Here are Hawaii’s ballot measures explained by county

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — The election is fast approaching and many residents across the state have already received their ballots in the mail. but what about the proposed amendments written on the back of your ballot card? Here is a look at what they all mean.

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Honolulu City and County:

1. Prosecuting Attorney of the City and County of Honolulu term limit:

What it asks:

Shall the Revised City Charter be amended to establish for the Prosecuting Attorney of
the City and County of Honolulu a term limit of two consecutive full four-year terms, the
same term limit as is applicable to the Mayor and Council members of the City and
County of Honolulu?

What it means:

For the past 30 years, there have been two officials running the Prosecuting Attorney of
the City and County of Honolulu office. This would limit the length of time the Prosecuting Attorney can serve to two four-year terms or eight years.

2. Establish a Youth Commission under the Managing Director:

What it asks:

Shall the Revised City Charter be amended to establish a Youth Commission under the
Managing Director?

What it means:

The Youth Commission would consist of fifteen members between the ages of 14 and 24. The commission would advise the council and mayor on any policies, programs, needs, budgets and matters relating to the children and youth of the City and County of Honolulu.

3. Allow the Honolulu Ethics Commission to control its own budget:

What it asks:

Shall the Revised City Charter be amended to allow the Honolulu Ethics Commission
to control its own budget after it has been enacted?

What it means:

Under this measure, the Commission would remain administratively attached to the Department of the Corporation Counsel (COR). At present, the Commission shares with COR an administrative services officer (ASO), who handles a variety of responsibilities on behalf of the commission, including its budget, fiscal matters and personnel management. The proposed amendment would allow the Honolulu Ethics Commission to instead manage its own budget by members within the commission.

4. Require Ethics Commission staff to be appointed based on merit principles:

What it asks:

Shall the Revised Charter be amended to require ethics commission staff to be
appointed based on merit principles, but exempt them from the civil service position
classification plan, and to have the salaries of all ethics commission staff set by the
ethics commission, subject to specified limitations?

What it means:

In 2016, the Commission submitted a Charter amendment to exempt the Ethics Commission’s staff attorneys from the classification plan and enable the commission to set their own salaries with limitations. This measure would offer more accountability and allow the Board of Ethics to impose civil fines for violations of the Code of Ethics.

Maui County:

1. Extend the affordable housing fund:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter be amended to require that a minimum percentage of the certified real property tax revenues be appropriated into an affordable housing fund beyond Fiscal Year 2021, to be used for the provision, protection, and expansion of affordable housing and suitable living environments; and to increase the minimum required percentage from 2 percent to 3 percent of the certified real property tax revenues, effective July 1, 2021?

What it means:

The measure will make the existing affordable housing fund available in perpetuity.  It will also increase the funds received form two percent to three percent of the certified real property tax revenues, which for 2020 is based on about $51 billion in taxable real property for Maui County.

2. Hire a professional managing director for the executive branch:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter be amended, effective January 2, 2023, to reorganize the executive branch for the County of Maui to establish an Office of the Managing Director, wherein a Managing Director, hired by the Mayor through a recruitment and selection process involving the Mayor, Council Chair, and a three-member citizen group, shall function as the County’s chief operating officer responsible for the County’s daily operations, the appointment and removal of most department heads, and the implementation of County policy; the Mayor shall be the County’s chief executive officer responsible for supervising the managing director’s work, representing the County in intergovernmental affairs, having the authority to approve or veto bills, nominating board and commission members, and enforcing provisions of the Charter, County ordinances, and all applicable laws; and authorizing various housekeeping revisions?

What it means:

Presently the mayor selects positions and oversees the managers and all county operations. Appointing a managing director would allow a qualified professional to run county operations and manage the departments without specific political ties. The appointment would provide greater transparency for the county in how operations are handled.

3. Council member term limit:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter be amended to establish stricter term limits for Council members by limiting the number of terms a person may serve as a Council member to five full terms?

What it means:

Establishing stricter term limits for council members will limit the number of terms a person may serve to five two-year terms.  Presently, County Council members Ricki Hokama, Alice Lee and Mike Molina have exceeded the proposed term limit.

4. Establish standards for interpreting and complying with the charter:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter be amended, effective January 2, 2021, to establish standards for interpreting and complying with the Charter, including by requiring a viable judicial action to be filed within 30 days to seek clarity when a conflict in the interpretation of the Charter is identified?

What it means:

Establishing standards for interpreting and complying with the charter would include requiring judicial action to be filed within 30 days to seek clarity when a conflict in the interpretation of the charter is raised. This amendment is geared toward offering a quicker response and more representation to the people.

5. Authorize the council to appoint nine members and the mayor to appoint two members of the 11-member Charter Commission:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter be amended, effective January 2, 2021, to authorize the Council to appoint nine members and the Mayor to appoint two members of the 11-member Charter Commission, which is required to study and review the operation of the County government?

