Charter amendments take on land, elections, hunting


Hawaii County voters will consider whether county redistricting commission members should be able to run for council office the year after they redraw the council district lines.

The issue is one of six proposed Hawaii County Charter amendments and two proposed state constitutional amendments on the General Election ballot. County residents will begin getting their mailed absentee ballots this week. Absentee walk-in voting begins Oct. 23, and the General Election is Nov. 6.

Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann introduced the measure earlier this year, saying he was trying to bring Hawaii County in line with state law and the City and County of Honolulu. The next redistricting commission will convene in 2021. Hoffmann said he did not introduce the measure because two 2011 redistricting commissioners decided to seek office this year, months after completing the updated council district map.

Voters will also consider amending the County Charter to allow the County Council to create special funds without obtaining the mayor’s recommendation. South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford introduced the amendment in December. She said the council is charged with setting policy, not the mayor, and establishing such funds should fall within those policy-setting duties.

Two measures are on the ballot relating to the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund, which was itself created through a ballot initiative several years ago. The first measure re-establishes the minimum percentage of property tax revenues to be set aside for the county to use to purchase land at 2 percent. A ballot initiative two years ago lowered that to 1 percent minimum. The measure would also add language creating a restrictive covenant on the deed of any land the fund purchases. The language states the land “shall be held in perpetuity for the use and enjoyment of the people of Hawaii County and may not be sold, mortgaged, traded or transferred.” Finally, the measure makes clear the funds may only be used to purchase land or easements.

The second measure would require .25 percent of real property tax revenue be deposited into a Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund. The fund would be capped at $3 million and would create a stewardship grant program to help nonprofits maintain and preserve lands the county purchased with the preservation fund.

The discovery of axis deer on Hawaii Island, as well as ongoing complaints about how the state conducts aerial hunts of game animals in remote locations around the island, are two of the issues behind Council Chairman Dominic Yagong’s introduction of a charter amendment creating a Game Management Advisory Commission. Hunters from around the island testified in favor of the measure, which they said would give a voice to hunters during decisions impacting the island’s hunting areas.

The final county measure up for voters’ consideration would change how the council and other county boards and commissions provide notice of upcoming meetings. The charter now requires six days’ notice, even for emergency meetings. The change would implement language removing the requirement for the meeting to be announced online or by radio. The change would not affect notice for regular meetings.

Two amendments to the state constitution are on the ballot. The first would authorize the state to issue special purpose revenue bonds, the proceeds of which would be used to assist dam and reservoir owners to bring those dams and reservoirs up to current safety standards.

The second measure would allow the state Supreme Court chief justice to appoint retired judges older than 70, the age at which they are now required to retire, as emeritus judges. They could then serve as temporary judges for as long as three months per appointment.