Electing Good Leaders is Essential …
Voting, especially during this year’s election is our sacred duty as citizens. Our democratic process requires participation of thoughtful, serious and engaged citizens whose vote determines who will be our leaders at all levels of government. Elected officials are expected to represent their constituents. True representation can only happen if our citizens do the essential communication with their elected leaders. The vote of each citizen is key to making our government work for us, the people.
During these past six months, the Fil-Am Voice profiled our current local elected leaders on the issues our residents face. There seems to be no easy answers from leadership to indicate how best to tackle the primary issues, especially in light of the pandemic. Will it be the same same, or will there be a change for the better?
Some of the key issues facing Maui today, which have now reached the crisis level: first, where is affordable housing for working families? According to recent reports, the median price of housing is now over one million dollars, yes, $1,000,000-plus. That is beyond the reach of our hard-working families. This now becomes a crisis that we cannot wait any longer to solve. Recent reports also inform us the current housing demand is over 10,000 units by 2025. Of even more urgency, how do we address the challenges faced by our unsheltered community members?
Second, how do we improve our economy and provide a living wage for our working families? Many have little or no family time because most are at their jobs, some with two or three jobs, just to make ends meet. Many are also juggling responsibilities for the care of young ones and elderly parents or more elderly family members. The pandemic has added one more layer of responsibility at home, to help the children with online learning or to find them an online connection elsewhere.
Third, how can we re-open our schools safely so our students can resume their personal and educational development to a higher extent than possible online? Teachers are understandably fearful because many in the community refuse to wear masks or take precautions to mitigate the spread of new variants of the virus, along with other cyclical diseases.
Fourth, is another crisis—to somehow manage our tourism industry without negatively impacting our health and quality of life, while also protecting our environment and preserving our natural resources. The list goes on and we will stop here to turn instead to creating better answers to resolving the top issues in this conundrum, we hope, by election of visionary, innovative, inspiring leaders.
The 2022 election will have significant and far-reaching results. More than ever, we need our best leaders to bring communities together in action for common purpose in the best traditions of what is still the most successful democracy on the planet.
After pondering the key issues before us, I realize we are only ten months away from electing our leaders. This coming election is highly consequential: do we keep our current leaders or do we need to bring new blood with bold leadership to bring needed change in solving our problems? What kind of leaders do we want, to address the challenges facing our community today?
It is never too early to start familiarizing yourself about the potential candidates. Get to know who they are; study their plans to address the pressing issues we face; have a one-to-one interview with each of them; attend the candidate forums. Ask yourself, “Does this candidate have the character and leadership qualities we want and need at this time?”
Register to vote, remembering your vote matters. Get involved in the campaigns of your candidates. There are many ways to help: phone banking along with other supporters; providing as much financial support as you can; sending friend-to-friend cards; online messaging; door-to-door visits; hosting small coffee hours, stuffing envelopes; yard signs and many more activities.
Also in the upcoming election, Maui citizens will be voting on several charter amendments being proposed by the Charter Commission. We encourage our readers to study these proposed amendments to ensure the changes on how our government operates will actually help to address the issues needing immediate care. Or, will these proposed amendments impede the required pragmatic solutions to our current challenges? Do the benefits of these proposed initiatives outweigh the estimated costs? We urge you to study these issues carefully before you cast your vote.
For the past ten months, the Charter Commission has been meeting to review possible changes to the current charter. Currently, the Commission has in hand eighty-five proposals under consideration. Some would say these are too many changes to digest and may create more confusion than clarification for many voters. Here are some key charter changes which require careful analysis and thorough understanding of the implications on how our County will be governed in the future.
Key Highlights of Charter Commission’s Proposals
1. Restructure Council Elections (Sec. 3-1) Replace the current countywide, at-large election system with a new system of three electoral regions, with three residency districts each, resulting in a nine-member council with roughly the same residency districts we have now. The voters will vote for the three residency seats in their pod, instead of all nine.
2. Replace the Maui Planning Commission with Six Community Planning Commissions on Maui (Sec. 8-8.4) Instead of one 9-member commission with island-wide jurisdiction, there will be six 7-member regional Planning Commissions, based on Community Plan Districts, with jurisdiction over planning issues affecting their respective districts.
3. Create a new Department of Housing Development (new Chapter 8-19) Creates a new department dedicated to the development of affordable housing.
4. Create a new Department of the County Hearings Officer (Chapter 12) Establishes the Department of County Hearings Officer. The Department will be staffed by two or more licensed attorneys who will preside over contested cases, appeals or hearings dealing with the rights of citizens, employees or officers. The County now deals with these matters by hiring qualified attorneys on an as-needed basis, or by hearings before Boards empowered to hold such hearings.
5. Create a new Department of ‘Oiwi Resources (new Chapter 8-20) The department will design and implement programs to care for and develop ‘Oiwi or Native Hawaiian Cultural and Natural Resources.
6. Make Corporation Counsel independent of the Mayor (Sec. 8-2.2) Make the appointment of the Corporation Counsel subject to the review of the Independent Selection Commission; gives the Corporation Counsel a five-year term of office; gives the same commission the power to determine eligibility for re-appointment; gives Council final say over the re-appointments and the Mayor no involvement in that process.
7. Independent Selection Commission (new Sec. 13) Creates a new commission that determines who will be eligible for being appointed the Prosecuting Attorney, the County Auditor, the Corporation Counsel, the County Hearings Officers, the Ethics Director, the County Clerk and the members of the Board of Ethics. Also determines if the Corporation Counsel and the Prosecuting Attorney can be reappointed.
8. Make the Board of Water Supply semi-autonomous (Chapter 8.11) Gives the power to manage, control and oversee the Water Department to the Board of Water Supply, including the power to hire and fire the Director and Deputy Director. Those powers now reside with the Mayor and the Council.
9. Make the Ethics Board an independent agency (Sec. 10-2.7) Ethics Board will be managed by an executive director, selected by the Board, who will also be the Board’s chief legal advisor. The Board will have other dedicated staff, independent of the executive branch. The Board is now managed and staffed by the Corporation Counsel’s Office.
10. Establish Community Boards (new Sec. 13-) Creates Boards for each community plan area to increase citizen participation in the decisions of government.
To know more about the Charter Commission and proposed amendments, you may visit its website.
Your participation in this year’s election is so important. Please register to vote and make your voices heard by casting your vote for leaders who have your interest at heart and who are responsive to community priorities. Let us not be just spectators and instead, let us be the movers who will make our community a better place to live, work, raise our families and most of all, to take good care of ourselves and each other.