Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Musings: Charter Changes

The Kauai County Charter Commission is considering a few measures that could make the 2016 election more interesting. 

But will it go gangbusters, and put some really juicy stuff on the ballot? Shoots, why not?

It's looking like voters will asked to decide whether Councilmembers should be elected by district, a concept adopted in other Hawaii counties, but rejected three times previously by Kauai voters. Though the tough part is determining how to create the districts, it seems the easiest and most sensible route would be to elect one member from each existing House District and four at large.

That approach also establish a training ground, if you will, for new legislative candidates in the various House districts.

The commission is also toying with the idea of changing the percentage of registered voters required to get charter amendments and initiatives/referendums on the ballot. It's currently easier to get a charter amendment on the ballot than an initiative/referendum, which is why we've seen groups like Kauai Rising try to pass off an initiative as a charter amendment, only to see their efforts fail to meet the legal sniff test.

One thought is to reduce the percentage of signatures needed for referendums (the process of voting on an ordinance already adopted by the Council) and initiatives (the process of proposing an ordinance), and raise the percentage for charter amendment. 

The Charter currently requires initiative/referendum petitions to be “signed by registered voters comprising not less than twenty percent (20%) of the number of voters registered in the last general election." Petitions for a charter amendment, which are actually much more serious, require just 5 percent. Seems an adjustment is in order.

Commission Joel Guy, meanwhile, is planning to put forth a proposal that would change how the Council fills its vacancies. Currently, the Charter states:

In the event a vacancy occurs in the council, the remaining members of the council shall appoint a successor with the required qualifications to fill the vacancy for the unexpired term.

We've seen how that plays out thrice in the last five years, and each time it's left a bitter taste in people's mouths.

In 2008, Kaipo Asing left the Council to fill the mayoral vacancy left by Bryan Baptiste's death. The Council chose former Councilman Daryl Kaneshiro to take his place. Daryl proved instrumental in passing a vacation rental bill that essentially grandfathered in all the illegals, while prohibiting the law-abiding folks from ever getting a permit. He was definitely a politicized pick.

In 2011, Derek Kawakami left the Council to finish out Rep. Mina Morita's term after she was named to the Public Utilities Commission. He was replaced by KipuKai Kualii, who had placed eighth in the previous Council election. The list of nine applicants for the position was kept confidential. There was some public grumbling about that, as well as the fact that a majority of the Council had apparently expressed its intent to pick KipuKai before the vote was actually held. What's more, he was nominated before the public had been given a chance to testify on any of the prospective candidates.

Then in 2013, Nadine Nakamura left the Council to work as Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.'s top aide. The Council was set to override the mayor's veto of Bill 2491, the controversial GMO/pesticide regulatory law. When it appeared the Council was unable to muster enough votes to override the mayor's veto, it recessed for a day and met in secret to pick Mason. The following day, the Council again took up the bill, and with Chock's vote, overrode the veto.

Again, none of the other candidates were publicly identified, though one was KipuKai, who had come in eighth in the last election. But when it became clear that the Council was headed for a 3-3 tie, which would have allowed the mayor to pick the new member, former Council Chair Jay Furfaro picked Mason.

The whole deal was dirty, and possibly illegal. It was one point raised, but not decided by the judge, when the seed companies sued to overturn 2491. Their complaint stated:

It [Bill 2491] was adopted — over a veto by Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho at the advice of his legal counsel — by a supermajority of the County Council that included a member who was selected in a manner that violated the Hawaii Open Meeting Law (H.R.S. Chapter 92).

Allowing the Council to choose a replacement from the public at large unduly politicizes the process. And in the case of Mason, it put a taint on his political career. What's more, Councilman Gary Hooser, who introduced 2491, vetted at least one prospective candidate to determine his stance on the override. That's improper. There's also no reason why the list of candidates should be kept secret.

It would be a lot cleaner to change the charter so that the eighth place candidate is automatically tapped to fill a vacancy. And if that candidate is not available or interested, it goes to number nine. Anyone who comes in eighth or ninth already has some cachet with voters.

The commission could also get really brave and come up with an amendment to clarify whether the mayor has the power to suspend and/or discipline the police chief. The issue has been festering for three years now, ever since the mayor suspended Chief Darryl Perry. Now it's headed for oral arguments next Wednesday before the Intermediate Court of Appeals. As the ICA summary notes:

The dispute arose because, in or around February 2012, the Mayor suspended the Chief of Police from work for a period of time and then placed him on administrative leave. The Police Commission unanimously voted to have the Chief of Police return to work and ordered him to do so. However, when the Chief of Police returned to work, he was not allowed into his office and was informed that the Mayor refused to reinstate him and he was still on administrative leave. Despite their ongoing disagreement, the Police Commission and the Mayor subsequently reached a decision to allow the Chief of Police to return to work.

Wouldn't it be better to let Kauai voters weigh in on this issue, rather than letting the courts decide?


Anonymous said...

Districts? Yes. Why? It will inspire more competition and better leaders for one, also why should someone say from north shore speak for and represent the people of Kekaha and visa versa? It seems like the natural and more culturally sensitive way to divide the council into districts.