What it means:

The charter establishes Maui County’s organizational structure of the county’s legislative and executive branches and how the county is governed. It is the legal foundation involving all matters of Maui County’s laws. The proposed amendment would allow the council to appoint nine members and the mayor to appoint two members of the 11-member Charter Commission.  The nine-member council would then appoint nine of the Charter Commission’s 11 members.

6. Mayor term limit:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter be amended to establish stricter term limits for the Mayor by limiting the number of terms a person may serve as Mayor to two full terms?

What it means:

Establishing stricter term limits for the mayor will limit the number of terms a person may serve as mayor to two full four-year terms making a maximum of 8 years a person can occupy this seat. This will prevent long periods of service like that of former Maui Mayor Hannibal Tavares who served from Oct. 1979 to Jan. 2, 1991.

7. Establish a Department of Agriculture:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter be amended, effective July 1, 2022, to establish a Department of Agriculture to develop a sustainable regional agricultural system for Maui County?

What it means:

Establishing a separate department focused on agriculture would allow the county to reduce its dependency on imported food, promote food sustainability and boost economic growth in the agricultural sector.

Kaua’i County:

1. Negligence claim time limit:

What it asks:

Shall section 23.06, establishing a time limit for negligence claim against the county,  be amended to comply with state law?

What it means:

Section 23.06 establishes a six-month time limit in which anyone alleging they have been injured by the negligence of the County must file a written claim. This six-month time limit conflicts with state law, which allows two years within which to file a claim against the County.

2. Police chief qualifications:

What it asks:

Shall police chief qualifications (Section 11.04) be increased to require fifteen years of law enforcement experience and a bachelor’s degree?

What it means:

Under this measure, a candidate would need a college degree in an appropriate field, a 15-year work history, of which at least 10 years would be as an officer in a full-service law enforcement agency, and three years as a lieutenant or higher rank.

3. Expanding county officials ethics disclosures:

What it asks:

Shall the list of county officials required to file ethics disclosures (section 20.04) be expanded to include the managing director, agency and division heads, and regulatory employees?

What it means:

Certain county employees are required to file disclosure of their interests in business and local real estate. This change would include on the list the county managing director, heads and deputies of county departments, agencies and their divisions. It would also include regulatory employees such as building permit inspectors and liquor control investigators. Specific “regulatory employee” classifications would be defined later via administrative rule by the Board of Ethics.

4. Vacancy in office:

What it asks:

Shall the mayor, with the approval of the council, fill a vacancy of less than 18 months in the prosecuting attorneyʻs position if a first deputy is unable to fill the position (section 9a.05)?

What it means:

Due to an oversight, there is currently no provision for filling a vacancy in the Prosecuting Attorneyʻs office if a vacancy is expected to last between one year and 18 months. This measure would allow the first deputy to fill in the position for those 18 months. If there is no first deputy or the first deputy is unable to fill the position, the mayor, with council approval, shall appoint a Prosecuting Attorney.

5. County Engineer qualifications:

What it asks:

Shall an individual who has extensive work and supervisory experience in an engineering or related field also be qualified to serve as the county engineer, head of the department of public works?

What it means:

The County Engineer oversees the largest department in the county, the Department of Public Works. While this was once a position with extensive engineering requirements, it is now primarily a management and administrative assignment, and engineering is performed by trained and certified engineers within the departmentʻs divisions. Mayors for many years have had difficulty filling the position with registered engineers. This amendment recognizes the changing function of the position and would expand the pool of qualified applicants.

6. Department of Water Supply Manager and Chief Engineer qualifications:

What it asks:

Shall an individual who has extensive work and supervisory experience in an engineering or related field also be qualified to serve as manager and chief engineer of the department of water supply?

What it means:

The direction of the Department of Water is increasingly an administrative rather than an engineering function. This provision would recognize that a qualified manager with engineering experience could meet the requirements of the position as well as would a Hawaii registered engineer.

Hawaii County:

1. Hawaii County charter language:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended by making various technical, linguistic, and grammatical revisions throughout the Charter?

What it means:

This proposal would correct certain technical, linguistic and grammatical issues in the Charter.

2. Council meeting locations:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended to require that the Hawaii County Council hold an equal number of its regularly scheduled meetings in East Hawaii and West Hawaii?

What it means:

This proposal was brought forward to acknowledge and systematize the council’s practice of holding an equal number of regularly scheduled meetings in East Hawaii and West Hawaii.

3. Department of Research and Development clarification:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended by clarifying the Department of Research and Development’s powers, duties, and functions?

What it means:

This proposal would strengthen both the approach of the Department of Research and Development to encourage collaboration with various governmental stakeholders and the department’s explicit focus on holistic, interdependent issues.

4. Police and Fire Commission Authority:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended to authorize the Police Commission to discipline the Police Chief and the Fire Commission to discipline the Fire Chief?

What it means:

This proposal would clarify that the authority to discipline the Chief of Police rests with the Police Commission and the authority to discipline the Fire Chief rests with the Fire Commission.

5. Council member terms:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended to change the terms of office for Council Members to four years from the current two years, starting with the 2022 County Council term, with no current member serving more than eight consecutive years?

