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.  

 

 

IN A NUTSHELL: THE SPECIAL COMMITTEE’S RECOMMENDATION

I. Three Basic Changes:

o   The managing director should be hired by and report to the council through a selection process that is open and based on defined job-requirements.

Now: The mayor appoints the managing director in a closed process. The managing director is an aide to the mayor with limited authority. Job requirements are minimal.  The job term is defined by elections, not performance.

o   The managing director should hire directors.

Now: The mayor appoints directors, except those hired by commissions.  Job requirements are minimal.  Job terms are defined by elections, not performance.  

o   The length of service of the managing director and his/her hired directors should be based on job performance.

Now: All must resign with each mayoral election.  Job retention is not performance based.  The structure is political.

II. Three Key Goals:

o   Bringing professionalism to the managing director role and to department directors: length of job service should depend on performance, not elections, and management selection should be based on professional criteria, not politics.  The role is that of a fully accountable manager. 

Now: “We are all political,” per the current managing director.  Every appointed director must resign with each new mayor unrelated to performance on the job.  The managing director’s role is weak.  Getting the mayor re-elected is a key job focus[1].

o   Creating continuity of management and career opportunities.

Now: Director terms are limited to 4 or 8 years based on political fortunes.

o   Creating a collaborative work environment. 

Now: Squabbles and poor communication between branches characterized by posturing. name-calling, communication barriers, and finger pointing.

III. Role of a Mayor v. Managing Director

The mayor will retain his/her existing powers with the exception of responsibility for day-to-day county operations. The managing director will assume responsibility for budgeting, budget management, policy implementation and departmental actions and oversight.

Continuing mayoral duties include:

o   Approve or veto of bills passed by the council;

o   Call a state of emergency in the county as currently provided by law;

o   Recommend members for appointment  boards and commissions;

o   Appoint his/her staff;

o   Communicate with the council on matters necessary or appropriate;

o   Conduct relations with other governing entities; and

o   Carry out ceremonial functions.

[1] “Ultimately, I think what Rod [Antone] is saying is that our primary goal above all else is to get the mayor re-elected.  Nothing else really matters . . . .”  Keith Regan, current managing director, quoted verbatim in the Maui News, 10/11/15, at p. A4.

June 27th is Your Last Chance to Testify in Support of a Couny Manager!

PLEASE READ AND FORWARD TO FRIENDS, NEIGHBORS, AND FELLOW CITIZENS

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: JUNE 27 @ 9 AM, 8TH FLOOR, COUNTY BUILDING

ALERT.  To have any chance of getting the council-manager proposal on the November ballot, the Council must hear from you when the Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs (PIA) Committee takes up the Special Committee’s recommendation in favor of council-manager government on June 27.  

Some argue this is a "rush job” (after years of inaction by the county) and that more time is needed to educate the community.   Some simply say “kill it.”  Based on past behavior, more time means no action. There are three + months before the November election during which this and other issues will be vetted in every corner of our community.  Every council seat is being contested this election.  Many council candidates favor a change in structure.  While every candidate’s position has not been identified, at least one candidate in 7 of 9 council districts supports the council-manager structure and letting the people decide.  So too do candidates in the south Maui and Upcountry state representative contests.  

Yet, some Council members believe the people should not decide this question in November.  We disagree.   Voters are able to assess whether Maui County government is working well or whether it’s time for a charter change supporting council-manager government - to bring professionalism and expertise to management of county operations (roads, water, waste management, planning, finance, etc.)

We think you, the voters, know

Whether the relationship between the mayor and council is effective, collaborative and working in the people’s best interests, or not;

Whether the county’s planning and implementation functions are timely and working, or untimely and broken;

Whether the mayor and managing director put the interests of citizens before their own political interests;

Whether the complexity and population of our county have increased significantly since our “Strong Mayor” form of government was adopted almost 50 years ago;

Whether selecting our chief executive/operating officer (mayor) based on criteria in the current charter (can vote, is at least 18 years old and a county resident for at least 1 year) is adequate, or not; 

Whether department head selection is subject to rigorous screening, based on updated job descriptions and minimum requirements, or whether some appointees have little or no background, education or experience in the fields they are to lead;

Whether showing all directors to the door with each mayoral election promotes continuity, cost effectiveness and selection of the best directors; and

Whether our local government is transparent and accountable to the people.
So come and let the council hear your voice.  You will not have another opportunity like this for decades to come if the council does not advance the question!

