Volunteer election workers sought; state-county relationships discussed

Do more than just vote – become an integral part of the election process by volunteering as a precinct official.

The Office of the County Clerk is recruiting election workers to staff polling places and other election facilities for the primary election on Aug. 9 and the general election on Nov. 4.

Volunteer workers assist voters through the election process and perform other tasks to ensure the integrity of local elections.

Training is provided. Volunteer stipends start from $85 per election day.

This opportunity is open to nonprofit organizations and community groups in addition to individuals. For more information or to sign up, please call the elections division at 270-7749.

Meanwhile, for Maui County Council members, this is the season of conferring with colleagues from other jurisdictions and learning about municipal policy from experts.

More than 200 representatives of government, academia, the nonprofit sector and private business attended the Hawaii State Association of Counties’ annual conference on Oahu earlier this month. The conference was hosted by the Honolulu City Council with the theme “United in Service.”

One of the highlights of the conference for me was when Mike McCartney, CEO of Hawaii Tourism Authority, said: “Instead of fighting for a bigger portion of the pie, grow the pie.”

He was referring to the relationship between the state and county governments in Hawaii.

Indeed, throughout my tenure as council chair I’ve reminded state officials that their constituents are our constituents. We represent the same people, and we are in a partnership in their service, not a zero-sum game.

For the partnership to be effective, fairness is required, which is why the counties have sought the return of a larger piece of the hotel-room-tax pie we all work so hard to grow. In the last legislative session, an extra $10 million was returned, though the counties made a well-documented case for $72 million.

At the conference, political analyst Dan Boylan called this “a humbling experience” for the counties. I prefer to think of it as learning experience and a qualified success.

Through our lobbying efforts at the state Capitol, we fostered relationships, developing a “collaborative spirit,” as Gov. Neil Abercrombie told conferees. The extra revenue we realized (more than $2 million for Maui County) played an important role in all the counties balancing their budgets for the upcoming fiscal year.

Also at the conference, experts in clean-energy technology showcased the latest innovations to help communities maximize environmental-preservation efforts. Exhibitions on solar-powered and seawater-powered air conditioning showed that viable technology in those fields exists, but drew questions on affordability for working families.

Leslie Wilkins, vice president of the Maui Economic Development Board, told conferees 60,000 technology-related jobs will need to be filled in Hawaii by 2017. We also heard from Richard Ha of Hamakua Springs Country Farms and Dolan Eversole, a coastal geologist with the University of Hawaii, on preparing for climate change.

Next month, the discussion moves to the national stage at the National Association of Counties’ annual conference in New Orleans. This is a noteworthy occasion as Maui County Council Member Riki Hokama will be installed as NACo president.

Learn more at naco.org.

A hui hou.

* Gladys C. Baisa is chairwoman of the Maui County Council and holds the council’s Pukalani-Kula-Ulupalakua area residency seat. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.