Pay attention to the charter amendments

Almost lost in the shuffle of Tuesday’s general election, what with all the attention on our county council and county prosecutor races, not to mention the national focus on whether Donald Trump can rally to defeat Hillary Clinton for president, are seven proposed amendments to the Kauai County Charter.

Now, it could be that many have not heard about these amendments, don’t know, don’t care, don’t have time to worry about them. But these amendments, while seemingly nothing to get too excited about, are worth your time to review. In fact, look for a recap of these amendments in Sunday’s TGI. Reporter Jenna Carpenter interviewed two commission members, Ed Justus, vice chair, and Allan Parachini, chair, who outlined some of the basics of each amendments and explains why they’re being proposed and most important, why they matter to you, the voter.

The commission, which includes, Michael Perel, Russell Wong, Patrick Stack, Cheryl Stigimeier and Mia Ako, is a group of unpaid volunteers that spent about a year on this process. They are not promoting a particular agenda. They’re not trying to win your votes or figure out how to benefit financially. They’re proposing amendments, after much research, that among other things, could help the county council operate more effectively and spend time focusing on issues critical to Kauai residents.

OK. So, you ask, what are these amendments about? These proposals range, from cleaning up the language and clarifying the duties of some county jobs to changing the way procedures are carried out. You, the voters, just have to mark yes or no.

These are the proposed charter amendments and in brief, our thoughts on them.

“Shall the charter be amended throughout to ensure that its language is to the greatest extent possible gender neutral and to make changes to spelling, capitalization, punctuation, formatting, and grammar?”

Who could argue with that?

“Shall the duties of the fire chief be clarified to include duties currently performed such as addressing hazardous materials, emergency medical services, and ocean safety, and shall the reference to the mayor’s authority to assign duties be removed?”

Well, can’t hurt to clarify the fire chief’s duties. It does propose to remove the mayor’s authority to assign duties. Some might find that puzzling, but the Mayor’s Office approved of that request.

“Shall a zoning board of appeals be established to hear appeals from decisions of the planning director and to conduct evidentiary hearings at the request of the planning commission.”

Another layer of government, like an appeals board, might not seem to be a great idea, but if a seven-member board trained to hear appeals regarding zoning and subdivision ordinances can save residents time and money, that’s a good thing.

“Shall the county Civil Defense Agency be renamed the Emergency Management Agency and its organization clarified consistent with state law?”

Why not.

“Shall the percentage of registered voter signatures required to start the initiative or referendum process be reduced to 10 percent from 20 percent, and shall the percentage of registered voter signatures required to start the charter amendment process via voter petition be increased to 10 percent from 5 percent?”

We like the idea of reducing the percentage of registered voters to start an initiative or referendum process. It makes sense to increase the percentage of voter signatures to start the charter amendment process to 10 percent so they are the same.

“Shall it be specified what constitutes a charter amendment, and shall the processing of a proposed charter amendment via voter petition be revised to enable the county clerk to determine whether the proposal is a valid charter amendment?”

That sounds a bit confusing, but in the end, the idea is to eliminate confusion over what constitutes a charter amendment. If it can clean that up, great.

“Shall the Charter Review Commission be an ongoing commission?”

The review commission will disband at the end of the year and we won’t see it for another decade, unless this amendment is approved. That would be unfortunate. Frankly, having a review commission, based on the performance of this current commission, is a benefit for the council and citizens. It helps explain the process of the government for the public. It puts more regular folks into posts to represent the interests of the public. We would like to see it continue.

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