Press Release by:
Councilmember Michael P. Victorino
Treasurer, Hawaii State Association of Counties
HONOLULU – In an unprecedented event, representatives of the executive and legislative branches of all four Hawaii counties met at City Hall on Friday, Sept. 13, for the Hawaii State Association of Counties meeting and agreed on a coordinated action plan for the 2014 State Legislative Session, announced Maui County Councilmember Michael P. Victorino, who serves as HSAC Treasurer.
In attendance were Councilmember Victorino’s colleagues on the HSAC Executive Committee, Kauai County Councilmember Mel Rapozo (President), Hawaii County Councilmember Dennis “Fresh” Onishi (Vice President) and Honolulu City Councilmember Stanley Chang (Secretary).
The Hawaii Council of Mayors was represented by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Maui County Mayor Alan M. Arakawa, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi and Beth Tokioka, Director of Communications for Kauai County, on behalf of Mayor Bernard Carvalho.
In addition, all council chairs attended the meeting, including Maui County Chair Gladys C. Baisa, Kauai County Council Chair Jay Furfaro, Honolulu City Council Chair Ernie Martin and Hawaii County Council Chair J Yoshimoto.
Council Chair Baisa initiated regular council chairs’ meetings earlier this year to “find solutions on common issues as administrators of municipal legislative bodies.” Council Chair Baisa and Councilmember Victorino both pushed for attendance by elected officials from all four counties at Friday’s meeting.
“This is history in the making,” said HSAC President Rapozo, presiding at the meeting. “I have never seen all the leaders in the same room, and I think gives a very powerful statement.”
“I’ve reminded my colleagues on the Maui County Council and on the other councils the significance of having a body representing the counties and its power to create a difference,” Councilmember Victorino said. “This power needs to be harnessed and properly used to advance county priorities for the benefit of our communities.”
Lobbying the State Legislature became the main focus of the meeting. The leaders agreed that developing an HSAC package consisting of approximately 5 major bills of importance is a strategic approach.
The county leaders also agreed they should be prepared to present a unified front at the State Capitol to show counties’ strength.
“It’s important to remind everyone that the county elected officials represent the same constituents as the state legislators and governor,” Council Chair Baisa said. She added that “it’s the county elected officials who are closest to Hawaii residents, while county councils remain in session all year.”
“I think the State Legislature needs the counties more than the counties need them,” Mayor Caldwell said. “We are the voice of the people. They have a gridlock on the Federal level, a gridlock on the State level, but counties can keep moving along.”
The mayors and council members agreed to strategically identify key State lawmakers who may be interested in the proposed package. They said it’s important for the State to show respect for home rule and for the work the counties do to support the visitor industry and other components of Hawaii’s economy – which sometimes has meant taking on traditional State functions.
The county leaders said they hope to continue their discussions – and momentum – at the HSAC General Membership meeting on Oct. 22 at 10 a.m., also at Honolulu Hale.
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