Gov. Green responds positively to groups seeking transparency

The following was issued as a news release by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii on Jan. 12, 2023.

In a Jan. 6 letter, over two dozen community and media organizations suggested changes that could be implemented by executive order

HONOLULU, Jan. 12, 2023 >> Hawaii Gov. Josh Green has responded favorably to a letter signed by more than two dozen community groups and media outlets that urges executive action to ensure greater government transparency and open records, according an official with the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest.

Brian Black, the law center’s executive director, said in an email sent Monday to signers of the letter that the governor “responded positively” to the Jan. 6 letter and told him during a phone conversation that he had already tasked the state attorney general to evaluate it.

Black, who spearheaded the letter, said the governor also expressed a desire to be more available to the media.

In a separate statement issued yesterday to the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, one of the groups that signed the letter, Blake Oshiro, senior adviser in the Office of the Governor, said, “Gov. Green believes in the importance of transparency, and his administration will adhere to all legal requirements to ensure requests for information are taken seriously.”

Oshiro added that the Jan. 6 letter “set forth several legal positions and citations which we will need some time to digest.”

Keli‘i Akina, Grassroot Institute president and CEO, praised the governor’s remarks.

“I am glad Gov. Green was receptive to the idea of promoting transparency in state government,” Akina said. “The Jan. 6 letter lays out a clear path to guide the administration toward making Hawaii’s state government more accessible and accountable to the public.”

In addition to the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, organizations that signed the letter were the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, Common Cause Hawaii, the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice, Earthjustice, Environment Hawaii, Life of the Land, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, Friends of Mahaʻulepu, Maui Tomorrow Foundation, the Sierra Club of Hawaii, ACLU of Hawaii, the Hawaii Health & Harm Reduction Center, the Hawaii Innocence Project and the Community Alliance on Prisons.

Media organizations that signed the letter included the Hawaii chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Hawaii Association of Broadcasters, Honolulu Civil Beat, Hawaii Public Radio, KHON2, KITV, The Maui News, Hawaii News Now, Big Island Press Club, Media Council Hawaii,  the Hawaii chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association, All Hawaii News and Ililani Media.

The letter to the governor suggested three major policy changes Gov. Green could implement via executive order.

>> “State agencies should presume that government documents are public and invoke exceptions to disclosure only if they must, not simply because they can.”

>> “Requests made in the public interest — by news media and nonprofit organizations that seek to educate the public — should be charged, at most, only actual copying costs, not massive search, review, and redaction fees.”

>> “The Office of Information Practices must serve its original purpose, which is to promote openness, consistent with the spirit and intent of the public records law.”

Akina agreed that these three actions would go a long way toward promoting government transparency. He also stressed the need for accountability.

“It is all too easy for government bureaucrats to become unaccountable,” he said, “which is why the public, the media and watchdog groups must all continue to press for greater transparency.”

To read the entire letter to the governor, go here.

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