2016 Honolulu City Charter amendment questions
October 18, 2017 | 76° | Check Traffic

Election

2016 Honolulu City Charter amendment questions

Honolulu City Charter amendment questions on the 2016 general election ballot:

1. Should the Police Commission have greater authority to suspend or dismiss the chief of police and have additional powers to investigate complaints concerning officer misconduct, and should the chief of police be required to submit a written explanation for his or her disagreement with the Commission?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would enable the Police Commission to remove or suspend the chief of police prior to the expiration of the chief’s five-year appointment for any reason, including behavior inconsistent with the interest of the public or acting with a reckless disregard for the safety of the public or other law enforcement officers.

This proposed amendment would also give the Police Commission authority to subpoena witnesses and require the production of evidence pertinent to a Police Commission investigation regarding alleged officer misconduct. The proposal would require the chief of police to provide a written response to the Police Commission if the chief disagrees with the findings of the Police Commission.

Present Situation

The chief of police can only be removed for continuous maladministration after being given a reasonable period to correct the maladministration. The Police Commission does not have the authority to subpoena witnesses or require the production of evidence relevant to a Police Commission investigation. The chief of police is not required to respond to the Police Commission concerning the Commission’s recommendations regarding officer misconduct.

If Proposal Passes

The Police Commission could remove or suspend the chief of police before the end of the chief’s five-year appointment for any reason, including behavior inconsistent with the interests of the public or the city. The Police Commission would be able to subpoena witnesses and require the production of evidence pertinent to a Police Commission investigation. The chief of police would be required to provide in writing the reasons for any disagreement with a Police Commission recommendation.

2. Should the Ethics Commission set the salaries of the Ethics Commission’s executive director and staff attorneys within specified limits?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would authorize the Honolulu Ethics Commission to set the salaries of its executive director and any staff attorneys within specified limits.

Present Situation

The Ethics Commission sets the executive director’s salary but not those of the Commission’s staff attorneys.

If Proposal Passes

The Ethics Commission would have the authority to set the salaries of its executive director and staff attorneys. The salary of the executive director would not exceed the salary of the first deputy corporation counsel and the salary of any other staff attorney would not exceed the salary of the executive director.

3. Should the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney control its budget after it is approved by the City Council?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would give the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney control over its budget after it is approved by the City Council.

Present Situation

The executive branch can withhold funds from the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney after the department’s budget has been approved by the City Council.

If Proposal Passes

The executive branch would not be able to withhold funding that has been approved by the City Council for the operation of the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney.

4. Should a unified multi-modal transportation system be created by:

>> Forming a Rate Commission to annually review and recommend adjustments to bus and paratransit fares, rail fares and parking fees;

>> Placing operations and maintenance responsibilities for bus, paratransit and rail solely in the Department of Transportation Services and providing for the transfer of positions and legal rights and obligations relating to rail operations and maintenance from the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) to the Department of Transportation Services effective July 1, 2017; and

>> Clarifying the responsibility of the HART Board to establish policies, rules, and regulations regarding the development of the rail system, the internal management and organization of HART, and the allocation of decision-making authority between the Board and the agency’s executive director and staff, and amending the responsibilities of the HART Board to include determining the policies for approval of certain agreements with the federal, public or private entities?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would establish the operations and maintenance (O&M) of the city-owned multi-modal transportation system under the unified responsibility of the director of transportation. Any O&M contracts or personnel under the authority of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) would be transferred to the Department of Transportation Services (DTS) on July 1, 2017. DTS would be solely responsible for integration and coordination of public transit services. The Transportation Commission would be repealed, and a Rate Commission would be created to review and provide recommendations at least annually regarding adjustments needed in fares, rates, and tariffs. The responsibilities of the HART Board would be amended to include determining the policies for approval of certain agreements with the federal, public or private entities.

Present Situation

The Charter currently assigns fare setting for bus and paratransit to the Transportation Commission, with final approval by the City Council, and the setting of rail fares to HART. There is no advisory review board dedicated to the regular review of fares and rates. The Charter assigns operations and maintenance (O&M) of bus and paratransit to DTS and rail to HART. The Charter states that the HART Board is not to interfere in the administrative affairs of HART.

