Letters for Saturday, July 12, 2008

• Goodbye, majority rule?

• Commission acting as gatekeepers

• Here we go again


Goodbye, majority rule?

The charter is the people’s governing document. It was adopted by majority vote and can be amended only by majority vote.

The council has passed on first reading a resolution proposing a charter amendment that would effectively destroy the time-honored democratic principle of majority rule in the case of charter amendments.

The resolution mandates (a) that blank and spoiled ballots and over votes in a general election count as “no” votes against charter amendments, and (b) that “yes” votes must equal at least 30 percent of all registered voters. It is not clear from the wording whether the 30 percent rule applies only to amendments voted on in a special election or whether it applies in general elections as well.

To add to the confusion, the first sentence says that amendments to the charter shall be effective only if approved at a general election.

Besides being a transparent attempt to erode the authority of the voters by making it more difficult, and in some cases impossible, for them to amend their charter, the council proposal contains a hidden effect: it would preemptively kill a county manager proposal that could be voted on in a 2009 special election, to take effect in 2010 if approved, by requiring the “majority” vote to equal at least 30 percent of all registered voters.

Due to the dereliction of two charter commissions, no county manager proposal reached the ballot in 2006 or will reach the ballot in 2008. This means that because of the four-year mayoral term that begins in 2010 the idea becomes dormant until 2012 and inapplicable until 2014 unless a special election occurs in 2009.

Apparently, the council wants to take no chances on having a disruption of the current power structure. If the voters approve the proposed 30 percent rule it won’t matter even if a special election does occur in 2009. Some 30 percent of all registered voters, as opposed to a simple majority of those actually voting, would be a near-impossible standard to meet. It should be noted, too, that a county manager proposal is the only idea on the horizon that could trigger a special election.

Does the public care enough to demand that the charter commission call for a special election in 2009 for the purpose of voting on a well-crafted county manager proposal? Are the voters alert enough to reject decisively the council’s ironic proposal to destroy majority rule by a majority vote?

Horace Stoessel

Kapa‘a


Commission acting as gatekeepers

Is Section 3.07E of our charter broken? A proposed charter amendment to section 3.07E “would allow the council to hold executive sessions in conformance with the state Sunshine Law (“Charter amendments headed for Nov. 4 ballot,” A1, July 11).” Nathan Eagle then writes, “The council already does this, but some residents contend that the charter prohibits the council from going behind closed doors for anything except claims.”

Read the charter section 3.07E — it is in black and white.

Our County Council claims they have an attorney opinion stating they are not in violation of the charter, but they won’t release it for all to see, invoking their client/attorney privilege not to inform the public. Curiously, the commission deferred an amendment requiring county attorney opinions upon questions of law to be available in writing within two business days of issuance.

Regarding the county manager amendment Charter Commission chair Chun repeats like a mantra “What problem does this amendment address?” But apparently he is not applying the same criteria to the 3.07E amendment. Why not?

The question Chun refuses to ask is, “What problem is the 3.07E amendment addressing?” If “the council already does this” why is it being put on the ballot?

Apparently, the Charter Commission does not apply the same criteria to all proposed amendments but is using standardless discretion to pick and choose what they deem appropriate for the people to vote on. This is called gatekeeping.

Could it be that the County Council is in violation of the county charter by meeting on matters other than claims, and are changing the charter to cover up their lawless actions? Will the amendment grant retroactive immunity to council members?

Ed Coll

Puhi


Here we go again

Sorry, Glenn Mickens (“Hold on with property tax bill,” Letters, July 11), you are wrong. There is not a $32.3 million “unreserved, undesignated” surplus in our county coffers. Can’t you read? The June 30, 2007, audit reads as follows: “As of the close of the fiscal year, the county’s government fund financial statements reported combined ending fund balances of $129 million or a 14 percent increase from the prior year.” Approximately $48 million is available for spending at the county’s discretion (unreserved-undesignated fund balance). Kaua‘i, apparently, has a $48 million dollar budget surplus, not a meager $32.3 million surplus. What would you call this much “unreserved-undesignated” money in your personal savings-checking account, or your “portfolio”? I would label that amount of money for what it is: a surplus of funds existing in my budget, a budget surplus.

However, Mickens, you are correct when you say “that not only is our spending out of control, but we are over-taxing the people to have accumulated such a huge balance.” Doesn’t that sound a bit familiar, a bit “Ohana Kaua‘i’-ist” Property Tax Relief Charter Amendment-ish from four years ago? At that point in time the county complained the Ohana Kaua‘i measure would rob the county of $9 million in tax revenues. As a result, the county ignored the 13,000-plus voters landslide “Victory vote” and killed the amendment by throwing it into the courts. It looks like the county’s property tax plan has stolen $48 million from we taxpayers over the past four years as we were fighting to get our votes back. The council and mayor stole $12 million a year and they are running for office again? Only in paradise.

John Hoff

Lawa‘i

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