Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 |
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An amendment proposed for the county charter would give Native Hawaiians a bigger voice in deciding water policy.
Bill 180, to be discussed by a County Council committee today, would require the addition of a Department of Hawaiian Home Lands representative to the county Water Board, training in Native Hawaiian law for board members and administrative staff and annual reports from the Department of Water Supply to the council.
“Wai — water — in Hawaii, by tradition and constitution, is a public trust resource and life for our residents,” said Puna Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder, the sponsor of the bill. “Given water ’s unique status in our islands, it requires careful and transparent management with all stakeholders at the table to provide for our needs.”
Emails and a phone call to the county Department of Water Supply were not returned by press-time Thursday.
The bill will be considered at 9:30 a.m. today by the Regenerative Agriculture, Water, Energy, and Environmental Management Committee.
It’s one of five charter amendments being proposed by council members on various committee members Tuesday. The committees are meeting in council chambers in Hilo, with some council members also meeting by videoconference from the West Hawaii Civic Center. The public can testify from those locations, or from the Pahoa and Waimea council offices by videoconference. The public can also testify on Zoom.
Under the county charter, the measures face three separate readings at the council level, where at least six affirmative votes are required to pass. They then proceed to the Nov. 8 ballot, where they must be approved by a majority of voters to be adopted.
Other proposed charter amendments on Tuesday’s committee agendas:
Bill 173 would add investigations of reports of fraud, waste and abuse within county operations as an authorized function of the county auditor. Sponsored by Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz, it’s scheduled to be heard by the Finance Committee at 1 p.m.
Bill 175 would establish a youth commission of up to 15 members between the ages of 14 and 24 years old that would integrate its ideas and perspectives into county government. Sponsored by Kierkiewicz, it’s scheduled to be heard by the Governmental Operations, Relations, and Economic Development Committee at 2:30 p.m.
Bill 179 would require midterm County Council reconfirmation of county department heads who are appointed by the mayor. Sponsored by Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung, it’s scheduled to be heard by the Governmental Operations, Relations, and Economic Development Committee at 2:30 p.m.
Bill 174 would create a new county department, a Building Department. Currently the county Building Division is a division under the Department of Public Works, overseen by the appointed Public Works director and managed by a building chief, a civil service administrator. Sponsored by Kierkiewicz, it’s scheduled to be heard by the Committee of Public Works and Mass Transit at 3:30 p.m.
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