandal or misuse of public funds. I’m not saying that’s taking place now, but that’s the company that lack of transparency keeps, and that’s why transparency is important for trust and the operation of a good government.
Perry: How do we get more transparencies? Is there an easy fix to this?
Akina: Well, in this situation, I think so. First, we’ve got to reform the state emergency management law to restore the balance of power. For too long, we’ve been living under just one or two people dictating the rules for our lives. But we need to add the voices of the legislative branch and the people as a check against that power. That’s what balanced powers mean.
In addition to that, secondly, Mike, we need to put an end to the issuing of never-ending emergency decrees. Remember back in March of 2020, the governor issued the first emergency decree, No.1? It was supposed to expire in 44 days. Now, we’re into emergency decree No. 21, and it’s been 465 days. It may be dark, but much less the end is in sight.
Perry: I haven’t read the last 20, so I don’t know what’s in those, even. Yes, it’s gotten a little ridiculous. Maybe we can stop this and open up the state because all of the numbers are good right now. I’m all for it.
Hey, grassrootinstitute.org is where you go if you want to follow Dr. Akina and his group. They are the only people that have Dave Swann doing cartoons for them, and I love the new one. Maybe we can put that on our social media too, but grassrootinstitute.org is the place to go. Keli’i, aloha to you. Thank you for being on with us this morning.
Akina: Mahalo Mike, aloha to you and The Posse.