Kauai Election 2012 - Charter

SUBHEAD: Recommendations on the proposed Charter Amendments on this General Election ballot. Two opinions.

By -  JoAnn Yukimura on 17 October 2012 in Island Breath (updated 10/25/12) -
 (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2012/10/kauai-election-2012-charter.html)

[IB Publisher's note: Kauai Councilperson JoAnn Yukimura is highly regarded by IslandBreath and we are publishing her recommendations on the Kauai Charter amendments  for 2012 as well as the opinions of contributing editor Jonathan Jay and Ken Taylor. Bottom line is JoAnn would vote YES for all eight charter amendments. Jonathan woould vote YES for four of them (1, 3, 6. & 8) and Ken Taylor, most cautiousof all, would only vote YES on two (3 & 6). Obviously, if you have any respect for these politically progressive activists, voting YES for 3 & 6 is a no brainer. The rest is up to you.]


Image above: JoAnn Yukimura stands with other Kauai Council members in the rotunda of the Kauai government building. From (http://www.kauai.gov/Government/OfficeOfTheCountyClerk/CountyCouncil/tabid/88/Default.aspx).

Here are my recommendations re the proposed Charter Amendments on this year’s General Election ballot. I hope they are helpful to you. (To see the actual text of the proposed changes, go to kauai.gov and look for the 2012 Proposed Charter Amendments on the left side of the home page.)

In summary, I am recommending you vote for all charter amendments.

Therefore, if you don’t want to bother with the details, you don’t have to read any further.

However, if you want to understand why I am recommending “yes” in all cases, and you want to learn more about County government, please read on.

1. RELATING TO MAYOR’S SALARY:
Should the Mayor’s salary be established by the Salary Commission?

Commentary: There is presently a conflict in the charter. Section 7.03 states that the mayor’s salary is to be set by the Council. Section 29.01 says it should be set by the Salary Commission. Setting executive salaries is a complex business that is better done by a commission rather than a political body such as the Council. A commission has the time and focus to research and consider the many factors that need to be taken into account. Additionally, the Council could easily have political motives that would blur rational and objective decision-making. Finally, the mayor’s salary should be set in some proportion to the executive managers below him - i.e. in some relationship to the salaries set for his department heads. It makes sense that the Salary Commission that sets department head salaries would also set the mayor’s salary.

Vote: YES


2. RELATING TO TERMS FOR BOARD OR COMMMISSION MEMBERS:
Should a county board or commission member whose term is ending be allowed to serve on a different county board or commission without being required to wait one year?

Commentary: It is often difficult to find qualified and willing people to serve on boards and commissions. If someone getting off one board is willing and qualified to sit on another board, a one year waiting period seems unnecessary. However, the Mayor, as the appointing authority, will hopefully not allow this amendment to dampen his search for new qualified people as well.
Vote: YES


3. RELATING TO ELECTIONS:
Should a candidate for County Council be required to run in the general election even though the candidate received at least thirty percent of the votes cast in the primary election?

Commentary: It is extremely difficult to achieve 30% of all votes cast in a “Vote-for-up-to-seven” at-large election. So a “Yes” to remove such a provision will make little difference. However, the amendment also takes out now “old” and unnecessary language and streamlines and clarifies the provision, which is worthwhile.
Vote: YES


4. RELATING TO INITIATIVE OR REFERENDUM PETITIONS:
Should it be clarified that an initiative or referendum petition must be signed by registered voters comprising of the established percentage of the number of voters registered in the last election?

Commentary: The proposed amendment removes a redundancy (“last preceding election” is changed to “last election”) and an ambiguity (instead of “eligible voters registered in the last election” it simplifies the language to “voters registered in the last election” which is a much easier class to define and measure than “eligible voters.” So a “yes” vote is appropriate.

The problem is that the proposed amendment ignores completely the onerous percentage of “20% of the voters registered in the last general election,” which is currently required to get an initiative or referendum issue on the ballot. Sometimes barely 30% of the registered voters turn out to vote. To require petitioners to get 20% of the registered voters in order to get a measure on the ballot is extremely difficult to achieve and should be made more reasonable. Perhaps the Commission will address this problem next year.
Vote: YES


5. RELATING TO CHARTER AMENDMENT PETITIONS:
Should it be clarified that a petition for a charter amendment must be signed by registered voters comprising of the established percentage of the number of voters registered in the last election?

Commentary: Like initiative and referendum petitions, which seek to change or repeal county laws (ordinances) by getting such proposals on the ballot, charter amendment petitions seek to get proposed changes to the County Charter on the ballot. The subject amendment clarifies that to get a charter amendment on the ballot by petition, it must be signed by registered voters that in numbers are at least a certain percentage of the number of registered voters in the last General Election. This is all fine, and the recommended vote is “Yes.”

The “elephant in the room” that is not addressed is the fact that a smaller number of signatures is required to propose a change to the County Charter than to ordinances or laws of the county. Like the U.S. Constitution, the County Charter, which establishes the basic structure of county government, should not change easily or often. However, under existing Charter provisions, it is easier to propose a change to the Charter than to propose a change to a law or ordinance. It takes signatures of registered voters equal to 5% of the registered voters in the last General Election to propose a Charter Amendment but signatures equal to 20% of the registered voters in the last General Election to propose a change to an ordinance or law. It makes no sense to require a higher standard for a law change than a charter change, but this problem is not addressed.
Vote: YES


6. RELATING TO SEC. 29.03 - SALARY COMMISSION:
Should the Salary Commission establish maximum salaries for officers which shall include the Prosecuting Attorney and all deputies, and allow for elected officers to accept salaries lower than the maximum?

