Leave it to the unelected members of the Maui County Charter Commission to have more respect for the voters than the elected Maui County Council. Then again, it’s those same voters who put the current County Council in power, so if anyone knows the intellectual limits of Maui County’s voters, it’s the County Council.
But I digress. Back in March the Charter Commission put forth 11 proposals for changing the way the County of Maui works, with the hopes that all 11 would make it onto the ballot so the voters could decide. In April, the County Council Policy Committee looked over those proposals, and thought no, 11 is just too high a number for the voters to understand. They thought four was a better number. Here are the exact words from an April 26, 2012 Policy Committee report, signed by committee chairman G. Riki Hokama:
“Your Committee voiced concerns over the number of proposed Charter amendments being considered. Although your Committee noted its faith in the electorate’s capacity to wade through a hefty ballot and make well-informed decisions, your Committee was reluctant to overburden the electorate with proposed changes to the Charter that could be accommodated through revisions to the Maui County Code or in another election cycle.”
To its credit, the charter commissioners thought that was hogwash. “We believe the citizens are capable of having multiple proposals,” Charter Commission Chairman Josh Stone said in today’s Maui News.
According to the News, the Charter Commission did vote on May 7 to remove a proposal to indemnify county board members and commissioners in litigation resulting from their county work. But they insisted that their 10 remaining proposals go before the voters. Here they are (the first four are those the County Council agreed should go before the voters):
1. Increase County Council terms of office from two years to four.
2. Establish an official County Auditor.
3. Increase the residency requirement for council candidates from 90 days to one year.
4. Add language to the charter preamble saying something about how important Hawaiian culture is to the County of Maui.
5. Move Ocean Safety to the Fire Department.
6. Require “interactive communications access” to the public comment portions of all County Council hearings.
7. Publish the charter with all amendments included.
8. Increase the residency requirement from 90 days to one year for mayoral candidates.
9. Add the job “Guide efforts to optimize opportunities for environmental, natural
resource protection, sustainability, conservation, and restoration” to the Department of Environmental Management.
10. Evaluate the annual performance of the directors of the Fire and Public Safety, Civil Service, Liquor and Police Commissions.
Of course, the News reported that the County Council also put forth two possible charter changes of its own which might go to the voters: remove the Cost of Government Commission from advising the (future) auditor and changing how four-year terms would accumulate towards limits.
It’s too bad the Charter Commission only happens once every 10 years. Otherwise, we could have California-like ballots, where voters get to deal with myriad initiatives, bond measures and amendments every election.