As far as Joel's proposal, yes! That system needs to change. We can't have another pathetic Mason fiasco again. It's bad for the moral of the island.

Back on the district thing, Imagine if Gary Hooser was the council rep for specifically Wailua as apposed to the whole island vaguely. I can almost guarantee it would become more personal to folks from Wailua and someone in the district woukd be like "screw that I'm going to rep Wailua. Why should Hooser be that guy?" Just an example of the healthy competition we can look forward to that could restore balance on the council. Am I too optimistic? Just a laymans point of view here.

Anonymous said...

@8:41 good points. But Gary could just move to the North Shore with Barca.. lol.

Anonymous said...

Say no to districting. The reason why i say this. Visualize yourself running against Looser. Your friends and friends of your friends in your district liking you over looser and looser over you. In the end, no one wins. Good neighbors and friends will end up not being just that.

you all doing / thinking is the same thing that we all as the silent majority voted against this past election. THE DIVISION OF OUR COMMUNITY AND ISLAND.

Kauai is way to small and very grass roots in our voting districts. We all should (in the end) rather have friend and neighbors being GOOD neighbors and friends.

Politics is a great conversational piece, but it's not good in bed together.

Look at the big picture, maybe this is one of the may reasons why the silent majority voted down districting in the past. We saw the big picture of the silent effects that WILL happen with districting.

Just saying.

I'm just one of the silent majority.

Anonymous said...

7 positions, 4 at large, one from District 14, 15 and 16. One would think that you would have greater representation through districting. The council should be representing everyone on the island. Are they doing it now?

Anonymous said...

Voters will decide the same way as they did the last times.
I heard KPD traffic safety endorsed Lisa Arin for persecutor yesterday. That is unexpected.
I remember during Justin Shay debate him scoring big when he said a "the only difference between a DUI and a manslaughter is luck." Figured he would have the traffic cops sewn up with that one.
My lawyer friend says they keep putting "aggressive puppies" prosecuting the DUI and they like act big body instead of settle so lot of stoopid cases going to losing cases.

Anonymous said...

You think KPD would endorse Justin after the rookie cop ran over the young kid and being prosecuted for negligent homicide and also filing charges on OVUII on a SGT?

Who cares who KPD or SHOPO endorses? They're not relevant as credible endorsements.

Now if Bruce Jenner endorses his twin, that's another story.

Anonymous said...

How is the saying, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Anonymous said...

Districting sounds good to me. -Four at large and one from each district. North shore needs more improvements and it seems like we're always forgotten. If we had someone representing us maybe that wouldn't be the case?

Anonymous said...

Kauai is a small island and does not need districts. Most people drive to one area for major shopping etc. We share everything.
Districting will fragment the island.
As far as Jay Furfaro's appointment of Mason Chock goes, I am happy you brought that up. Jay's legacy is forever tarnished.
It is amazing that this island has had 4 of its biggest hypocrites and liars on the Council at the same time.
1- Jay, enough said. Hypocrite and now getting 100K from the Mayor to jack up his retirement and benefits. Jay- along with Da Hoos, Bynum, JoAnn and MAson created a large divide...and now all the Haoles are paying for it by the increased lack of service by all County agencies. "Oh f*ck, here's another f*ckin' loudmouth Haole at our window"
2- Bynum. Lies about his rental. Everyone knows he had an illegal unit. Then he sues the people. His lawsuit and temper tantrums and historic. May his face never be seen again, unless you buy some weed at his soon to be established Big Boy Bynum's Bedazzling Buds and Hemp Shoppe.
3-Da Hoos- Cheats on his taxes. Back stabs his friends at the Senate. Impotent and Peter Principled out at his State Environmental position, lies about big ag, foments anti-local legislation and taxation.
4- JoAnn- the single most responsible person to eliminate any local housing. Her double-speak and endless jabbering is mind numbing. Just like Gary, she makes big dough in real estate and then wants to control other's land use choices.

If we had districting--think of the Chemtrail, goat cheesey, 5000 square foot "Ag" homes, patchouli oiled fake Yoga Namaste mumbling Council persons that would be elected.

Great God Almighty, a dinky little island with a hard working, friendly people being run by a do-nothings.
Welp, Mel maybe you are setting this up so that when------
Derick KAWAKAMI runs for Mayor he will pick you for his Admin. Big bucks for your old PENSION...Baby Hoos will run for the Senate vacancy and b'God he may get elected.
Is there not one honest f*cking politician? 60,000 souls and not one honest political man amongst them.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of great community leaders. These are the people that represent the community and neighbors. But if they are not heard then what? Districting will be the tool to change this. After Hurricane Iniki, Kehaha was the "forgotten town".

Anonymous said...

3:53 good points. I agree with much of what you say but just because we share everything and the islabd is small and we all have to drive to Lihue for everything doesn't mean districting is a bad idea. In fact I wish we were more divided and didn't have to drive to Lihue for everything.

And what do we have now? The same lame politicians running generation after generation year after year. I don't think the choices they have made for Kauai are the best. Do you?

Joan said the other islands district. Why do they? Does it work well for them? What can we learn from them?