Commentary: I have no idea how the phrase, “Prosecuting Attorney and all deputies” got into the question above because when I go to Section 23.01D which is the section referred to in the subject amendment as defining the “officers” for whom the Salary Commission will set salaries, there is no mention of the Prosecuting Attorney or deputies in that office. This being the case, the vote on this amendment should be invalidated because the official description of the amendment is inaccurate.

What I read the amendment to do is to clarify that the salaries set by the Salary Commission define the maximum salary below which the appointing authority may set the salary. It also allows elected officials to voluntarily accept a salary lower than the maximum figure or forego a salary all together.

The misleading question above notwithstanding, vote “Yes” but know that the votes on this matter could be invalidated.

Vote: YES


7. RELATING TO SEC. 29.05 – SALARY COMMISSION: 
Should the waiting period be eliminated before the council’s salary changes become effective?

Commentary: The current charter provision requiring that a salary increase for councilmembers be delayed until after the next election was instituted when the Council was setting its own salary. Its purpose was to ensure that councilmembers could not increase their own salaries while in office. Since the Salary Commission, rather than the Council, now sets the salaries of councilmembers - which by salary setting standards should also have some relationship to the mayor’s and department head salaries—it makes sense that councilmembers salaries go into effect when the other salary increases go into effect. Thus, eliminating the delay, appears justified.
Vote: YES


8. RELATING TO COUNTY BUDGET: 
Shall provisions be deleted that allow the mayor, after submitting the proposed annual budget, to submit suggested budget modifications before the council enacts the annual budget?

Commentary: The above question, as framed, is a mis-statement of the proposed amendment, and thus, misleading. The proposed amendment does not remove the mayor’s power to submit suggested budget modifications. Until the Council approves a budget ordinance, the mayor is always able to send to the Council a communication with new information and suggestions regarding the budget, which, in the Council’s discretion it can either incorporate or reject. What the amendment would do is to eliminate the mayor’s ability to submit a new official budget less than 15 days from which the Council must act on the budget.

Under current charter provision, this automatically places a new budget before the council, after it has worked for at least six weeks on the originally submitted budget. The Council then has less than two weeks to analyze and modify the second budget, creating a rushed condition which is conducive to mistakes and oversights. Plus, the public hearing scheduled for the second submittal is virtually meaningless because, due to time contraints, no significant changes can be made following that public hearing.

Removing the possibility of a second official budget provides for a much more deliberative and thoughtful budget process. It makes the Administration more careful in the preparation of its first budget submittal. It doesn’t allow the Administration to manipulate the process by holding back certain projects or taking political advantage of watching the council process for popular items then proposing it as theirs. And, it gives the Council sufficient time for its budget deliberations while still allowing input from the Administration regarding, in particular, unexpected changes in budgetary assumptions.

For the reasons stated above, I submitted this proposed charter change, which the Council supported to be put on the ballot.
Vote: YES

I haven't researched the two state constitutional amendments which are also on the ballot, but I will be voting for them because they seem straightforward and meritorious.


Another View on the Amendments

By Jonathan Jay on 25 October 2012 for Island Breath -

Although Councilperson JoAnn Yukimura is highly regarded, we do not always agree with her.

One such consistent philosophical difference is that regarding citizen involvement in self-governance. I believe the highest political authority is we the people.Here is how I would vote differently from JoAnn.

2. REVOLVING DOOR ON COMMISSIONS? VOTE NO!
Let us maximize, never minimize the number of Kaua`i citizens involved at the commission level. Difficult to find qualified people to serve? Poppy-cock. There are thousands of highly-skilled people on this island from many walks of life. To stop the rotating door of the same select people serving as serial appointees -
VOTE NO on 2 

4 & 5. RAISE THE BAR FOR INITIATIVES & REFERENDUMS? VOTE NO!

Where-as JoAnn is content to limit the possibility of citizen engagement, IB strongly opposes any and all efforts to raise the bar for ordinary folk to plug into self-governing. Her Yes vote on ballot questions 4 & 5 would make it harder get the signatures for referendum and charter ammendments. VOTE NO! on 4 & 5

7. PAY RAISES GRANTED TO COUNCIL BEFORE RE-ELECTION? VOTE NO!
Likewise with pay-raises for council members. The pay is for the position, not for the person. Pay raises should NOT go into effect until AFTER the electorate has determined who get the position regardless of how salaries are set.
VOTE NO! on 7



The Last View on the Amendments

By Ken Taylor on 27 October 2012 in Island Breath -



1. RELATING TO MAYOR’S SALARY:
Vote NO

2. RELATING TO TERMS FOR BOARD OR COMMMISSION MEMBERS:
Vote NO

3. RELATING TO ELECTIONS:
Vote YES

4. RELATING TO INITIATIVE OR REFERENDUM PETITIONS:
Vote NO

5. RELATING TO CHARTER AMENDMENT PETITIONS:
Vote NO

6. RELATING TO SEC. 29.03 - SALARY COMMISSION:
Vote YES

7. RELATING TO SEC. 29.05 – SALARY COMMISSION:
Vote NO


See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Election 2012 - Part 1 - Council 10/11/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Election 2012 - Part 3 - OHA Trustee 10/26/12

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1 comment :

  1. i fundamentally disagree with JoAnn about making it harder for citizen input on the charter and to repeal county ordinances. Vote NO on 5.

    ReplyDelete