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Honolulu, Maui councils encourage remote public interactions over coronavirus fears

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / 2019
                                The Honolulu City Council intends to hold scheduled meetings in the coming days as planned but Chairman Ikaika Anderson today encouraged people to watch the proceedings remotely and to submit their testimony online.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / 2019

    The Honolulu City Council intends to hold scheduled meetings in the coming days as planned but Chairman Ikaika Anderson today encouraged people to watch the proceedings remotely and to submit their testimony online.

The Honolulu City Council intends to hold scheduled meetings in the coming days as planned but Chairman Ikaika Anderson on Wednesday encouraged people to watch the proceedings remotely and to submit their testimony online.

The Council Budget Committee is scheduled to begin Thursday a week-long series of briefings with each of the city’s departments and agencies.

The full Council is also holding a special meeting Friday to consider a preliminary vote on Bill 35, which would allow Mayor Kirk Caldwell to tap into a $120.6 million fiscal stability fund, more commonly known as a “rainy day fund.” The law now states it can only be used when certain, clearly defined economic or revenue conditions are triggered, or if the governor or president declares a state of emergency due to a natural disaster.

The next regularly scheduled Council meeting is next Wednesday.

“I usually welcome everyone to participate in the legislative process but now, it’s prudent to encourage those interested in testifying to submit their testimony online and view the upcoming meetings online (at olelo.org) or on Olelo, Channel 54,” Anderson said in a release.

Information about the Honolulu City Council can be found at the following web sites: http://www.honolulucitycouncil.com or http://www.honolulu.gov/council.

“We are also looking at options to maintain public participation while also limiting the potential for community spread,” Anderson told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a text. His staff is awaiting a query to the state Office of Information Practices asking if it would be abiding by the state Sunshine Law if it were to accept live testimony from the public remotely or use some other modern technology, he said.

As for Council members themselves, the Council’s internal rules do not currently allow for its members to participate remotely so those rules would need to be changed, Anderson said.

Other city agencies — including the Ethics Commission and Rate Commission — have held meetings recently with members participating remotely.

“I am aiming to have a clear contingency plan in place in the next week or so,” Anderson said. “In the best case scenario I hope that we are just being overly cautious. Given how rapidly the situation has evolved in other areas I don’t want us to find ourselves in a situation that jeopardizes continuity of government and of public health.”

Maui County Chairwoman Alice Lee issued a similar release about her legislative body earlier this afternoon.

Lee said in a release that she’s particularly concerned about older adults and those with serious medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified these groups as having a higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19,” Lee said. “I would like to urge the public to stay informed through the County of Maui website and to take precautions to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.”

Information on submitting public testimony by email can be found on meeting agendas at http://mauicounty.us/agendas/.

The Council has committee meetings Thursday and a full Council meeting Friday.

Correction: The Honolulu City Council is also holding a special meeting Friday to consider a preliminary vote on Bill 35. An earlier version of this story had the wrong day.

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