Hawaii Legislature

#DUITalk on Civil Beat's State Integrity Project, Storified

Thanks to Civil Beat, Kanu Hawaii, Common Cause Hawaii and the League of Women Voters Hawaii for another informative evening!  Last night was focused on the State Integrity Project that Civil Beat helped conduct for Hawaii. Associate Editor, Sara Lin gave remarks, and diligent tweeting by Kanu made for an easy Storify which you can see after the jump:


Hawaii's First Sunlight Foundation Chapter Meetup

Great first meeting of the @SunFoundation Honolulu community!... on Twitpic Last night, shortly after their show on HPR, Ryan Ozawa and Burt Lum, lead the first Sunlight Foundation Hawaii Chapter meet-up. The Sunlight Foundation is a"non-profit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike." The meet-up came on the heels of the state's Office of Information Management and Technology of their strategic plan release. In particular, conversation and dialogue from the chapter meet-ups will be added to the OIMT's public forum on how to better their services.

In other government offices, the City & County of Honolulu's recent work with Code for America and the CityCamp are examples practical, day-to-day data usage. The Honolulu 311 and Da Bus smartphone apps are indicators of this work to make public data available and put to work for citizens. Since the bar has been raised by the city, now it's time for the state to reach up and raise it.

A goal of the Hawaii chapter is to work with with government agencies to make their public data sets more easily accessible and searchable online. While a number of government documents exist online, scanned PDF files are difficult to extract data from, or translate into a usable format for data collection and public comprehension. For example, making the Campaign Spending Commission data more easily available online, has allowed programmer Jared Kuroiwa to create an innovative campaign donor database. With infographs and clean search quires, users are able to see which organizations are funding candidate campaigns, and possibly influencing policy decisions.

The Media Council's interest in the Sunlight Foundation Chapter stems out of our efforts to get broadcast political Ad data online and with greater availability to the public. The Sunlight Foundation is studying this area, as Pro Publica's Justin Elliot mentioned in last week's episode of On the Media. Elliot cited specific problems with the FCC's recent decision to require broadcasters to put this information online:

There was an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation looking at where the top 50 broadcast markets are compared to the swing states, and they found that in some markets in Virginia, some markets in Pennsylvania that are expected to see a lot of political advertising, they don’t fall into the top 50. Those political ad files are still gonna be stuck in paper files at the stations until 2014, when all stations around the country have to come into compliance.

Hawaii is both not in the top 50 markets, and something of a swing state during elections, allowing our broadcasters the ability to evade this rule until the next election cycle. We're currently developing a methodology to collect this data from local broadcasters and share it. We'll keep you posted on this project and our involvement with Sunlight Foundation Chapter. Also, if you'd like to participate in our station visits and data collection efforts, please let us know.


FCC Uses 'Common Sense,' Approves Plan for Online Database of Political TV Ads

Just as the sun was rising in Hawaii, Brian Stelter of The New York Times, broke the news with his report. The FCC has approved a plan for broadcasters to upload public files data to the web.

The information about ad sales is already contained in so-called public files, which stations are required to store at their offices. Moving the files online was described by the commission’s chairman, Julius Genachowski, as a “common sense” step toward transparency.

This is considered a victory to many such as FreePress, ProPublica, and former FCC researcher Steven Waldman. Though, as Stelter reported, there is still some dissent from the National Broadcast Association. They said,

“By forcing broadcasters to be the only medium to disclose on the Internet our political advertising rates, the F.C.C. jeopardizes the competitive standing of stations that provide local news, entertainment, sports and lifesaving weather information free of charge to tens of millions of Americans daily.”

Keep an eye on the FCC.gov page for updates on when the information will go live.

Hawaii Legislature Threatens Freedom of Information with SB 2858

Media Council Hawaii, along with 16 other community organizations are appealing to the state legislature on SB 2858.  In her OpEd at Civil Beat today, UH Manoa Professor emerita Beverly Deepe Keever explained problems with the bill. She said there are "portions of the bill that would permit a government agency to go to court to contest an official agency’s decision compelling disclosure to the public of a record to which the law entitles it." We agree.

"Retaining FOIA in the existing bill," said Keever. "Would unnecessarily weaken OIP’s powers, waste limited resources of OIP and other agencies, and make it even more difficult for citizens to obtain government records in a timely manner.

Read the complete OpEd here and follow the bill here.


Tonight! - Why You Should Come to Sunshine and the Social Web

The excitement is really building for our panel discussion tonight, thanks to the culmination of a variety of events happening in Honolulu and around the nation.

First off, Carmille Lim, from the League of Women Voters Hawaii, will be joining us to provide her experience and fluency in social media and political activism. Civil Beat's Deputy Editor, Patti Epler who was originally set to join us, but will instead be following the GOP caucuses here in Hawaii. In following with the spirit of the evening, she's also asked community members to contribute to the fact gathering for Civil Beat's reports on the caucuses (more info at the link.)

Second, R. Elton Johnson III wrote a great editorial in the Star Advertiser today entitled, Government needs to shine a brighter light on the public's business. It's behind the paywall, but is an excellent report on state legislation and certainly worth reading. In particular, it's a reminder of what sunshine is all about,. He wrote:

The goal of sunshine with respect to public agency meetings in our state government is articulated pretty well at the first section of Hawaii's Sunshine Law (Hawaii Revised Statues Chapter 92): "In a democracy, the people are vested with the ultimate decision-making power. Governmental agencies exist to aid the people in the formation and conduct of public policy. Opening up the governmental processes to public scrutiny and participation is the only viable and reasonable method of protecting the public's interest."

