Fall 1999 Home   Newsletters

Summer 2000

Council Edition 2000

State Council Meeting 2000
President's Message (Virginia Isbell)
Members Wanted for I & R Study Committee (Marian Wilkins)
Democracy Network (Suzanne Meisenzahl)
Legislative Program 2000 (Jean Aoki)
Campaign Finance Reform Bill (Laure Dillon)
Raywid Busy on Education Front!
Access Room Celebrates 10th Anniversary! (Jean Aoki)
League Local News - Honolulu (Grace Furukawa)
League Local News - Big Island (Virginia Isbell)
League Local News - Kauai (Carol Bain)

Access Room Celebrates 10th Anniversary!

Evelyn Bender, Electra Anderson

"It's remarkable how far the Access Room has come," enthused Electra Anderson, the first paid coordinator of the Access Room, as she reminisced about its humble beginning in the basement of the State Capitol, staffed by volunteers. Electra had come from Arizona to help celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Access Room at the Pagoda Hotel Ballroom.

Almost 10 years ago, Electra who was then the executive director of Common Cause, Evelyn Bender of The League of Women Voters, the Reverend Robert Fraser of the Council of Churches, and Marguerite Peach representing AAUW had prevailed on the Legislature to provide them with the space for an access room to help citizens through the maze of the legislative process and to provide the facilities and equipment to help them write testimony and to lobby the legislature. As Evelyn puts its, it was also the place for citizens to gather and share ideas and a place to sit.

Electra spoke of how she cried with joy when she first stood in the dark empty room. "I also recall being able to feel a certain 'buzz' and saying aloud that this is the power center ... it was a personal moment of intensity that I have seldom experienced in my 52 years, and I think that it is not an overstatement to say that politics in Hawaii was changed forever because of that room. Suddenly we were tenants, not visitors."

Speaking about all the odds against their achieving this goal, Electra quoted the then Senate President Richard Wong querying, "Who is this public you keep talking about, Ms. Anderson?"

According to Evelyn Bender, the Access Room was one of a package of 64 reforms requested by the group, and through the years, most of them have been realized. The fact that our legislature is as open and accessible to its citizens as it is today can be attributed to the efforts of these four activists as well as to the efforts of some of the reform-minded legislators of that day and those that continue to seek further reform.

Today, the Public Access Room is the only one of its kind in the 50 states and is touted nationally as a model for other states to follow. In 1999, 4000 people visited the room to use its facilities and an additional 6,000 calls came in. Equipped with 5 computer terminals, 2 typewriters, two word processors, a printer and a copier, Access Room staffers will advise and help people on formatting and printing copies of testimonies for committee hearings, and help you track bills on the Legislature's website.

Jean Aoki

Fall 1999 Home   Newsletters Council Edition 2000