Hawaii County’s legal department is combing through a stay-at-home emergency proclamation that Gov. David Ige signed Monday, looking for interpretations that best fit the Big Island, said Mayor Harry Kim on Tuesday.
Kim said he had asked Ige for a statewide order to create more consistency, and he and the other three county mayors worked with the governor to draft the language. Not all of his proposed exemptions made their way into the final product, Kim said, leading him to direct Assistant Corporation Counsel Renee Schoen to go through the document to see how much flexibility the county has in interpreting the order.
“Unfortunately, the proclamation had already been sealed,” Kim said, “and we will try to see if we can be flexible in interpretation to make sure, first of all, we do not jeopardize the people of Hawaii Island — but asking for exceptions on things that would not jeopardize the island.”
Counties can make laws stricter than state laws, but not less stringent, under the state constitution.
An Ige spokeswoman verified Kim asked for the statewide order.
“Governor says he’s been speaking with all of the mayors on what would work best for their islands,” said Jodi Leong. “Yes, Mayor Kim did ask for the state proclamation, and a consistent message.”
Kim said he was looking at some of the business exemptions because he’s hoping that, among some other possibilities, businesses that clean people’s homes, pet care, bookstores and social functions for senior citizens are included. Mental and emotional health have to be taken into consideration, he said.
“There is misunderstanding on the part of the community,” Kim said in a 12-minute video address posted to his Facebook page Tuesday morning. “Hawaii County has never gone against the governor’s proclamations. We’ve asked for flexibility to do some of the things that we felt were not good for Hawaii Island but never against his proclamation and we will not do that now.”
Hawaii County is different because of its wide open spaces and a large population of poor and struggling residents, he said.
Schoen said other counties have drafted supplemental emergency rules to implement proclamations, and Hawaii County will “at some point” do that as well.
“We trying to see if there is more flexibility to meet the needs of our community. … People had questions about what the particular needs of the community are,” Schoen said, adding the administration is looking at “whether that proclamation will fit here.”
“We’re very different from Honolulu and Maui,” she added.
Council Chairman Aaron Chung disputes that contention, at least when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re not different from anybody else. I have to disagree with that assessment,” Chung said. “I don’t think we should consider ourselves different in this type of assessment. We should employ the strictest measures possible.”
He noted that the council, in emergency session Friday, unanimously passed two resolutions seeking stricter controls to halt COVID-19.
“I think the council has made it pretty clear from our perspective, public safety is the tantamount consideration,” Chung said.
Kim on Tuesday sent a memo to county employees, saying department heads, in response to the state proclamation, have selected employees “necessary to perform essential governmental functions and those needed to keep our county safe, healthy and calm.” The memo further details leave policies and steps being taken to avoid face-to-face contact.
County “bug busters” cleaning crews will continue working seven days a week, Kim said, sanitizing everything from bus stops to pedestrian crosswalk buttons to fight the spread of the disease.
Email Nancy Cook Lauer at email@example.com.