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2016 Honolulu Charter Amendments, Part 2

Updated: Oct 17, 2018



Here's the last 10, as promised, continued from a previous post.


Amendment #11 Should an approval process and an advisory commission for Clean Water Natural Lands Fund projects be established in the Charter?
Present Situation: An advisory commission and the approval process for expenditures from the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund are not established in the Charter.
If Proposal Passes: The proposal would establish an advisory commission and the review and approval procedures with respect to the Clean Water Natural Lands Fund.

Wow. Like too many of these, the information provided by the Charter Commission... sucks. No background, no practical impact information.


The Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund is meant to "provide for the purchase of or to otherwise acquire real estate or any interest therein for land conservation in the city" for conservation, preservation, or public recreation and education.


The amendment, it sounds like, would allow the city to use the fund to fulfill the mission of the fund without itself having a state in or purchasing the land. I'm not sure how I feel about that. If the city is going to use public moneys to preserve important lands, it should have a stake in the property to ensure proper stewardship and have a say in the future of the property.


I'll likely vote "no" on this one.


Amendment #12 Should all boards and commissions, except for the Board of Water Supply, the board for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) and any board or commission mandated by state or federal law, be reviewed periodically to determine whether they should be retained, amended, or repealed?
Present Situation: Boards and commissions are not evaluated to determine if they are fulfilling their purpose to serve a public interest or goal.
If Proposal Passes: The City Council would periodically evaluate all boards and commissions, except the Board of Water Supply, the board for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) and those boards and commissions mandated by state or federal law, to determine whether they should be retained, amended, or repealed.

Given that the City Council already has the authority to review boards and commissions, I'm not sure this is necessary. That it excludes HART is telling, though I'm not sure what it's telling.


There was an attempt earlier this year to eliminate the Neighborhood Board Commission, which was met with strong opposition from the public. This might be an attempt to pursue that move from another angle, but it's hard to say.


Either way, this one seems unnecessary to me. I'll be voting "no."

Amendment #13 Should the Grants In Aid Fund be the sole source (with certain designated exceptions) for city-funded grants to federal income tax-exempt nonprofit organizations that provide services to economically and/or socially disadvantaged populations or that provide services for the public benefit in the areas of the arts, culture, economic development or the environment?
Present Situation: City-funded grants to nonprofit organizations are awarded by city departments and agencies through their own review processes. The City Council awards city-funded grants to nonprofit organizations for specific purposes, separate from the Grants in Aid Fund. Grants awarded by the City Council from the Grants in Aid Fund are specifically limited to federal income-tax exempt nonprofit organizations that provided services limited to economically and/or socially disadvantaged populations or that provide for the public benefit in areas of the arts, culture, economic development or the environment.
If Proposal Passes: With certain exceptions, the Grants in Aid Fund would be the sole source of city-funded grants. These grants may be awarded only to federal income tax-exempt nonprofit organizations providing services to economically and/or socially disadvantaged populations or for the public benefit in the areas of the arts, culture, economic development or the environment. The Grants in Aid Advisory Commission would provide recommendations based on these limitations and the City Council would continue to determine which organizations would receive such grants and the amounts of the grants.

Currently, there are basically two ways to receive a GIA from the city: go through the formal vetting process, or get a council member to include the funds in the city budget separate from the GIA fund.


I am very sensitive to the idea of public moneys going to private business, even nonprofits. But I understand most people don't completely agree with me. In the case of this proposed amendment, at least the process would be more restrictive. All GIA applications would go through the commission with recommendations to the City Council and grants could only be awarded out of the fund.


I'll vote "yes."


Amendment #14 Should the deadline to hold a special election to replace the mayor, prosecutor or council members be extended from 60 days to 120 days, and should the City Council be able to appoint a temporary member until a special election is held?
Present Situtation: The time provided for special elections by the Charter is insufficient to meet the requirements of state law. When a council member leaves office midterm, there is no provision for appointing a temporary replacement.
If Proposal Passes: The scheduling of city special elections would be in compliance with the state law, and the City Council would be able to appoint a temporary replacement council member when the vacancy is for an unexpired term of one year or more. If the City Council does not name a successor within 30 days of the vacancy, the Mayor would make the appointment.

