In what reads as a blatant power grab, the Kauai County Council is proposing sweeping changes to the County Charter that would extend their terms, install a county manager and strip the mayor of all administrative authority.
Uh, why? Because the Council is doing such a great job that it should be given even more control over county government?
The Council will take up the proposed changes in the form of a resolution at Wednesday's committee meeting, where it will also consider two bills regulating homestays/B&Bs. One measure would prohibit them outside of the Visitor Destination Area.
Council Chair Mel Rapozo introduced the charter resolution, which was opposed only by Councilmen Ross Kagawa and Arryl Kaneshiro. The others justified it as a way to take the politics out of county government. Mmm, like the Council — and this very proposal — isn't uber political?
If the resolution is approved, the proposed charter changes would go before the voters in the November election.
The proposed charter changes would eliminate the current checks and balances in the county system by giving the Council authority to hire and oversee a County Manager, who would handle all the administrative duties now allocated to the Mayor. The Mayor would become a voting member of the Council, preside over meetings “and perform other duties specified by the Council.”
The changes would give the Council power to “appoint a county manager for an indefinite term and fix the manager’s compensation.”
The county manager would have broad powers, including to appoint and remove the police chief and planning director — authority now held by the police and planning commissions, respectively.
The county manager also would be authorized to propose salaries for all elected officials and non-civil service employees — a duty now held by the salary commission.
Furthermore, “all rules and regulations having the effect of law adopted by any board, commission, or administrative head of a department, must first be approved by the county manager prior to going into effect.”
The resolution also proposes:
At the 2018 general election, six Councilmembers shall be elected at large: the three (3) candidates receiving the greatest number of votes shall serve for four-year terms, and the three (3) candidates receiving the next greatest number of votes shall serve for two-year terms. Commencing at the 2020 general election and at all subsequent general elections, all Councilmembers shall be elected for four-year terms. No person shall be elected to the Council for more than two consecutive four-year terms.
This would allow Rapozo and Councilman JoAnn Yukimura, who are ready to term-out, to serve another eight years.
The mayor also would be elected to a four-year term, with the Council picking “a deputy mayor who shall act as mayor and chairperson during the absence or disability of the mayor and, if a vacancy occurs, shall become mayor for the remainder of the unexpired term. No person shall be elected to the office of mayor for more than two consecutive four-year terms.”
The changes also state:
The Council shall be the judge of the qualifications of its members and for that purpose shall have power to subpoena witnesses, take testimony, and require the production of records.
Though Council members and the mayor would have to be residents of Kauai for two years before seeking office, the county manager wouldn't even have to live in the state at the time of appointment so long as he/she established residency within 90 days of being hired.
Meanwhile, the Council will return to the contentious issue of homestays. Bill 2916 would set up a permitting process for the uses and restrict them to the VDA.
Bill 2609 also sets up a permitting process. It allows homestays outside of the VDA, but prohibits them in the open and agricultural zones. The 10-per-year cap proposed by the planning department has been removed. Yukimura is expected to introduce further amendments that would allow those who have been operating without a permit to get one.