Democracy would benefit from making information on government meetings more accessible.
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We’ve been in the Information Age for decades now, but obtaining information on upcoming government meetings in Hawaii feels more like we’re still in the Dark Ages.
More than 160 commissions and boards hold meetings throughout the year – meetings that the public should know about because what transpires could have significant impact on their communities. From a proposed 12,000-home master-planned development in east Kapolei to food safety requirements that could affect on local farmers, these public forums provide a way for citizens to make their opinions known.
It’s democracy at work — but only if the public knows about the meetings.
Doesn’t it seem like a no-brainer to make the dates, agendas, times and locations of all the state’s meetings available in one easily navigable, online website? We’re in luck. There’s already such a website — it’s called the state calendar. It can be found here.
But there’s no requirement that boards and commissions post meeting notices and agendas to this site. The Hawaii Sunshine Law, passed in 1975, required that information about upcoming meetings be made available to the public – in government buildings. It didn’t anticipate the Internet and the law hasn’t been amended by the Legislature in years.
But in 2008, Gov. Linda Lingle issued a memo instructing all boards and commissions to post to the state calendar site, noting that the public can’t easily obtain information on meetings, and thus misses opportunities to participate in them.
But she’s been gone nearly a year now, and the order seems to have faded in the dark. Gov. Neil Abercrombie still hasn’t reviewed the executive memo and decided whether he wants to continue the policy.
He should. It’s an easy fix and it would really help people figure out what meetings are being held and when. Civil Beat has found that some boards and commissions post to the online website and some don’t. But there’s no way of telling for sure whether all boards and commissions are posting to the site, so you just don’t know what you may be missing.
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