This one seems pretty straight forward to me. I'll be voting "yes."


There doesn't seem to be any real opposition to the proposal. In fact, no testimony in opposition was given. Giving the Office of Elections and the City Clerk more time to hold the special election is a good idea and allowing a temporary appointment to be made in the case of a mid-term vacancy ensures that those residents have representation on the council until a special election is held.


Amendment #15 Should the term limit for the prosecuting attorney, the mayor and the council members be three consecutive four-year terms?
Present Situation: The mayor and the council members are limited to two consecutive four-year terms and there is no term limits for the prosecuting attorney.
If Proposal Passes: The proposed amendment would establish uniform term limits of three consecutive four-year terms for the prosecuting attorney, the mayor, and the council members. Current office holders serving a four-year term (first term) and running for re-election in 2016, if re-elected (second term), would be eligible for one more four-year term in 2020 (third term). New office holders, and any persons filing out the remainder of someone else's four-year term, if elected in 2016 (first term) would be eligible for two more terms in 2020 (second term) and 2024 (third term). Current office holders serving a four-year term (first term) but not running for re-election until 2018 (second term) would be eligible for one more four-year term in 2022 (third term).

Personally, I don't have strong feelings about this one, but will likely vote "no."


I am, I suspect, in a very small minority of people who don't support term limits -- I can about this another time -- and while limits already exist for the mayor and council members, this would create a term limit for the prosecuting attorney.


Since the term limit already exists for the mayor and council members, I don't see any reason to extend it. And I certainly don't agree with creating a term limit for the prosecuting attorney.


Amendment #16 Should certain city departments be responsible for their own program planning and small infrastructure design and construction projects, and should the powers, functions, and duties of the Department of Environmental Services be updated and expanded to emphasize resource recovery and include the planning, engineering, design, and construction of all of its projects?
Present Situation: All city design and construction projects are currently the responsibility of the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), regardless of size. This broad responsibility requires DDC to use its limited resources to work on small construction projects that could be done by the departments responsible for the infrastructure. The charter authority for planning, engineering, design and construction of the Department of Environmental Services projects resides with DDC.
If Proposal Passes: - DDC would direct its resources to major projects, while the departments of Enterprise Services, Environmental Services, Facility Maintenance, Transportation Services, Information Technology, and Parks and Recreation would be responsible for their own program planning and infrastructure projects of limited size and complexity and would not be dependent upon DDC for such work. - The powers, duties, and functions of the Department of Environmental Services (ENV) would be further updated and expanded, to emphasize resource recovery, including the planning, engineering, design, construction, and improvement of all of ENV’s wastewater and solid waste systems projects, and incorporate other provisions that more completely reflect the department’s current activities.

While (I think) I like the sounds of the Department of Environmental Services emphasizing resource recovery, the rest of the amendment sounds completely unnecessary. It would add inefficiencies and duplicative work throughout city government.


I'll be voting "no."


Amendment #17 Should the mayor have the authority to delegate the signing of documents to certain other city officers?
Present Situation: The mayor signs a significant number of documents that require execution by the city, as required by the Charter. Many of these documents are recurring or involve business decisions that relate to routine or ordinary city operations.
If Proposal Passes: The mayor would have the authority to designate the managing director and deputy managing director to sign instruments requiring execution by the city. The mayor would also have the authority to designate administrative head of an executive department or office to sign instruments requiring execution by the city that affect the administrative head’s respective department or office.

I'll vote "no."


It sounds to me like the mayor may not actually like the work of being mayor. Or that it's getting in the way of the "fun stuff," whatever that may be. I'd be supportive of some provision allowing for appointment for limited signing authority, say when the mayor is out of town, ill, etc. But this amendment goes too far and doesn't seem to have any limit.


As they say, "the buck stops here," and the mayor should be doing this work unless otherwise unavailable. I think this amendment could also create problems down the road along the lines of some scandal the mayor could simply say he didn't know about because he wasn't the one who "signed it." Bridgegate comes to mind.


