County review body on hold

A voter-approved Kaua‘i County Charter Review Commission that can make yearly changes in the way county government operates has been assembled.

Through a charter amendment approved by voters in the November 2006 general election, the commission was established for 10 years, beginning this year and ending 2017.

The commission is anticipated to hold its first meeting after support personnel, or a support person, to aid all county commissions is hired.

“We will not meet or organize until the appointment of a support person,” said Walter Briant, a new commission member.

After 2017, the commission can assemble every 10 years, as was the case before the November charter change.

In that election, voters also approved the hiring of administrators and staff, if needed, to provide training, education and administrative support to boards and commissions.

The Charter Commission can amend the charter — the constitution of the county — to change the way government looks and works.

Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s nominations to the commission were all approved by the Kaua‘i County Council between February and April.

In addition to Briant, the new members include: Maxine Correa, a one-time chairwoman of the County Council; Leonard Vierra, a retired fiscal expert with 35 years with the county Public Works Department; Derek Kawakami, a board member of the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative and Big Save Market’s executive; Sherman Shiraishi, a private-practice attorney; Jonathan Chun, a one-time deputy county attorney now in private practice and a Kaua‘i senator from 1998 to 2002; and John Constantino.

Another charter change approved by voters in November of last year also requires all county commissions to be manned by seven persons.

Chun said the first order of business after the Charter Commission meets is to “get organized, elect a chairman and start deciding on dates for when we will meet.”

The commission can then begin to hold public meetings to solicit proposals for any charter changes, he said.

As a starting point, Chun said he would like the commission to look at ways for government to operate more effectively, thereby making the best use of resources, manpower and funds.

Both Briant and Vierra said they are going into their new jobs with open minds.

“I don’t have a priority at this point,” Briant said. “The first thing is to get totally immersed with the existing charter, and to go over the notes of the previous commission, and find out what they wanted to do.”

The previous commission looked at more than 40 proposals before submitting 15 charter amendments to vote on in last November’s general election.

Voters rejected proposals to elect councilmembers by districts, and a name and status change for the mayor’s administrative assistant to managing director.

Briant said that he wanted to review proposals that were voted down by the commission or by voters.

In response to calls for more government accountability, last year’s commission proposed changes that would give citizens more say in the running of government.

Voters approved a charter amendment, for instance, that limited the terms of council members to four consecutive two-year terms, starting with the 2008 general election.

The previous commission, led by south Kaua‘i community leader Louis Abrams, also recommended amendments to make it easier for residents to repeal laws and streamline some county operations. One area that may be explored is a county manager system.

Vierra said he plans to evaluate proposals as they come up.

“I don’t have any goals at this point, except to look at proposals and evaluate each proposal,” he said.

Briant said the commission met with members of all county commissions last Wednesday at the Lihu‘e Civic Center to go over job responsibilities and ethics issues.

Phil Tacbian, a former Kaua‘i legislator and current board member of the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative, led a presentation on parliamentary procedures, Briant said.

• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com.

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