COUNTY COUNCIL STILL HATES SUNSHINE LAW
So it looks like open meeting lawsuits against the Maui County Council are becoming a regular thing. On Aug. 19, The Maui News reported that some Ka’anapali timeshare owners associations filed suit against the county saying “a Sunshine Law violation occurred when council members considered property tax rates for fiscal 2014.”
As expected, this new lawsuit cites the Aug. 8 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling in the Sunshine Law case Daniel Kanahele vs. Maui County, in which the high court found that a county council committee had violated the state’s open meetings law by circulating written memos that weren’t properly publicized to residents.
The only thing surprising about the latest case is that there aren’t more of them coming to light. Members of the Maui County Council–usually the chairpersons, in fact–have long complained about the state Open Meeting Law’s requirements and have long called for getting rid of the mandates that they meet in public:
• In 2005, Maui County Councilmember Riki Hokama called on the state Legislature to exempt the council from the Open Meetings law. “[T]he Sunshine Law detracts from the effectiveness of county councils in carrying out their legislative responsibilities,” he said at the time, which drew immediate and substantial opposition from residents and officials across the island. “What the council chair and associates are proposing is to move us toward efficiency at the expense of the community’s right to know and ability to speak out,” Mayor Alan Arakawa said at the time in a Maui News editorial.
• In early 2012, Maui County Council members Danny Mateo, Joseph Pontanilla, Bob Carroll and Mike White all wrote letters to the state House Judiciary Committee saying they supported HB 2742, which would have–you guessed it–exempted County Councils from the Sunshine Law. “[W]hen applied to an elected board like a county council, who has direct accountability to the electorate and a broad range of responsibilities, these same [Sunshine Law] interpretations unjustifiably interfere with the important legislative work of the County Council,” Mateo wrote. For that reason, Mateo added, “the State Legislature was wise to exempt itself from the Sunshine Law, and should give the same consideration to the county councils.” Needless to say, the bill went nowhere.
• In her bizarre post-Aug. 8 ruling press release, current Maui County Council Chairperson Gladys Baisa openly displayed her contempt for the open meetings law. “Though I have my issues with the Sunshine Law, the Council always goes beyond the call of duty to attempt to ensure we operate in full compliance, as can be seen in this opinion,” she said as though the court had not, in fact, smacked down the council.
Look, if Maui County Councilmembers don’t like a particular law, and aren’t shy about telling the public that, then that’s cool. They have a freedom of speech just the rest of us. But what they can’t do is let their opposition to a law that requires them to operate in the open allow them to slack off on adhering to that law, as these lawsuits seem to indicate.
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WHAT’S OUT OF BALANCE AGAIN?
The word is “rebalance.” I’m not really sure it’s actually a word (outside jargon-laden military-political circles, that is), but it’s apparently what’s happening in U.S. strategy in the Pacific these days. Or needs to happen, I guess.
I saw the word twice in two separate Aug. 22 press releases concerning the same event: U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s recent visit to the Kaneohe Marine base on Oahu. Not surprisingly, both U.S. Senators from Hawaii–that would be Democrats Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz–found time in their busy schedules to meet Hagel at the base.
“I was glad to join Secretary Hagel in Hawaii today and discuss with him important issues facing Hawaii bases,” Hirono said in a press release from her office. “Hawaii is critical to the military’s rebalance to the Pacific, but many base infrastructure improvements still need to be made. I also commended him on positive steps DOD is taking to curb sexual assaults in the military, an issue that still requires much more work.”
Schatz, in a separate news release, said pretty much the same thing.
“I join all of Hawai‘i in welcoming Secretary Hagel, and thanking him for visiting with our men and women in uniform and thanking them for their service,” he said. “Secretary Hagel emphasized that Hawai‘i is a crucial and enduring hub for the U.S. military, especially as we rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region now and in the years to come.”
Apparently, the buzzword “rebalance” is all the rage right now. An Internet search of the terms “rebalance” and “Hagel” turned up more than 22,000 results, if that’s indicative of anything. As to what it actually means in human terms, who knows–beyond the fact that the U.S. military is expanding in every way possible into a part of the world that it hasn’t been that strongly concerned about since, oh, the Vietnam War.
In any case, such visits serve as good reminders that, liberal though they are, Senators Hirono and Schatz will also find the time to support U.S. military power–especially when it translates into jobs and economic development in their home districts.
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MAUI NEWS DECLARES WAR ON SYRIA
Speaking of war, The Maui News’ Aug. 26 staff editorial (which comes from the desk of publisher Joe Bradley) all but called for an immediate total assault on Syria. Using the word “monster” three times in as many column inches to describe Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s recent alleged use of chemical weapons in that country’s civil war, The Maui News said the U.S. and its allies “must act very soon to stop the slaughter and remove Assad from power.”
“What kind of man would sanction the killing of so many innocents?” the editorial asked. “How could someone who is a father slaughter children?”
Not to throw too much cold water on The Maui News’ rally for yet another righteous war against a Middle Eastern nation–or diminish the severity of Assad’s crimes if he, in fact, did gas his own people–but the United States is hardly of moral standing to lead such a crusade against weapons of mass destruction. To the questions the paper posed about “what man” would do such horrible things, the American President Harry Truman comes to mind. He is, after all, still the only world lead to order nuclear bombings–in his case, the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were, as Truman himself knew only too well, were full of many thousands of children.