Government and Civic Engagement in Hawai‘i Need to Change

Photo: Aaron Yoshino

Published in Hawaii Business Magazine (July 2019).

People are frustrated with government in Hawai‘i.

There are many reasons, from the near daily revelations of graft, corruption and bribery among public officials, to rail’s ever-ballooning costs.

“I strike up conversations with people all the time about what they think of state government. Usually their first reaction is they think of it as corrupt. And unresponsive. That it’s serving some groups and they’re not exactly sure who those groups are,” says Colin Moore, associate professor at UH Mānoa’s Department of Political Science.

“Any sense that it is directly responding to their own concerns just isn’t there. People will just shrug their shoulders and assume certain interests, like development, will always get what they want and there really won’t be much action on anything else,” says Moore, who is also the director of the UH Public Policy Center. 

These perceptions are not just anecdotal. The Center for Public Integrity graded Hawai‘i a D+ in 2015, with especially low rankings compared to other U.S. states in areas including legislative accountability, electoral oversight, judicial accountability and lobbying disclosure. In 2018, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund gave the Aloha State an F for transparency, ranking it 44th in the nation for online access to government financial data. That same year, a study conducted by the UH Public Policy Center found that 55% of those polled only sometimes trusted state government to do what was in the public’s best interests, while 14% of them never trusted government.

Continue reading online version in Hawaii Business Magazine…