If Proposal Passes

The operations and maintenance (O&M) of the city-owned multi-modal transportation system would be unified under the director of transportation services. All O&M contracts and O&M personnel at the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) would be transferred to the Department of Transportation Services effective July 1, 2017. The Department of Transportation Services would become solely responsible for the integration and coordination of public transportation services. The mayor and the City Council would appoint the members of a Rate Commission, and the Commission would review and recommend, at least annually, adjustments to fares, rates, and tariffs. The authority of the HART Board to establish policies, rules, and regulations regarding the development of the rail system, the internal management and organization of HART, and the allocation of decision-making authority between the Board and administrative staff would be clarified. Also, the responsibilities of the HART Board would be amended to include determining the policies for approval of certain agreements with the federal, public or private entities

5. Should the Affordable Housing Fund be used to develop rental housing for persons earning 60 percent or less of the median household income, provided that the housing remains affordable for at least 60 years?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would allow the Affordable Housing Fund to be used to provide affordable rental housing for persons earning 60 percent or less of the median household income. The proposed amendment would also require units to remain affordable for at least 60 years.

Present Situation

The current income limits for residents of Affordable Housing Fund-assisted dwellings is less than 50 percent of the median household income, which is more restrictive than affordable housing requirements of other government entities. In addition, any Affordable Housing Fund-assisted dwellings must remain affordable in perpetuity.

If Proposal Passes

The permissible uses of funds from the Affordable Housing Fund would be limited to rental housing, but expanded to provide affordable rental housing for persons earning 60 percent or less of the median household income of the city. This would align the Affordable Housing Fund’s income restrictions with those used by other government entities. The authority to use the Affordable Housing Fund for affordable rental units in mixed-income projects would also be clarified. Housing funded in this manner would be required to remain affordable for at least sixty years rather than in perpetuity.

6. Should departments responsible for the city’s infrastructure needs be required to prepare long-term plans?

Commission Description

The proposed amendment would require four departments responsible for critical infrastructure in the City to prepare plans that review current and future needs and that incorporate environmental concerns and goals, such as source reduction, reuse, sustainability, energy efficiency, energy conservation, and emissions reduction. The preparation of functional plans would be added to the duties of four department directors. The functional plans would provide a thirty-year outlook, with updates every five years. They would be reviewed by the City Planning Commission for consistency with the City’s General and Development Plans. The plans would address relevant state and federal laws governing each infrastructure type. The plans would list justifications for upgrades needed for aging systems and new installations for growing areas. Lists of projects and the reasons for each would help guide priorities for the capital improvement program of the City. The proposal also adds the terms “smart growth” and “sustainability principles” to development plans.

The proposal requires: 1) a wastewater functional plan; 2) a solid waste functional plan 3) an energy efficiency plan for facilities maintenance; 4) a functional plan for parks and recreation; 5) an energy conservation and emissions reduction plan for transportation services; and 6) promoting smart and sustainable communities in development plans.

Present Situation

The departments listed use different methods to choose projects for their capital improvement plans and budgets. The departments do not have overall master plans for energy efficiency in city buildings, for parks and recreation, or for energy conservation and emissions reduction in transportation. Wastewater capital budgets and projects relating to improvements to the wastewater collection and treatment systems are selected to conform to the requirements of the federal consent decree and solid waste has to establish and abide by a state-defined integrated solid waste management plan.

If Proposal Passes

The required plans would help identify needs over the long term, including the need to replace and upgrade aging infrastructure now in place and to build new infrastructure in growing areas. Further, priorities and expenditures would be guided by these plans, which would be updated every five years. The provision would require the departments responsible for critical infrastructure needs of the City to address state and federal requirements in their master planning.

7. Should the city use its powers to serve the people in a sustainable and transparent manner and to promote stewardship of natural resources for present and future generations, and should the city create an Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would require the city to use its powers to serve the people of Honolulu in a sustainable and transparent manner and to promote stewardship of natural resources for present and future generations. It would also create an Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency in the Office of the Managing Director. The Office Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency will be headed by an executive who, among other duties, will convene a commission of five experts in the fields of climate change, resiliency and sustainability to provide information and guidance.

Present Situation

The Charter does not mandate the use of city powers to promote sustainability, stewardship of natural resources and transparency and does not establish an Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency.

If Proposal Passes

Sustainability, transparency, and natural resource stewardship would be principles of city governance. An Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency would be created as a central point for gathering information and working with others on issues related to climate change, resiliency and sustainability

8. Should a new Department of Land Management responsible for the protection, development, and management of city lands be established?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would establish a new Department of Land Management, with a director appointed by the mayor, to manage the city real property inventory, negotiate land acquisitions and any transactions relating to the existing inventory, with a particular focus on transit-oriented development. Some of these functions are currently carried out by other city departments. The new department would be required to hold public hearings for all transactions relating to the existing inventory, prepare a report documenting the public interest served by potential actions, ensure compliance with environmental laws, and obtain approval from the City Council for any transaction.

