Council votes down charter amendments

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council voted down two charter amendment proposals that would have let voters determine whether public access and open space projects should receive more taxpayer money and if the council vacancy process should change.

The first proposal, introduced by Councilman Tim Bynum, sought to raise the minimum amount of real property tax revenues set aside for public access and open space projects from 1.5 to 2 percent.

Had that measure been approved by the County Council and county voters, County Finance Director Steve Hunt said the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Fund would have experienced $536,809 bump in funding. 

Five of the seven members on the Kauai County Council unanimously voted against the proposal, citing the need to spend and allocate money prudently at a time when there are tight budget constraints. 

“I think the key term here is flexibility and we need that in this time and period,” Councilman Mason Chock said Wednesday. “While we support wholeheartedly open space efforts and want to see these funds increase, we need to be good stewards of our budget as well.”  

The seven-member board also voted down a charter amendment proposal that would have allowed the eighth-place County Council finisher from the previous general election to be appointed to the seven-member board when a vacancy occurs. 

The Kauai County Charter currently gives the County Council the initial authority to select a new member, if one dies while in office or resigns. That authority is then transferred to the mayor, if the County Council is unable to make a selection.

Councilman Jay Furfaro, who introduced the charter amendment proposal with Councilman Mel Rapozo, said he wanted to avoid a possible tie vote in the current selection process that would send their appointment power over to the mayor.

“I believe that really works against the direction that the council needs to go,” Furfaro said. “But, more importantly, I believe that if you look at the eighth person in an election, the bottom line is that the choice, the numbers and the totals are, in fact, the choice of the people and that is what an election is about.” 

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, however, disagreed and said the present selection process has been tested several times over the years and has worked. 

The last vacancy occurred in November when Chock was selected to replace Nadine Nakamura, who resigned from the seven-member board to become the county’s managing director. 

“I think there is a lot of wisdom in the present system, and I’m also of the opinion that the system worked the last time there was a vacancy,” Yukimura said. “To me, the system is not broken and I don’t think we should change it.”

Yukimura and Chock voted against the proposed charter amendment.

Councilmen Tim Bynum and Gary Hooser were absent and did not vote on either of the two charter amendments.

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