WAILUKU - A proposal being discussed by the Maui County Council on Friday would give council committee chairs more flexibility to set the time limit for oral testimony at meetings.
Currently, testifiers are given three minutes to speak, plus an additional minute to conclude their remarks. Under the proposal introduced by Council Member Riki Hokama, the time limit could be changed if it were initiated by the committee chair and supported by a majority of committee members. Each testifier must be given an equal amount of time to speak, under council rules.
The resolution, which was passed by the council Policy Committee on Dec. 14 in an 8-0 vote, is scheduled for a final vote Friday at the council meeting that starts at 9 a.m. in the eighth-floor Council Chambers of the Kalana O Maui building.
Hokama could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Council members said the change would allow them to set a shorter time limit for testimony at meetings when many people are waiting to testify.
"We want to give everyone a fair chance," said Council Member Robert Carroll, who chairs the council's Land Use Committee. He said controversial projects have occasionally drawn "over 100 people" to sign up to testify at his committee.
With the current system giving every testifier three minutes to speak plus a minute to conclude, Carroll said, he would like the flexibility to cut off that final minute, essentially limiting each testifier to a hard three minutes.
"These people should have a chance to be able to say something," he said. "Otherwise, they can be cut out, because they can't wait three or four hours for their turn to testify."
Council Member Mike Victorino agreed. He noted that committees scheduled for morning meetings, like the Water Resources Committee which he chairs, must adjourn by 12:30 p.m., to make way for committees that hold session in the afternoon. When testimony goes on for hours, it limits the committee's ability to get business done, he said.
"I like the idea of flexibility," he said.
At the same time, if only a few people have signed up to testify, and they have valuable information to provide, the committee could decide to give them more time to speak, he pointed out.
Victorino noted other jurisdictions, including the Honolulu City Council, limit testifiers to only one minute.
"We're very liberal with three minutes and one minute to conclude," he said.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.