Third, in addition to this week being Sunshine Week, it is the first week of the annual South by Southwest music, film, and interactive conference and festival in Austin, Texas. Our Twitter feed has exploded with the #sxsw hashtag and brilliant quotes, ideas and innovations worth sharing. Jennifer Pahlka, of Code for America, wooed an audience today with lines like:

"We have built an amazing consumer Internet…what we need to do now is build the citizen Internet"

Fourth, Lee Rainie and Aaron Smith of the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a very interesting and timely study yesterday on Social Networking & Politics. From the overview of the study, they wrote:

“Social networking sites have become places where political conversation, debate, and proselytizing occur, especially during campaign seasons. These new arenas of political discussion have drawn attention among political activists and have been a major focus of activity particularly since the campaign of Barack Obama aggressively embraced them in the 2008 presidential campaign. At the same time, some analysts have expressed concerns about the impact of social networking sites on the broad political culture.”

Last, not that you needed much more than that to remind you of how awesome this Sunshine Week is shaping up to be, but if you look outside you window in Honolulu right now, you'll also recognize the return of that bright star over our islands. Hope to see you tonight at the GreenHouse!

Sunshine & the Social Web - Panel Discussion Tuesday, March 13th

Sunshine and the Social Web: Citizen Power through New Media Tools

A Panel Discussion With:

Tuesday March 13, 2012 // 6-8p.m. // At The GreenHouse 

Media mergers have limited the number of professional journalists working in Hawaii today. Coverage of public offices and issues has suffered while citizen interest remains. Can social media and citizen journalism fill the content void and ensure we have the information needed for a healthy democracy?  How can citizens use technology to promote government transparency and public engagement?

Come celebrate Sunshine Week with Media Council Hawaii and Common Cause Hawaii as our esteemed panelists help answer this question and others on government transparency and the public right to know. Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

Hope you can join us! RSVP to info@mediacouncil.org.

#UNZ12: Unconferenz Highlights

This past Saturday, Burt Lum and Ryan Ozawa held the 5th annual Unconferenz at Kap'iolani Community College, and once again spurred great conversation on technology in Hawaii. In addition to all to the photos and other media that will surely come out of the event, Gee Why's Storify is a neat piece that drew the day together, and there's Ustream footage of the Ignite session online as well. You can also check out our twitter feed for more notes from the discussions. In the following, I've provided a few highlights from my day there as a first-time attendee. Because issues of interest to the Media Council were slated for the same room, I was in one place almost all day. Fortunately, a number of others selected a similar schedule and kept conversation ripe throughout the day. The morning sessions I attended seemed to run in an interesting chronological and ideological order:

The first session was centered around social innovation; ways to engage and activate a community on and offline. This discussion began in on agricultural issues, but quickly grew into other areas when Kevin Vaccarello of Sustain Hawaii brought up the idea of achieving a 'triple bottom line' through education, innovation and advocacy. The concept being that, in working toward these three goals, an organization can help educate a public, provide entrepreneurship and business opportunities through innovations, and advocate for their cause to create policies for governance.  The triple bottom line was a good foundation for the subsequent session on Internet Activism & Democracy.

Dan Leuck and Peter Kay  helped continue the social innovation conversation into voter action in Hawaii. They specifically welcomed Civil Beat Editor, John Temple, for the work his media outlet provides to Hawaii voters. Improving Hawaii's low voter turn-out, Temple said is one of his goals for Civil Beat. With a number of web developers in the room, ideas for helping voters identify with candidates, ranged from infographs to facebook updates and applying concepts from dating sites to match issue interests between candidates and voters. Soon, discussions turned to action in the next session.

In the third morning session, the Hawaii Innovation Alliance (which grew out of the #HiTechTown talk ) made an ambitious effort, amid a room full of contributors, to draft a charter. Even Rep. Gene Ward showed up to add his insight to the discussion. While some progress was made, debate over semantics was an obstacle. From my own seat, it was neat to see a room full of independent contractors try to find a bi-partisan common ground in their establishment of a guild/trade association. One issue for action, that I think many HIA members have a stake in, is the increased speed and access of broadband services in the state.

After lunch, the future of Hawaii's broadband infrastructure was discussed with several experts in the room. Kiman Wong (Oceanic), Yuka Nagashima (High Tech Development Corp.), Gordon Bruce and Forest Frizzell (City & County of Honolulu) lead the discussion with contributions from knowledgeable participants who have worked, or are currently working, in this industry. With nearly all participants present IRL (in real life) and online, wifi capabilities at the conference were noticeably burdened by the data traffic. This proved to be the common concern of the session, that improvement in Hawaii's broadband is desired, or necessary.  Disagreement, however, came upon ways to connect to, or improve upon, current infrastructure. Gordon Bruce's decades of experience in this industry was particularly insightful for understanding the relationships between telecom providers and the state.

The day closed out with a presentations by Code for America Fellows and Ignite Honolulu. For me, these presentations exemplified the past and current successes of the Unconferenz, while displaying a consistent trait in the tech community - a potential for future opportunities.

Thanks again to Burt, Ryan and everyone who helped put the event together.


Tomorrow, Feb. 8th: Democracy Under the Influence Meetup with Gary Hooser

"Hearings and Horse-Trading" 

  • Wednesday, February 8, 2012
  • 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Laniakea YWCA, Room 307.

Continuing the DUI series, this meetup will be a behind the scenes look at power and politics. The guest speaker will be Gary Hooser, Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control and former State Senator.

These events happen every second Wednesday of the month while the legislature is in session. They are organized by Common Cause Hawaii, Kanu Hawaii and the League of Women Voters of Hawaii. Tomorrow's talk will be streamed live online at kanuhawaii.org