County charter amendments pass

Hawaii Island residents voted Tuesday for more oversight over raises for county officials.

With all precincts reporting, a charter amendment requiring the county Salary Commission to publish notices in local papers, hold at least one public hearing, and provide a report on its findings at least 30 days before approving changes to salaries for administrators and council members passed with 81 percent approval.

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Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy proposed the ballot initiative after the commission approved double-digit raises for many positions. She said it’s clear voters want more oversight over raises for top officials.

“This should be the new normal over how the public’s money is spent,” Lee Loy said Tuesday evening.

Commission members say the raises were needed to keep up with salaries for subordinates or comparable positions in the public and private sector. Lee Loy said the amendment won’t prevent the commissioners from doing their job, but it will ensure the public is more involved.

The amendment also requires salary changes of 10 percent or more to receive the support of two-thirds of commission members.

“The voters have spoken for overwhelming support of accountability and fiscal sustainability,” Lee Loy said. “They are sending a message to the Salary Commission that they must get more input from the taxpayers who fund these pay raises.”

Another charter amendment requiring ballot initiatives that would change the charter to be accompanied with a fiscal impact statement also passed with 81 percent in favor. That amendment was sponsored by Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung.

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Meanwhile, a ballot initiative on whether to hold a constitutional convention was facing rejection with 74.5 percent of voters opposed.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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