What kind of Kauai County Council do you want in the future?
Do you want councilmembers that serve forever where members gain more power simply by their longevity, while preserving that power by making sure there is limited public discussion during public meetings?
Please attend today’s Feb. 21 Kauai County Council meeting or at least submit testimony to let the council know your thoughts and feelings on this.
Among other items on todays agenda, there is a proposal to extend the ability of councilmembers to serve an infinite number of terms, and a proposal to allow councilmembers to, engage in dialogue, explore the issues and ask questions of the public (and each other) during public meetings. Yes, the issues on the table today are surreal and a bit outrageous.
Councilmember Kagawa’s proposal to end term limits is being heard today at 1:30 p.m. Anyone who cares about this issue is encouraged to show up at the Historic County Building to testify, or send an email asap to: email@example.com
County councilmembers currently are limited to serving four consecutive two-year terms or eight consecutive years. The proposal being considered today, if approved by voters, would eliminate term limits and allow councilmembers to serve an unlimited number of terms.
Also being heard earlier in the day (meeting begins at 8:30 a.m.), is a resolution proposed by Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura that proposes to change the rules of the council that currently prohibit members from engaging in dialogue with the public, during public meetings.
You heard that correctly. The current rules of the Council (initiated by Council Chair Mel Rapozo and approved by a majority of the Council) prohibit individual councilmembers from engaging in a public dialogue with members of the public who testify at public hearings.
While it may be difficult to believe for some, the existing rules of the council state in part – “Councilmembers shall not ask speakers about the substance of their testimony, or comment on testimony or speakers during the testimony period.”
There are other sections of the existing rules that prohibit a councilmember from speaking more than 5 minutes, or more than twice on any issue.
The purpose of these rules is to limit the time that councilmembers can speak.
Though members are required to attend only one meeting per week, some members complain that the meetings are too long, or that their colleagues “talk too much.”
Limiting dialogue at council meetings effectively prevents the public from hearing a diversity of opinion or any deeper exploration of the issue or facts and circumstances surrounding the issue. The ban on dialogue also prevents councilmembers from challenging misstatements of fact made during testimony, or by other councilmembers.
Consequently those councilmembers who have actually studied the issues and are most informed are the ones targeted by the limitations placed on them by those members who want to keep the meeting short and avoid the dialogue and discussion.
I strongly encourage readers to review the actual rules and proposed rule changes. In order to understand the proposed changes, please note that the items to be deleted are in [brackets] and items to be added are underlined.
Resolution No. 2018-07 being heard today and sponsored by Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura attempts to reverse the status quo rules that limit public dialogue between members and the public. Testimony can be presented in person or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many other items of interest on today’s Council agenda including:
w Resolution No. 2018-07 Opposing changes proposed by Spectrum which may severely impact public access stations channel locations on Kauai and around the state.
w Proposed Bill No. 2675 Relating to farm-worker housing permits
w Proposed Bill No. 2693 Relating to additional dwelling units (ADUs) on other than residentially zoned lots
w Public Hearing on Bill No. 2686 Relating to the establishments of additional rental units (ARUs)
All of these issues are important to our community and deserve your attention. Please take a moment, read the agenda posted at the top of this column and be involved.
As a friend told me recently when discussing the topic:
“This is another one of those critical parts of the process, as the review of the general plan was, where we as a community get to ask what kind of island/county we want to have. Do we want the kind of government that rubber stamps paperwork and goes through the motions or the kind that actively engages with citizens to make Kauai an enjoyable and thriving place to live? Do we want our council-members who work hard, study the issues and represent the interests of the public while in office or those who slide under the radar doing just enough? And if we are asking more of them, perhaps it’s time to ask more of ourselves to show up, send in testimony, and do our part to participate in our local government.”
Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action and is the volunteer executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.