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• Charter Review Commission comments
Charter Review Commission comments
By Horace Stoessel
A useful guide to understanding all kinds of processes is the old saying, “the end is in the beginning.” Does the saying bode well for the work of the Charter Review Commission?
The charter requires the mayor to appoint, and the council to approve, the commission every 10 years to assess the workings of government and to determine whether the review warrants a new charter or only some amendments.
As far as public information is available, here’s what has happened so far in 2004:
The mayor submitted to council the first four names with designated terms of three years retroactive to January, 2004. A question was raised about terms, which the charter does not specify. The council approved the appointments without listing terms, and asked the county attorney for an opinion, which it apparently plans to reveal on a timetable of its choosing.
There is no public information about what guidance the appointees were given or what questions they were asked. The mayor’s process occurs out of public view, and some council members seem to think it would be an insult to appointees to interview them, especially in public.
An official notice was duly posted and the commission held its first meeting on July 26. The agenda noted “organizational” matters. The mayor told the five members of the public who showed up that the meeting wasn’t exactly a meeting, and that no input from the public would be allowed. I submitted written testimony, and one person was allowed to ask the commission members to identify themselves.
Four members of the commission were sworn in (a fifth was absent), then engaged in brief discussions with two prospective members seated around the table with them, centering on schedules and the prospects for getting amendments on the ballot in November.
I leave it to the better-informed to say how well the proceedings conformed to the sunshine law, noting only that several lawyers in the room raised no questions or objections.
It can be argued that the commission’s clock will not start until all seven members are sworn in and the commission organizes itself. But already the commission has been pushed into a premature session and faced with a time-squeeze all-too-familiar to county commissions — do we or do we not place amendments on the November ballot?
I have made no secret of my belief that the county needs a new charter, or my concern that a process was occurring which will effectively exclude the question from serious consideration.
The commission may tackle its job proactively, in accordance with the charter, but it is reasonable to assume that it can and will be influenced. The process to date, for which they are not responsible, points a “status-quo, business-as-usual” direction. I believe the commission will listen to a different message if the community has one.
I have in mind a message affirming the need to bring the community, the government, and the charter into the 21st century. If no such message emerges from the community, will it matter whether the commission writes a new charter or not?
Horace Stoessel is a resident of Kapa‘a.
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