As our state and nation mark Sunshine Week — which emphasizes the importance of shedding light on the inner workings of government — it is appropriate to recall the words of the late President Gerald Ford when he said: “In all my public and private acts as your President, I expect to follow my instincts of openness and candor with full confidence that honesty is always the best policy in the end.”
President Ford’s commitment to open and honest dealings with the American people serves as a shining example for us all as we observe Sunshine Week. For how can we have a government that is of the people, by the people and for the people if our citizens are kept in the dark? How can we expect to overcome voter apathy and cynicism if elected officials often act in ways that undermine our trust?
When Gov. Linda Lingle and I ran for office in 2002, we were determined to bring about a “New Beginning” for the State of Hawai‘i. A key component of that fresh start was our pledge to restore trust in government by creating a transparent and open system that is fair to everyone — not just to those who make campaign contributions or are otherwise politically well-connected.
Our Administration’s commitment to openness and the free flow of information from government to the people is evident in many of our initiatives, such as:
• Reforming the Procurement Code to ensure the awarding of state contracts is conducted in an honest and competitive manner without any favoritism;
• Creating Neighbor Island Advisory Committees to give people across the state a stronger voice and a better understanding of how state government operates;
• Communicating directly with the public via the Internet to promote greater awareness about the workings of government agencies;
• Increasing access to the State Archives for the media, educational institutions and the general public; and
• Releasing the names of judicial candidates provided by the Judicial Selection Commission so members of the public have an opportunity to weigh-in with their opinions before the Governor appoints people to the bench.
Although Sunshine Week is spearheaded by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, this annual nonpartisan observance is about more than just increasing the media’s access to government information.
Sunshine Week also encourages citizens across our state to become more knowledgeable about, and involved in, government activities, from the local level to the highest offices of power. By doing so, we strengthen communities in Hawai‘i and across the country.
Clearly, having a politically active and highly knowledgeable electorate is an essential element of our Democratic system of government.
Or as our fourth President, James Madison, once said: “A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
For information on public meetings and proposed changes to administrative rules, visit my Web site at: www.hawaii.gov/ltgov. To find out about our Administration’s legislative initiatives, visit Lingle’s Web site at www.hawaii.gov/gov.