County Council Meets, Votes Against Shorter Meetings
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by Dave Smith
The first post-election meeting of the Hawaii County Council finished with its members agreeing to disagree.
The agenda today was occupied with procedural matters, primarily the designation of the council’s leadership, including the makeup of its various committees.
That meant voting on a dozen resolutions, including one naming Stewart Maeda as the county clerk. Maile David, who ran unsuccessfully for council against incumbent Brenda Ford, was later approved as deputy county clerk.
All of the votes went 9-0, except for the ones naming veteran councilman J Yoshimoto as chairman and newcomer Karen Eoff as vice-chairwoman.
Those measures drew negative votes from councilwomen Ford of South Kona and Margaret Wille of Waimea.
In comments preceding the vote on Eoff, Wille said while she believed Eoff would do a “great job” as vice-chair, she would prefer that post go to one of the three returning council members.
Ford was silent on the matter during the meeting and declined to comment on her position afterwards.
None of the council members offered any opinions prior to the vote on Yoshimoto’s chairmanship.
The most discussion came during consideration of the 13th resolution, which adopted the council’s rules of procedure. The resolution introduced by Yoshimoto also amended the pre-existing rules.
The proposed changes included tightening the ways under which a council member could participate in meetings via videoconferencing and expanding the definition of conflicts of interest.
But what caught the eye of both members of the public and the council was a proposal designed to reduce what has become marathon sessions.
During past meetings on controversial topics, such as issues dealing with geothermal, public testimony has often gone on for hours, sometimes causing meetings to run late into the night.
The amendment called for meetings to conclude by 6 p.m. – and be completed “as soon as is practicable” – unless two-thirds of the members present vote for it to continue.
Much of the public testimony at the beginning of the meeting targeted the proposed change.
Those critical of the amendment included Pahoa resident Jon Olson.
“I think it’s fair to say you were elected, not anointed,” he said.
Others said that it would not be fair to tell members of the public who had sat all day through a meeting that they had to come back at another time for further discussion or a vote on the matter at hand.
Zendo Kern, one of two council members representing Puna, said he was “not comfortable” with cutting meetings off just for the sake of shortening them. He said sometimes long meetings come with the territory.
“That’s what I signed up for,” he said.
In the end the resolution was changed on a 9-0 vote to remove that portion, and the amended resolution passed unanimously.