Maui County Council-Manager System

Update: June 30, 2016

From our friends at For the Good of Maui:

Halt to County Manager Proposal is a Beginning, not the End

by Mark Hyde

Today the Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee voted not to advance the Special Committee’s recommended change to the county charter that would have brought professional management to county operations.  Those voting in favor of giving the people the right to decide the matter were Cochran, Guzman, Victorino and White.  Those voting against were Baisa, Carroll, Crivello, Couch and Hokama.  Those in the majority expressed various reasons for their vote, but bottom line they lacked confidence in the electorate’s ability to understand and decide this issue, whether for or against.  Some said it was not sufficiently developed; one suggested this should take years, not months.

As you may know, every council seat is contested this go-round, giving the electorate another way to bring change to county government.  There are a number of very attractive candidates for council this fall.  Take a look at all county council races and decide who should get your vote, because this is the most direct way to improve local government, and it’s just 3 months away.

Second, we will explore other ways and opportunities to bring change to county government.  Getting a charter change proposal on the ballot can happen in different ways, it just won’t be through this county council or this term.

In the next few weeks the council will explore a variety of small fixes to the charter, including Mr. Hokama’s proposal to have the council review all mayoral appointments.  This proposal not only expresses obvious lack of confidence in the current "strong mayor” system, it does not address the dysfunctional relationship between the mayor and council; simultaneous and forced turnover of directors, deputies and their staffs with each new mayoral election; a broken planning function with no leadership to address it; the presence of politics and cronyism in operational decision making and actions; etc.  

I want to thank members of the the Special Committee who dedicated the last 6 months studying, creating and advocating for a charter change that would implement professional management of county operations, and to the many citizens who took time and expended energy to testify in favor of change.  

This is a beginning, not an end.  Maui County, the land, the people and the culture are too precious to act otherwise.

Original Post: May 2016

In an effort to increase accountability and efficiency, the Maui County Council is considering changing their current form of government from a Council-Mayor System to a Council-Manager system.

Under the current Council-Mayor system, the Council sets policies, including the county budget, and the Mayor manages County staff and operations. Often, however, the Mayor and Council do not see eye-to-eye, and this leads to performance accountability issues as the Mayor does not have to carry out the Council’s policies, and the Council does not have to fund the Mayor’s initiatives, resulting in a never-ending blame game.

Difference between a Mayor and a City Manager. City of Nogales Arizona. 2012

The Council-Manager System proposes to have Maui Council appoint a Managing Director to be the County’s “chief operating officer”. The Managing Director would appoint department heads, manage staff, prepare the budget, and carry out day-to-day operations and the Council’s policies. The Mayor would remain an elected position and would retain veto powers, nominate boards/commission members, and represent the county at functions. Under a Council-Manager System, accountability is clear, since staff and department heads must answer to the Managing Director, and the Managing Director must answer to the Council, who in turn must answer to the people. Watch the short video above, from Nogales, Arizona for an overview of this system.

Cities already benefitting from this system include: Phoenix, Arizona; Williamsburg, Virginia; San Antonio, Texas and Dayton, Ohio which adopted this system back in 1913. Kauai County is also considering implementing a similar system.

In order to implement the Council-Manager System, the Maui County Charter must be amended. Common Cause Hawaii is working with For The Good Of Maui, a group of citizen advocates to encourage the Council to place this issue on the 2016 General Election Ballot, allowing the citizens of Maui to vote on and decide the future of Maui.

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