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Vote gives Police Commission greater power over HPD chief

A Honolulu City Charter amendment to give the Police Commission greater authority soared to approval with most of the vote counted Tuesday.

That amendment, which earned more than 80 percent of the vote, will allow the commission to suspend or dismiss the chief of police, according to the city’s Charter Commission. The Police Commission would also have additional powers to investigate complaints concerning officer misconduct.

It’s one of 20 proposed charter amendments that Honolulu voters were asked to consider, part of a review that takes place every 10 years to examine Honolulu’s city government and its operations.

Oahu voters also passed an amendment to establish a Honolulu Zoo Fund, with a minimum of 0.5 percent of estimated annual real property taxes. It passed with about 57 percent of the vote.

Voters didn’t accept all of the key charter amendment proposals, however. Voters soundly rejected a proposal to increase the term limit to three terms from two for the mayor and City Council members.

An amendment that would have the city’s Department of Transportation Services handle operations for Oahu’s eventual rail transit, along with the existing bus and paratransit system, while leaving the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to handle construction and giving that agency’s board more decision-making powers, won with about 68 percent of voters approving.

An amendment that would create a city Office of Climate Change, Stability and Resiliency to promote better environmental practices on Oahu also won handily by about a 9-point margin.

Honolulu voters further approved changes to the city’s Affordable Housing Fund, allowing it to be used to develop rental housing for those earning 60 percent or less of the median household income as long as that housing remains affordable for at least 60 years. Proponents say they believe the move will encourage more affordable-housing development on the island.

On Hawaii island, voters approved by a large margin an amendment that would expand the scope of that county’s general plan. On Kauai, an initiative to rename and clarify the organization of the Civil Defense Agency also enjoyed a strong win.

Voters across the state also considered two proposed amendments to the Hawaii Constitution.

They defeated an amendment would ease congestion in the state court system by increasing the threshold for jury trials in civil lawsuits to $10,000 from $5,000. It received about 46 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, a second amendment to specifically authorize state lawmakers to set aside extra money in years when the state has been running a budget surplus to reduce public debt or pay down unfunded pension or health care obligations was passing by a razor-thin margin with several thousand votes left to count Tuesday. The night’s last tally had it winning with a 50.2 percent majority.

The proposed charter amendments need to win by a majority of votes cast for or against those particular proposals. Blank votes and over-votes don’t count to the total.

The proposed constitutional amendments need to win by a majority of all votes cast statewide, including the ballots where those proposals were left blank or contained over-votes.

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Star-Advertiser reporter Kevin Dayton contributed to this report.

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  • I think this was a no brainer. People are just fed up with Kealoha and his wife. Now we have the power to oust them. Hope this amendment has some meat to do that.

  • The police commission, should have had those powers, way before the Chief Kealoha scandal.

    What was the purpose of a police commission, that didn’t have political teeth ?

  • You had to go to the Honolulu Charter Commission website to read the actual text of the amendments. Too bad the text wasn’t provided to all voters at the voting site.
    In response to the comments made by others here about the amendment on Police Commission powers: The Commission already had the power to remove the chief for “Gross or continuous maladministration” or other cause.
    The amendment, however, changed “only for cause” to “for any reason.” Also, the amendment added the power to suspend rather than to only remove the chief.
    The amendment added several examples of when the chief can be removed or suspended. The most interesting is: “The chief has acted in a manner for of furthering his or her self-interest or in a manner inconsistent with the interest of the public or the chief’s governing body.” That is a very broad statement.

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