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Voting explainer: Honolulu charter amendment ballot questions

City and County of Honolulu seal city council mayor Oahu
Casey Harlow
/
HPR
Honolulu Hale

Hawaiʻi Public Radio is breaking down each county's charter amendment ballot questions.

Voters on Oʻahu will consider four charter amendment proposals about how city money and revenues are spent, as well as how to position the city for better decision-making in the future.

Charter Question No. 1 Affordable Housing Fund
“Shall the Revised City Charter be amended to increase the mandatory percentage of the City’s estimated real property tax revenues to be appropriated annually for deposit into the Affordable Housing Fund from one-half of one percent to 1%?”

This proposal essentially doubles how much money would go into the city's Affordable Housing Fund each year. The fund is derived from real property tax revenues, and currently pulls in 0.5%. Saying "yes" to this proposed amendment would be saying "yes" to increasing the pull to a full 1%.

Chair Tommy Waters estimates that would make the fund go from about $8 million a year to about $16 million.

Charter Question No. 2 Planning Commission
“Shall the Revised City Charter be amended to require the Planning Commission have at least one member with substantial experience or expertise in one of the following categories of disciplines, that each of the categories be represented by a different member, and that all of the categories are represented on the commission:
a. Native Hawaiian traditional and customary practices, native Hawaiian law, or traditional Hawaiian land usage;
b. Land use planning, policies, and principles;
c. Land development and construction; and
d. Climate change and sea level rise causes, effects, and solutions; or environmental protection and preservation.”

This is an amendment that would require members with specific areas of expertise to sit on the city's Planning Commission. The commission would be required to have at least one member in the areas of traditional Native Hawaiian practices; land-use policy; construction and environmental preservation.

Members currently do not need these types of experiences to join the Planning Commission. The mayor would retain their right to nominate members to the body.

Charter Question No. 3 Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund
“Shall the Revised Charter be amended to expand the permitted uses of funds in the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund to include funding for costs related to the operation, maintenance, and management of lands acquired by way of this Fund that are necessary to protect, maintain, or restore resources at risk on these lands, such as infrastructure, environmental remediation, or improvements to provide for public access and use?”

This proposal adds a list of acceptable uses of money from the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund.

In the past, nonprofits have applied to the fund to purchase lands, but were unable to keep up with the costs to care to preserve the land. This proposal would add maintenance and restoration as reasons to pull from this fund.

Charter Question No. 4 Office of Council Services
“Shall the Revised City Charter be amended to update the provisions pertaining to the Office of Council Services (“OCS”), the research and drafting arm of the Council, to reflect its current functions; consolidate various provisions relating to the OCS in a separate Chapter of the Revised Charter like its fellow Legislative Branch agencies, the Office of the City Clerk and Office of the City Auditor; provide for the appointment, salary, and duties of the OCS director; and expressly recognize the authority of the licensed attorneys in the OCS to provide legal advice to the City council and its members?”

The Office of Council Services has been around since the 1970s. This proposal is asking if it should be added into the city’s charter. It would also require the office to regularly update city laws for the public.

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Voters can expect to receive ballots in the mail in mid-October. Voting will close at 7 p.m. on Nov. 8.

Here's how the charter amendment questions will appear on your City and County of Honolulu ballot. Read below or click here to open a new window.

Sabrina Bodon is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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