Ducking a decision

Once again this election year, members of the County Council have turned their backs on putting the day-to-day running of Maui County in the hands of professionals.

A ballot proposal that would have specified that a professional managing director would be the chief operating officer of Maui Council was deferred by the Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee last Tuesday. When Committee Chair Yuki Lee Sugimura asked if anyone wanted to put the matter up for a vote Tuesday, her question was met by silence.

The deferral effectively kills the ballot measure for this election cycle.

It was hoped by backers of the proposed amendment — including its author, Council Member Kelly King — that the move to a professional manager would take politics out of the mechanisms of government. Not only was a professional managing director planned, but the change also envisioned professionals, instead of political appointees, running county departments.

We have supported the idea of a professional manager for several years. We worry that the county’s yearly double-digit budget growth is out of control and that the nearly three-quarters of a billion dollar budget is sorely in need of professional administrators.

Simply put, the rate of growth of Maui County’s budget is unsustainable and professionals are needed to rein it in and make sure every element of local government is run effectively and efficiently.

There are obviously folks with political aspirations that prefer the current strong mayor form of government. There are a lot of favors that can be handed out under the current system.

But we had hoped that the council as a whole would realize that the time has come to call in the pros. The apathy displayed at last Tuesday’s meeting makes that appear to be a false hope.

In our view, the council should have at the very least put the measure on the ballot and let the people decide. The tacit deferral was a cowardly way out of making a decision.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.