By now it’s no news that things have changed on the top floors of the Kalana O Maui (County) Building. On Jan. 2, Mayor Mike Victorino was inaugurated along with members of the Maui County Council, followed by the first meeting of the new council, which elected Councilmember Kelly King to serve as chair, Keani Rawlins-Fernandez for vice chair, and Tasha Kama as presiding officer pro tempore.
However, in all the hubbub of the first-day, organizational meeting, there was one comment in particular by Councilmember Riki Hokama that caught my attention during a discussion on the adoption of new rules of the council.
Councilmember Alice Lee motioned to add a provision to rule 25 (“Conduct Relating to Public Meetings”) that would dictate that all councilmembers strive to “Prohibit unruly or disrespectful behavior from the audience and discipline their office staff who may encourage or promote unruly or disrespectful behavior from the audience.”
Some thought this language was too harsh, and could have the effect of chilling public testimony. “I promised our community that I would encourage and promote more government participation, more engagement… I’m afraid that a rule like this would create an environment that would be intimidating and discouraging for our community members to step forward because it’s not easy to get up there on the mic,” said Councilmember Rawlins-Fernandez.
Hokama thought otherwise. “I think this rule supports [councilmembers’] ability to maintain that decorum of the body,” he said.
“We do not conduct business between the members and the gallery. We conduct business between ourselves and our presiding officer, and that is why we face the chair [of the county council, with backs to the public] – we’re conducting official business.
“We’re not here to talk to the public, we’re here to finish the business of the people.”
Wow, spoken like a true public servant.
Image courtesy County of Maui