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Charter Commission Opinion by Danny Mateo

The appointed members of Maui County’s Charter Commission have great power within county government. Every 10 years, the commission is formed and given the special authority to propose amendments to the charter or draft a new charter.

The Charter is the county’s constitutional, foundational document.

Charter Commission member Dave DeLeon has long been an outspoken advocate of a voting system that would merge the small communities of Molokai, Lanai, and Hana with more urbanized parts of the Island of Maui in establishing council districts. His views and nominations were discussed at length by the council’s Policy Committee, which interviewed him on March 2.

Here’s an excerpt from the meeting minutes:

“Mr. DeLeon: I definitely have stated my opinions on at least some of the issues in front of this Commission, but I can tell you I can put that on the side and be objective … I want to hear from the public … the whole community.”

Yet Mr. DeLeon’s July 10 advocacy piece in favor of district voting was published in the Maui News the day before the Charter Commission held its first public hearing on Molokai. So it was written without giving Molokai residents the chance to listen.

That’s disrespectful. It’s also contrary to the assertions made to the council about how the Charter Commission and its members would function.

Additionally, I question whether a newspaper is the proper forum for a Charter Commission member to try to persuade his colleagues on a contentious issue.  As a testifier pointed out during the July 11 Charter Commission meeting, volunteer commission members are expected to debate in public meetings and fulfill their specified duties with objectivity and discretion, not to serve as public advocates who are committed to certain political positions or to favoring particular interests.

I expect that Charter Commission members will fulfill their duties in an open-minded and constrained manner, as they promised Council members they would and as the public presumes. I trust that Charter Commission Chair Joshua Stone, other Charter Commission members and the public will join me in voicing this concern.

Danny A. Mateo is the Chair of the Maui County Council, and holds the Molokai residency seat on the Council.

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