February, 1982 Home   Newsletters

March, 1982

April, 1982

Waikiki 2000 - A Slide Show and a Go-See Tour
President's Message (Barbara Farwell)
Action -- Clean Air - League Involved in Controversy (Barbara Farwell)
Membership Update
Finance
We Count on Vote Counts
Calendar
New Home
U.N. - Is there a Doctor in the House? (Dottie Gullicksen)
Hear Ye! Hear Ye! - National Women's History Week
League Testifies
Something for Everyone - New Publications
Proposed Honolulu Program 1982-83
Something New for Annual Meeting
Proposed By-Laws Changes
Proposed Budget 1982-83

League Testifies

The following statement has been sent to the City Charter Commission.

The League of Women Voters of Honolulu has, over the years, studied various issues which concern the Honolulu City Charter. We have arrived at a number of positions which we would like to share with you. Most of these are general, pertaining to procedure and structure.

I CITIZEN PARTICIPATION

We have a strong position regarding citizen participation. We believe citizens must have access to the decision-making process, and participation should be encouraged at all levels in the governmental process. Any citizen organization created by the Charter or City ordinance should be funded and given the full support of the City government. We have three areas of concern that fall within this general position.

First, while we do not specifically favor or oppose a Planning Commission, we feel it serves a necessary purpose as a forum for groups with community-wide interests. Without a Planning Commission, issues would be heard either at the Neighborhood Board level, where citizens have narrow, community interests, or before the City Council, where it might be too late for refinement of legislation. The Planning Commission provides an intermediate step both for the airing of island-wide views, as well as a place where legislation can be mulled over and refined outside the public spotlight that often accompanies Council hearings.

Our second concern is with Neighborhood Boards. Again, we do not specifically favor or oppose them. However, we do not feel the Boards have been given adequate time to prove themselves, nor have they been adequately supported by the City government. Rather, they have been subject to a great deal of criticism, and have been asked to take on a great deal of work without the aid of adequate staff or a decent level of funding.

The Board members themselves are, in some instances, at odds over their mandate. They are asked to make technical decisions for which they may not feel qualified. They give a great deal of unpaid time but are hamstrung by bureaucratic rules and procedures.

If the Neighborhood Boards are to be continued there should be a clear statement of their purpose, and clear guidelines to their link with the City government; adequate support should be given to the Boards to accomplish their purpose. The Neighborhood Commission's functions should also be made clear, and, if necessary, a different method of staff support for the Boards be developed.

In short, the Boards have hardly had the opportunity to succeed but have been given ample means by which to fail.

Our third concern under citizen participation is with Article XIII, Section 13-110 (Supplement to the Revised Charter, 1979) which forbids the holding of dual offices or positions in the City. The wording here is ambiguous and the intent of the framers unclear. The League has always supported the widest range of citizen participation possible; this section seems to work against participation.

If we interpret it correctly, those who hold jobs (except part-time) with the State or Federal governments are not supposed to be appointed to City boards or commissions. This excludes quite a large number of citizens. Since City employees are allowed to sit on State boards, this section also seems a bit contradictory.

We feel, therefore, that this Charter Commission should give serious attention to this section. Some of the questions that come to mind are: is this section still needed? can it be written more clearly? is there a good reason for the exclusions named? where there are no conflicts of interest, does this section do anything but narrow the range of citizen participation? It is difficult enough to find people willing to serve on boards; we should not be perpetuating obstacles to City service.

II City Council

We have already submitted testimony in favor of a "mixed" Council. Within this Council position we also favor a non-partisan Council, and a continuation of the Council as part-time. We do not favor a limit on member terms.

Our rationale for a non-partisan Council is that the job of Council member does not lend itself to any particular political party philosophy.

As for a part-time Council, we believe that a Council made up of members who must make a living in the community will be closer to the citizens. Further, a full-time Council would be more likely to involve itself in administrative matters and details that should properly be left to departments. Such a Council would also require a greater expenditure of money for taxpayers, not just in increased salaries but in the fringe benefits that go with full-time employment.

We do not favor a limit on terms, feeling that the electorate should make the decision on who should serve and for how long.

III General Government

The following points comprise the bulk of our general government position:

  1. A city's fundamental law stems from many sources -- the Charter, ordinances, State law and judicial opinions. It is neither necessary nor sufficiently flexible to codify all law within the Charter itself.

  2. The Charter should be understandable to lay persons. Its organization should be clear and logical. Ambiguous language should be removed and care taken to avoid confusing terms, references, and statements. We note, for example, the ambiguity in the section on recall with regard to the information required on recall petitions; there are other examples.

    We would urge the degendering of the language of the Charter. All citizens should feel a part of the Charter as well as the City, and thus terms referring to one sex only are inappropriate.

  3. The specific structure of the government, the duties, responsibilities, powers, and limits of the elected and appointed officials should be stated in the Charter.

    1. The Council should be primarily responsible for legislating, broad policy making, and oversight; the Mayor should be primarily responsible for the implementation and execution of the policies set by the Council. The co-equal branches of government should be structures to permit accountability to the voters by individual Council members and the Mayor.

    2. The Mayor should appoint all department heads and retain ultimate responsibility for actions taken by any member of the administration.

    3. The Council should have reliable and independent sources of information to assist in its legislating and policy making duties.

    4. The Council should be of a size and apportionment to fairly reflect the population of the City and County of Honolulu.

  4. The Charter should provide for an independent Ethics Commission which would enforce standards of conduct that include disclosure of interests and conflicts of interest of all officers and employees, elected and appointed.

  5. Amendment procedures specified in the Charter should provide for comprehensive and mandatory review by citizens every 10 years. Citizens should be permitted to initiate amendments without Council approval of the proposed amendment.

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