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  • Writer's pictureJosh

My Thoughts on the Honolulu Charter Amendments 2022

I’ve been asked for my thoughts by a few people on the four proposed Charter Amendments that appear on ballots for Oahu voters this year. With ballots arriving right now in mailboxes, hopefully, you’ll find this helpful before you cast yours.

I did a similar post in 2020….

In addition to my thoughts below, Hawaii Public Radio has an “explainer” and the Star-Advertiser has a piece about them, as well.

Charter Question #1

Shall the Revised City Charter be amended to increase the mandatory percentage of the City’s estimated real property tax revenues to be appropriated annual for deposit into the Affordable Housing Fund from one-half of one percent to one percent?

The proposed Charter Amendment is the result of the passage of Resolution 21-192.

Moneys in the Affordable Housing Fund shall be used to provide affordable rental housing for persons earning sixty percent or less of the median household income in the city for the following purposes: provision and expansion of affordable rental housing and suitable living environments in projects, which may include mixed-use, mixed-income projects, having residential units that are principally for persons of low and moderate income through land acquisition for, development of, construction of, and/or capital improvements or rehabilitation to such housing, provided that the funded housing remains affordable for at least sixty years.

So essentially this Amendment, if approved, would double the deposits into the Affordable Housing Fund. Though I think I’d like to see more put into the fund, this is a no-brainer for me. I’ll be voting YES.

If you’re curious, it was supported in testimony by such organizations as Faith Action for Community Equity, Young Progressives Demanding Action, and Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

Charter Question #2

Shall the Revised City Charter be amended to require the Planning Commission have at least one member with substantial experience or expertise in one of the following categories of disciplines, that each of the categories be represented by a different member, and that all of the categories are represented on the commission: a. Native Hawaiian traditional and customary practices, native Hawaiian law, or traditional Hawaiian land usage; b. Land use planning, policies, and principles; c. Land development and construction; and d. Climate change and sea level rise causes, effects, and solutions; or environmental protection and preservation.”

This Amendment is a result of Resolution 21-156, CD1.

Also a no-brainer for me, I’m glad to see this one on the ballot and will be voting YES.

There wasn’t any substantive testimony in support. Which is both a bit surprising and disappointing. Still, I’m glad to see the Council put it on the ballot nonetheless.

It should also be noted that the Oahu Island Parks Conservancy testified that the Amendment should include “Historic Preservation expertise, policies and principles.” I would agree with this as well. Unfortunately, it wasn’t included in the final language put to voters.

Charter Question #3

Shall the Revised Charter be amended to expand the permitted uses of funds in the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund to include funding for costs related to the operation, maintenance, and management of lands acquired by way of this Fund that are necessary to protect, maintain, or restore resources at risk on these lands, such as infrastructure, environmental remediation, or improvements to provide for public access and use?

This Amendment is a result of the passage of Resolution 22-79, CD2.

While I see no reason to object to this proposed Amendment, I am disappointed. Question #1 seeks to increase the percentage of property tax revenue placed in the Affordable Housing Fund for the purpose of trying to increase affordable housing capacity and assistance on Oahu. This Amendment similarly seeks to expand the use of funds deposited in the Clear Water and Natural Lands Fund. But without a similar increase in its revenue beyond the one-half percent it receives now.

There is no reason I can see to oppose this Amendment. I had some initial concerns that with funds used for “operation, maintenance, and management” there would be insufficient funds for future conservation acquisition by the City & County. However, there is language that caps the total use of funds for this purpose to five percent. Should the Amendment be approved, that language would be added to the Revised Charter as well.

I will be voting YES.

Nature Conservancy Hawaii and the Trust for Public Land were the only two community organizations to submit testimony in support.

Charter Question #4

Shall the Revised City Charter be amended to update the provisions pertaining to the Office of Council Services (“OCS”), the research and drafting arm of the Council, to reflect its current functions; consolidate various provisions relating to the OCS in a separate Chapter of the Revised Charter like its fellow Legislative Branch agencies, the Office of the City Clerk and Office of the City Auditor; provide for the appointment, salary, and duties of the OCS director; and expressly recognize the authority of the licensed attorneys in the OCS to provide legal advice to the City council and its members?

This one might be the least interesting of the four questions and the one least likely to have any direct impact on the public. I see it essentially as “housekeeping” for the County’s government structure and function.

It results from Resolution 22-99, FD1.

The establishment of the Office of Council Services (OCS) was recommended by the 1971-72 Charter Commission and subsequently approved by voters in 1972. The Commission saw the OCS as “a necessary adjunct to and… supportive of the policy-formulation or legislative role of the city council,” and “a tool for decision making — to assist (the council) in analyzing the city’s policies and financial programs for their effectiveness and adequacy in identifying alternative programs and policies…”

In the 50 years since the OCS’ establishment, its portfolio of responsibilities has expanded. This Amendment simply seeks to appropriately update the Revised Charter to “reflect its current functions,” etc.

I will vote YES on this one, as well.

There wasn’t really any noteworthy testimony in support of or in opposition to this amendment.

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