About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair, John Hill. Matthew Leonard and Richard Wiens.

Short takes, outtakes, our takes and other stuff you should know about public information, government accountability and ethical leadership in Hawaii.

Something to hide?: The Sunshine Blog should be used to to public officials saying one thing and doing another when it comes to being open and honest and accountable to the public.

But The Blog was still blown away by remarks made on Friday by Lori Kahikina, CEO of the city’s $10 billion rail system. Kahikina is one of those who likes to profess her desire to follow an ethos of “transparency” for the Honolulu rail project.

But what she really thinks was pretty clear at a meeting of the human resources committee of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. The board met Friday to discuss possible changes to the board’s evaluation process, and the subject of public disclosure of her evaluation came up.

Kahikina did not hold back.

  • A Special Commentary Project

“I feel all of my evaluations should be confidential,” Kahikina said, explaining she discussed that very issue with the city corporation counsel. “I don’t think it should be so public, and what COR (corporation counsel) came back to me was, there was a ruling for highly visible employees, which is myself, (University of Hawaii President David) Lassner, the police chief — we don’t have those rights.”

She continued: “I triple checked with COR — do I have to release this? — and she said yes. You could hold off and wait until that 92F comes in, but when that 92F comes in, I have to release it, so I’m just going to piss off the media if I don’t give it right up front.”

A 92F is short-hand for a public records request and refers to the section of the Uniform Information Practices Act, better known as the state open records law, that requires disclosure of public information with very few exceptions.

Last summer the HART board gave Kahikina a lukewarm job review, which might figure into her rather frosty views on the subject.

The Blog would suggest Kahikina’s energy might be better spent on, say, continuing cost overruns, operational delays and flange-bearing frogs rather than enlisting the city’s top lawyer to help her dodge public scrutiny.

She might also want to check out the recent lawsuit filed by the Public First Law Center (formerly the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest) which explains why the public has a deep interest in performance evaluations, hirings and firings of those who have been given important positions of public trust.

HART CEO Lori Kahikina
HART CEO Lori Kahikina proclaims to be all about transparency — except when it comes to herself, apparently. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2022)

We call that burying the lede: When Dawn Chang sought confirmation last year to serve as the Department of Land and Natural Resources’s director, she faced a ton of criticism that she was too closely tied to developers through her former consulting work.  

Chang tried to ease those concerns by noting that she’d be the first female Native Hawaiian to hold the job — plus she’d be joined by two Native Hawaiians highly regarded in the conservation community to serve as her deputies: former Hawaii Land Trust CEO Laura Kaakua and a former Department of Hawaiian Homelands planner, Kaleo Manuel.

Dawn Chang had high hopes for her DLNR management team last year. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

“This is a historic Native Hawaiian leadership team,” Chang told senators during an informational briefing early last year. “I believe our nomination reflects a recognition of the values that each of us brings to DLNR based upon our respective background and experiences  to support DLNR’s mission.”

Well, as most news consumers in Hawaii know, Manuel officially resigned from DLNR earlier this month and no one, including Manuel, will say why he left. 

Then, on Friday — exactly one year after Chang touted her leadership team to senators — Kaakua followed Manuel out the door. 

Her departure from DLNR was buried at the tail end of a news release from Gov. Josh Green’s office touting the nomination of her successor, Ryan Kanaka’ole. It was sent late in the day, a move that journalists call the “Friday night news dump” when people try to bury unpopular news at the end of the week’s news cycle.

Civil Beat reporter Marcel Honore had actually reached out to DLNR representatives earlier in the day to confirm Kaakua’s departure and get comment from Chang, but didn’t hear back from them until Saturday morning, after the governor’s office had already sent out the press release. 

Once again, officials were mum on the reasons for Kaakua’s departure.

But the governor’s press release noted she would be working on Native Hawaiian issues for the state Department of Transportation.

This just in: Just past the one-year mark in the state’s top leadership spot, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green continues to win rave reviews from voters.

A new poll that is making the rounds of the politically connected shows 65% of those polled approved of his job performance and 63% had a favorable opinion of him.

Gov. Josh Green remains a favorite of voters even after a year in the hot seat. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

That’s on par with what the electorate said in November, when 63.9% of voters put him in office.

The gov’s recent poll was done in January and surveyed 801 voters. It has a margin of error of 3.5%. The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling, a company that works largely for Democrats.

Pollsters also asked voters what issues they’re most concerned about and, not surprisingly, they overwhelmingly listed the cost of living, affordable housing and homelessness which are, not surprisingly, Green’s top issues too. (Disclaimer: The Blog did not see the poll itself so does not know what other choices were offered or if it was an open-ended question.)

Those issues were also the ones voters said they’d most like to see the governor spend effort and resources on. (Ditto the above disclaimer.)

Voters also said they approved of Green’s emergency proclamation on housing (62%) and wanted to see more done to regulate short-term vacation rentals in Hawaii (53%).

And finally, from the Civil Beat inbox:


Read this next:

Hawaii’s Nonprofits Struggle To Provide Critical Services

Local reporting when you need it most

Support timely, accurate, independent journalism.

Honolulu Civil Beat is a nonprofit organization, and your donation helps us produce local reporting that serves all of Hawaii.


About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair, John Hill. Matthew Leonard and Richard Wiens.

Latest Comments (0)

J is coming soon. Is he staying in Waikiki? Already got a place to stay? Does he need a rental surfboard, lessons or maybe a private tour? Dinner reservations? Maybe a companion for the night?Show some aloha to our guest!

E_lectric · 1 month ago

What does "politcally connected" mean? Polling democrats? Polling contract awardees? Politics are politics and they don't bite the hand that feeds them until they're out of office.

surferx808 · 1 month ago

Regarding Green's popularity, a bump on a log would look popular after Ige.

zz · 1 month ago

Join the conversation


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.


You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.