Maui News Editorial, 2/28/16: “Go directly to the people.  As the Special Committee on County Governance continues its study of whether to maintain the current strong mayor-council form of government or to recommend a change to a council-manager setup, we have a suggestion: Urge the County Council to put the measure on the ballot this fall and let the residents of Maui County decide . . . .”

Mark Hyde
forthegoodofmaui.org

Answering the Question: Will Maui Be Faced With Higher Salary Obligations with a County Manager?

by Mark Hyde

Will the County be Faced with Huge Salary and Severance Obligations like that Incurred by the University of Hawaii if it Hires a County Manager?

In testimony to the Council on June 3, 2016, a member of the Special Committee raised concern that the County might incur large severance liabilities should the Council hire a professional manager, citing the University of Hawaii’s recent experience with termination of the employment agreements with its president and football coach.

The ICMA's (International City/County Manager Association) 2015 Salary Survey dispels and puts this concern into perspective.  Relevant data from this report shows that for cities and counties with populations between 100,000 and 249,999:

Median Salary for a County CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) is $167,682 ($208,575 for a city CAO)
Most have benefit packages like that of other local government employees
 88% have an employment contract
 85% are eligible for severance within the following ranges: up to 3 months of base pay - 7%; up to 6 months of base pay - 51%; up to 1 year - 22%; other (undefined) - 23%.

So, including 15% who have none, about 23rds have 6 six months or less.   Applying 6 months severance to an estimated salary of $200,000 for a manager, anticipated severance could be $100,000.

Maui Faces Numerous Economic Challenges Ahead

by Mark Hyde

Maui’s bond rating is rightfully touted as a point of pride: Moody’s assigns the county an AA1 rating, which is near the top.  While this keeps the county’s cost of borrowing low, we need to look at an array of economic data to get a complete picture of our economic circumstances. 

According to the United States Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, Maui County’s GDP (gross domestic product) for the most recent period (2014 compared to 2013) placed the County in the lowest tier of categorization (fifth out of five), comparing our economic performance to that of other metropolitan areas in the nation.  (See http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/gdp_metro/2015/_images/gdp_metro0915.png.)

Data from this report depicting Maui County in the red was recently published (Summer 2016) in Charles Schwab’s OnInvesting magazine under the title “Geography, Growth and Municipal Bonds, Location matters when investing in munis,” noting that “Cities and states with strong, expanding economies are often in healthy fiscal shape, which supports their ability to make debt payments.”

The Schwab article also counsels investors to consider investing in areas not dominated by one industry.  According to Maui County’s website, the visitor industry is Maui County’s primary industry.  Tourism, it should be noted, is economically sensitive. 

In terms of personal income, Maui County scores poorly, with per capita personal income in 2014 equal to $39,049 compared to a U.S. average of $46,049.  Maui also ranks third out of 4 counties in the state in personal income. (See http://bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/lapi/2015/pdf/lapi1115.pdf.)

We all know Maui has one of the highest costs of living in the country, borne out by national data and personal experience.  Hawaii ranks 50th out of fifty states in this category.  (See https://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/.)

In terms of pension funding, Hawaii has one of the biggest pension deficits in the nation (Pacific Business News, December 23, 2015); Maui County shares a portion of that liability, equal to about$300 million, not to mention another roughly $300 million in unfunded retiree health care costs. 

So when local government highlights the county’s municipal bond rating, consider the whole story.  The county has work to do to develop a diverse economy with better paying jobs. 

Let the Maui County Council Know You Want the Right to Vote

by Mark Hyde

I have been told the council will receive the Special Committee on Governance report and recommendation on June 3 2016.  It’s not clear at this point whether the Council will retain the matter or refer it to committee.  

It's important to let the council know citizens want the right to vote on this issue in November.  While opinions can differ whether we are better off continuing with a strong mayor as we have for the past 50 years, there is little justification to deny the people the right to vote on the proposal.  (Charter amendments can be put on the ballot with the vote of 6 council members.)

We have launched a Change.org petition and we humbly ask for your signature. Click HERE to sign. We hope to get at least 1,000 signatures so please share this petition with your friends.

