21 charter amendments heading to 2020 ballot

Neal Tanaka, Acting Deputy Building Chief, left, and Andrew Donovan, Acting Building Division Chief, work on a computer at the Building Department at the West Hawaii Civic Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

HILO — Which is a more important attribute for the director of the county Department of Public Works? Technical know-how or administrative chops?

The county Charter Commission settled on technical expertise Friday, after local engineers came out in force opposing a charter amendment that would eliminate the requirement the DPW director be a registered professional engineer. The amendment, CA-26, died with only two members voting yes, compared to unanimous yes votes on two previous readings.


The amendment was the only one rejected out of 22 evaluated on final reading Friday by the commission. The remaining 21 will go to the County Council, which doesn’t have veto power, but can send alternatives to be considered on the Nov. 3 ballot along with those proposed by the commission.

Supporters of CA-26, which was sponsored by Charter Commission Chairman Doug Adams, said managers need to have managerial skills, and a lack of a professional license in a technical field doesn’t necessarily mean the director can’t manage those who have one.

“I think that it helps with identifying, increasing, expanding the potential for directors, good people, solid people that will have had experience in Public Works Department whether it is here or in other locations, and not necessarily create this small niche of those with a PE degree,” Adams said.

While it’s a common joke that you can tell an extroverted engineer because he looks at your shoes instead of his own when he’s talking to you, the profession is evolving, said Curtis Beck, PE; Big Island Chapter Director of the Hawaii Society of Professional Engineers.

Engineers do well once they step into administrative roles, added Hugh Ono, also a licensed professional engineer.

In all, 10 licensed professionals testified and one read a letter signed by 58 local engineers and architects asking that the professional requirement remain.

“The DPW Director, without doubt and as part of their major duties, makes engineering decisions,” the letter states. “These decisions, which are made frequently in the course of their duties, significantly and directly affect the safety, welfare, and health of our county’s citizens.”

The 21 charter amendments headed to the ballot:

CA- 1 Draft 3; Relating to Rephrasing District Residency Language

A housekeeping measure, changing “One member shall be elected from each of nine districts,” to “There shall be nine council districts, each of which shall be represented by a resident elected from that district,” for the County Council and a variety of boards and commissions.

CA-2 Draft 2; Relating to Holding an Equal Amount of Council Meetings in East and West Hawaii

This would require the County Council to hold an equal number of meetings in East and West Hawaii. Currently, the charter requires the council to meet at least twice monthly, with at least one of those meetings each quarter in North or South Kona. The council has been voluntarily holding one of its twice-monthly meetings in Kona; this would require it.

CA-4 Draft 2; Relating to Powers, Duties, and Functions of the Director of Research and Development

Clarifies the role of the Department of Research and Development and expands its duties to include “environmental, cultural, community, and economics sustainability and resilience” issues, rather than the current issues of “economic, social and cultural” proposals.

CA-5; Relating to Changing Name of the Legislative Auditor to County Auditor

Changes the name of the legislative auditor to county auditor.

CA-6; Relating to Disciplinary Actions for the Police Chief and Fire Chief

Allows the Police Commission to discipline the police chief and the Fire Commission to discipline the fire chief in addition to their current authority to hire and fire them.

CA-8, Draft 2; Relating to Terms of Office for Council Members

Changes the terms for County Council members from two to four years. Allows two four-year terms instead of four two-year terms and provides for the transition of council members’ terms.

CA-9 Draft 3; Relating to Staff to Administer the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Fund and Maintenance Fund

Allows money from the 2 percent land acquisition fund to be spent for salaries, wages and benefits of dedicated staff for the program.

CA- 12; Relating to Disciplinary Actions for Council Members

Would allow the County Council, by a two-thirds vote, to suspend a council member without pay if he or she behaves in a “disorderly or contemptuous manner” in its presence or fails to attend three or more regularly scheduled council meetings without being excused from attendance by the council chairman.

CA- 14; Relating to Updating Language for the Department of Research and Development

Changes the five years’ experience requirement for the director of Information Technology from “electronic data processing, telecommunications” to “information technology, communications” and updates other language in the director’s responsibilities.

CA- 15; Relating to Powers, Duties, and Functions of the Director of Information Technology

Removes the county prosecuting attorney and police departments from the computer systems overseen by the IT director.

CA- 17; Relating to Establishing a Disaster and Emergency Fund

Requires the county devote 1 percent of property taxes every year for a disaster and emergency fund until the fund reaches $20 million.

The money could be used for disaster response, repairs, purchase of property to mitigate future disasters and paying operational expenses of the county if there’s a drastic drop in tax revenues because of loss of property valuations, among other specified uses.

CA-18 Draft 2; Proposal to amend Section 10-16, Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Maintenance Fund, to transfer administrative duties to the Department of Finance and add permissible uses of the fund.

CA-20; Proposal to amend Section 15-3, Mandatory Charter Reviews, to add protocol and procedures for the Charter Commission, including the date by which the Charter Commission must be empanelled, based on the provisions of Chapter 50 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes.

CA-21; Proposal to amend Section 11-5, subsection (c), Initiative and Referendum Petitions; Forms and Sufficiency, by replacing the word “appeal” with “repeal” as a correction of terms

CA-22, Draft 2; Proposal to amend Section 12-1.3, Signatures — Recall of an Elected Official, by removing the requirement that a signer of a petition to recall an elected County official include the last four digits of his or her social security number.

CA-23; Proposal to amend Section 6-5.2, Appointment and Removal — Corporation Counsel, by adding that an attorney must be licensed to practice law for at least five years and have at least three years of experience in an administrative capacity before being eligible for appointment as the Corporation Counsel.

CA-24, Draft 2; Proposal to amend Sections 7-4.2 through 7-4.4 and Section 7-4.6, all relating to the powers, duties, and functions of the Fire Chief and the Fire Commission, by amending the prerequisites for eligibility to be appointed as the Fire Chief and to add “water safety” to the duties and functions of the Hawaii Fire Department as a recognition of current practices. 18.

CA-25; Proposal to amend Section 6-7.5 and repeal Section 6-7.6, relating to the Duties and Functions of the Windward and Leeward Planning Commissions, to delete transitional provisions utilized during the move from a single planning commission to a Leeward Planning Commission and a Windward Planning Commission. CA-26, Draft 3: Second and Final Reading;

CA-28; Proposal to amend Section 13-4, Boards and Commissions, and Section 15-3, Mandatory Charter Reviews, to remove language providing that membership of boards and commissions may not contain more than a bare majority of persons belonging to the same political party.

CA-29, Draft 2; Proposal to amend Section 10-6, Capital Budget and Capital Program: Scope; Council Action, by adding language providing that prioritization of capital improvements is to be based on criteria in alignment with the County General Plan, County Community Development Plans, emergency expenditures, and other pertinent functional plans.

CA-30; Proposal to amend Section 14-5, Board of Ethics, by adding language providing that the Board of Ethics may impose civil fines for violations of the Code of Ethics, as prescribed by ordinance of the County Council, that the board may transmit formal opinions regarding potential violations of the Code of Ethics to the appropriate appointing authority, and clarifying that the board’s rules of procedure shall have the force and effect of law.

(This article has been corrected to add CA-18, which was inadvertently omitted from the original article.)

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