Present Situation

There is no single department responsible for management of real property owned by the city or for real property transactions. Instead, these functions are dispersed among various departments.

If Proposal Passes

The Department of Land Management would manage real property and negotiate real property transactions on behalf of the city. As part of its responsibilities, this department would identify the public interest served by real property transactions involving existing city lands and would report to the city council, which would have final approval authority

9. Should a Honolulu Zoo Fund be established and funded by a minimum of one-half of one percent of estimated annual real property taxes to pay for Honolulu Zoo expenses to assist the Honolulu Zoo in regaining its accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would establish a Honolulu Zoo Fund. Deposits to the Fund would come from a minimum of one-half of one percent of estimated annual real property tax revenues. The Fund would pay for the operation, repair, maintenance, and improvement of the Honolulu Zoo. The money in the Honolulu Zoo Fund would also pay for the acquisition of zoo animals, the salaries of Zoo employees, and debt service owed for capital improvements. The Honolulu Zoo Fund would be established on July 1, 2017, and be automatically repealed on July 1, 2023, if the Honolulu Zoo does not regain accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Present Situation

The Honolulu Zoo lost its accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, in part, because the city does not have a consistent source of funding to pay for Honolulu Zoo expenses. The Honolulu Zoo is currently working to regain its Association of Zoos and Aquariums accreditation.

If Proposal Passes

Beginning July 1, 2017, a minimum of one-half of one percent of estimated annual real property tax revenues would be deposited every year in the Honolulu Zoo Fund to pay for Honolulu Zoo expenses, provided that the Fund would be automatically repealed on July 1, 2023, if the Honolulu Zoo does not regain its Association of Zoos and Aquariums accreditation.

10. Should the mayor’s executive powers and the City Council’s legislative powers only be subject to exceptions specifically provided in the Charter and should the mayor and the City Council be given concurrent authority to establish funds when no appropriate funds of the same type exist and to propose amendments to the annual executive budget?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would require that exceptions to the City Council’s ability to exercise its legislative power and exceptions to the mayor’s ability to exercise executive powers be specifically provided by the Charter. This proposal also gives concurrent authority to the City Council and the mayor (with approval of City Council) to establish funds when no appropriate funds of the same type exist and concurrent authority to the City Council and the mayor to propose amendments to the annual executive budget.

Present Situation

The exceptions to the executive powers of the mayor and the legislative powers of the City Council, the authority of the City Council to amend the annual executive budget, and the authority of the mayor (with approval of City Council) to establish funds have been questioned.

If Proposal Passes

The exceptions to the executive powers of the mayor and the legislative powers of the City Council must be specifically provided in the Charter. The mayor (with approval of City Council) and City Council would have concurrent authority to propose amendments to the annual executive budget and concurrent authority to establish funds when no appropriate funds of the same type exist.

11. Should an approval process and an advisory commission for Clean Water Natural Lands Fund projects be established in the Charter?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would require all applicants proposing expenditures from the Clean Water Natural Lands Fund to submit proposals to the Department of Budget and Fiscal Services (BFS) for review. BFS would send qualified proposals to a seven-member Clean Water Natural Lands Fund Advisory Commission created by this amendment. Three of the advisory commission members will be appointed by the mayor, three will be appointed by the City Council, and the last member will be selected by a majority of the six appointed commission members. After reviewing applications, the advisory commission will make its recommendations to the City Council. The director of BFS will administer the fund.

Present Situation

An advisory commission and the approval process for expenditures from the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund are not established in the Charter.

If Proposal Passes

This proposal would establish an advisory commission and the review and approval procedures with respect to the Clean Water Natural Lands Fund.

12. Should all boards and commissions, except for the Board of Water Supply, the board for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) and any board or commission mandated by state or federal law, be reviewed periodically to determine whether they should be retained, amended or repealed?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would require all boards and commissions, except for the Board of Water Supply, the board for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) and boards or commissions mandated by federal or state law, to be periodically evaluated to determine whether they should be retained, amended or repealed.

Present Situation

Boards and commissions are not evaluated to determine if they are fulfilling their purpose to serve a public interest or goal.

If Proposal Passes

The City Council would periodically evaluate all boards and commissions, except the Board of Water Supply, the board for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) and those boards and commissions mandated by state or federal law, to determine whether they should be retained, amended or repealed.

