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New Maui County Council to be ready on day one

CHAIR’S 3 MINUTES

The new County Council term begins Jan. 2, and the new and returning council members are determined to hit the ground running. That’s why I announced the council’s new leadership shortly after the election, as recently reported (“White, Carroll to lead Maui County Council,” The Maui News, Nov. 12).

I’m happy to address procedural questions that have been raised in letters to the editor and on social media since the announcement.

The Office of Information Practices, in Opinion Letter 02-11, confirmed that incoming council members aren’t subject to the state Sunshine Law until taking office. The Maui County Department of the Corporation Counsel has also opined that no council members are subject to the Sunshine Law for matters relating to the next council term prior to the term’s start.

This means council members who will take office in January can organize before being sworn in to start the internal planning process.

Much needs to be decided literally on day one of the new council term, at the organizational meeting set for 2 p.m. on Jan. 2 in the Council Chambers. There are many policy actions to be taken at that meeting, beyond voting on leadership positions, such as establishing council rules, hiring staff, setting up committees and perhaps even appointing council members to fill vacancies on the Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization’s policy board and the Hawaii State Association of Counties’ executive committee. Proposed resolutions will be posted on an agenda the week prior to the meeting.

Announcing leadership positions prior to a term is nothing new. Indeed, it is a common practice among legislative bodies in Hawaii. For example, Hawaii County Council members announced their leadership team earlier this month, before their new term. Organizing early is especially important when welcoming freshman members.

The last time the council had new members was the 2013-2015 term. Incoming Council Chair Gladys C. Baisa announced her leadership team on Nov. 10, 2012, four days after the general election (“Council leadership set; aim to get more done,” The Maui News, Nov. 11, 2012). The current term’s organizational announcement was also released Nov. 10, 2014 (“Council to form additional panel,” The Maui News, Nov. 18, 2014).

In the past, the council had as few as five committees, with members in the minority receiving no leadership roles. In more recent years, the philosophy of shared leadership has been embraced, with every council member chairing a committee. Under my leadership this will continue, with new and continuing members taking on significant responsibilities.

A natural part of the organizational process is also the recalibration of council roles and assignments. It is important to review how much work is placed on each member and ensure the overall workload is spread evenly. It was apparent this term that some members were overburdened, and that is simply unfair.

As operational assignments are settled, some members may not be satisfied with what they receive and may want more titles or duties. But it is clear there are enough issues facing our community to keep all nine members busy.

The time has come to put aside the campaign rhetoric and, instead, start tackling the critical issues ahead of us to better our county, Maui County.

Mahalo.

* Mike White is chairman of the Maui County Council. He holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to MauiCounty.us for more information.

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