Published in The Maui News, September 18, 2016
By MIKE WHITE, for The Maui News
A proposal to require the mayor of Maui County to get the County Council’s confirmation of department heads is one of five charter amendments on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
Under the current county charter, council approval is only required for three nominees: the director of Water Supply, the corporation counsel and the prosecuting attorney. The director of Personnel Services, fire chief and police chief are chosen by commissions.
The charter amendment would give the County Council confirmation authority over the appointments of directors of the departments of Environmental Management, Finance, Housing and Human Concerns, Management, Parks and Recreation, Planning, Public Works and Transportation, starting after the next mayor’s inauguration in 2019. In addition, the charter amendment says the council may add minimum qualifications for department heads by ordinance.
The goal is to improve the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches and enhance professionalism in management of the county. These values were illuminated over the last year as the county manager form of government was debated in meetings held by two council committees, the Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee and the Special Committee on County Governance.
The ballot question is as follows:
“Shall the Charter be amended to require Council approval of the Mayor’s appointment of the Managing Director, Director of Finance, Director of Public Works, Director of Parks and Recreation, Planning Director, Director of Housing and Human Concerns, Director of Transportation, and Director of Environmental Management and to allow additional qualifications for department directors to be established by ordinance?”
The council employs legislative attorneys to provide legal research and writing and other services to council members and council committees. The current charter says attorneys within the Department of the Corporation Counsel, housed in the executive branch, are the exclusive legal advisers to county officials, including council members. A charter amendment would allow the council to designate legislative attorneys to provide advice and representation.
Here’s the ballot question:
“Shall Sections 3-6, 3-7 and 8-2.3 of the Charter be amended to allow attorneys within the Office of Council Services, in addition to the attorneys within the Department of the Corporation Counsel, to serve as legal advisors to the Council and its members and to allow the Council to designate by two-thirds vote of its entire membership attorneys within the Office of Council Services as special counsel to serve as legal representatives for any special matter presenting a real necessity for such employment?”
Two of the other charter amendments are intended to improve the efficiency of the process for accepting “supplemental petitions.”
The charter allows voters to initiate ordinances, charter amendments and the recall of the mayor and council members by petition. For a petition to be accepted, the county clerk must certify that the specific requirement for valid signatures has been satisfied. If an initially submitted petition fails to meet the applicable signature threshold, the petition proponents may submit a supplemental petition.
The council has placed the following questions on the ballot:
“Shall Sections 11-4 and 11-5 of the Charter be amended to correct clerical errors and to provide consistency within the Charter by allowing an individual to withdraw their signature from a supplemental petition?”
“Shall Section 11-5 of the Charter be amended to allow the County Clerk twenty (20) days to review a supplemental petition instead of ten (10) days?”
Another charter amendment would rename the Civil Defense Agency as the Maui County Emergency Management Agency. The council has noted this name change would follow the models of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, providing clarity and consistency.
The question posed to voters is:
“Shall the Charter be amended to change the name of the Civil Defense Agency to the Maui County Emergency Management Agency?”
Proposed charter amendments are available at mauicounty.gov/elections. To register to vote for the general election, please call the county clerk at 270-7749 or register online at elections.hawaii.gov.
* Mike White is chair of the Maui County Council. He holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.
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