by Mark Hyde
The county council recently formed a Special Committee on Governance to examine the
current state of county government and to assess whether a different form of government
might be more effective. Having attended all of the committee’s meetings, a few
themes have emerged.
First, there is appears to be consensus that a good working relationship between the
executive and legislative branches of government is important to effective governance. It
is apparent, however, that the relationship between the two is frayed, openly hostile and
punctuated by finger-pointing.
Second, good government requires qualified people to lead. There appears to be
universal agreement that director-level job descriptions and minimum requirements now
contained in our 50-year-old charter need to be “beefed up” to achieve top performance.
Third, county government transparency needs improvement because transparency is key
accountability. While the current county charter contains a few ways to achieve
transparency/accountability, the charter is not being followed and the provisions are not
being enforced either by the mayor, who is specifically charged with charter enforcement
[Article 7-6.17], or by the council, which could call the executive branch to account.
Here are some compelling examples:
(1) Article 13-7 of the charter requires each department to prepare and submit an
annual report to the county clerk within 90 days of the close of each fiscal year. For 2015
this would have been 9/30/15. According to the county clerk, the reports for 2015 are not
on file. Besides, they are in paper form and not available for view on the county’s web
site. In any event, earlier reports show they vary in format and depth with little or no
connection to departmental goals or the general plan.
(2) Article 8-8.5.3 and county ordinance 2.80B.030.I require the planning director to
present a annual, detailed report to the mayor and council explaining the status of
implementation and enforcement of the general and community plans. None has been
presented for years, yet this report was obviously intended by the drafters of the charter to
provide both transparency into and accountability for local government performance.
Again, enforcement of the charter is left to the mayor [Article 7-6.17], but there is no
enforcement and again, the council does not call the question.
(3) Many cities and counties have synthesized key goals and objectives into easily
understood dashboards for all to see, with annual measurement and trended data to enable
citizens to understand just how well local government is doing. By contrast, Maui
County relies on an 800+ page budget as its means for communication.
(4) To the extent the 800+ page budget contains departmental goals and objectives,
many are process based (do x number of things) and few are results oriented (achieve x, y
or z). The mayor’s goals are particularly troubling because most are administrative, if not
secretarial, in nature and not “big picture” endeavors. Among his ten 2016 goals are:
hold at least one health and wellness event; provide accurate press releases; nominate
people to boards and commissions (others work up the list); maintain good relations with
the county council - for which he rates himself “100%” in 2014, a year in which he issued
his restrictive communication policy vis-à-vis the council followed by calling two council
members “snollygosters” in locally published article authored by the mayor.
(5) Everyone recognizes the importance of good planning as a means to achieving
desired ends. County ordinances require decennial updates to the general and community
plans, but the 1990 general plan was not updated until 22 years later in 2012, and even
then without milestones required by the county code - against which executive branch
performance could otherwise be measured. Additionally, the updated plan was passed
without a required implementation chapter, which was adopted two years later in 2014.
The implementation chapter begins with the following quotation: “Vision without action
is a dream.’’ That’s true, but the delayed implementation plan lacks required benchmarks
of establishing benchmarks and three years after passage of the plan no assessment of
performance has been completed.
Out of concern for Maui and because we would like to see the goals and objectives of the
2010 Countywide Policy Plan implemented, a number of concerned citizens came
together under the banner of MauiGAIN (“Government Accountability and Improvement
Now”) to begin discussion of the need for a new form of local government that would
have professional management of county operations at its heart, while retaining an