Commission mulls giving self more power

Members of the Kaua’i County Charter Commission could become entrenched in the hierarchy of county government if a charter-amendment proposal is approved by voters in the Nov. 7 general election.

Editor’s note: This is the second of two stories about proposed changes to the Kaua’i County Charter.

If approved, the charter amendment would give, in a sense, the commission members political power that would rival that of the mayor and members of the Kaua’i County Council.

Guided by the recommendations from residents and leaders of county departments, the commission members could conceivably pose charter amendments every election year, and possibly change the way government operates every two years.

The proposal to create a permanent charter commission is one of more than 50 charter-amendment proposals that are being studied by members of the body.

The commission members have until August to send their recommended list of proposals to the Kaua’i County Clerk’s office for processing.

The proposal that could give members of the charter commission more power also would allow members to have the same terms as those of members of other county commissions and boards.

Members of the commissions and boards serve staggered terms of three years, until successors are found.

The commissions and boards, usually filled with residents with good intentions to serve their communities, provide for checks and balances in government, and give residents more say in the operation of their government.

The commission members also are looking at these major charter-amendment proposals related to other commissions and boards:

  • Increase from five to seven the number of members who sit on certain boards and commissions, including the Police Commission. Having seven members on board would allow for continuation of department projects and a smoother transfer of power when new board members take their posts, according to Louis Abrams, chairman of the commission;
  • Increase the number of members of the Kaua’i Police Commission from five to seven. Abrams said three would be appointed by the mayor, three would be appointed by the council, and the seventh member would be selected by the other six commissioners. “The benefit of this proposal is that appointments come from different sides (the mayor and the council),” Abrams said. Currently, the police commissioners are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by members of the County Council;
  • Change the Kaua’i County Cost Control Commission to a Revenue and Cost Control Commission;
  • Create a Kaua’i County Fire Commission that would hire and fire the chief. Having a fire commission “would provide checks and balances, and would do away with politics as much as possible,” Abrams said.

The commission also is looking at these proposed charter amendments to:

  • Remove the licensing requirement for the county engineer’s position, opening the way for the county to hire someone who has training in engineering but who also has administrative skills. “If we remove the licensing requirement for the job, the county could have more flexibility in seeking out candidates for a county engineer, without taking away the goal of (the Kaua’i County Department of) Public Works, which is to have an engineer,” Abrams said. If the proposal goes through, the position of the county engineer would not have the requirement of a registered engineer, Abrams said;
  • Change the title of the county engineer to that of a “director” of the county DPW. In this case, there would be no changing of the licensing requirement;
  • Reduce the requirement of each initiative and referendum ballot question from 20 percent to no more than 5 percent of the registered voters;
  • Reduce the signature requirement for ballot petitions from 20 percent to 10 percent;
  • Establish a separate Kaua’i County Parks Department to take care of repairs to park facilities and equipment, for instance. Right now, those in the DPW are responsible for such repairs, and in the past, the work has not always been done in a timely manner, in spite of inquires from the public, Abrams said.
  • Create a Kaua’i County Parks and Recreation Department headed by a cabinet-level manager;
  • Set up a process to draft a petition containing the acts or failures to act “believed to be grounds for impeachment” and signed by at least 100 citizens and voters. The petition would be filed with members of the Kaua’i County Board of Ethics, who could file the petition with a state court to start the process for the impeachment of a public official or public officials;
  • Have the Kaua’i county attorney elected to a four-year term. Currently, the county attorney, a department head, is selected by the mayor;
  • Ask the question of whether a department head should be allowed to continue to appoint a deputy director.
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