Thursday, July 19, 2001

City & County of Honolulu

Honolulu modifies
Web site directory

A group's concerns over content
results in listing policy changes

By B.J. Reyes

Descriptions of churches, businesses and other organizations listed on the City & County of Honolulu's official Web site have been removed amid concerns raised by a constitutional watchdog group.

The changes to the listings, and the city's revised policy governing its online directory, were posted yesterday on the site, Revised listings provide only a text link to an organization's Web site.

Mitchell Kahle, president of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, said he received a letter yesterday from Department of Information Technology Director Courtney Harrington regarding the changes.

"In response to your inquiries, the city has modified its current policy regarding organizational listings on its Web site," Kahle quoted from the letter. "Effective immediately, all descriptions of business directory listings have been deleted and our policy has been amended to delete the requirement for such descriptions."

The changes came on the same day the Star-Bulletin column Raising Cane criticized the city's site as a "vehicle for private groups to solicit businesses or members."

Kahle said his group first raised its concerns with the city in April.

"We're glad they responded to our request, but that doesn't solve the problem," Kahle said yesterday. "The city is still maintaining a religion section and a listing of almost exclusively Christian churches on a taxpayer-funded Web site."

He said his group would prefer that the site be limited to government-related interests.

Harrington did not immediately return telephone messages left by the Star-Bulletin seeking comment yesterday. City spokeswoman Carol Costa said she was unaware of the changes and referred comment to Harrington.

Costa previously has said the city only recently took over management of the site from a company that also managed other government sites, some of which had business links.

Initially yesterday, the city had deleted "religious" and "ideological" messages from the groups' descriptions, Kahle said.

But by noon, all descriptions had been removed from listings for churches, businesses, even political parties.

The city also added a link for the Satanist Church of Hawaii, which originally had been denied a listing, Kahle said.

The city's policy stipulates that organizations that want to be listed in the directory must either be registered to do business in Hawaii or must be registered as a non-profit organization in the state.

"This directory provides links to local organizations and is not intended to be a public forum for ideological, political or social viewpoints," the policy states.

Kahle said the city is inviting future problems. "They're going to have to take all of the listings off," he said.

"What are you going to do when adult businesses -- escort services, massage parlors, adult book stores -- start calling? They're legal business in Hawaii just like any other and (the city) will be obligated to put them on."

City & County of Honolulu

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