Council seems to be listening to bad advice

Thanks to The Garden Island for printing two outstanding columns by Walter Lewis and Larry Arruda (June 17 and June 19) supporting a proposed charter amendment resolution to create a council-manager system of government instead of the antiquated and inefficient one we have existed under for about 50 years.

These two very intelligent individuals desire only to make Kauai a better place to live.

In his “A Better Kauai” column, “Council makes major miscue in killing resolution,” Mr. Lewis, a retired lawyer, compellingly shows how the council was wrong in voting the obituary for the manager system.

Mr. Lewis has a favorite saying: “If a client wants to pursue a course of action a good lawyer will identify a legal problem that course may have — a better lawyer will find a solution for that problem.”

On Maui a comparable council-manager system is being proposed without any legal challenge by the county’s attorneys. But on Kauai County, attorneys advised that whether the manager has exempt status under the civil service law could be a roadblock to the creation of the system. And at council request, they wrote a misguided request for an Attorney General (AG) opinion on the issue.

Although in the opinion, the AG noted that department heads were exempt and found the county auditor a department head, it never addressed the reality that the manager would similarly head a small department and should also be considered exempt. Mr. Lewis with his over 35-year legal background offered the solution of reopening the issue and getting the almost self-evident answer.

But the council chose to rely on its “good” lawyers instead of pursuing any alternative and the four council members attending the June 15 meeting elected to kill the proposal.

This premature action also demonstrated the council’s lack of regard for the democratic principles of our nation. Whether the council members with their varying personal interests wanted to see the proposed system created or not, their decision precluded the opportunity that the people of the county should have to determine by their vote how the county should be governed.

Mr. Arruda was born and educated on Kauai. For 30 years he had the opportunity to not only live under the manager style of government but he was also a part of it. Thus, he is able to see both systems at work and so well makes the case for the manager system and its successful and widespread use across our nation.

Mr. Arruda’s article also convincingly makes the point that our council is failing to recognize the contribution being made by the limited umber of citizens who faithfully attend council meetings and who, despite restrictive council rules, offer views on numerous issues coming before the council.

The abrupt ending of consideration of the council-manager system leaves a huge vacuum.

Even one member who openly opposed the council-manager system complained vigorously about the council and the mayor kicking problems down the road and offered no solution. Other opponents argue that all we need are the right people running our government. That may well be true, but the present system does not produce them. A manager system would employ experienced people in key positions and the manager would be accountable if they failed. The touted contention about checks and balances is unrealistic as the mayor is uncontrollable. The mayor is given money for one project but often uses it for another.

The hard fact is that our council (and the mayor) has been unable to put the interests and the welfare of our citizens over their own political ambitions and our people have not been given the democratic right to choose if they want our island to remain stagnated with problems or move to a higher level of efficiency and accountability with a manager.

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Glenn Mickens is a resident of Kapaa.

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