The Kauai County Council unanimously approved a resolution on Wednesday to form a council subcommittee to study a county manager form of government.
“The existing system can be improved,” said Councilman KipuKai Kuali‘i. “Potentially, with the new system, you can change the city manager if you get four votes on the council. It may not be so easy.”
Councilmembers Mason Chock, Arryl Kaneshiro and Kuali’i comprise the subcommittee.
Jay Furfaro, administrator of the county boards and commissions who represented the mayor on Wednesday, said Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. opposes the resolution. He cited a past recommendation from a committee formed by the Kauai County Charter Review Commission.
“The committee unanimously voted to recommend against a measure on the county manager on a 2010 election ballot,” he said. “Further recommendations that issue of county manager form of government be postponed indefinitely.”
The manager could eliminate the position of mayor or make it a ceremonial position.
Council Chair Mel Rapozo said he “respectfully disagrees” with the mayor’s position.
“I’m disappointed that the mayor would submit testimony against adopting this resolution to go get information,” Rapozo said. “This is not a resolution to change the system, this is a resolution to objectively obtain information to figure out what’s best for Kauai.”
Councilman Mason Chock said the subcommittee will begin to research information and speak with different agencies regarding the form of government.
“We’re gonna list the services of the International County Managers Association and their services, which will help provide that kind of information and various options for Kauai,” he said. “We may come up with option one, which a county manager; option two, which is our existing system of mayoral government; or maybe a hybrid.”
Larry Arruda of Lihue, who had 30 years experience working under a city manager system in California, said there were problems with the way the city was run under that form of government. However, when he returned to Kauai, he said he “saw an extreme difference between the two.”
“I could not get over the lack of continuity in this system; the lack transparency; the lack of efficiency; and the lack of accountability mainly,” he said. “I’m not 100 percent convinced a county manager system would work for Kauai, (but) I think a county manager system or mayor system depends on where it’s at. It’s something that needs to be looked at.”
Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said the resolution is “about government working together.”
“I like the parameters Mr. Arruda raised: the lack of accountability, transparency, continuity and efficiency,” she said. “Those are all major issues of governance, whether we find it through a fundamental change in structure of our system or in retrofitting our existing system, we need to do this.”
Kaneshiro said he’s looking forward to gathering information to improve the system.
“What are the problems and how will we resolve them?” Kaneshiro said. “Is it a situation where we need to completely change to the county manager system or is it a system where we can try to address these concerns and questions that we have of our current system? Ultimately … here are the pros and here are the cons.”