Voting on Honolulu’s charter amendments? Here are the questions, simplified

Voting on Honolulu’s charter amendments? Here are the questions, simplified

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In next month’s general election, aside from picking the next President of the United States, Oahu voters will also be asked to decide the county’s next mayor, prosecutor and several other local and legislative races.

But some Honolulu voters said they were surprised to see charter amendments on their ballots. The questions are on the back, and are often difficult to understand.

In this election cycle, there are a total of four. Three of them are partially inspired by a public corruption scandal involving former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, Katherine Kealoha, who served as a deputy prosecutor.

The first question has to do with establishing term limits for the individual voted in as Honolulu’s prosecuting attorney.

“Right now, the prosecutor can run as many times as he or she wants. This would impose a two-term limit, just like the mayor,” said Colin Moore, the director of the University of Hawaii’s Public Policy Center and Hawaii News Now’s political analyst.

Moore points to the fact that only three men have held the job since it became an elected position in 1981: Charles Marsland, Peter Carlisle, and the current prosecuting attorney, Keith Kaneshiro.

Kaneshiro, though, has been on paid leave for nearly two years after receiving a target letter for federal prosecutors regarding the Kealoha scandal.

“Some people think if you’re in a position as powerful as that, it can be tough to remove you. You have a lot of power as the incumbent,” said Moore.

Next, voters will decide if the city should create a Youth Commission.

“This would give an opportunity for young people to participate in the policy process earlier,” said Moore. “To give their advice on things that directly effect youth, including issues like climate change.”

It would be made up of 15 members between the ages of 14 and 24 rom across Oahu, though it’s unclear exactly how much money establishing the commission would cost.

The final two questions are about the Honolulu Ethics Commission and were partially drafted in response to the Kealoha public corruption scandal.

Voting ‘yes’ to those questions would give the commission that investigates and enforces the city’s ethics rules more freedom.

“You need someone to police the politicians, and this is one of the organizations that does that,” said Moore. “Their budget will still be set by the City Council, but they’ll have a lot of flexibility in how to spend that budget and what employees to hire and what employees they need and how much to pay those employees.”

The commission’s investigation of the Kealoha’s was disrupted by hiring issues as well as budget questions raised by city lawyers.

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