Honolulu Charter Commission 101

An Introduction to the Charter Amendment process
Edition 2015-2016

Update: October 14, 2016

After months of hearings, the Charter Commission decided that 20 proposed amendments will make it onto November's ballot. On election day, the public will have the opportunity to accept or reject the proposed changes. Common Cause Hawaii urges Honolulu residents to vote "no" on Amendment #19, which asks, “Should the requirement be repealed that no more than five of the City Council Reapportionment Commission’s nine members be from the same political party?”

Currently reapportionment commissioners are appointed by the council chair with the full council’s approval. A maximum of five of the nine commissioners can belong to the same party. Amendment #19 would change this vital provision by allowing the appointment of a dominant majority—or even every seat on the Commission—to members of one party. It is important that we protect the rights of all voters, regardless of their political ideology and we must not let the foxes guard the henhouse. You can read Common Cause Hawaii's full statement here. Please vote "no" on Amendment #19.

Update: June 29, 2016

The Honolulu Charter Commission has several meetings planned asking for community input over the summer. To view the full schedule visit: http://honoluluchartercommission.org/ Don't miss this once in a decade opportunity to make your voice heard and improve Honolulu.

Update: January 29, 2016

Common Cause Hawaii submitted three proposals to the Honolulu Charter Commission that are moving forward in the Charter process:

  1. Implementing Instant Runoff Voting. This would make Honolulu County special elections (to fill vacancies) consistent with general elections and make the outcome of those elections more accurately reflect the will of the voters.
  2. Requiring the Honolulu City Clerk to engage in "Get Out the Vote" efforts - instead of simply providing voting and voter registration systems to the public.
  3. Requiring the Honolulu City Clerk to compile and disseminate unbiased Voter Education pamphlets – with information on the candidates and ballot issues that will appear on the ballot – to registered voters.

Residents of the City and County of Honolulu will have the chance to vote on proposals that pass the Charter Commission’s yearlong review process during this year’s general election.

Update: November 19, 2015

The period to submit proposals to the Honolulu Charter Commission has closed. Proposals will be reviewed and the public will have the opportunity to voice their opinions regarding the proposals at upcoming public hearings. For more information and hearing schedules, please visit the Commission's website: http://honoluluchartercommission.org/

What is the Honolulu Charter?

The Honolulu Charter Commission serves as the County’s “Constitution”; it is a set of principles that guide Honolulu County in their daily operations. Every ten years, The Honolulu Charter Commission meets to review how government operates within the City Charter, and makes Charter Amendments to more accurately reflect the values of the County and its citizens. The Honolulu Charter Commission accepts public suggestions to improve how the City operates.

Honolulu Hale

What is the Honolulu Charter Commission?

The Honolulu Charter Commission is an appointed board which meets every ten years to study and review City government operations in the City Charter, the "Constitution" of the City and County of Honolulu.

The Commission is comprised of 13 members who are appointed by the Mayor and the Presiding Officer of the Council. Each person appoints 6 individuals, and the remaining Commissioner is appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council.

You can find out who the 2015-2016 Honolulu Charter Commission members are here, and learn which committees they serve on here

How does the Charter review process work?

The Honolulu Charter Commission solicits input from the public on proposals to include in the Honolulu Charter. The Commission spends several months on informational briefings to help them better understand the proposals that come before them. These amendments then get voted on by the Commission.

All proposed amendments approved by the Commission then gets placed on the ballot for the upcoming election, for voters to decide on.

Note: Every 10 years, the Charter Commission operates slightly differently, based on the decisions made by the new Commissioners.

What is the Charter amendment timeline?

The Honolulu Charter process spans a little over a year, with activity commencing March 2015, and completing November 2016, after the general election.

As specified on the Honolulu Charter Commission website, the general timetable is as follows:

March-June 2015   
July–October 2015
Solicitations and Informational Briefings
November 2015 
Initial Review
December 2015    
January-May 2016
Public Hearings
May-July 2016 Final Review
July-August 2016 
Preparation and Adoption of Ballot Questions
August-October 2016
Public Education
November 2016

Key deadlines are as follows, according to the Honolulu Charter Commission website:

July 1, 2015
First day for proposals to be submitted to the Commission
October 31, 2015
Last day for proposals to be submitted to the Commission without a supermajority* vote requirement
November 30, 2015 
Last day for proposals to be submitted to the Commission with a supermajority* vote
August 22, 2016 
Last day for Commission to submit proposed Charter amendments to the City Clerk
August 25, 2016  
Last day for City Clerk to submit exact wording of ballot questions to the Chief Election Officer
September 24, 2016 Last day to publish a brief digest of the proposed Charter amendments or revised Charter to be placed in a daily newspaper, along with notice that copies of the amendments or revised charter are available at the office of the City Clerk
November 8, 2016
General Election

*A supermajority requires 9 or more members to support an issue.

What’s in the Honolulu Charter?

You can review the current Honolulu Charter, and the amendments made to it since 2002 here. The Table of Contents for both documents will help you find the sections that are of most concern to you.

How can I get involved?

A. Attending Honolulu Charter Commission meetings.
Visit the Commission’s website, to see when the next meeting will be scheduled. The hearing notice/agenda will be located on their website homepage in the right hand margin.

B. Submitting Testimony or Public Comments
Citizens can submit testimony on specific agenda items that the Honolulu Charter Commission is considering, by filling out this online form. Citizens can also submit public comments about topics not listed in an agenda, by filling out this online form.

C. Submitting Proposals     
Have a Charter proposal idea? Want to see something in the Honolulu Charter? YOU can submit a proposal!
Click here and complete this form to submit a Charter amendment idea for the Commission to consider.

Tip: While your proposal does not have to be written like a lawyer, it does need to be clear and specific suggestion. Make sure your proposal is explicit, and refers to a section within the existing Honolulu Charter Commission. Broad proposals like, “The City should do something about the homeless problem” is not as productive as a proposal like, “The City should help alleviate homelessness by X,Y,Z (and then include which section of the City Charter this is related to)”.

D. Tracking Charter Proposals and Amendments

     1. Attend Honolulu Charter Commission meetings.

     2. Visit the Honolulu Charter Commission website for updates. Updates will be included on the home page. You can also see all the submitted proposals submitted by members of the public on this website.

     At this time, there is no RSS-feed tracking mechanism for submitted Charter proposals.

Media Coverage

Here’s a recap of recent Honolulu Charter Commission media stories:

It’s a Once-in-a-Decade Chance to Change the Honolulu City Charter
Civil Beat, September 28, 2015

Public Can Assist City Charter Effort
Honolulu Star-Advertiser, July 27, 2015


Contact the Honolulu Charter Commission to learn more!

Check out the Honolulu Charter Commission website by visiting: http://honoluluchartercommission.org


Source: The information provided on this website has been compiled from the Honolulu County Commission website.

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