Letters for Monday, July 25, 2011

• Legislative review of OIP powers needed •

Battle begins in raising our keiki sans

violence

Legislative review of OIP powers needed

Mahalo to TGI for publishing the columns about the OIP and our open records laws so well written by John Temple, editor of Honolulu Civil Beat.

In my years of dealing with OIP regarding our sunshine laws I have found their office to be extremely efficient, completely open to the public’s concerns and prompt acting whether it was by phone or by mail.

However, as these fine columns point out the OIP has no enforcement powers and that makes the office “essentially a paper tiger and government agencies can just ignore its determinations.”

The Sunshine Law provides that a member of the public concerned about an action taken by a governmental agency may seek the assistance of the OIP and the ruling by the OIP is final and the government agency involved cannot appeal it. The purpose of this law is to make the OIP the public’s court of last resort.

But if the ruling is favorable to the public member and the agency just ignores it, then what good is it?

The Kaua‘i County Council has time and again said when the OIP has ruled in their favor, they must abide by the ruling. But when the OIP has ruled against them they just ignore it and the public member has no recourse but to drop the matter unless they want to sue the county.

Of course, the county well knows that it has the tax dollars to fight any case brought against it while the individual citizen is typically monetarily limited. Or as in the famous Executive Session (ES) 177 case where the OIP ruled that the county has to make public the minutes of that ES. The county refused and fought the case all the way to the state Supreme Court where they finally prevailed, at a huge cost to the taxpayers.

Here is an interesting fact to that case, which many of us thought the OIP should have won. At that time our County Charter under section 3.07E stated that, “With the exception of deliberations relating to confirmation of appointees (which was deleted) or consultations with the county attorney on claims, all council and committee meetings shall be open to the public.”

Hawai‘i Revised Statutes 92-71 also stated that if a county ordinance was more stringent than the state’s (the state has eight reasons to go into ES so obviously our Charter which allowed only one was more restrictive) then the county ordinance would prevail. Thus since ES 177 was not for a “claim” (and the Charter specified its definition of a claim) the ES was illegal and the meeting, as OIP stated should have been made public.

One other fact. For 15 months two members of the public testified before the council ever went into an ES — whenever it wasn’t for a claim — saying that it was illegal. Council members employed every tactic they could to ignore the 3.07E fact but continued on course.

Then for some “unknown” reason our Charter Review Commission unilaterally decided (against all public testimony and protest) to put 3.07E on the ballot to get it changed to the eight reasons the state had for their ESs.

Through very confusing and ambiguous language on the ballot the measure was passed. Had the ballot language asked if the public wanted to give our council eight reasons to go behind closed doors (less sunshine) instead of the one stipulated in our Charter (more sunshine) it probably would have been defeated.

One might ask why was this done and who did it benefit? Well, it certainly didn’t benefit the people!

Anyway, back to the OIP. We believe that the legislature had originally given OIP the power to be the final decision maker in judgment cases — stopping litigation and untold expenses from happening.

We believe that this power should still prevail, just as Mr. Temple has stated. It is time that the Legislature reviews the situation and corrects it.

Glenn Mickens, Kapa‘a

Battle begins in raising our keiki sans violence

Ralph Tamm’s letter of July 20, 2011, entitled “Primitive,” is the most intelligent I’ve read in this paper since I’ve began reading regularly a year ago. In a paper where its readers and staff regularly take for granted the need for a coercive and violent state apparatus to maintain social stability, Mr. Tamm’s observations were a breath of fresh air.

This is more a personal letter than a public statement. Mr. Tamm: do not lose hope because a mere handful of readers will actually understand and internalize the thoughts you shared. There IS empirical proof that non-aggression and non-coercion are the most effective methods of social and economic organization. That information is simply hard to come by nowadays. Portugal’s success with drug decriminalization is recent example.

A number of organizations have begun forging the path in this area (too many to list here). I have just one critique: it is not simply “social sciences” that must evolve to address this problem, it is one in particular: philosophy. There is one philosopher who has and continues to prove the efficacy of non-coercion: Stefan Molyneux. I recommend you read his free book, “Universally Preferable Behavior: A Rational Proof of Secular Ethics.”

If it is any comfort, I am not yet 30, and the ideas you shared consume the major part of my thoughts in my free time. However, we must be patient and recognize this is a generational battle that begins in raising our children without violence.

Jason Robertson, Princeville

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