What it means:

This proposal would change the duration of the terms of council members to four years from the current two years, with the number of consecutive terms not to exceed two. The proposal also would establish a provision to enable the transition from the current term system to the proposed system, starting with elections in 2022.

6. Public access fund:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended to allow monies in the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Fund to pay salary, wages, and benefits for staff dedicated to supporting the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation and Maintenance Funds?

What it means:

This proposal would allow monies in the public access, open space, and natural resources preservation fund to pay salary, wages, and benefits for staff dedicated to supporting the purposes of the fund and the public access, open space, and natural resources preservation maintenance fund.

7. Discipline of council members:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended to allow the County Council to discipline its members through temporary suspension without pay for disorderly or contemptuous behavior or failure to attend three or more regularly scheduled Council meetings without being excused by the Chair of the County Council?

What it means:

This proposal would add an option for the council to discipline its members through temporary suspension without pay for disorderly or contemptuous behavior or failure to attend three or more regularly scheduled council meetings without being excused by the council chair.

8. Department of Information Technology:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended by removing the Department of Information Technology oversight of the information systems maintained by the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney and the Police Department?

What it means:

This proposal was brought forth by the prosecuting attorney and supported by the Department of Information Technology. The proposal would exempt the information technology systems of the office of the prosecuting attorney and the police department from oversight by the Department of Information Technology.

9. Establishing a Disaster and Emergency Fund:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended by establishing a Disaster and Emergency Fund for specific and limited purposes, to be funded by an annual appropriation of a minimum of one percent of real property tax revenues?

What it means:

This proposal would establish in the charter a disaster and emergency fund, monies for which would be funded by an annual appropriation of a minimum of one percent of certified real estate tax revenues, state and federal grants, the federal emergency management agency, private sources and other sources of revenue. The proposal enables the accumulation of at least $20 million in the fund.

The fund shall be used only for the following purposes in the event of a natural or human-caused disaster or emergency: repair of county facilities and infrastructure; cleaning of county property; providing for immediate response to deal with public health and safety risks; matching federal, state or private grants-in-aid to restore public property; paying for county operational expenses in certain circumstances; acquiring property to mitigate potential disasters or emergencies; and administrative expenses.

10. Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Maintenance Fund Management:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended to provide the Department of Finance full management responsibilities for the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Maintenance Fund and to expand the purposes for which the fund may be expended?

What it means:

This proposal would change the responsibility for administering the maintenance fund from the Department of Parks and Recreation to the Department of Finance.

In addition, expenditures directly related to the purpose of public safety maintenance and preservation of lands and easements acquired by the public access, open space, and natural resources preservation fund would include building and installing toilet facilities, maintenance equipment storage sheds, weather protection structures, and creating trails and paths for land access.

11. Mandatory charter reviews:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended to align the process by which the County Charter Commission conducts its review of the Hawaii County Charter with the current requirements of State law?

What it means:

This proposal would more clearly define the process by which the county charter commission conducts its decennial review of the Hawaii County Charter.

The proposal would have the commission be appointed in January of the charter review year, which would allow for the completion of the commission’s review and development of ballot language in time for the electors of the county to vote on any proposed amendments during the general election of the year following the charter review year.

12. Corporation Counsel qualifications:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended to align the process by which the County Charter Commission conducts its review of the Hawaii County Charter with the current requirements of State law?

What it means:

This proposal would provide additional qualification requirements associated with legal and administrative experience. This proposal was brought forth by the Corporation Counsel.

13. Hawaii Fire Department modifications:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended to align the process by which the County Charter Commission conducts its review of the Hawaii County Charter with the current requirements of State law?

What it means:

This proposal would add water safety as a core function of the fire department, provide for additional minimum qualification requirements for fire chief selection, and clarify fire commission powers, duties and functions. The proposals were brought forth by the fire chief and fire commission.

14. Party affiliation membership on boards and commissions:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended to remove political party membership limits for the makeup of County boards and commissions?

What it means:

This proposal would remove the language in the sections regarding boards and commissions and mandatory charter reviews requiring that no more than a bare majority of members of these boards and commissions shall belong to the same political party.

15. Capital budget and capital programs requirements:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended to require that capital improvement priorities be based on criteria aligned with the County General Plan, County community development plans, emergency expenditures, and other pertinent functional plans?

What it means:

This proposal would add language to the capital budget section of financial procedures that requires that capital improvement priorities be based on criteria aligned with the county general plan, county community development plans, emergency expenditures, and other pertinent functional plans.

16. Board of Ethics procedure:

What it asks:

Shall the Charter of the County of Hawaii be amended to clarify that the rules of procedure of the Board of Ethics shall have the force of law and grant the Board of Ethics authority to impose civil fines for violations of the Code of Ethics?

What it means:

This proposal would address staggered terms of board members, clarify the force and effect of law of the boardʻs rules of procedure, provide for imposition of civil fines for violations of the code of ethics, and remove transitional language.

For more information, visit the office of elections website.

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