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Your county, your charter, your future

COUNCIL'S 3 MINUTES

In the general election on Nov. 3, voters will be able choose whether to revise the county’s constitution — the Maui County Charter.

The charter establishes the organizational structure of the county’s legislative and executive branches, how the county is governed, how legislation is adopted, financial and ethics procedures and how to amend the charter.

It is a living document. When conditions warrant change and the voters agree, the charter is amended to reflect those changes.

It has been that way since the first charter was adopted by Maui County voters in 1967. Much remains from that first charter in our current charter, which was adopted in 1982 and amended almost every election cycle between 1984 and 2018.

The charter requires a mandatory review every 10 years by an 11-member charter commission appointed by the mayor and approved by the council. We are due for another review starting in 2021.

Charter amendments can be started by council resolution or by petition to the council or the county clerk. The requirements of each method are detailed in Article 14, “Charter Amendment.”

Council-initiated amendments require two readings and a super-majority vote by six council members to place the matter on the election ballot. Council-initiated charter amendments that may soon be considered by the council’s Governance, Ethics and Transparency Committee include items relating to the following issues:

• Clarifying the mayor’s authority to appoint temporary department heads.

• Changing the frequency of required council meetings.

• Extending the Affordable Housing Fund.

• Bifurcating the Department of Housing and Human Concerns into two agencies — the Department of Housing and the Department of Human Concerns.

• Reorganizing of the executive branch to establish the Office of Managing Director.

• Starting terms of office on the first business day in December following general election rather than on Jan. 2.

• Establishing shorter lifetime term limits for council members — two terms of four years.

• Clarifying how to resolve conflicting interpretations of the charter.

• Revising policies on the retention and termination of special counsel.

• Allowing Office of Council Services attorneys to be legal representatives of the council and council members.

• Changing the membership structure of the charter commission.

• Revising standards on the appointment and removal of officers and employees.

It’s unlikely all these proposed amendments will be approved by the council for consideration by the voters. Many of these proposals contain substantial changes to the form and function of your county government, and it may be prudent for the council to defer some of the bigger changes to the charter commission.

I believe the council owes you the opportunity to learn about and discuss any proposed charter amendments well in advance of asking you to vote. I will be advocating for council-sponsored informational outreach to you, the voters, on every proposed charter amendment that will be included in the next ballot.

You can stay informed by checking the council website, www.mauicounty.us. This is your county, your charter, your future.

Please take the time to be informed.

* Tasha Kama is chair of the Affordable Housing Committee. She holds the council seat for the Kahului residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.