Here are some quotes from key constitutional documents that speak plainly to who “owns” government:

1. Maui County Charter Preamble
WE, THE PEOPLE OF THE COUNTY OF MAUI, mindful of our Hawaiian history, heritage and culture and our uniqueness as a four island county, dedicate our efforts to fulfill the philosophy decreed by the Hawaii State motto, "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono," ["The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness."]

In order to secure the benefits of the best possible form of county government and to exercise the powers and assume the responsibilities of county government to the fullest extent possible, we do hereby adopt this charter of the County of Maui, State of Hawai`i.

2. Hawaii State Constitution Preamble:

We, the people of Hawaii, grateful for Divine Guidance, and mindful of our Hawaiian heritage and uniqueness as an island State, dedicate our efforts to fulfill the philosophy decreed by the Hawaii State motto, "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono."
We reserve the right to control our destiny, to nurture the integrity of our people and culture, and to preserve the quality of life that we desire.

We reaffirm our belief in a government of the people, by the people and for the people, and with an understanding and compassionate heart toward all the peoples of the earth, do hereby ordain and establish this constitution for the State of Hawaii.

3.  U. S. Constitution Preamble

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


With this in mind, I hope you will consider testifying on June 3 in favor of the right to vote on this measure.  You can be sure opponents of the recommendation will be there to try to derail our effort to bring good government to our county.   

 “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” – Margaret Mead

 

Cost of Goverment Report Has Numerous Flaws

by Mark Hyde

The Cost of Government Report was submitted to the Council recently and a Viewpoint by the co-chair of the COG was printed in the Maui News today. Here is a rebuttal.

The current COG Report is based on academic journal articles dating as far back as 1966. As stated in the Report, these academic articles use government spending per capita to compare cost effectiveness between governance models. This is a flawed approach. Spending alone does not determine whether one community is more efficient than another. For example, if community A spends $100 per resident on planning while community B spends $90, can it be said that Community B plans more efficiently and effectively than A?  No. What’s tells the story is the quality and quantity of work gotten for the money spent, not just money spent. Value = quality and quantity divided by cost.

Another shortfall in the COG Report is its narrow analysis of the cost of turnover between the two governance models.  The Report looks only at turnover in the chief administrator position: 7.3 years on average in council manager communities and 4.2 years on average for Maui County managing directors.  Wholly avoided is discussion of massive and simultaneous turnover of every Maui County director and deputy (except those appointed by commissions) with the election of each mayor. This produces loss of knowledge, requires a significant learning curve, and results in discontinuity of management and direction.   Also missing in this limited analysis is recognition that in our “strong mayor” model Maui’s managing directors are political appointees.  Who can forget the Maui News article entitled “Damage Control”  (MN 10/11/15) where the current managing director is quoted as defining his role as “political” with a primary duty to serve the mayor, not the people.
 
The COG’s “heads down” academic approach misses the big picture - not seeing the forest for the trees.  Raising one’s head up and looking at the current situation we easily see many things that are obviously broken - the direct result of 50 years of strong/political mayor government.  Here are just a few:
 
· Dysfunction between the mayor and the council, including name-calling.  It’s universally known that people who work together accomplish more than people who don’t.

· Appointment of directors by the mayor to departmental director positions when the appointees lack subject matter knowledge of the areas they are to lead.   

· Breakdown in the county’s ability to develop and execute plans, with current plans about 10 years behind charter-established planning schedules.

· Wholesale turnover of directors with every new mayoral term resulting in discontinuity, loss of knowledge, and a steep learning curve for each new administration.

· Lack of accountability for performance and little transparency into government activities.

Lastly, the COG’s recommendation that decision on a charter change should be punted to the next charter commission is ill advised and, frankly,  beyond the scope of the COG’s charter. The next charter commission will not be convened for another 6 years. In the normal course, and once convened, that Commission would issue a report a year later, with action taken, or not, in the next election cycle, which could delay much needed restructuring until 2027 - 10 years from now.
 
