Hawai‘i County Seeks Public Comment On Charter Proposals

Mar 26, 2019

Charter Commission Chair Douglas Shipman Adams
Credit Sherry Bracken

On Hawai‘i Island, the County Charter serves as the local “constitution” — setting the basic framework for how Hawaii County operates.  Once every ten years, it’s reviewed, and the Charter Commission members are now asking for public input.

The Charter Commission consists of eleven members from around the island, appointed by the Mayor. Douglass Shipman Adams is the Chair.

“The Charter Commission’s responsibility is to take a look at the charter as it currently exists, based on our experience. We also are listening to the departments, as well as the members of the public, and then of course the Mayor. All of those inputs help us take a look at is the charter doing what it’s supposed to be doing now but frankly more importantly is it doing what it needs to be doing in ten to twenty years. “

Where do the amendments come from?   Adams again:

“The only way proposals get on the commission’s agenda is, a commissioner proposes it.”  

Adams says the commissioners then discuss each proposed amendment. So far, 27 amendments are up for discussion, but not all of them will make it to the ballot. They include lengthening County Council terms from 2 years to 4, providing a way for Council members to discipline a member who refuses to do the job, changing the County’s Open Space Purchase Fund, and allocating one percent of property taxes for emergency relief. Several are just wording changes, or make the Charter conform to current law.

Adams says the voting on the final proposed amendments will be no later than November third, 2020, but there is another option the Commission will consider at its April meeting.

“We have the authority by statute to call a special election.”

Although the public may testify at all Charter Commission meetings, this week begins formal public hearings.  The full schedule for public hearings is at the Charter Commission’s website at hawaiicounty.gov