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Amendments to the City Charter
Amendments to the City Charter
THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS FEELS ITS MEMBERS SHOULD UNDERSTAND THE AMENDMENTS TO THE CITY CHARTER THAT ARE BEING PROPOSED BY THE CITY COUNCIL. EIGHT PROPOSED AMENDMENTS WILL BE ON THE NOVEMBER 7 BALLOT.
THE FOLLOWING EXPLANATIONS ARE INTENDED TO HELP OUR MEMBERS DECIDE HOW TO VOTE ON THESE AMENDMENTS.
THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS SUPPORTS THIS AMENDMENT:
At present civil service employees are not permitted to serve on neighborhood boards, members of the Charter Commission of 1971 testified at the public hearings it was not their intent to prohibit anyone from serving on the boards. The purpose of the neighborhood boards was to encourage grassroots participation in government of all citizens. The League of Women Voters is on record in favor of the amendment.
THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS IS NOT TAKING A POSITION ON THE FOLLOWING AMENDMENTS. THESE EXPLANATIONS ARE INTENDED TO CLARIFY THE PURPOSE OF THE AMENDMENTS AND TO GIVE THE COUNCIL'S REASONS FOR PROPOSING THEM.
Shall the Revised City Charter be amended to allow special deputies appointed by the Corporation Counsel with the approval of the City Council to be reasonably compensated for services rendered as such special deputies? yes no
The Charter now authorizes the Corporation Counsel to appoint special deputies with the approval of the Mayor, provided the appointment is without cost to the city. This restriction limits the Corporation Counsel's ability to obtain services of attorneys in areas of special expertise, and it is unrealistic to expect such counsel to serve without compensation.
The "approval of the Mayor" has been changed to "approval of the City Council" because the Council must appropriate the funds.
Shall the Revised City Charter be amended to require that the annual budget ordinances be adopted not less than thirty days before the beginning of the new fiscal year? yes no
The 1978 Legislature amended the Hawaii Revised Statues to permit a deadline of 1 May for completing valuation of real property. Since the main source of revenue for the city is real property taxes, a realistic budget cannot be enacted without a definite projection of income from the property taxes.
The present City Charter requires adoption of the budget on May 15, 45 days before the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1. This permits only 15 days (between May I and May 15) for the required two public hearings, consideration of the available tax base, and enactment of the completed budget. There is inadequate time for sufficient preparation and consideration of all input and priorities regarding the budget.
The proposed amendment would change the present 15 day deadline to 30 days, permitting a more realistic time period. (May 1 to May 30) in which to evaluate information and prepare a city budget.
Shall Section 8-305 of the Revised City Charter be amended to prohibit the mayor, the corporation counsel or any department from exercising control over the organization, programs, functions, operations or expenditures of the Council through the contract approval process? yes no
At present the Charter requires the Corporation Counsel's approval as to form and legality of all contracts which must then be signed by the Mayor. The proposed amendment is an addition that prohibits attempts by the Executive branch to control operations and expenditures of the Council through' the contract approval process.
The Council feels such a prohibition is consistent with the intent of the Charter Commission in establishing the legislative and executive branches as "coordinate" and independent branches of city government. The Charter Commission states that the word "coordinate" is to be interpreted to mean "co-equal in rank, importance, independence and dignity."
Shall Section 8-106.1 of the Revised City Charter be amended to require the Director of Finance to process requisitions, purchase orders, vouchers, warrants or contracts for legislative expenditures within three working days from date of receipt thereof unless prohibited by court order? yes no
At present the Charter has no time requirement. The Council desires to add a time limit for Administration processing because according to the Council, the Director of Finance has, on occasion, refused to process .a voucher, warrant, or contract, thereby preventing the legislative branch from functioning as a coordinate end independent body as envisioned by the Charter Commission.
Shall Section 3-108 and Section 5-203 of the Revised City Charter be amended to allow the City Council to authorize staff counsel of the office of council services to be its legal representative in disputes with the Executive Branch? yes no
The Charter at the present time permits the City Council to use the services of the Corporation Counsel or to hire special counsel to represent it in all legal proceedings.
Since the Corporation Counsel serves both the Mayor and the Council, it would be inappropriate for the Corporation Counsel to represent both in disputes between the two branches. The Council now has no choice except to hire outside attorneys.
Since the City Council employs attorneys on the staff of the Office of Council Services, this amendment seeks to permit use of these employees to represent the City Council in disputes with the Administration and save the additional expense of hiring outside legal representation. The amendment would still permit the hiring of outside counsel if that were necessary.
Shall section 3-115 of the Revised City Charter be amended to allow the City Council to conduct performance audits of all agencies and operations of the City? yes no
The Charter presently authorizes the City Council to conduct financial audits of the city departments. The proposed amendment adds performance audits as well.
The Council feels that an independent financial audit does not provide sufficient. information to the Council for them to review and check the executive branch as envisioned by the Charter Commission in its description of the audit function.
THE AMENDMENT PROPOSING AN ELECTED PROSECUTOR FOR THE CITY OF HONOLULU MAY BE CONTROVERSIAL. IN AN EFFORT TO PERMIT OUR MEMBERS TO FOCUS ON THE PERTINENT ARGUMENTS OF THIS ISSUE, WE WILL PRESENT SOMEPROS AND CONS
The Prosecutor is at present appointed by the Mayor, confirmed by the City Council and may be removed by the Mayor.
The present City Charter lists qualifications for the Prosecutor: "an attorney licensed to practice and in good standing before the Supreme Court of the State and who shall have engaged in the practice of law for at least five years."
The proposed amendment would not only make the Prosecutor an elected office, but would add a requirement for recent active experience in criminal cases.
If the amendment is approved by the voters, an election for 'the Prosecutor would be held in the regular 1980 election. This means the Prosecutor would be elected to terms current with the Mayor.
The City Council gives several reasons for proposing the election of a City Prosecutor:
The idea of an elected Prosecutor is not new. Honolulu has had an elected Prosecutor in the past, The counties of Hawaii and Kauai now have elected Prosecutors.
ARGUMENTS FAVORING AN ELECTED PROSECUTOR
The office would be free of control of the Mayor, therefore less subject to abuse or misuse for political or personal reasons.
Only the electorate, through the election process, could remove the Prosecutor.
The Prosecutor would be removed from the influence of either the Executive or legislative branch and free to pursue a case according to the evidence.
The Prosecutor would be directly accountable to the voters who could evaluate the qualifications of a potential Prosecutor and be able to hold the Prosecutor responsible for performance in office.
A vigorous prosecution of criminals would be necessary for a Prosecutor to be reelected.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST AN ELECTED PROSECUTOR
An appointed Prosecutor would be shielded from elective politics and not subject to pressurefrom supporters who helped elect him or her.
An appointed Prosecutor need not worry if actions in a case are popular or completely understood by the public; legal cases are often complicated and difficult for the layman to comprehend. Public pressure on a Prosecutor could result in a failure to prosecute unpopular cases, or in the abuse of power in a popular cause.
An elected Prosecutor might attract attorneys more interested in higher public office rather than effective, objective legal advocates.
An appointed Prosecutor could attract attorneys of marked ability and high reputation who might not be available if forced to submit to an election, to obtain office.
The problem seems to be that in the City Prosecutor we have a position that can be subject to abuse no matter what selection process is used. The task of the voter is to decide which selection process seems best. Should the Prosecutor be independent from an appointive obligation?
Would the Prosecutor be shielded from public pressure? How can we the public he best served? There is no easy or obvious answer, and the hard choice is yours.
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