Amendment #18 Should the Fire Commission be expanded from five to seven members, and should the fire chief’s powers, duties and functions be updated to reflect current services?
Present Situation: There are currently five members on the Fire Commission. The powers, duties and functions of the fire chief including fire fighting and rescue work, responding to emergencies in hazardous terrain and on the sea, providing emergency medical care, maintaining and supervising a force of fire-fighting personnel, monitoring the construction and occupancy standards of buildings for the purposes of fire prevention, and providing educational programs related to fire prevention.
If Proposal Passes: The number of members of the Fire Commission would increase to seven members and the powers, duties, and functions of the fire chief would be expanded by adding new services, including education programs for life safety, and investigation of fires and explosions for cause and origin, as well as adding personnel for emergency response, reviewing construction plans and inspecting buildings to prevent fires.

I'll vote "no."


This one is a combination of two proposals. They should have been kept separate.


I don't have a problem with updating the job description of the fire chief to reflect real changes in what is being done. What I don't understand is the move to increase the number of commission members. There's some suggestion the move is a response to the commission currently having problems meeting quorum, but I don't see how adding members will solve that problem. If the Fire Commission can't make quorum with five members, I don't see how they expect to do so with seven.


Amendment #19 Should the requirement be repealed that no more than five of the City Council Reapportionment Commission’s nine members be from the same political party?
Present Situation: The City Council Reapportionment Commission determines the boundaries of each City Council district. The City Charter limits the number of members of the Commission to no more than five members from the same political party.
If Proposal Passes: Appointments to the City Council Reapportionment Commission would be made without limits based on party affiliation.

I had to ponder this one for a bit, but I'll be voting "yes."


Opponents have raise the specter of gerrymandering as a negative consequence should this amendment pass, but I just don't see it. Yes, nationally, gerrymandering has been a serious issue for some time and is one of the root causes of the disfunction of our federal government. That's the case, though, because nationally we have a government comprised of two political parties. The same isn't true for the City Council. Candidates run unaffiliated and the leadership structure of the City Council isn't dependent on one party holding a majority over the other.


Even if Democrats were to use the elimination of the party affiliation limits to their advantage, I cannot foresee how it would affect the makeup of the council in any negative way. Maybe political ideology associated with one party or another would have greater influence in a particular district as a result of gerrymandering, but I'd say that's already the case in the current map.


I should disclose I am an officer in the Democratic Party of Hawaii. That affiliation, though, hasn't impacted my position here....


Amendment #20 Should the Charter be amended for housekeeping amendments (i) to conform to current functions and operation, (ii) to conform to legal requirements, (iii) to correct an inadvertent omission, and (iv) for clarity?
(a) Require the books and records of all city departments to be open public inspection; (b) Require the Department of the Corporation Counsel to update the Charter by July 1 of the year after the election at which the Carter amendments proposed by the Charter Commission are approved by the electorate; (c) Require the Charter Commission to submit amendments to the Office of the City Clerk five working days before the deadline for ballot questions to be submitted to the state Chief Election Officer; (d) Require that all written contracts of the Board of Water Supply and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation be approved by the Department of the Corporation Counsel for form and legality; and (e) Require that the city centralized purchasing practices conform to the state procurement code.
Present Situation: (a) The Charter excludes records of the Honolulu Police Department and the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney from public inspection, although state law requires open records; (b) The Department of the Corporation Counsel does not have a time requirement to prepare updated editions to the Charter; (c) The Charter Commission is required to submit amendments to the Office of the City Clerk any time before September 1 of the year when amendments will be placed on the ballot. (d) The Board of Water Supply and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation are not required to obtain approval on written contracts from the Department of the Corporation Counsel with regard to form and legality; and (e) Certain Charter provisions do not conform to state procurement code.
If Proposal Passes: (a) The Charter would be amended to permit the public inspection of city books and records, including those of the Honolulu Police Department and the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney and be consistent with state law; (b) An updated edition of the Charter would be published by July 1 of the year after the election at which proposed amendments approved by the Charter Commission, are approved by the electorate; (c) The Charter Commission would submit the proposed Charter amendments to the Office of the City Clerk five working days before the state deadline; (d) The Board of Water Supply and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation would be required to obtain approval from the Department of the Corporation Counsel on all written contracts, with regard to form and legality; (e) The Charter would require the city to follow the state procurement code.

I'll be voting "yes."


None of these provisions seem controversial and there was no public testimony in opposition.