Seeking the right to ask

LIHUE — Changing the way county meetings are run will be discussed when the Kauai County Council meets Wednesday.

Resolution No. 2016-78, introduced by Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, seeks to allow councilmembers six minutes to speak on the same agenda item. It also removes the limit on the number of times they can speak on the same question and would allow councilmembers to ask questions of the testifiers.

“The council makes far-reaching decisions that affect the quality of life, cost of living and economy,” she said. “If we are to make the best decisions for Kauai, we need to make them based on good and accurate information.”

When people testify, they often have good information, she said.

“Sometimes, when people testify, that information is not clear or complete. Questions by councilmembers can help the council get a better understanding of the problem, the possible solutions and the perspective and position of those testifying.”

According to the resolution, the rule change allows councilmembers to ask “clarifying questions” to better understand concerns the testifier is bringing forward.

Other proposed changes include allowing a period for public speaking at the beginning of the meeting.The purpose of the council rules is to have decisions made by the majority and to allow the views of the minority to be heard, Yukimura said.

“When meetings are run by fair rules, they protect everyone, whether in the majority or minority,” she said. “The minority position is important and need to be heard. Rules that allow an airing of minority views, no matter who holds them, ensure fair and equal treatment. Removing the two-time limitation will allow the minority views to be heard.”

Yukimura said she introduced the resolution as a way to allow for more public input and discussion before a new council is sworn in on Dec. 1.

“I am hoping to avoid the very awkward situation of prolonging the official council meeting on Inauguration Day with extended debate and dissent about council rules, which occurred at the last inaugural meeting,” she said. “On that day, even though the legal notice requirements had been met, very few citizens — or councilmembers for that matter — had a chance to understand and then make comment on fairly big changes to the rules by which the council makes its decisions.”

Yukimura hopes this change will provide more clarity in how business is done during meetings.

Mel Rapozo, council chair, does not support the resolution because he believes those kinds of decisions should be made by the new council.

“With only one council meeting remaining in this term, I do not believe it is an efficient use of council time,” he said. “I allowed it on the agenda because I remain committed to placing items requested by councilmembers on the agenda.”

Rapozo said he’d be surprised if the resolution passes.

“I believe that most of the members agree that the decision to change any of the council rules should be left with the incoming council,” he said.

The last council meeting of the term is Nov. 16.

Currently, councilmembers have five minutes to speak on each agenda item and are not allowed to address people who speak during public comment. They are also not allowed to speak more than twice on the same topic.

Yukimura got out of her seat last month after she was denied another chance to speak. She remained standing for several minutes.

The rule that prohibits councilmembers from asking testifiers questions was passed by a 4 to 2 vote in October 2015.

That measure was introduced by Rapozo and created controversy because it was believed it was directed at Yukimura, according to a TGI story last year.

In another effort to change the way meetings are run, Resolution No. 2016-56 was introduced last month and subsequently killed by the council.

The resolution sought to allot 18 minutes at the beginning of the agenda for the public to speak.

Also on Wednesday, the council is expected to discuss the approval of $70,000 from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which will go to support initiatives like the Community Enrichment Program.

The council will also discuss a request from the Kauai Fire Department to approve a 2016 Dodge Ram 4×4 pickup truck and a pipe rack and light bar for the truck. The donation comes from the Kauai Lifeguard Association and amounts to $43,717.74.

The truck will be suited for the roving patrol unit in the East District.

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