January, 1982 Home   Newsletters

February, 1982

March, 1982

General Meeting on Reapportionment and Initiative
President's Message (Barbara Farwell)
Committees
Public Hearing - HECO's Kahe Power Plant Proposal
LWV Ed Fund: Election, Criminal Justice Projects Planned
Legislative Hotline
Vote Counts: Volunteers Needed
On Women
Updated Transportation Position
Conference on Environmental Protection & Inflation
Paired Housing Program
Let's Do Something About It! (Jerry Hess)
Membership Update
Legislative Tour
Calendar
Scholarship Fund
Initiative ("Pull and Save")

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Initiative

Part of our February General Meeting will be devoted to learning about initiative. Marion Wilkins will talk about the League position on initiative at the State level. Tom Grande of Common Cause will talk about local initiative; that organization is supporting initiative before the City Charter Commission.

The following information from Common Cause will give members some background on initiative. Please bring it to our meeting.

WHAT IS INITIATIVE? Initiative is the process which gives citizens the right to petition to have ordinances or charter amendments placed on the ballot for approval or rejection by voters. There are three major types of initiative:

  1. direct - once the necessary signatures are obtained, the proposed ordinance or amendment is placed directly on the ballot, bypassing the legislative body.

  2. indirect - the completed petition is submitted to the legislative body which then must enact the proposed measure or one substantially the same. If the legislature fails to act, the question is then put on the ballot.

  3. advisory - the petition and subsequent vote are used as non-binding reflections of public sentiment.

WHY HAVE INITIATIVE? It is the essence of democracy -- self-determination. Initiative will serve to strengthen and encourage citizen participation. Voters feel powerless -- confidence in government institutions in low. Initiative is an alternative when institutional action is not forthcoming.

WHO HAS INITIATIVE? Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Counties all have Charter provisions for initiative or ordinances. Maui County has had initiative since 1968, and a Charter revision in 1977 left initiative intact. However, initiative has never been used.

Kauai County has had initiative since 1976, and it has been used once. This was an initiative to stop high-rises on Kauai, and it failed.

Hawaii County has had initiative since 1969 and it has been used once to amend the Hawaii General Plan and rezone land from industrial to commercial to allow Redevo, Inc. Shopping Center. This petition resulted in the County Council passing two ordinances, and so the initiative was never placed on the ballot.

Honolulu has initiative only for Charter amendments. This method of amending the Charter was used in the 1980 election when two amendments were on the ballot (relating to the make-up of the City Council and changing the years of reapportionment). Both failed.

Initiative is widely used on the Mainland. A survey of 80 cities showed that 72%, primarily in the Western part of the U.S., have some form of initiative. Of those having initiative, 90% have indirect initiative, on the average 10% of the registered voters must sign an initiative petition, and 93% have no restrictions on the subject matter of the initiative.

HOW DOES INITIATIVE WORK? There are currently two drives in Honolulu to put initiative on the November ballot. One, the Common Cause effort, is to convince the Charter Commission to put initiative on the ballot as a Charter amendment. The second is being made by an Initiative Committee. This is to gather enough signatures in a petition drive to put the question of initiative on the ballot.

Both Common Cause and the Initiative Committee are supporting the same initiative amendment. This proposed ordinance would give voters the power to propose and adopt ordinances by initiative. The proposed amendment says that "an ordinance may be proposed by a petition signed by registered voters equal in number to at least 10% of the entire vote cast for mayor in the ?receding election."

The proposed initiative could not be used for ordinances concerned with levying of taxes, appropriating money, issuing bonds, setting the salaries of county employees or officers, or collective bargaining.

Once the sufficient number of signatures on an initiative petition had been verified by the city clerk, a special election would be called for voters to decide the proposed ordinance. However, the City Council would have the opportunity to consider the ordinance and adopt it. If the Council did not adopt the ordinance (and the Mayor sign it), then the ordinance would go to the voters. If an election would occur within 180 days of the filing of the petition, the initiative question would go on the ballot then rather than calling a special election.

If a majority of voters approved the proposed ordinance, it would become law. It would not be subject to mayoral veto, and could not be repealed or amended within two years of adoption except by subsequent initiative or by an ordinance adopted by the vote of at least three quarters of the Council after a public hearing.

WHAT ARE THE PRO - CON ARGUMENTS OF INITIATIVE?

Opponents say: The petition process gives no opportunity for discussion of issues.

Supporters say: The initiative being proposed for Honolulu is indirect; it must go to the Council first, where there is the usual chance for public hearings and Council consideration.

Opponents say: Only a few people need support an initiative to get it on the ballot.

Supporters say: 10% of the number of voters voting for mayor in the last election must sign the petition. This means 23,441 valid signatures of registered voters. This is consistent with the current Charter provision for Charter amendment by initiative.

Opponents say: People fear the financial chaos of a "Proposition 13."

Supporters say: No taxation, appropriation, bond, salary or collective bargaining issues can be considered.

Opponents say: Voters are not well-informed enough to vote on the issues.

Supporters say: Hawaii voters currently have to approve all constitutional and Charter amendments. If they are capable of voting on these important issues, they must be capable of voting on proposed ordinances.

Opponents say: Initiative campaigns are too emotional.

Supporters say: Because this is an indirect initiative, there is at least a 90-day waiting period before the proposal is placed on the ballot.

Bear in mind that the information here on initiative refers directly to the initiative proposals currently being promoted in Honolulu. The information here was prepared by Common Cause.

The League of Women Voters of Honolulu has no position either for or against initiative at the City level. We hope the information here, and our February meeting, will help members decide whether or not they wish to personally support initiative. Those who would like to have more information immediately on the petition drive for initiative can call Mary Jane McMurdo, 955-5403.

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