Big Island Press Club (BIPC) awards its annual meritorious Torch of Light Award to the team of scientists at USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and the Lava Tube dishonor award to state Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago. The Torch of Light award is given to an individual or organization which brightens the public’s right to know while the Lava Tube dishonor is given for a lack of communication and keeping the public in the dark.
Lava Tube Dishonor
The Lava Tube awarded to Scott Nago, the chief elections officer for the state of Hawaii is bestowed for the lack of communication during the 2014 Primary Election.
Because of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Iselle, an estimated 8,000 voters were either without electricity or in some cases physically unable to get to the polls for voting on Primary Day, Saturday, August 9. In addition, two polling locations at Hawaiian Paradise Park and Keonepoko Elementary School were closed, with only a small handwritten sign at the entrance informing voters the poll was closed.
When the initial announcement was made of the poll closure on Friday night, August 8, at a televised press conference, the state’s Attorney General said makeup voting for those who should have voted at the closed polls would be by mail, within three weeks.
Three days later, Nago announced voting for only those people whose polls were closed would be by walk-in voting on the following Friday, August 15, 2014. That decision was to be communicated to affected voters via mail – at a time when many people still had no electricity, trees were still down, and in some cases residential mailboxes were inaccessible.
When asked how he would ensure that voters were informed of the change, Nago said it was in the hands of the U. S. Postal Service.
Puna residents in hard hit areas that were unable to reach their polling location on August 9 were denied the right to vote on August 15 if they were not registered at Keonepoko or HPP Community Center. While voters throughout the Puna District were denied an opportunity to vote, because of the impacts of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Iselle, Nago, as chief elections officer, ignored that fact. Voters were therefore denied their opportunity to have a say in local, state, and the nationally important election for United States Senate.
Torch of Light
BIPC has selected the team of scientists at USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory to receive the Torch of Light, an award given to an individual or organization which brightens the public’s right to know.
Since Kilauea’s June 27th flow took aim at Pahoa Village, the team at HVO has worked tirelessly to keep updated and accurate information available to the media and to residents.
While they are skilled and dedicated scientists, they are not typically tasked with working so closely with the public. Working alongside county, state and federal agencies – including the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency – team members managed to take a complicated, unpredictable situation and provide easy-to-understand information that helped relieve residents’ stress.
They provided HVO staff members as featured speakers at daily media briefings and weekly public meetings.
HVO includes two dozen staff including geologists, geochemists, geophycists, seismologists and the technical and administrative support crew.
BIPC members noted the scientists repeatedly went above and beyond their job description, sharing their knowledge directly, plainly and with candor.
Founded by Thomas Jaggar in 1912, HVO conducts research on the volcanoes of Hawaii and works with emergency-response officials to protect people and property from earthquakes and volcano-related hazards.
The Big Island Press Club gives the Lava Tube and the Torch of Light awards annually on Freedom of Information Day, March 16, the birthday of James Madison.
The Big Island Press Club has given the Lava Tube and the Torch of Light awards annually since 1997. Gov. Ben Cayetano has the distinction of being the only person to win both the Lava Tube in 1998 and the Torch of Light in 2000. The Hawaii County Council has won a Lava Tube four times.
The Big Island Press Club was founded in 1967 and is the oldest continually active media organization in the state of Hawaii.
Born in 1751, Madison was an author of the U.S. Constitution and a “Federalist Papers” author and one of the nation’s foremost advocates for government openness.
Previous Lava Tube Dishonorees
- 2013 Democratic Party House District 5 Council
- 2012 State Sen. Clayton Hee
- 2011 Governor Neil Abercrombie
- 2010 Hawaii County Council
- 2009 Noelani Whittington, County Department of Public Works
- 2008 Mayor Harry Kim and Hawaii County Council
- 2007 State Board of Education
- 2006 Honolulu, Kauai, and Hawaii County Councils
- 2005 District Judge Matthew S.K. Pyun
- 2004 State Land Board Chairman Peter Young
- 2003 State Sen. Cal Kawamoto
- 2002 University of Hawaii Board of Regents
- 2001 University of Hawaii Board of Regents
- 2000 State Rep. Eric Hamakawa and Hawaii County Councilman James Arakaki
- 1999 Hawaii County Council
- 1998 Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano
- 1997 Hawaii County Councilman Elroy Osorio
Previous Torch of Light Honorees
- 2013 Mayor Billy Kenoi
- 2012 County Councilwoman and state Rep. Helene Hale (posthumously)
- 2011 State Judicial Selection Commission
- 2010 Hawaii County Civil Defense and other departments
- 2009 Legislature, Gov. Linda Lingle
- 2008 Les Kondo, Office of Information Practices
- 2007 West Hawaii Today
- 2006 Lillian Koller, State Department of Human Services
- 2005 Retired Circuit Judge Paul de Silva
- 2004 UH Manoa Journalism Professor Beverly Keever
- 2003 U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink (posthumously)
- 2002 Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim
- 2001 Hawaii County Clerk Al Konishi
- 2000 Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano
- 1999 Jerry Rothstein and Judith Graham
- 1998 Environment Hawaii and Common Cause
- 1997 Society of Professional Journalists, Hawaii Chapter