Plague of Secret Proclamations

Posted by at Sep 24, 2011 11:30 PM |
Hawai`i reacts to the Governor's misuse of his unilateral proclamation power, exempting government agencies from legal requirements.
Plague of Secret Proclamations

Gov. Abercrombie signs away...

Adding to Shelley's reasons for being salty with Governor Abercrombie, I offer the recent rash of secret proclamations exempting the government from a litany of laws that protect, among other things, the environment, historic and cultural sites, public access, and fishing rights.

Many groups and individuals are extremely concerned about this approach to governing.  To be clear: we are not against protecting Nene from airplane strikes or cleaning up the military's expansive mess.  But we shouldn't have to give up our right to a fair public process to have these good things done.  That is why many of us signed a letter to the Governor demanding he retract the proclamations.

Politicians have used the unilateral decree tool in the past, but in those situations the proclamation was narrowly written.  But these are extremely broad.  The ordnance proclamation encompasses all land in Hawai`i and suspends a huge number of laws.

And....  there is NO EMERGENCY!!   The law Abercrombie chose to invoke requires there be an actual imminent threat of some kind of harm.  These bombs -- albeit bad -- have been there for 60+ years.  Those birds... not on the verge of extinction from airplane strikes.

The real motivation for the ordnance proclamation is actually more than $100 million in federal money that is only good for 5 years.  That's the "emergency" -- and Abercrombie admits as much at the outset of the ordnance proclamation. So, basically, he has this cash and he needs to spend it fast -- and apparently he'll override any law that might get in the way.  Is that really good public policy-making?

The reality is those bombs have been in our environment for decades.  There are colorful Army-issued posters hanging in the public schools on the Wa`ianae Coast teaching kids how identify unexploded ordnance -- and those posters have been there for YEARS.  (Where have all you public safety hounds been all this time?)

Removing those bombs at this stage needs to be a thoughtful and thorough process that takes into consideration what removal techniques are available and which best fit the specific situation. Should the Army Corps detonate the bomb in place?  Will native species be destroyed?  Will historic, cultural or religious sites be damaged? What will be released into the air (air pollution protections are also suspended by the proclamation)?

Without consensus and support from those affected by these decisions, there is a potential for more harm than good to come from actions taken under these proclamations.  He should really rescind these proclamations and protect the public's health and safety the right way.

Abercrombie's propensity to exempt instead of engage does not bode well for public process and transparency over the remainder of this administration.  If this is what Neil does for non-controversial "good" decisions, then what can we expect when a really heated issue flares up?  And these are only the proclamations we know about -- there could be all kinds of bad news "lost" on this administration's desk (I'm serious -- that's the Administration's excuse for why the ordnance proclamation was not public until EnviroWatch demanded it be posted to the Governor's website: it is not secret, it was lost on someone's desk. Really? For 3 months? Yikes.)

Hawai`i has a strong and proud history of public participation in decisions that affect our public trust resources and our quality of life.  Yes, these kinds of decisions -- where people are heard and concerns are addressed -- do take longer to make, but decisions based on consensus and respect are far more durable than decisions made (and forgotten) by one person.

You can read the Star-Advertiser article here: Joint Appeal Calls for Elimination of Ordnance Decree, September 20, 2011.

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