THE COUNTY OF MAUI IS MY SUNSHINE
One of the great things about the County of Maui is that they don’t discriminate against anyone willing to give them an award. Regardless of the organization, its funding or the fact that it doesn’t really like government of any kind, if it’s willing to hand over an award that didn’t exist five years ago, the County of Maui is more than willing to accept it graciously.
“Sunshine Review, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to government transparency, has released the winners of the 4th-annual Sunny Awards, and among the winners is the County of Maui, Council Chair Gladys C. Baisa announced today,” stated a Mar. 14 news release from Baisa’s office. “The award honors the most transparent government websites in the nation.”
According to the press release, the “Editors at Sunshine Review” graded the “top-ranked 1,000” government websites “on items such as budgets, meetings, lobbying, financial audits, contracts, academic performance, public records and taxes.” The press release notes that Sunshine Review President Michael Barnhart recognized Maui County for being a “champion for transparency and serving as a leader to every state and local government around the nation.”
Mere minutes after Baisa’s press release went out, Maui Now (as they’re wont to do) published a blog post on the county’s triumph. The Maui News followed suit with a community news blurb in their Mar. 17 paper. What neither news source did was provide any sort of context on Sunshine Review–beyond the couple sentences saying that the nonprofit analyzes state and local government websites.
According to Sunshine Review’s own website (sunshinereview.org), “Sunshine Review originated as a project of the Sam Adams Alliance (SAM) [named for the American Revolutionary founder, not the Boston lager], but in 2010 separated from SAM and relaunched as its own organization dedicated to educating the public about proactive disclosure and other open government initiatives.” The Sam Adams Alliance is a strongly libertarian organization that, according to its website, “strives to educate and inform citizens about the important political issues necessary to maintaining a free society, including government accountability, government transparency, property rights protection, fiscal responsibility, free speech, and citizen initiative and referendum rights.”
According to SourceWatch, Barnhart and Sunshine Review are also pretty tight with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). They’re a “corporate bill mill” that Sourcewatch says takes money from corporations in exchange for writing and lobbying for legislation that would serve corporate interests.
And then there’s the fact that even though Sunshine Review preaches the gospel of “transparency,” they keep the names of their own donors a tightly guarded secret. “Like many non-profits and as a 501(c)(3) organization, Sunshine Review respects the wishes of its donors to keep their identities confidential,” states the Sunshine Review website.
Given that, SourceWatch–citing IRS filings–reported that Sunshine Review has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from all manner of anti-government foundations and think tanks.
“In 2010, the Sunshine Review received over $560,000 from the conservative Sam Adams Alliance (SAM), according to SAM’s IRS tax filings,” reported SourceWatch. “Of its $3.9 million budget, SAM also provides funding to groups such as the Tea Party Patriots Foundation, the First Freedom Foundation, and the Citizens in Charge Foundation. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network (SPN) which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation, a project of Charles Koch who co-owns Koch Industries with his brother David.”
I figured the Koch brothers, who donated $411,000 to Republicans across the country during the 2012 election (their organization Americans for Prosperity spent millions more attempting to defeat President Barack Obama’s reelection effort), according to the Center for Responsive Politics, would come into this sooner or later. Ask any politically inclined Democrat in the nation about the Koch brothers, and you’ll find they’re somewhere between Rasputin and Eddie Haskell on the Great Spectrum of Universal Evil.
But please–let’s not allow any of that to darken the County of Maui’s day in the sun.
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HC&S STARTING TO LIGHT FIRES AGAIN
Good news everyone! It’s mid-March, and that means Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar (HC&S) will start burning sugar cane in the fields again! I know this because a few days ago I received a letter that started out like all love letters from those who truly care about me.
“Dear Neighbor,” the Mar. 11 letter from HC&S General Manager Rick W. Volner, Jr. started. “The purpose of this letter is to once again advise our neighbors of the start of HC&S’ harvesting season.”
This is big not only because HC&S’ method of harvesting cane involves burning it in the fields, which produces thick smoke that seems to bother a sizeable portion of the island’s population, but because the company employs 800 people. Did you get that? HC&S has 800 employees. Volner seems sensitive to this, because he mentioned it three times in his single-page letter:
• “On March 12, the Pu‘unene mill returns to life [and] our 800 workers return to harvesting and processing sugarcane on our 36,000 acres…”
• “With all of these accomplishments, I am still most proud of our 800 employees…”
• “We are determined to keep the central valley of Maui green and our family of 800 workers employed…”
See? Who are you to question the actions of an organization that employs 800 people? But fear not, ye who find yourselves choking on the mornings of cane-burns: Volner and his army of 800 feel your pain.
“We pledge to communicate more with you about our agricultural operations, harvesting and, especially, the schedule for sugar cane burning in your area,” Volner wrote. “Our hope is that more advance information from us will help minimize the impacts on you.”
You know, to give you time to grab your family and flee like refugees to Hana or Oahu or maybe just jump into a canoe and paddle out to sea until the skies clear in November. See, HC&S “listened” to you. They’re going to keep right on burning cane in the fields, because apparently that’s they way it was always done, but they do listen to you.
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