Maui News

Charter Commission Adopts Proposals for Department of Human Concerns, Bilingual Government and More

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Photo credit: Maui Office of Council Services.

A year of proposals to amend Maui County’s charter, which must be submitted by Feb. 18, 2022, was built upon as Maui voters prepare for the 2022 election.

A number of proposals were approved by the Maui Charter Commission this Thursday.

Some of these included a new department to separate social services from the housing department, a semi-autonomous water supply board, voting amendments that could increase the odds of ballot initiatives and charter amendments passing and mandates to create a bilingual (English and Hawaiian) government.

The Maui Charter Commission heard testimony from a mix of individuals and county officials on a variety of proposals on Thursday’s agenda that are detailed below.

Department of Human Concerns, Water Supply Board and Liquor Control Comission

Three proposals deferred from the prior Commission meeting were adopted under Theme I, the Executive Branch. If approved by voters during the 2022 election they would:

  • Create a new Department of Human Concerns separate from the Department of Housing; 
  • Re-establish a semi-autonomous water supply board; and
  • Create rules controlling the movement of board members between the Liquor Control Commission and the Liquor Control Adjudication Board.
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By a narrow margin, the Commission chose not to hear a proposal to establish the managing director as a nonpartisan, professional position.

Voting, Petitions and Fiscal Impact Analysis

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The Commission also considered a diverse assortment of proposals under Theme J, Miscellaneous and New Provisions. Proposals approved on Thursday would:

  • Lower the threshold for signatures needed on ballot initiatives (from 20% to 10% of registered voters) and charter amendments (from 20% of registered voters to 20% of voters in the last mayoral election);
  • Extend the time given to the County Clerk for verification of signatures on citizen petitions; and
  • Require a fiscal impact analysis on citizen petitioned charter amendments before the election. 

Bilingual Government, New Liasion Between County and Hawaiian Homelands

Finally, a number of proposals recognizing the importance of preserving the Hawaiian language and culture also gained approval. These proposals would add language to the charter to:

  • Mandate that the County operate as a bilingual (English and Hawaiian) government; and
  • Create a new position that would act as a liaison between the County and the Department of Hawaiian Homelands working to develop housing programs for beneficiaries within the County.

In addition, the Commission will review the charter to ensure the correct spelling of Hawaiian words and place names in the document.

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“The Hawaiian language is the foundation of our culture here in Maui County,” said Commissioner Keoni Kuoha. “When the Hawaiian language thrives, we all thrive. I’m overjoyed by the Commission’s unanimous vote to take the bilingual county proposal to the voters.” 

Further discussion on Theme J proposals will be held at the Commission’s next meeting scheduled for Dec. 16.  

What’s Next?

Proposals still up for consideration include:

  • Establishing a new Department of Information Technology to manage the County’s central data processing system and an independent utility authority responsible for the planning, development and management of utilities services; 
  • Placing all water sources under the direct management of the County instead of private entities;
  • Adopting FAA rules for Maui County; and
  • Clarifying the relationship between the Charter Commission’s powers and duties and Corporation Counsel’s opinions. 

During Charter Commission meetings, the public can provide testimony via video or telephone on scheduled agenda items. Agenda items are taken up in the order listed, as time permits. Written testimony can be submitted prior to the meeting via email.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions, public meetings are held online via BlueJeans. For more information and to join Maui Charter Commission meetings via BlueJeans follow the link on the Commission website

As it nears the completion of the year-long review of charter amendment proposals, the Charter Commission is encouraging the public to review and learn about the proposed amendments that have been adopted. A preliminary report will be available for public comment in January of 2022. 

The Commission has until Feb. 18, 2022, to submit its list of proposed amendments to the County Council for review. 

For more information visit the Commission website

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