Kaua’i County attorney Hartwell H.K. Blake heartily endorses a “yes” vote on a
County Charter amendment question on next month’s general election
The question is, “Shall the requirement that members of the
Planning Commission have knowledge of environmental, business and labor
concerns be deleted?”
A charter amendment passed by voters in 1992
mandated that at least two of the seven commission members have education,
training, an occupation or experience in one of the following areas: Organized
labor, business and environmental concerns.
“We have always questioned the
viability of that provision, because it identifies specific groups,” Blake
said. Other groups, such as senior citizens, animal lovers, Hawaiian
sovereignty and Hawaiian rights advocates, are excluded, he said.
Councilman Ron Kouchi agrees. For example, he said, over the years questions
arose about what qualifications environmentalists do or should have that make
them environmentalists and therefore eligible for those two positions on the
“Over the years, it’s been such a source of contention,” Kouchi
said of the 1992 charter amendment, “that we thought this (new proposal) would
help clarify things a lot better.”
The County Council proposed the 1992 and
2000 charter amendments. That body also confirms (or rejects) mayoral
appointments to the commission, so had to interview nominees to determine
whether they possessed the charter-mandated qualifications, Kouchi said.
Mayor Maryanne Kusaka said it is sometimes difficult to find people
willing to volunteer to serve on the omission. The 1992 charter amendment
didn’t necessarily make it tougher to find nominees to fit into those three
specific categories, but it did make it harder “to justify that they are in
fact belonging to that category,” she said.
“I mean, you know, I’m an
environmentalist, you’re an environmentalist. Nobody likes to hurt the
environment,” Kusaka said.
But once she nominates someone to fill an
environmentalist slot on the commission, people want validation that the
nominee is indeed an environmentalist, she explained.
from the business sector worry about how their participation will impact their
business, and not everyone wants to be “out there” in the public eye, she
“It’s a very high-profile position, the Planning Commission, and it
is difficult to convince people that they should serve in that capacity,”
especially since nominees know the public may be vocally unhappy with some of
their decisions, Kusaka said.
“Today’s public is very aggressive and vocal,
and sometimes they can be very hurtful. And that’s no way to treat people who
are trying to serve, no matter what their opinions are,” Kusaka said. “I just
think it’s a lack of respect, and it doesn’t role-model what a community should
Kouchi explained that the late Jimmy Tehada, then a member of
the council and a former Planning Commission member, felt in 1992 that
then-mayor JoAnn Yukimura’s nominees to the commission didn’t represent enough
of a cross-section of the community.
The charter amendment, in Tehada’s
mind, ensured more of a community cross-section on the commission, Kouchi
“All it’s proved to be is that everybody has their opinion about
who is or isn’t a qualified environmentalist or business person,” he
In charter amendment questions, a simple majority of those voting on
the issue decide its fate. For example, if 10,000 people vote on this charter
amendment, 5,001 votes for or against the measure are needed to approve or
That is different from state constitutional amendments, on which
blank votes are added to no votes for tallying purposes. State amendments have
been defeated when the no votes and blanks outnumbered the yes votes.
League of Women Voters of Kaua’i helped put together potential reasons why the
Planning Commission requirement should and should not be repealed:
the reasons the requirement should be deleted, other than the public officials’
concerns, is that removing the requirement that six of seven members know and
be aware of environmental, business, and organized labor concerns will allow
decision-makers to select from a wider, more diverse range of candidates and
interests, but still allow those who represent concerns to be
Also, since the council must confirm all mayoral appointees to
the commission, a check-and-balance system is already in place to help ensure
that a variety of interests is represented on the commission.
reasons the requirement should remain, the League says requiring that six of
seven members know and be aware of these concerns ensures that the particular
interests will always be represented on the commission.
commission members (with term expiration dates in parentheses) and the areas of
their expertise are Gary Baldwin (Dec. 31, 2001) and Ed MacDowell (Dec. 31,
2000), business; Bob Kaden (Dec. 31, 2001) and Gary Heu (Dec. 31, 2002), labor;
and Abby Santos (Dec. 31, 2002) and Ramon de la Pena (Dec. 31, 2001),
Dane Oda (Dec. 21, 2000) is the single at-large member not
required by the charter to have knowledge of any of those three
Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at
email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 224).