Honolulu Seeks To Permanently Enable Virtual Meetings for City Commissions and Boards

Honolulu City Council is considering a resolution that would allow virtual meetings to be a permanent option for city commissions and boards.

Portions of Hawaii’s Sunshine Law – Hawaii’s open meetings law that is meant to keep meetings transparent and ensure that the public has adequate means of participating – had been suspended in March of 2020 due to the pandemic. The changes in the law allowed public board meetings to be conducted remotely. With technical assistance from the city, board members, public officials and community residents have been able to participate in the meetings online.

“Pre-COVID, the status quo was that you’re meeting in person. There was no real option to meet virtually because from an IT (information technology ) perspective at the time, it just wasn’t feasible, ” said Bryan Choe, chairman of the Neighborhood Board Commission.

Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga, chairwoman of the Committee on Public Infrastructure and Technology, would like to see increased flexibility for electronic participation across a range of public meetings to ensure “effective citizen participation in local government.”

“As we are now into our second year of adjusting to COVID conditions, it seemed like an appropriate time for the Honolulu City Council to also evaluate ways that we could make public participation a lot easier, ” she said.

The resolution would allow for three different scenarios: a normal in-person meeting; a meeting in which board members meet in one location while others watch proceedings from rooms across the state; or a meeting in which all board members and members of the public meet remotely.

A proposed draft of the resolution was submitted at a recent committee meeting, and will have to go through the full Council before it can be adopted.