President's Message (Sue Irvine)
League First (Mary Anne Raywid)
League Leaves HI-Clean
Citizen Rights Top Priority List (Jean Aoki)
West Hawaii Activities (Marni Herkes)
Judicial Independence Forum Praised (Jean Aoki, Jaurene Judy & Jackie Parnell)
HCALG Update (Grace Furukawa)
Lunch 'n' Learn the Law
What's Wrong with this Picture? (Carol Bain & Jaurene Judy)
Letter from the Editor (Shannon Wood)
Catchy Slogan for the Next Election Campaign
What's Wrong with this Picture?
If, like over 80% of Hawaii residents, you have cable TV, then be sure to take a closer look the next time you pay your cable bill. You will see a Cable Franchise Fee listed. This is a fee paid by you and me and all other cable TV subscribers which adds up to about $5 million each year statewide. This money goes to pay for Public Education and Government (PEG) Access Television and is state mandated.
Some of the funds go to pay for the management of local access stations, such as 'Olelo, the non-profit corporation created by the State of Hawaii to deliver public access services on Oahu. Unfortunately, some of this fee is also being used to take the State Office of Information Practices to court by challenging an OIP Opinion Letter (02-08) recommending that 'Olelo follow the State's Open Records Law, HRS92f, more commonly known as the Hawaii State Sunshine Law.
'Olelo is using state-mandated fees to take another state agency to court. The next result is that when one state-funded agency uses these funds to take another state agency to court, services to the public diminish.
You don't have to tell League members how important our sunshine law is to the concept of accountability. Not only do we actively seek ways to reinforce open meetings and open records laws, but also we applaud individuals and organizations which support these good government practices.
Likewise, when an organization such as 'Olelo fights open records laws and tries to operate behind closed doors, that is when the League needs to demand sunshine. Opening up the governmental processes to public scrutiny & participation is the only viable and reasonable method of protecting the public interest.
In this particular case, irony has been taken to a new level. A PEG Access Board is fighting the public's right to public access of its records. It seems that PEG Access organizations do not want to follow open records and open meetings laws. Furthermore, these same PEG Boards do not allow public access to records as required by HRS-92 - the Hawai'i State Sunshine Law - and HRS 92f - the Open Records Law.
The OIP released its opinion in September, 2002, saying that all PEG Boards are subject to open records law for purposes under the Uniform Information Practices Act. It now appears the Boards of both Ho'ike, Kaua'i's PEG Access Television, and 'Olelo are challenging the OIP opinion. Ho'ike is again refusing to release records deemed public by OIP while 'Olelo has hired the law firm of Alston Hunt Floyd, and Ing to fight the OIP Opinion by taking the matter to the Court for a decision.
If Ho'ike, 'Olelo or the other PEG Access boards want to be "independent of government interference," then the solution is to walk away from their dependence upon public funding. No one requires a membership-based non-profit corporation to comply with sunshine and open records laws if they are not taking state-mandated public monies.
There is a big difference between membership-based non-profits with an openly-elected board of directors that does not get a majority of its funding from government sources and these PEG Boards of Directors which:
DCCA could put an end to allowing PEG Access organizations to use public monies to fight compliance with open records and sunshine laws by contractually obligating them to do so. If these PEG Boards object, then they can refuse to accept the annual contract and DCCA could work with a less secretive, more publicly-minded non-profit.
As a member of the public, you have a right to public records and open meetings when your taxes are being used to pay the bills. Contact the DCCA and file a written complaint stating you want PEG Access Television stations in Hawai'i to follow the sunshine law. Call (808) 586-2620 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to register your complaints.
As long as these publicly-funded, sole-source PEG Boards are feeding at the public trough, we must insist upon full compliance with HRS-92 and HRS-92F. It's the right thing to do.
Carol Bain, Kaua'i LWV President