Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022 |
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LIHUE — Today is the day to get up to speed on the idea of switching to a county manager form of government.
The County Council is going to be taking on the issue in a workshop starting at 8:30 this morning at the Historic County Building. According to Council Chairman Mel Rapozo, the workshop will last as long as needed, potentially until 4:30.
Rapozo said he expects four “structural issues” to make up most of the discussion.
Those four issues are how the mayor would be elected, who would appoint commissioners, who would appoint department heads, and how the county manager would be removed.
“Those are the key items we have to figure out and there are many more, but if we can’t agree on those, if we can’t get to first base, than we won’t get to second,” Rapozo said.
Combining the office of the mayor and the County Council, while adding a county manager position may sound fairly simple to some, but doing so will require changes in up to 18 different charter amendments.
“The only way we can effectively put this on the ballot would be presenting a brand new charter, that would replace the existing charter,” Rapozo said. “That’s the only practical option.”
Councilmember Kipukai Kuali’i said he also thinks the nuts and bolts of the new government system should be discussed and decided by the council and the charter commission instead of placing all those decisions on the shoulders of the voters.
“To me, it makes more sense that we put all the pieces together and it be one decision, an all or nothing,” Kuali‘i said. “We have to determine if we can agree (on what to present to the people) and do that.”
A subcommittee, composed of Councilmen Arryl Kaneshiro, Mason Chock and Kuali‘i, has already begun to dig into the pile of information that surrounds the decision and they’ll be presenting their findings at the workshop.
“We hear it’s just a simple change and if it doesn’t work move it back, but we’re restructuring our entire government here and there’s a lot of changes that have to be made,” Kaneshiro said. “We have a system already, and I say let’s see how we’re going to improve it.”
Councilman Ross Kagawa also said he’s not in support of the change in government.
“My vote will be down. I’m not convinced that a manager form of government will be an improvement over what we have,” Kagawa said.
Kagawa said he is also unsure that Kauai would be able to find someone qualified enough to step up to the plate with a salary of less than $200,000.
He said he also has reservations because no other county in Hawaii is run with a county/manager system. Maui is considering the system, but Kauai is farther along in the process.
“Our system isn’t perfect, but we are going to be the guinea pig of Hawaii if we do this,” Kagawa said. “In Hawaii, unlike no other state in the nation, we’ll be the first if we put it on the ballot.”
Rapozo said the plan for today’s meeting is to open with a round of public comments right at, or just after, 8:30 a.m. After adequate discussion time, he said he’ll open the meeting again for public comments.
“We’re looking for community input,” he said.
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