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The Maui News

Letters To The Editor

Sunday, January 6, 2002

Amend Maui Charter for Citizen Ballot Initiatives

Everyone knows the story: an important issue comes up before the County Council, and different groups try to rally supporters to their sides to testify and lobby. Then, the Council members vote any way they like. It is the same with the State legislature, which is even more remote from influence by Maui citizens. Living with the same powerlessness year after year leads not to voter apathy, but to something far worse: deep resignation about ever having a say in the society. We can see the results of this powerlessness all around us.

The remedy for this political anaesthesia is for the people have a direct say-so in creating the laws---the citizen ballot initiative. The current County Charter allows for citizen ballot initiatives, so why doesn't every election on Maui have campaigns for Propositions A, B, C, D, and E?

The answer is, the current Charter was written to prevent citizen initiatives. To put an initiative on the ballot here you have to collect signatures 40 times as fast as in California. Not two or three times as fast---forty times as fast. The County Charter gives citizens one month to collect signatures of 20% of the registered voters. In California you have five months, and must collect only 5% of the number who voted in the last Governor's election. Compared to even the toughest mainland States, Maui County is three times as stringent for both the number of signatures required, and how fast they must be collected.

As if that were not bad enough, the Charter prohibits ballot initiatives from having any power over the capital program, annual budget, property taxes, appropriations, bonds, appointments, emergency ordinances, or the Charter itself. I.e., ballot initiatives are forced to "stay in the sandbox". In California, ballot initiatives may include any ordinance that the State legislature can itself enact. And they may include amendments to the State constitution.

If the new Charter changes Maui's ballot initiative law to bring it in line with the rest of the nation, Maui politics would be forever changed. The citizens would have the power and responsibility to directly shape Maui's future, instead of being forced to sit on the sidelines hoping our politicians do the right thing. Let your County Council representative know you want direct democracy to finally come to Maui. We want to see a Charter amendment on the ballot next November to give us that power. We want Maui citizens to have the same opportunity to create ballot initiatives as other Americans.