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Council will have eight committees

Members reach agreement after lengthy discussion of alternatives

Council Member Kelly King details her proposal for council committee structures during a special meeting in Council Chambers on Monday night. After testifiers at a Jan. 2 meeting said that the committees were not balanced, three council members called for a public hearing on the subject. The Maui News COLLEEN UECHI photo

WAILUKU — The titles, membership and duties of each committee were finally decided at 9:30 p.m. Monday after the Maui County Council unanimously approved a proposal to create four committees with seven voting members and four with nine voting members.

The proposal, drawn up by Council Member Riki Hokama, was approved with amendments — mainly to the parks committee — after lengthy discussion over Council Member Kelly King’s alternate proposal.

More than 40 people testified at the public hearing and special meeting Monday afternoon, which some council members called after many testifiers at a Jan. 2-3 meeting expressed concerns that the committees were “stacked” unfairly.

Hokama and King both offered alternative proposals, but after several of King’s suggestions were voted down, King held off on the rest of her proposal.

“I think I’m going to rest my case there,” she said. “It’s obvious there’s no appetite for compromise.”

At the council’s first meeting, Chairman Mike White proposed eight committees, one with nine members, two with seven members and five with five members. White explained there have been challenges with quorum in the past, and he wanted to give council members the chance to focus their energies on their own committees.

During the past term, the council had three nine-member committees and six seven-member committees, White said in the “Chair’s 3 Minutes” column published Sunday.

In response to testifiers and members who said that the committees were too small, Hokama drew up a proposal that included four committees with nine voting members and four with seven voting members. King proposed eight committees with all nine members.

“The original intent was to allow all council members to choose what committees they want to be on,” the first-term council member explained.

Hokama said, “we could operate” with all nine members on all committees, but he thought committees should be kept to four or five if that were the case.

Those who supported Hokama’s proposal said that council members should focus their expertise on select committees.

“I encourage the use of small committees because each member of a committee should be versed in the subject matter of that committee,” testifier Richard Pohle said. “And if you put nine members on all the committees you just dilute the expertise.”

Some members of the community also thought that the decisions should be left to council members.

“All of you were elected by us to manage the business of Maui,” testifier Kay Anderson said. “It is your responsibility to organize these committees and not ask for our input. I am shocked that it is now Jan. 16, and because a few members continue to play politics Maui’s much-needed business is being delayed.”

But those who supported King’s proposal thought it would allow for better representation.

“Having all nine council members on the eight proposed committees, one, takes advantage of the diverse backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, values and priorities of each council member,” said Keani Rawlins Fernandez, speaking from Molokai. “Two, it includes the expertise of each council member’s intimate knowledge of their district. . . . And three, it’s overall more fair and balanced.”

Council members do not need to be experts on every subject, added testifier Mike Moran.

“We expect all council members to have sufficient knowledge to vote (and make) reasonable decisions,” Moran said. “Committees bring in experts as resources. Members are not expected to be experts.”

Still others thought that the solution was somewhere in between the proposals. They liked King’s inclusion of the Committee of the Whole to handle legal issues, but they agreed with Hokama and White on dividing the issues of water and agriculture.

During discussion, King proposed several amendments, including restoring the Committee of the Whole, grouping transportation issues with economic development and energy (instead of with housing and human services), and putting water and agriculture on the same committee. Each motion was voted down by one- or two-vote margins.

Several testifiers said that water and agricultural issues are closely linked, but others said that the issues are too big and deserve their own committees.

Other council members had concerns over King’s proposals, including the fact that the Committee of the Whole would group legal matters and intergovernmental issues with litigation, which tends to “absorb the whole committee,” Council Member Don Guzman said.

Council Member Stacy Crivello said that transportation is closely linked with human services.

After a long, bitter council meeting on Jan. 2-3, testifiers asked council members and residents to work on mending rifts. Inspired by the holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr., dozens of testifiers called for more aloha and unity, and for the community to put disputes behind them.

“My hope is that the friction in this room will cause sparks of the right kind,” testifier Diana Custer said.

The committees will be as follows:

* Budget and Finance — Chairman Riki Hokama, nine members.

* Housing, Human Services and Transportation — Chairwoman Stacy Crivello, seven members.

* Infrastructure and Environmental Management — Chairwoman Elle Cochran, seven members.

* Land Use — Chairman Robert Carroll, nine members.

* Parks, Recreation, Energy and Legal Affairs — Chairman Don Guzman, nine members.

* Planning — Chairwoman Kelly King, seven members.

* Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture — Chairwoman Yuki Lei Sugimura, nine members.

* Water Resources — Chairman Alika Atay, seven members.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.