13. Should the Grants in Aid Fund be the sole source (with certain designated exceptions) for city-funded grants to federal income tax-exempt nonprofit organizations that provide services to economically and/or socially disadvantaged populations or that provide services for the public benefit in the areas of the arts, culture, economic development or the environment?

Commission Description

The proposed amendment would make the Grants in Aid Fund the sole source (with certain designated exceptions) for city-funded grants to federal income tax-exempt nonprofit organizations that provide services to economically and/or socially disadvantaged populations or that provide services for the public benefit in the areas of the arts, culture, economic development or the environment.

Present Situation

City-funded grants to nonprofit organizations are awarded by city departments and agencies through their own review processes. The City Council awards city-funded grants to nonprofit organizations for specific purposes, separate from the Grants in Aid Fund. Grants awarded by the City Council from the Grants in Aid Fund are specifically limited to federal income tax-exempt nonprofit organizations that provide services limited to economically and/or socially disadvantaged populations or that provide services for the public benefit in the areas of the arts, culture, economic development or the environment.

If Proposal Passes

With certain exceptions, the Grants in Aid Fund would be the sole source of city-funded grants. These grants may be awarded only to federal income tax-exempt nonprofit organizations providing services to economically and/or socially disadvantaged populations or for the public benefit in the areas of the arts, culture, economic development or the environment. The Grants in Aid Advisory Commission would provide recommendations based on these limitations and the City Council would continue to determine which organizations would receive such grants and the amounts of the grants.

14. Should the deadline to hold a special election to replace the mayor, prosecutor or councilmembers be extended from 60 to 120 days, and should the City Council be able to appoint a temporary member until a special election is held?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would extend the deadline to hold a special election from 60 to 120 days when the mayor, prosecutor or a councilmember leaves office. In addition, the City Council may appoint a temporary successor to a Council vacancy when the vacancy is for an unexpired term for one year or more, and if the Council does not name a successor within 30 days of the vacancy, the mayor would make the appointment.

Present Situation

The time provided for special elections by the Charter is insufficient to meet the requirements of state law. When a councilmember leaves office midterm, there is no provision for appointing a temporary replacement.

If Proposal Passes

The scheduling of city special elections would be in compliance with state law, and the City Council would be able to appoint a temporary replacement councilmember when the vacancy is for an unexpired term of one year or more. If the City Council does not name a successor within 30 days of the vacancy, the mayor would make the appointment.

15. Should the term limit for the prosecuting attorney, the mayor and the councilmembers be three consecutive four-year terms?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would set the term limits for the prosecuting attorney, the mayor, and the councilmembers at three consecutive four-year terms. Consecutive four-year terms served by elected officials as of January 1, 2017, would count toward the term limits.

Present Situation

The mayor and the councilmembers are limited to two consecutive four-year terms and there are no term limits for the prosecuting attorney.

If Proposal Passes

This proposed amendment would establish uniform term limits of three consecutive four-year terms for the prosecuting attorney, the mayor, and the councilmembers. Current office holders serving a four-year term (first term) and running for re-election in 2016, if re-elected in 2016 (second term), would be eligible for one more four-year term in 2020 (third term). New office holders, and any persons filling out the remainder of someone else’s four-year term, if elected in 2016 (first term) would be eligible for two more terms in 2020 (second term) and 2024 (third term). Current office holders serving a four-year term (first term) but not running for re-election until 2018, if re-elected in 2018 (second term) would be eligible for one more four-year term in 2022 (third term).

16. Should certain city departments be responsible for their own program planning and small infrastructure design and construction projects, and should the powers, functions, and duties of the Department of Environmental Services be updated and expanded to emphasize resource recovery and include the planning, engineering, design, and construction of all of its projects?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would (1) make the departments of Enterprise Services, Environmental Services, Facility Maintenance, Transportation Services, Information Technology, and Parks and Recreation responsible for their own program planning and completing small infrastructure design and construction projects and (2) update and clarify the powers, duties, and functions of the director of environmental services and move the planning, engineering, design, construction, and improvement projects for the city wastewater and solid waste systems from the Department of Design and Construction to the Department of Environmental Services.

Present Situation

All city design and construction projects are currently the responsibility of the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), regardless of size. This broad responsibility requires DDC to use its limited resources to work on small construction projects that could be done by the departments responsible for the infrastructure. The charter authority for planning, engineering, design and construction of the Department of Environmental Services projects resides with DDC.

If Proposal Passes

The Department of Environmental Services (DDC) would direct its resources to major projects, while the departments of Enterprise Services, Environmental Services, Facility Maintenance, Transportation Services, Information Technology, and Parks and Recreation would be responsible for their own program planning and infrastructure projects of limited size and complexity and would not be dependent upon DDC for such work.

