No questions (allowed to be) asked

LIHUE — Citing bad timing, the Kauai County Council unanimously voted down Wednesday a resolution that would give them the ability to ask questions during public testimony.

“It doesn’t make sense that we’re discussing this today,” said Councilman KipuKai Kuali’i. “The new council will make this decision and will decide what their rules will be and how they operate throughout the year.”

Councilman Mason Chock agreed.

“The timing is difficult because we’re going to have a new council,” he said.

Resolution No. 2016-78 was introduced by Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, which she said was an effort to make sure the council has all of the pertinent information when making decisions.

“The issue is the rules and what best facilitates discussion and problem solving on this council,” she said. “The rules define how we work together. That’s their importance; it’s how we work together when there’s conflict and differences of opinion.”

In addition to allowing councilmembers to ask questions of testifiers, the resolution would also allow councilmembers to speak for six minutes and let testifiers with time constraints to speak on an agenda item at the start of the meeting. The resolution also sought to remove the rule that says councilmembers can only speak twice on the same topic.

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. The rules of the council also say that the chair can ask testifiers to repeat or rephrase statements made during testimony.

Yukimura said she introduced the resolution as a way to circumvent a long discussion about the rules when the new council is sworn into office on Dec. 1.

But, after some thought, she conceded that now is not the time to make changes to the rules.

“I prepared a lengthy presentation, but I think now the timing is not right,” she said. “Perhaps there will be a better time, hopefully not at inauguration, where the issue can be fully vetted.”

Moving forward, Chock said he’d like to see the council be able to ask questions of testifiers.

“Discourse, is by nature, part of the job,” he said. “I’m looking for an approach that will encourage discovery. We need to have the opportunity to discover things we don’t know.”

But Arryl Kaneshiro said he’s happy with how things are now.

“We know the rules and we have a lot of time to prepare. We have a lot of time to ask administration questions and do our homework. We have time to be prepared to follow the rules and state our point within five minutes,” he said. “In regard to asking testifiers questions, we can ask them questions outside or in email. We don’t need to ask the question on TV. We can get the answers outside the door when we’re on break.”

During public hearing, Ann Punohu said councilmembers should be allowed to ask questions, but there needs to be a compromise.

“When you testify, you do want to be asked a question. But there should be a limit on how many questions are asked and the question has to be relevant,” she said.

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