INDEX - POLITICSwww.islandbreath.org ID#0816-15
SUBJECT: KAUAI POLITICSSOURCE: BRAD PARSONS email@example.com
POSTED: 6 AUGUST 2008 - 12:45pm HST
Kauai election issues
image above: Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho has had bad ideas before but her Charter Amendment is a pip
An Amendment to end all Amendments
by Nathan Eagle on 6 August 2008 in The Garden Island News
'Community members criticized a proposed change to the county’s constitution that would transform how ballots are tallied for charter amendments.
The resolution to put the measure on the ballot this fall is in the hands of the Kaua‘i County Council.
The seven-member legislative body held a public hearing on Resolution 2008-33 last Wednesday and will start its work on it in committee today at the Historic County Building.
“Why are our politicians so afraid of our people having a voice?” Kilauea resident David Lord said. “This is the amendment to end all amendments.”
The proposed charter amendment would count blank and spoiled ballots or over votes as “No” votes when calculating the total votes cast in an election.
The county’s current practice is counting blank ballots as blank ballots.
“Why make it harder?” Kapa‘a resident Rich Hoeppner said. “This will cause a lot of distrust in what goes on in county government.”
Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, who introduced the resolution, defended the proposed charter amendment.
She argued that theoretically in an election with 4,000 cast ballots, an amendment could pass with 10 people voting for it if only five people vote against it.
“Why should 10 people decide what’s applicable?” she said.
Hoeppner said by this logic the whole ballot process could be deemed faulty.
“Theoretically, a lot of things could happen,” he said.
The proposed charter amendment would also redefine what “a majority of all the votes tallied upon the question” means.
“This majority shall constitute at least 50 percent of the total votes cast at the election ... this majority constituting at least 30 percent of the total number of registered voters,” the proposed resolution states.
The Kaua‘i Group of the Sierra Club was among those testifying against the resolution. Hanalei resident Carl Imparato, representing the group, noted a list of reasons why the council should reject the proposal.
Imparato said that taken together, the two proposed changes in the amendment compound the damage.
“Based on 13 percent abstentions and a 55 percent voter turnout, approval of a measure would require that 62 percent of the voters who vote on the measure would have to vote ‘Yes,’” he said. “At 40 percent voter turnout, approval would require that 88 percent of the votes cast on the measure be ‘yes’ votes. Clearly, the charter amendment proposed under Resolution 2008-33 would create dramatic biases against change.”
A voter’s decision to abstain on a ballot question should not be mischaracterized as a vote against the question, Imparato said.
“When a voter chooses to not vote on a question, the voter is not saying, ‘I prefer the status quo’ or ‘I oppose the proposed change,’” he said. “If that was what the voter felt, the voter would vote ‘No.’”
If the council passes the resolution, the proposed charter amendment will go before voters on Nov. 4 in the form of a “Yes” or “No” question.
In the resolution’s current form, that question will read: “Shall the county charter be amended to change the ratification of charter amendments?”
Kekaha resident Bruce Pleas said the question is “vague” and lacks any substance.
The ballot wording needs approval by the county attorney by Sept. 4, officials said.
Iseri-Carvalho said the county’s current tallying practice creates confusion among voters.
On the same ballot, a state constitutional amendment abstention counts as a “No” vote while leaving a county amendment question blank counts as a blank vote.
The proposed amendment would pull the county’s practice in line with the state’s, she said.
“The argument that consistency requires that the standards for approving charter amendments should be identical to those for approval of state constitutional amendments is ominous,” Imparato said, adding that it would start the county down “the slippery slope to losing other voter rights.”
Kilauea resident Scott Mijares said he opposed the resolution and the state’s practice because “by not voting you affect a result.”
Pleas said he often leaves parts of his ballot blank in elections for various reasons, such as not agreeing with the proposed change or not having enough facts to make an informed decision.
“I want my blank to count as a blank,” he said. “It is not a yes. It is not a no.”
He also said he opposed the proposed resolution because it would count spoiled ballots as “No” votes. These, he said, should not be counted in the total votes cast in an election.
“The question really is why do we need something like this?” Imparato said...'
A 'vocal minority,' huh?
Worse fears about Charter Commission realized
by Juan Wilson on 30 July 2008
The Garden Island News reports today that the Kauai Charter Review Commission has decided to not adopt the amendment to change Kauai County from governing by a mayor to governing by county manager. (see article below)
The reason given by Commission Chair Jonathan Chun is that the amendment would fundamentally alter how the county operates, and therefore needs further study.
I don't think Chun "gets it". That is exactly what is needed on Kauai. Not so much that a County Manager is the only way to manage the island, but that fumdamental change initiated by the people is what is desperately needed today.
To frustrate that process at this point is to simply destroy the motivation for any participation by the public in county government.
At this time there is little hope that anything the Charter Commission decides will address the staggering problems that will engulf us soon. But to have Commissioner Jonathan Chun or County Attorney Matthew Pyun do anything that would upset the balance of power in county government? It would seem not.
We've been here before. Just rememberback to 2004 when a Charter Amendment was adpoted to cap property taxes.
www.SmallBusinessHawaii.com reported http://www.smallbusinesshawaii.com/2007/Sep2007-1.html
"Hoping they could reason with county officials, Ohana Kauai members tried to persuade Kauai County Council’s seven members to embrace property tax relief, but they were ignored. Members of Ohana Kauai say their government representatives were quickly becoming greedy, out-of-control spenders. The only option they had been to get the issue on the ballot in the next election with 3,000 signatures they successfully collected. The amendment passed with two-thirds of the vote despite a last minute opposition campaign mounted by Kauai Mayor Brian Baptiste, Kauai County’s seven council members and public union leaders."
