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charter Changing the charter

Proposal could quadruple signatures needed to petition vote

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Posted: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 1:30 am

LIHUE — In the future, amending the Kauai County Charter via a citizen’s petition could be more difficult.

On Monday, the County of Kauai Charter Review Commission discussed, and later deferred for one month, a proposal that would quadruple the number of signatures required to petition an amendment to the charter from 5 to 20 percent of registered voters.

“My recollection is this is the lowest bar in any county,” Commission Vice Chair Jan TenBruggencate, who introduced the proposal, said of the current process.

TenBruggencate said there have been at least two occasions where people have been misled and used the charter amendment process to pass something that, more appropriately, might have been an initiative.

As a result, he said, those people had their proposals thrown out in court at a great cost to the county.

“My fundamental point is that changing the county charter — the basic organizational document of county government — ought to be harder than passing a law,” TenBruggencate said. “And currently in the County of Kauai, at least with respect to getting things on the ballot, it’s the opposite way.”

Petitioning an amendment with the proper amount of signatures puts an item on the ballot for voters to consider.

While it takes only 5 percent of registered voters to petition a charter amendment, 20 percent of voter signatures are required to put forth an ordinance or referendum, for example, and that too would only get an ordinance issue on a ballot.

“That’s something that we need to resolve,” TenBruggencate said.

Not everyone on the commission agreed.

Even if the commission voted to support the proposal, sending it to a public vote in November, Commissioner Ed Justus said he couldn’t imagine community members backing something that makes it harder for them to change their government.

“I don’t think it has a chance of passing at all,” he said. “It’s counterintuitive to the American thinking.”

Commissioner Carol Suzawa said she felt the current 5 percent is not enough.

There are roughly 40,000 registered voters on Kauai.

If anything, TenBruggencate said the number of required signatures for initiatives and referendums should be lower than that for charter amendments. Right now, people are wasting time trying to do through the charter process what should be done through initiatives and referendums simply because it’s easier.

“That’s my view,” he said. “I know I’m going to take some hits for it.”

Michael Shooltz of Kauai Rising said he came to the meeting Monday because he was concerned about what the change would mean, if anything, for him and other community members currently collecting signatures for a citizens’ initiative aimed at regulating the GMO industry on Kauai.

At first glance, Shooltz said the proposal seemed like another attempt to strip away county rights.

TenBruggencate assured Shooltz that even if the proposal got on the November ballot and passed, it wouldn’t impact Kauai Rising’s proposed charter amendment.

Ultimately, the commission voted to defer any decision on the proposal until next month’s meeting.

“It’s potentially a months-long process, and it may not get done in time for this election,” TenBruggencate said. “But it’s a discussion that is beginning.”

• Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.

© 2015 Thegardenisland.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Kapono posted at 9:55 pm on Tue, Apr 29, 2014.

    Kapono Posts: 5

    Johnathan, I think that you misread Jan's proposal. He is proposing that they quadruple the number of signatures required to petition an amendment to the charter from 5 to 20 percent of registered voters. The problem I have is that in the 2012 elections, less than 60 percent of voters actually turned out to take part of the process. Why should all of the registered voters be included into the equation when only a little over 40 percent of them actually take advantage of the voting process. It does not make sense. The whole reason on the ability to make changes to the Kauai Charter is to make necessary changes for the way our county government operates. It empowers active voters to have a say and make a difference in the direction of our local government. Raising the requirements will impede the process of a better government. The suggestion that Ted is making is not equitable in my opinion.

  • Eagle 6 posted at 8:07 pm on Tue, Apr 29, 2014.

    Eagle 6 Posts: 1423

    Well said BorninHawaii

  • jonathan jay posted at 11:17 am on Tue, Apr 29, 2014.

    jonathan jay Posts: 5

    i think Jan Tenbrugencate is right - we SHOULD lower the number of signatures to get initiatives and referendums onto the ballot for the voters to consider. Cudos to Jan for taking a brave and sensible stand!

  • Eagle 6 posted at 8:34 am on Tue, Apr 29, 2014.

    Eagle 6 Posts: 1423

    Don't worry Shooltz, you still have time to waste our time.

  • BorninHawaii posted at 7:48 am on Tue, Apr 29, 2014.

    BorninHawaii Posts: 397

    I agree with Jan completely. Why would we make it easy for non elected individuals to push their agenda on the citizens. Then we will have two lawmaking bodies. We elect representatives/council members (hopefully with intellegence) to make those laws so that we do not have extreme right wing or left wing citizens costing the county as Jan has indicated to no end. A sizable portion of the voting population must be on board for a Charter amendment to come to the ballot. 5% is not a sizable portion.

  • BionicDread posted at 6:59 am on Tue, Apr 29, 2014.

    BionicDread Posts: 84

    Of course, I'm sure this has nothing to do with the whole biotech industry........nope......nothing at all.....Because, we're all idiots.......Mahalo, Government, for treating us as such!.....Enjoy your time off!


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