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Monday, September 01, 2014         

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Proposed charter changes affect housing and transit

The City Council mulls a ballot amendment creating an agency to combat homelessness

By B.J. Reyes

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Oahu voters would get to decide whether the city should create an Office of Housing under one of a handful of proposed Charter amendments advancing in the City Council.

The Council already has approved one ballot question: asking voters whether the city should create a semiautonomous Public Transit Authority to oversee all aspects of the proposed $5.5 billion rail transit project.

Under proposals still being considered by the Council, voters also would decide on creating a housing office and on enacting stricter conflict-of-interest rules on Council members. There also are various "housekeeping" measures to have the charter conform with updated state laws.

The Office of Housing would coordinate efforts at tackling homelessness and affordable housing.

"The establishment of a central body within the mayor's office will ensure that agencies of the state and federal governments, private organizations, nonprofit groups, community organizations, and individuals will work in partnership to address issues regarding affordable housing, senior housing, special needs housing and homelessness," states the proposal, Resolution 10-38.

CHARTER AMENDMENTS

A look at some of the proposed Charter amendments being considered by the City Council. Adoption also would be subject to voter approval.

>> Office of Housing: Proposes the creation of an Office of Housing within the Mayor's Office to oversee affordable housing efforts. (Resolution 10-38)

>> Prior employment conflict: Asks voters if a city employee should be able to participate or decide on city matters if that person was directly involved in the matter while employed with a private entity in the previous 12 months. (Resolution 10-15)

>> Conflict of interest: Proposes to bar elected or appointed officials from participating in or voting on any matter in which the official knows, or has reason to know, that he or she has a direct personal or private interest. (Resolution 08-232)

 

The city had a housing department until voters approved eliminating it in 1998. That came after the start of the Ewa Villages $6 million relocation scandal, in which Michael Kahapea was convicted of theft.

The Rev. Bob Nakata, a former state lawmaker and Honolulu president of the advocacy group Faith Action for Community Equity, said greater work on affordable housing is needed to address homelessness.

"Without a focused body in the city to attack the housing issue, homelessness will continue to be out of control," Nakata said at a recent hearing on the Charter amendments.

Resolution 08-232 would add a section to the Charter's section on conflicts of interest, stating that no elected or appointed officer or employee shall "participate in or vote on any matter in which the officer or employee knows or has reason to know that he or she has a direct personal or private interest."

Chuck Totto, executive director of the city Ethics Commission, said Kauai County adopted a similar measure in 2008.

"It gives you a good opportunity to say, 'We understand that from time to time we'll have conflicts of interest, and if we do, we won't participate and we won't vote,'" Totto said.

Any proposed Charter amendment must be passed by the Council by August to be placed on the ballot this fall. Council members say they would like to limit the number of ballot questions to five.






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