The Star Bulletin reported
"The Charter amendment approved in the November 2004 election rolled back property taxes to 1998 levels for those who have lived in their homes since then. For people who bought after 1998, taxes would be based on the assessed value at purchase. Annual tax increases for all homeowners would be capped at 2 percent starting in 2006."
It ended up that Kauai County sued itself to avoid the will of the people.
The www.SmallBusinessHawaii.com report goes on:
"That should have been the end of the story, but Kauai property owners wouldn’t live happily ever after, in lower taxed homes, after all. Rather than accepting the voters’ decision, county officials conspired to kill the amendment, filing a lawsuit against the county administration over the amendment claiming it was illegal. In what became known as County of Kauai ex rel. Nakazawa v. Baptiste, the state’s Fifth Circuit Court sided with the county government."
The Star Bulletin article went on to describe the arguement the County's oustide councel, Gary Slovin, made to the Hawaii Supreme Court to overturn the amendment.
"Slovin argued that ballot amendments should not be allowed to shoot down tax decisions made by county government, which could never assure that its financial needs would be met by property taxes. "If this procedure is acceptable, then there's no limit to what kind of amendments could be advanced in the future," he told the justices."
The people of Kauai lost that case. The www.SmallBusinessHawaii.com article concluded:
"The judge ruled the charter amendment was not actually a charter amendment rather it was a ballot initiative that levied or repealed a tax, which is not legal under Kauai County Charter. This logic passed muster with the judge even though the charter amendment was accepted as such by the Kauai County Clerk before the election and put on the ballot by the very county officials challenging it. Pacific Legal Foundation appealed on Ohana Kauai’s behalf saying it was unheard of for a case to move forward with the government suing itself and both sides wanting the same outcome."
County manager option won’t be on ballot
by Nathan Eagle on 30 July 2008 in The Garden Island News
Charter Review Commission adopts 3 amendments; mayoral candidate speaks out.
The county Charter Review Commission on Monday decided to hold off on putting a proposed charter amendment on the ballot this fall that would let voters choose whether Kaua‘i should switch to a county manager form of government.
Commission Chair Jonathan Chun said because the proposal would fundamentally alter how the county operates, it should be studied in greater depth before putting it before the electorate.
“Questions need to be asked. Answers need to be gotten,” he said, despite some residents testifying that they have the information they need.
With an internal Aug. 1 deadline, the four-hour meeting at the Historic County Building marked the commission’s last chance to approve charter amendments for the Nov. 4 election.
Of the seven proposals on its agenda, the commission adopted three relating to elections, executive sessions and ethics. It shelved three others that dealt with the release of county attorney opinions, Kaua‘i County Council term limits and conflicts of interest.
The County Attorney’s Office will give a final review to the approved charter amendments before sending them to the county Elections Division for placement on the ballot, Office of Boards and Commissions Administrator John Isobe said.
Residents who have pushed the commission for months to let voters decide this year on the county manager proposal were disappointed with the commission’s decision.
Among the few who testified on the item was mayoral candidate Rolf Bieber of Kapa‘a.
“I think it’s a pretty good idea,” he said, noting the campaign risk in publicly stating his opinion on the controversial matter.
Bieber, a computer technician at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, said he is a “living example” of why a county manager system could serve residents better.
The current qualifications for mayor are to be at least 30 years old and a Kaua‘i resident for at least three years immediately prior to the election.
“I’m not experienced in government,” Bieber said. “I’m doing this for my people.”
After saying he was willing to do the “heavy lifting” if elected to serve in the office, Bieber said a county manager system would put a professional in place who is highly trained in managing municipalities and large budgets.
“I’m putting myself out there,” he told the commission.
Under Kaua‘i’s current strong mayoral form of government, voters elect a mayor who heads the executive branch at the county level.
In a county manager system, an elected legislative body hires someone to manage the municipality. This person is accountable to the council, not voters. The council chair serves as mayor and performs the ceremonial duties in addition to the legislative work.
Kapa‘a resident Ken Taylor, a council candidate, said it is not a “cure-all,” but it “just makes good business sense.”
Commissioner Barbara Bennett, in her first meeting with the commission since replacing Derek Kawakami, said it goes much deeper — to the state constitution, to branches of government.
“I wish it was as simple as choosing between a black and white TV and a color TV,” she said.
Kapa‘a resident Glenn Mickens said the current system is broken, noting inadequate infrastructure, a near-full landfill and rampant development.
“Don’t waste another two years,” Lawai resident John Hoff, another council candidate, said. “Stop the stalling tactics and let the body politic, we the people, vote on this measure.”
Chun said he intends to set up workshops with “key resources” over the next year to provide educational opportunities to the commission and the public on the county manager system.
The commission approved three charter amendments to let voters decide this fall if the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes in the primary election should be placed on the ballot for the general election; whether the council should be allowed to hold executive session meetings in conformance with the state Sunshine Law; and if volunteer members of county boards should be allowed to represent private business interests before other county departments, agencies or boards.
The approved versions of these charter amendments reflected the input of Kekaha resident Bruce Pleas, another council candidate.
After he testified that the ballot question to amend Section 3.07 E of the charter was “180 degrees” from what the commission was trying to pass, the commission changed the final wording to better convey the intent of the proposed amendment.
The next step for the commission is compiling the pros and cons of its approved amendments and beginning the public education process.
The council today at the Historic County Building will discuss a resolution initiating a charter amendment that would let voters decide if Kaua‘i should have a county auditor.
Then at 1:30pm. at Council Chambers, the seven-member legislative body will hold public hearings on three additional resolutions proposing charter amendments related to disclosure of interests, financial procedures and how ballots are counted for charter amendments.