Wednesday, November 29, 2023
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Saturday, August 29, 2020
Lots of rules, not enough clarity
By Keli'i Akina PhD @ 12:14 AM :: 2804 Views :: COVID-19

Lots of rules, not enough clarity

From Grassroot Institute, August 28, 2020

On Wednesday, I wanted to take a walk. Unfortunately, it turned out to be much more complicated than I thought it would.

That’s because that same day, Hawaii News Now reported that Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, in his continuing attempts to stymie the spread of COVID-19, was about to issue a new lockdown order. But the full text of the lockdown order wasn’t readily available. Once I did find a copy, it was 16 pages of confusing legalese, and I had no idea if my intended walk would be legal. 

When you have to worry about getting cited for taking a walk, that’s a problem.

There is a reason that predictability and certainty are cornerstones of good lawmaking. Over the centuries, political and legal philosophers have asked what is required to make laws fair and equitable. One major component is to ensure that the public knows what is legal and illegal, understands the reason for that distinction, and can reasonably predict what actions will place them on the wrong side of the law.

Unfortunately, Hawaii’s pandemic response has lacked both predictability and certainty. While trying to determine whether my walk was legal, I came across rules for playing wind instruments outside and how many people are allowed in a fabric store at one time. Very few people would reasonably expect such things to become the target of restrictive rules and punishment. 

Too many of us are reduced to combing through news articles, looking for graphics that will let us know if we can legally fish, walk on the beach or open our businesses. No wonder the public is getting frustrated. This method of rule-making is antithetical to the principles of good lawmaking.

One of the reasons that we have separation of powers is so that the public can be involved in making new laws. There is a strict path that legislation must follow. “Gut and replace” notwithstanding, the people must have the opportunity to see what is happening and weigh in. The openness of the process, reinforced by “sunshine” laws, helps to increase public trust in the government.

That’s why the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii was among the community watchdog groups that early on condemned the governor’s decision to suspend transparency and sunshine laws. In response he made conciliatory gestures, but still he cited the suspension this past Monday when refusing to release to The Associated Press his COVID-related communications with state officials and others.

As I explained on Michael W. Perry’s "Perry & The Posse" radio program on KSSK, the public's growing mistrust is related to the government's perpetual lack of openness.

“Bottom line,” I said, “it’s the trust factor. Government is telling us what to do and what not to do, but they’re not explaining why. And there’s a huge amount of confusion.” 

I want to be clear that I am not trying to play backseat epidemiologist. A real epidemiologist already has weighed in to criticize the health-related aspects of the state’s lockdown orders. Moreover, I understand that the government has an important role to play in safeguarding the public's health and safety.

But open, accountable government is essential to good lawmaking. Moreover, the current approach leaves businesses twisting in the wind, and it could be the final blow for many of them.

Ultimately, it should not be so difficult to know whether you can take a walk. Nor should the decision-making process of our elected officials be so impenetrable. 

This coronavirus crisis has helped emphasize the importance of transparency and accountability in government. Looking ahead, one of the Legislature’s highest priorities during its 2021 session should be to strengthen the state’s open government laws and reexamine its emergency powers law.

E hana kakou! (Let's work together!)

Keli'i Akina, Ph.D.


TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


808 Silent Majority

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center


Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Back da Blue Hawaii

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii


Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together



Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Moms for Liberty

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

July 4 in Hawaii

Kakaako Cares

Keep Hawaii's Heroes

Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Practical Policy Institute of Hawaii

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii


Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

ReRoute the Rail

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

School Choice in Hawaii

Sink the Jones Act

Statehood for Guam

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

UCC Truths

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

VAREP Honolulu

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii