Voters agree to set aside tax revenues to buy land

Kaua’i voters overwhelmingly supported an amendment to the Kauai County Charter which will set aside a percentage of real property tax revenues to buy lands for public access and open space.

The vote was 14,387 in favor of the amendment, or 61.3 percent of voters, to 5,322, or 22.7 percent opposed, with 3,751 blank votes (16 percent).

Council Chair Ron Kouchi, unsuccessful candidate for mayor, and Councilmember Gary Hooser, successful candidate for state Senate, drafted charter question one, proposing to set aside 1/2 of 1 percent of county property tax revenues each year (around $210,000 this year) to purchase land for public access and other public purposes.

The charter changes are effective 30 days after the election, unless the ordinances that created the charter questions specify otherwise.

Certified county real property tax revenues in the current fiscal year are $42 million.

The closest vote on the three proposed charter amendments was on the question of whether or not to give the County Council the power to establish an autonomous electric authority.

Kaua’i voters approved question three, even though with Kauai Electric recently falling into public ownership under the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative the council might not ever need to establish a county power authority.

The vote was 9,493 in favor of the proposal, 9,357 against, with 4,604 blank votes, to the question: “Shall the Council be empowered to establish by ordinance an autonomous electric authority corporation for the County, which shall be responsible for the planning, development, production, purchase, transmission, and the distribution of all electricity-related services by the County?”

Mayor Maryanne Kusaka requested the council place that measure on the ballot.

Finally, county voters turned down a proposal to reduce the required number of signatures of registered voters required to get initiative and referendum matters onto general-election ballots. The vote was 10,449 against, 8,759 for, with 4,252 blank votes.

Hooser proposed the initiative and referendum question: “Shall the number of voter signatures required to place an initiative or referendum petition on the ballot be reduced from twenty percent (20%) to fifteen percent (15%) of the number of eligible voters in the last preceding general election?”

Initiative is the power of voters to propose county ordinances, and referendum is the power of voters to approve or reject ordinances passed by the County Council.

The defeat of that question means the number of signatures required to initiate initiative or referendum ballot questions remains at 20 percent of registered voters from the most recent previous general election.

Based on the 37,392 people registered to vote in this year’s general election, it would currently take 7,478 signatures to activate an initiative or referendum petition. The proposal if approved would have lowered lower that number to 5,609 signatures.

County Charter amendment questions need only receive a simple majority of those voting to pass or fail.

Lucky you don’t live Maui, where voters had to plow through 19 proposed charter amendments.

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