Monday, March 10, 2014

 

Oppose HB2139, which opens a loophole in the open meetings law as big as a barn door


by Larry Geller

For some reason, granting exemptions to perfectly good law seems to be the fashion these days in Hawaii. Whether it’s height exemptions when the public decided against them, or (in this case) an exemption to allow abuse of the state’s open meetings law, it’s bad public policy.

The Superferry failed because the lege gave it an exemption. Well, it was also unable to make a profit. Last session the public rose up against the PLDC, an organization created to hand out exemptions and destroy our urban environment. The PLDC law was repealed. We’re still stuck with the HCDA, an organization created, like the PLDC, to hand out exemptions.

HB2139 looks like an invitation for abuse of the state’s open meetings law by exempting county councils. They’ve been looking for ways around the law for quite some time, and this would open a big loophole.

The bill would allow unlimited numbers of County Council members to attend an external “informational” meeting.

The abuse? Heck, there’s no watchdog overseeing what they say or do. For sure, since the county councils have been hunting for ways to escape the law, they will predictably begin to “chat” among themselves about anything and everything, and even to make decisions, as long as they are together.

What better opportunity to talk “business” than over a plate of pupus, without the public being aware? Speaking of “business,” who else (developers? contractors?) might also be at that meeting, with access to county council members that citizens don’t have and don’t even know about?

The bill is to be heard next tomorrow (Tuesday, 3/11). Here’s the hearing notice. It’s easy to submit testimony, please check out the bill and click on “submit testimony” to put your own comments on file.



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