Let The Sunshine In: We're Aggressively Tracking Government Reform Proposals In Hawaii - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Patti Epler

Patti Epler is the Editor and General Manager of Civil Beat. She's been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, primarily in Hawaii, Alaska, Washington and Arizona. You can follow her on twitter at @PattiEpler, email her at patti@civilbeat.org or call her at 808-377-0561.

Hawaii is poised to finally pay serious attention to a long-overdue issue — bolstering people’s ability to understand government and to scrutinize the decisions being made by elected leaders, government workers and the factions that try to influence them.

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Momentum seems to be gathering this year at the Legislature and even at some county councils to tackle measures that have languished for years, even decades.

The key word here is “seems.” There are also many reasons to be suspicious that political leaders will try to slide out from under any meaningful reform.

That’s where we come in.

We intend to stay glued to efforts aimed at improving government accountability and transparency such as those put forward by the state House’s special Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct.

To that end, we’re launching a new Civil Beat initiative that we’re calling “Let The Sunshine In” (apologies  in advance if I just made that song get stuck in your head).

Our goal is to make sure lawmakers and others know we’re watching what happens and that we are going to raise a very big stink if they fail to give serious consideration to government reform proposals. We intend to write about anything and everything having to do with government accountability, transparency, political reform, ethical leadership and even media accountability under the umbrella of this project.

The standards commission, led by retired judge Dan Foley (so you might see it referred to as the Foley commission from time to time), did amazing work. The seven-member group was so top-notch and tackled so many different elements that I think the legislative powers that be might have been caught off guard. That’s what they get for appointing good people to take on an important issue.

The commission noted that after a series of scandals involving public officials, people perceive Hawaii to be in the throes of “a deep moral crisis.” Members worked much of the year holding public hearings and involving key civic and political leaders, and in December they presented House Speaker Scott Saiki with a 396-page report that included 31 proposals for reform.

Saiki has said he intends to introduce the proposals as bills to be considered by lawmakers. We are very eager to see what happens next, because the fact is that recent scandals are far from the only things causing citizens to lose faith in a government controlled by entrenched power-brokers — elected and otherwise.

The Legislature is slated to open Jan. 18 and we plan to track the progress of those measures and any others related to transparency and government accountability. We’ll explore those ideas in-depth, analyze the politics that are sure to be swirling at the State Capitol, and post frequent updates on their progress, or lack of it.

This is where we invite you to join us. We need help making sure we are catching everything we should be catching, so please let us know what we should be tracking particularly at the local levels. If you see something, say something. And you can use our new email — sunshine@civilbeat.org — to do it.

We’ll also be posting contact information for key lawmakers, council members and others as these measures roll through the hearings and decision-making process. We’ll issue calls to action when we think the public should weigh in on what they’re doing — or not doing. It’s important that you do your part here and tell lawmakers what you think.

The final report from the special legislative commission is nearly 400 pages and includes 31 proposals for lawmakers to consider. Patti Epler/Civil Beat/2023

Clearly, we — the Civil Beat Editorial Board — have a position on this stuff. We have advocated for years for stronger government accountability measures, whether it’s better oversight of public agencies, easier access to public information or more effective leadership in positions of public trust.

Now the Foley commission has wrapped many of these ideas up in one nice neat (although hefty) package. We want lawmakers to take these proposals seriously, give them full public airing and make them law unless there’s a darn good reason not to.

That’s why we are making “Let The Sunshine In” a major part of our opinion section for the coming year and beyond. Our news reporters will do their own thing, covering hearings and developments separately.

But the sunshine project will be, at least starting off, the work of several of our editorial writers — Chad Blair, the politics and opinion editor; Richard Wiens, an editor at large who oversaw much of our elections coverage the past few years including editing all the Candidate Q&As; and me, as Editor of Civil Beat.

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We’re also looking for another opinion writer to join the team. If you are an excellent persuasive writer with a keen eye for Hawaii policy and politics, we have a job for you. Journalism experience is preferred, but we’re willing to consider thoughtful, sharp thinkers who may not have worked for a news organization but could learn.

So watch Civil Beat and the IDEAS section (a slight makeover is coming soon) as we ramp up our public watchdog role over this very important issue.

We strongly believe this is an idea whose time has come, and if people don’t stay on top of it nothing will change. Let’s work together to make sure that doesn’t happen.


Read this next:

John Pritchett: Up In Smoke


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About the Author

Patti Epler

Patti Epler is the Editor and General Manager of Civil Beat. She's been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, primarily in Hawaii, Alaska, Washington and Arizona. You can follow her on twitter at @PattiEpler, email her at patti@civilbeat.org or call her at 808-377-0561.


Latest Comments (0)

I appreciate CB's intention and focus in regard to this important objective. Although I'm unable to now find it in my search of CB's site, I'm recalling a past CB article a few years ago referencing the, IMO arrogant and corrupt, inner workings orchestrated by Speaker Scott Saiki in regard to bills that get killed, stonewalled, fast-tracked, etc. as part of normal daily operations. These types of abuses are far more difficult to shine light on, but I hope CB finds a way. Ditto for the internal bullying and power plays done by Dela Cruz (and the likes of him) as highlighted in CB's May 27, 2022 article on how he "forced through a contentious energy bill".

KeepingItReal · 4 weeks ago

Can you please post the link to the Foley report. Thank you.

Mauitutu · 4 weeks ago

I'm looking forward to the new ideas coming forth because for once in how many past sessions have " good ideas" come up and because no one monitors the progress they get swept under the rug/table, but we now have an experienced Lt. Governor who knows who the "slackers" are in the House, not saying anything negative whatsoever towards Governor Green when he was Lt. Gov but Governor Green had his hands full babysitting Governor IGE and making sure what promises or commitments he (Governor IGE) made some kind of attempt to make good on what he's working on. So, yes - I seriously believe in this new administration, what new Lawmakers/Politicians wanting to take their work Seriously, Governor Green and Lt. Governor Luke have thrown down the "Gauntlet" and its time for our Legislature go to work. As the old saying goes, " Good things happen when good work is put towards those things, and if you expect great things then great work has to happen" .

unclebob61 · 4 weeks ago

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About IDEAS

IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email news@civilbeat.org to submit an idea.

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