This year, they met in all parts of Maui County and heard passionate arguments for and against various charter amendment proposals. And at a meeting on Monday, Sept. 12, all of the proposals designated as potential charter amendments were to be listed and the process for their review decided.
Two hours into a meeting that began at noon in the conference room of the county Planning Department, the commissioners began to decide how to discuss the proposals before them.
“We have to nail down what we will be working on, because we cannot possibly handle 70 proposals,” Charter Commission Chair Joshua Stone told the group.
Michael Trotto of Kīhei testified before the Maui Charter Commission that it was time to put the issue of district elections of County Council members to a vote of the people.
After discussion, the commission voted to establish procedural rules for creating an Active Proposal List (APL) and an Inactive Proposals List (IPL).
IPL items would stay on the proposed charter amendments matrix. Nothing would be eliminated, because they voted not to decide what should go on the November 2012 ballot for voter consideration. They only decided what to discuss first. Commissioners also agreed that in creating two lists, they were not yet selecting what would go to the community for a second round of public hearings.
Once the procedural plans were in place, the commission determined that the incorporation of Kalaupapa into Maui County would not be placed on the APL for further discussion. A proposal to declare that Maui County government was non-partisan met the same fate.
Finally, the issue that had been in the background during the meeting came to the forefront in a section entitled, “Article 3, County Council.” It consisted of several proposed ideas for the implementation of single-member districts for the Maui County Council.
The first proposal to establish an apportionment commission to create a new nine-member district council election system based on equally proportioned districts failed in an 8-3 vote.
Voting to accept the proposed change was David DeLeon. “If you look at the number of people who spoke on this, and we did not put it on the active list, we would have a room full of people asking why? This should be determined by the voters,” he argued.
Moikeha, who voted against the proposal, said, “Looking at the testimony that has come in against this, there is no idea how it would work. Testimony on Moloka‘i and Läna‘i was against this, and the speakers were often representing hundreds of others. What will be the impact? What are the specifics? I have not seen anything where we can say what the specific impacts will be.”
Looking at the 10 other proposals (3.2–3.11) before them, the commissioners, who had only placed public notice to discuss up to item 3.6, were in a quandary.
Did they continue to debate each single-member district item individually, and if so, would they be able to complete their work on schedule, or was there a compromise that could move the discussion and the agenda?
It was clear at this point that no one—neither the single-member district advocates nor the general-election advocates—were prepared to change positions.
“We heard many proposals from the community, and to say we are going to do one thing is not what to do right now,” Stone commented.
Commissioner Flo Wiger commented on the potential for a stalemate on the issue. “Somehow, I get the feeling as long as we can contain it among us, we don’t have to put it out there and let people take a whack at it.”
She added, “None of these recommendations is really going to pass muster to get through this group.”
It fell to Moikea to offer a compromise solution, while making it clear that she was not doing so as an endorsement of single-member districts.
Her motion to ignore the individual proposals for the time being and to have a “further general discussion” of single-member districts on the APL list passed 10–1.
It was a punt, but it got the commission out of a tight situation, and that was all they wanted for now. However, it was clear that this would be the most significant debate and the most contentious issue to come up in future commission meetings.