5. HAWAI`I: Terms of Council Members
QUESTION: Shall the Charter of the County of Hawai`i be amended to change the terms of office for Council Members to four years from the current two years, starting with the 2022 County Council term, with no current member serving more than eight consecutive years?To see the proposed language changes and Fiscal Impact Statements prepared by the County of Hawai`i Department of Finance, go to https://www.hawaiicounty.gov/Home/Components/News/News/2444/ .CHARTER COMMISSION SUMMARY: This proposal would change the duration of the terms of council members to four years from the current two years, with the number of consecutive terms not to exceed two. The proposal also would establish a provision to enable the transition from the current term system to the proposed system, starting with elections in 2022. The commission finds that county governance will be strengthened by this modification without inappropriately affecting voters' access to their county legislators.FISCAL IMPACT: This proposed charter amendment does not eliminate the 2-year election cycle for other elected officials, so there are no expected cost savings related to elections. There could be a savings in Unemployment Benefits as staff hired by Council members could be retained for four years instead of two years. After the 2018 election, approximately $60,000 was paid out in unemployment benefits related to the change in County Council staff.WHAT YOUR VOTE MEANS: A "YES" vote means that you are IN FAVOR of the amendment and the Charter of the County of Hawai`i will be changed as proposed. A "NO" vote means that you are AGAINST the amendment and the Charter of the County of Hawai`i will not be changed as proposed.ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR: -A four-year term is more cost effective and efficient. Instead of raising money and campaigning for office during the second year of their term, council members would be able to spend more time working for constituents, learning about the issues and how county government operates, and passing legislation. -A four-year term would provide more continuity in terms of serving a district an developing policies. Council members would have more time to build relationships with their constituents and tackle complicated or controversial legislation that might take several years to negotiate. -The total number of consecutive years a council member could serve would still be eight years, i.e., two four-year terms.ARGUMENTS AGAINST: -Voters have the opportunity to hold council members accountable through an election every two years, which avoids the expensive and time-consuming process to remove a council member from office through recall or impeachment. -It is important for council members to pay attention to their duties and their districts. Requiring council members to campaign for office very two years provides an opportunity for council members to meet, listen, and respond to constituents, especially in rural communities. -Electing council members every two years creates more opportunities to engage the public in debate about important issues facing the county. It might also increase citizen participation in the election as well as increase the number of candidates running for office.
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