Considering (1) that the Countywide Policy Plan adopted by the County in 2010 stated the need to explore other forms of government (to create greater accountability and transparency), (2) that the 2012 Charter Commission explicitly called for the appointment of a Special Committee to study council-manager government, and (3) that a Special Committee on Governance was convened by the County Council in late 2015 which thereafter took testimony, heard from experts, studied literature and issued a report recommending adoption of a form of county-manager government, the COG’s recommendation is odd at best.  Here’s what a member of the 2012 Charter Commission, who also served on the Special Committee on Governance, said at a recent Special Committee’s meeting: “It’s [county-management government] an interesting conversation. One that’s due. One the [2012] charter commission tried to wrestle with but never had any time for it.  We passed the buck on to this group [Special Committee on Governance] . ..”

Time to call the question and let the people vote on the kind of government they want.

Suggested Resolution Language for the November 2016 Ballot

by Mark Hyde

Many people have asked to see what the language would be if the resolution to move to a county manager form of governance makes it on to the ballot this November. Here is the current language, adopted 5/9/16, by the Special Committee on Governance.

"Shall the Charter be amended to establish a revised structure of governance for the County of Maui wherein:

A Managing Director, appointed by the County Council shall be responsible for the County's daily operations, the appointment and removal of department heads, and the implementation of County policy; and an elected Mayor shall be responsible for representing the County in intergovernmental affairs, with the authority to approve or veto bills, and nominate board and commission members?"

We believe this is the correct mix for Maui county by providing for professional management of day-to-day county operations free from political influence while retaining an elected mayor with veto power to maintain balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of government.

Panel Recommends Charter Amendment

by Mark Hyde

Today the Special Committee on Governance voted 6 -3, with two members absent, to recommend Council consideration of a charter amendment (for the November ballot) that will, if enacted, implement council-manager government, the most common and progressive form of city and county government in America in communities similar to ours.  If enacted, the effect would be to place day-to-day county operations in the hands of a professional manager hired by the Council while retaining a popularly elected mayor with veto power, who would continue to represent the county inter-governmentally and who would appoint citizens to boards and commissions.  This is step #1 in a three step process, the next being Council approval of the Resolution followed by approval by the people in November.

According to comments made by Council Services personnel today, the Special Committee proposal will be posted to the County’s website no later than May 27 for Council hearing June 3.   

We and many others in our community believe it’s time to adopt the changes recommended by the Special Committee given the increasing complexity of county government, one with a $700,000,000 annual budget, 2,700 employees and responsibility for many critical services.  We also believe there are serious flaws in the way county government is currently being administered, which can be addressed through this change.

Chair of the Council Committee to which this matter will return - Michael Victorino, Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee - recently wrote: "The PIA Committee has jurisdiction over amendments to the County Charter, which is the County of Maui’s foundational document. I intend to carefully review all the charter amendments submitted by my colleagues or the public and decide which are worthy of a public discussion in committee.”   Please let Mr. Victorino and other council members know you want to decide this matter through the democratic process at the ballot box in November.   Email: PIA.committee@mauicounty.us.

 

Response to May 4th Maui News Editorial

by Mark Hyde

The May 4, 2016, edition of the Maui News contained an editorial urging the County Council to reject the Special Committee on Governance's recommendation to retain an elected mayor while employing a professional manager hired by the County Council to manage day-to-day county operations.  While the newspaper's view is understandable, many in our community have expressed a desire to retain an elected mayor/single point of contact, and some have expressed distrust of the Council.  Ultimately, changing the way the county’s day-to-day operations are managed is a core feature of council manager government.   The model recommended by the Special Committee will achieve this much needed outcome while affording a check on Council excesses, real or perceived, through mayoral veto power.

Furthermore, because an elected mayor in the new format will not have responsibility for day-to-day operations, the number of staff needed by the next mayor will be significantly less than that of the current mayor.  This will address the paper’s concern that a bloated mayoral/executive staff will continue after adoption of a new charter as proposed.

From the outset many in our community have said that Maui is different from other places and that we need our own model, not that used elsewhere.  The Special Committee’s recommendation is just that - a tailored approach in line with the desires of the people of Maui and its history.  It’s a win-win for our diverse, four island county.

Once the proposed governance model is formally adopted by the Special Committee and then delivered to the County Council for action, the Council should clear the way to place the measure on the November ballot for the people to decide what form of local government they want to serve their needs.  Maui’s future will undoubtedly be more complex and demanding; the Special Committee’s proposed structure will better position us to meet these challenges.