Letters for Tuesday, June 14, 2011

• Reapportionment requirements • Not

right, not fair

Reapportionment requirements

Every 10th year, Hawai‘i reapportions (reallocates) the various political districts of the state (U.S. House of Representatives, state Senate and state House). This is based on the latest census, and is done to ensure equitable representation of everyone in the state.

As I entered last week’s Kaua‘i Reapportionment Advisory Board meeting, I was prepared to speak passionately about Kaua‘i’s shortage of state Senate representation. I planned to relate the fact our state Senate district has in the neighborhood of 38 percent more people than the average state Senate district in the state!

The U.S. Constitution allowed slaves to be counted as a fractional person. I planned to ask does this mean the people of Kaua‘i are considered slaves? If not, why are we so badly underrepresented?

The guideline set by federal courts is if a district is more than 10 percent (or so) larger or smaller than the average, a presumption of discrimination may exist. Certainly, the likelihood of a federal lawsuit is greatly increased.

I was prepared to say all that and more, however, I arrived early and began to read a copy of the applicable sections of the Hawai‘i State Constitution. Article IV deals with reapportionment. Section 4 says Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau constitute a “Basic Island Unit.”

Section 5 is entitled “Minimum Representation for Basic Island Units,” and states:

“The representation of any basic island unit initially allocated less than a minimum of two senators and three representatives shall be augmented by allocating thereto the number of senators or representatives necessary to attain such minimums, which number, notwithstanding the provisions of Sections 2 and 3 of Article III shall be added to the membership of the appropriate body until the next reapportionment. The senators or representatives of any basic island unit so augmented shall exercise a fractional vote wherein the numerator is the number initially allocated and the denominator is the minimum above specified.” [Am Const Con 1968 and election Nov 5, 1968; ren Const Con 1978 and election Nov 7, 1978]

Section 6 goes on to say “No district shall extend beyond the boundaries of any basic island unit.” Essentially, this means canoe districts are not allowed for Kaua‘i County (except to include part of Kaua‘i and all of Ni‘ihau in a single district).

As I read this, in the current reapportionment process, Kaua‘i should receive three state House seats and two state Senate seats. We cannot be forced to have canoe districts. Since our state House districts would be within the 10 percent federal guidelines, each state House member should get a full vote.

However, each state Senate member from Kaua‘i would only cast half of a vote on the Senate floor (for the next 10 years). For 10 years, the state Senate would have 26 members.

Some may say, why bother? Kaua‘i will still only have one vote in the state Senate. True. But as any state senator will tell you, the vast majority of the work in the state Senate is done in committee. And we would have two senators sitting on committees instead of one. Two senators to attend two critical committee or subcommittee meetings at the same time. Two senators to be eligible for leadership positions instead of one. Two state senators to counter the O‘ahu-centric bias of the Legislature. And that means far better representation for Kaua‘i!

I strongly urge following the mandate of the Hawai‘i State Constitution to allocate three state House members and two state Senate members to Kaua‘i. We need and deserve the representation.

William Georgi, ‘Ele‘ele

Not right, not fair

Following provisions in KIUC’s bylaws entitling its members to call for a special meeting to address concerns, an opportunity as such was scheduled June 4. 

Questions and answers or the presentation of statements ensued for six hours in a variety of formats which asked for: “clarification, transparency, accountability, and trust.”

As one who attended, these are my observations and concerns:

1.) The proposed ballot the members may cast a vote by simply responding either “yes” or “no” is deceptively simple. 

2.) The ballot was prepared in advance with NO opportunity for a fair and balanced presentation of the pros and cons articulated by having representation from opposing sides come to an agreement on how the ballot should be worded. 

3.) The “either-or” option of considering the possibility of hydropower was emphasized: either you vote to support the concept with “yes”; or “no,” indicating that it won’t be considered in the foreseeable future, thus slamming the door shut on this most favorable approach.

This is not right. This is not fair. Until and unless this matter is approached with integrity and in a manner and style which allows for “clarification, transparency, accountability, and trust” to prevail, the rumblings of discontent will turn into a thunderous uproar of anger and resentment, all of which can be averted by taking the appropriate steps which allow for the art of compromise when there is diversity in determining what procedures and processes must take place.

Jose Bulatao Jr., Kekaha


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