In approximately two weeks, the first round of absentee ballots will be mailed out for the general election. Like many in the community, my mind is still not totally made up as to who I will be voting for the Kauai County Council or for mayor. As mentioned in my last column on Sept. 26, I have settled on at least four of my council choices (“4 Excellent Choices for Kauai County Council”).
But as to whether or not I will limit my vote to just the four (which is my inclination), or vote the full seven — I frankly do not know.
Kudos to the Kauai Community Coalition in partnership with other organizations for hosting a wide array of political forums in locations spanning the entire island. These forums have allowed Kauai residents to meet, hear, and watch the candidates in person. The small group discussions have been invaluable in offering voters a tangible experience in which to base their decisions. To date, eight separate candidate forums have been held in locations stretching from Hanapepe to Hanalei.
Only councilmembers Ross Kagawa, Arthur Brun and Arryl Kaneshiro have failed to show up and respond to the community questions presented at these forums.
The next and final Council forum is scheduled for Oct. 18 in Kilauea at the Pavilion at Anaina Hou Community Park, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The topic will be climate change.
Other community groups focused on the environment, solid waste, community planning and water quality have also sent out “issue surveys” to the candidates, seeking their responses to important questions that impact all of us. You can read the responses here which are very, very interesting: tinyurl.com/ydy78pu7
Kagawa, Kaneshiro and candidates Kanoe Ahuna and Shaylene Iseri have chosen not to participate and answer these questions.
The Kauai Chamber of Commerce should also be commended for conducting “candidate interviews” and posting these individual Q &A sessions on YouTube, for all of us to review and use in our decision making. I highly recommend viewing these excellent 15 minute individual interviews here: www.bit.ly/2OpcKl5
Unfortunately, Kagawa and candidates Ahuna and Iseri did not participate in this valuable Chamber of Commerce program either.
The bottom line is that you, as a voting resident, have a wealth of information available to you that will allow you to make an informed decision as to who will represent you on the Kauai County Council. Please attend a forum in the future, review the survey responses, and take the time to watch the Chamber of Commerce videos.
And please, do not vote for those candidates who have chosen not to show up.
While missing one or two forums is certainly understandable, incumbent candidates especially who choose to ignore and skip them all are sending their own message of contempt and arrogance. One has to wonder if someone is not available and interested in public input while campaigning, how available and open to public input will they be once elected?
There are at least two somewhat tricky, but important, questions on the ballot that pertain to proposed Charter Amendments:
Kagawa introduced to the council a proposed amendment that attempts to eliminate term limits for councilmembers. At the present time, councilmembers are limited to four consecutive two-year terms.
The question on the ballot will say “SHALL THE TERM LIMIT OF OFFICE FOR COUNCILMEMBERS BE REMOVED?
A “no” vote will keep in place existing term limits. A “yes” vote will allow councilmembers to serve an unlimited amount of terms.
Another important charter amendment being proposed attempts to change the way salaries for councilmembers, the mayor, and members of the county administrations are determined. The proposed amendment eliminates the existing County Council authority to reject all or part of the Salary Commission’s annual salary resolution thereby giving the Commission sole authority to set the maximum salaries of elected and appointed officials.
Historically, the Salary Review Commission regularly recommends robust salary increases under the premise of keeping salaries competitive with the private sector. The pressure to maintain pay equity among county administrators who sometimes earn less than the employees they supervise, also drives recommendations to increase County salaries.
To the contrary, the County Council has historically resisted granting salary increases to themselves and to top administrators. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, by taking “politics out of the question” (as this charter amendment proposes to do) will likely result in salaries for everyone being increased at a greater degree than they might otherwise. Councilmembers and others will receive raises based on the actions of the Salary Review Commission and then will rightfully so be able to say “I had nothing to do with it.a’
The question on the ballot will state: SHALL ARTICLE XXIX, SALARY COMMISSION, SECTIONS 29.01 AND 29.03 BE AMENDED TO GIVE THE SALARY COMMISSION AUTHORITY TO ESTABLISH THE MAXIMUM SALARIES OF ALL ELECTED AND APPOINTED OFFICIALS, AND TO ADD THE DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES AND THE DIRECTOR OF FINANCE AS EX-OFFICIO, NON-VOTING MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION?
A “no” vote will retain the status quo and most likely (in my opinion) keep salaries lower and will continue to require councilmembers to make the decision. A “yes” vote will take councilmembers out of the equation and allow them to receive salary increases without being involved in the decision and thus avoid potential political repercussions.
For what it’s worth, I will be voting no on both the attempt to eliminate term limits and the effort to take councilmembers out of the decision making loop as to the Salary Review Commission and increased salaries.
Read the charter and see the actual amendments and full language here: www.kauai.gov/charter
And please, take ownership of your government. Study the issues. Meet directly with the candidates. And vote!
Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.