Council votes ‘nay’ on longer terms

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i County Council members have to seek re-election every two years, and can only serve up to eight years. And it will likely stay that way, at least until 2016.

A resolution to introduce a charter amendment on this year’s ballot asking voters if council terms should be extended to four years was shelved by the council Wednesday, after it was apparent it would not reach five required votes.

Council Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura introduced the resolution because she thinks two years in office creates an environment in which council members have one year to learn the job and another year preparing for the next elections.

“There’s nothing sacred about two-year terms,” said Yukimura, adding that bodies with longer terms make better decisions.

If the question was put into November ballots and approved by voters, the changes would be effective for the 2014 elections.

“The purpose in setting this forth is creating good governance,” she said.

But council members Mel Rapozo and KipuKai Kuali‘i opposed the council adding a ballot question which they said could be creating a conflict of interest.

“It’s self-serving to put forward a charter amendment to extent terms,” Kuali‘i said. “I don’t think we should be the body to initiate this.”

Rapozo said such an amendment should be introduced by the Charter Review Commission rather than the council.

There are three ways to introduce a charter amendment in the ballot. One is through a council resolution approved by five votes, another is through the Charter Review Commission and the third is through a voter petition.

“There is no self-interest here,” said Yukimura, adding that if voters would approve the amendment, it would not be in effect until 2014, and all council members would have to run for re-election.

The resolution also introduced staggered terms to the council.

Council members Dickie Chang and Nadine Nakamura said they would support four-year terms, but they also felt the amendment should be dealt with by the Charter Review Commission.

The commission, however, may have set some deadlines to introduce charter amendments, and it will be unlikely they would be reviewing the amendment for this year’s election, according to Council Chair Jay Furfaro.

Facing a certain defeat on his motion to approve the resolution, Councilman Tim Bynum made a second motion — superseding the first motion — to receive the resolution and shelf it without action.

Any individual, including council members, can still approach the Charter Review Commission Chair and ask for amendments to be introduced the elections. It’s up to the chair to decide whether to honor the request, according to deputy County Attorney Jennifer Winn.

Visit www.kauai.gov for more information.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.

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