Preparation for county charter amendment proposals underway

Chair’s 3 Minutes

Since this past August, the Maui County Council’s Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee has been working diligently to establish additional qualifications for the administrative heads of county departments.

In the past, department directors only needed to meet very broad requirements to be hired and were not subject to council confirmation. Although the county has had hardworking administrators over the years, government has grown to a level where qualified directors are necessary to ensure comprehensive and effective leadership in operations.

In the 2016 election, voters agreed and approved a charter amendment that now allows the council to set qualifications for department heads appointed by the mayor. In addition, each of these department heads must also be confirmed by the council.

The heads of the departments of Fire, Police, Personnel Services and Liquor Control are excluded because they are selected by their department’s respective commissions, not the mayor. This leaves 11 directors for which additional qualifications can be created.

Bills for these respective directors have passed out of committee and are currently in various stages of council approval.

At the council meeting of Jan. 5, additional qualifications for the heads of the Department of Public Works and the Department of Environmental Management were approved. Bills creating additional qualifications for the directors of Planning, Finance, Water Supply, Corporation Counsel and the Prosecuting Attorney will be considered for first reading at the April 6 council meeting.

At the same meeting, the council will consider on second reading bills creating additional qualifications for the directors of Parks and Recreation, Transportation and Housing and Human Concerns.

As required by these bills, to qualify for the position candidates will need managerial and budgetary experience as well as specialized skills in the functions they will be performing as director.

Potential directors will also need a bachelor’s degree relevant to their respective department’s functions or a combination of education and work experience equivalent to a relevant college degree. These additional requirements were only possible because of the charter amendment proposed by the council and approved by voters.

Since this is an election year, the community will once again have the opportunity to vote on charter amendments.

The charter is the county’s version of a constitution and is meant to be a foundational governing document. Therefore, any amendments must be considered thoroughly, and only voters can approve or deny changes.

Three avenues exist to amend the charter. The first is done every 10 years through a Charter Commission. The next commission will not be appointed until 2021.

The public may also generate a proposal by petition. Petitions require signatures from 10 percent of voters registered in the last election.

The third avenue is through council members who have the option to place proposals on the ballot if approved by the full council. My committee is tasked with vetting all such amendments. Since the county’s annual budget session just kicked off, proposed amendments will be considered in May and June.

Members have been asked to submit any proposals by April 30 to allow time for appropriate committee consideration.

Additionally, I encourage members of the public to stay engaged and learn more about any proposal that will appear on the ballot. To submit written testimony on any matter pending before the Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee, please email pea.committee@mauicounty.us.

* Yuki Lei Sugimura is the chairwoman of the Maui County Council’s Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee. She holds the council seat for the Upcountry residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.

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