The powers, duties, and functions of the Department of Environmental Services would be further updated and expanded, to emphasize resource recovery, include the planning, engineering, design, construction and improvement of all of the Department of Environmental Services’ wastewater and solid waste systems projects, and incorporate other provisions that more completely reflect the department’s current activities.

17. Should the mayor have the authority to delegate the signing of documents to certain other city officers?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would allow the mayor to designate the managing director and deputy managing director to sign instruments requiring execution by the city and to designate the administrative head of an executive department or office to sign instruments requiring execution by the city that affect the administrative head’s department or office.

The mayor signs a significant number of documents that require execution by the city, as required by the Charter. Many of these documents are recurring or involve business decisions that relate to routine or ordinary city operations.

If Proposal Passes

The mayor would have the authority to designate the managing director and deputy managing director to sign instruments requiring execution by the city. The mayor would also have the authority to designate the administrative head of an executive department or office to sign instruments requiring execution by the city that affect the administrative head’s respective department or office.

18. Should the Fire Commission be expanded from five to seven members, and should the fire chief’s powers, duties and functions be updated to reflect current services?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would increase the Fire Commission from five to seven members and update the fire chief’s powers, duties and functions to reflect current services provided by the department.

Present Situation

There are currently five members on the Fire Commission. The powers, duties and functions of fire chief include fire fighting and rescue work, responding to emergencies in hazardous terrain and on the sea, providing emergency medical care, maintaining and supervising a force of fire-fighting personnel, monitoring the construction and occupancy standards of buildings for the purposes of fire prevention, and providing educational programs related to fire prevention.

If Proposal Passes

The number of members on the Fire Commission would increase to seven members and the powers, duties and functions of the fire chief would be expanded by adding new services, including education programs for life safety, and investigation of fires and explosions for cause and origin, as well as adding personnel for emergency response, reviewing construction plans and inspecting buildings to prevent fires.

19. Should the requirement be repealed that no more than five of the City Council Reapportionment Commission’s nine members be from the same political party?

Commission Description

This proposed amendment would repeal the requirement that no more than five of the City Council Reapportionment Commission’s nine members be from the same political party.

Present Situation

The City Council Reapportionment Commission determines the boundaries of each City Council district. The City Charter limits the number of members of the Commission to no more than five members from the same political party.

If Proposal Passes

Appointments to the City Council Reapportionment Commission would be made without limits based on party affiliation.

20. Should the Charter be amended for housekeeping amendments (i) to conform to current functions and operation, (ii) to conform to legal requirements, (iii) to correct an inadvertent omission, and (iv) for clarity?

>> Require the books and records of all city departments be open to public inspection;

>> Require the Department of the Corporation Counsel to update the Charter by July 1 of the year after the election at which Charter amendments proposed by the Charter Commission are approved by the electorate;

>> Require the Charter Commission to submit amendments to the Office of the City Clerk five working days before the deadline for ballot questions to be submitted to the state Chief Election Officer;

>> Require that all written contracts of the Board of Water Supply and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation be approved by the Department of Corporation Counsel for form and legality; and

>> Require that the city centralized purchasing practices conform to the state procurement code.

Commission Description

This proposed series of technical amendments brings the Charter into conformity with current city practices or state law or both.

Present Situation

(a) The Charter excludes records of the Honolulu Police Department and the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney from public inspection, although state law requires open records; (b) The Department of the Corporation Counsel does not have a time requirement to prepare updated editions to the Charter; (c) The Charter Commission is required to submit amendments to the Office of the City Clerk any time before September 1 of the year when amendments will be placed on the ballot; (d) The Board of Water Supply and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation are not required to obtain approval on written contracts from the Department of the Corporation Counsel with regard to form and legality; and (e) Certain Charter provisions do not conform to state procurement code.

If Proposal Passes

(a) The Charter would be amended to permit the public inspection of city books and records, including those of the Honolulu Police Department and the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney and be consistent with state law; (b) An updated edition of the Charter would be published by July 1 of the year after the election at which proposed amendments approved by the Charter Commission, are approved by the electorate; (c) The Charter Commission would submit the proposed Charter amendments to the Office of the City Clerk five working days before the state deadline; (d) The Board of Water Supply and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation would be required to obtain approval from the Department of the Corporation Counsel on all written contracts, with regard to form and legality; (e) The Charter would require the city to follow the state procurement code.

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