Monday, March 04, 2024|
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This is to address a letter to the editor by Neal F. Herbert, the vice-chairperson of the county’s Cost of Government Commission, in which he criticized me for proposing two charter amendments (Your Views, Nov. 20).
Under our current charter, the director of Public Works is required to be a registered professional engineer, and the director of Environmental Management needs to have a degree in engineering or “a related field,” whatever that means. In a nutshell, the two amendments which I proposed would simply allow for a wider pool of candidates to qualify for those two positions, with a particular emphasis on those possessing administrative and managerial skills. Nothing in those two bills would preclude the selection of an engineer for those directorships, but it would also open the door for others with different skill sets to vie for those jobs as well.
Mr. Herbert is a registered civil engineer, so I certainly understand his fierce defense of the status quo, but I really didn’t see any need for him to throw hurtful words such as “abhorrent,” “irresponsible,” “ludicrous,” “political” and “laughable,” my way (OK, I admit to using the word “irresponsible” when addressing Mr. Herbert and the chairperson of the Cost of Government Commission during a presentation they made to the council this past week, so that’s on me, but it was only after they had confessed, without any inkling of remorse, that their public declaration of a program of the county as being “wasteful” was based on information they had received from only one source and without allowing the program providers a fair opportunity to provide their perspective. That’s not how thoughtful deliberation is supposed to be carried out, in my opinion). In Mr. Herbert’s hyper-fixation to berate me, I think he may have lost sight of the point of the two proposals, and that’s unfortunate because they are both intended to help our community.
Look, I love engineers. After all, where would the world be without them? But at the same time, we shouldn’t ignore that the engineering profession has a heavy gender-bias in favor of men. These proposals would enhance gender-equity in the hiring of some of our top county administrators. I don’t think that’s a bad thing or one worthy of ridicule.
What Mr. Herbert found as being particularly objectionable was my inclusion within the list of qualified professions, a person with a law degree. I happen to be a lawyer and have a high regard for what people with legal training can bring to the table. However, if the council finds it abhorrent, irresponsible, ludicrous, laughable, as Mr. Herbert does, or perhaps just inadvisable to have a lawyer be considered for appointment to the position, it is well within their power to delete it from the proposal.
Before they do that, though, I think it’s worth pointing out that over the past 10 years or so, one director and a deputy director of the Department of Environmental Management and two deputy directors of the Department of Public Works have been lawyers. All three deputies were pulled from the Corporation Counsel’s office, including the person that holds that position right now. All were and are capable individuals.
There is one matter that Mr. Herbert and I seem to agree on: the problem with recruiting persons for those positions. There haven’t been a lot of persons busting down the door to apply for either the Public Works or Environmental Management directorships when they become open, and that’s a problem. Mr. Herbert attributes that to insufficient pay and the lack of tenure and job security, both of which are addressed in the Cost of Government Commission’s recommendations. I’m not going to disparage their ideas, but I just think that an inclusive approach, rather than an exclusive one, would be a better solution for our island’s people.
Hawaii County Council member
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