by Andrew Walden
Forty-nine states have found a really obvious solution which nobody in Hawai'i (except yours truly) is willing to even talk about.
It’s called ‘Municipal Government.’ Hawai'i is the ONLY state without any municipal governments below the county level.
Would an elected Kahuku Town Mayor and Council have approved the windfarm? Their Neighborhood Board didn’t—but it is only advisory.
Would an elected Waimanalo Town Mayor and Council have voted to build a sports complex at Sherwoods?
On issue after issue, community residents are left begging distant authorities to listen to them. If Hawai'i had town and village councils—as does every other US state—residents could stop begging and start deciding.
On the flip side, appealing to a distant power obligates protesters to take an absolutist point of view. They will only get one bite of the apple before the authorities move on to other matters. Maybe a village council of O'okala on the Big Island could have attempted to work things out with Whitesides Dairy, rather than forcing their closure.
Hawai'i State Constitution, Article VIII, Section 1, reads: “The legislature shall create counties, and may create other political subdivisions within the State, and provide for the government thereof. Each political subdivision shall have and exercise such powers as shall be conferred under general laws.”
The Legislature can put some meat on those bones by creating a process by which local residents can petition to create their own municipalities, define their boundaries, and their powers—and allow voters within the proposed boundaries to vote on whether to incorporate themselves into a new town and approve a new town charter.
Until then we will continue to have government by protest and lawsuit—as we have had for decades.
June 6, 2019:
Columnists Talking About Everything EXCEPT Municipal Government: