Just one day after City Councilmember and GOP Congressional candidate Charles Djou’s office said a bill to charge a $250 fee for multiple appearances at neighborhood board meetings had been “filed inadvertently”, Djou defended his proposal as way to add city revenue in difficult economic times.
The proposal to charge a fee to those appearing on a neighborhood board’s agenda more than four times in a year was mentioned here last week.
Djou tried to explain his proposal in an email sent yesterday to Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board Chairman Gregg Knudsen.
Thank you for your recent interest in Bill 42 (2009). I submitted this legislation asking for a voluntary payment of $250 for any non-city entity that requests and appears before a neighborhood board, on the agenda, four or more times in a year. As you may know, the neighborhood board system costs City taxpayers nearly $1 mil. per year. In these tough economic times, I believe it is reasonable to ask those who are extensively use the neighborhood boards, to voluntarily contribute to help defray the cost of the neighborhood board system. I have often found that meetings at a neighborhood board can sometimes come to be dominated by the same interests discussing the same matters repeatedly, crowding out unique community concerns that the neighborhood board system was designed to address. The $250 fee is a rough estimate of the cost to the City taxpayers for putting something on one neighborhood board agenda four times in a year.
I wish to emphasize that any individual who brings up a resident concern, and is not specifically listed on the agenda, will not be asked for a voluntary contribution under my proposal. Further, the limit of four times per year applies to each neighborhood board individually, not collectively. Thus, in theory should my legislation pass, a non-City entity could appear before the neighborhood boards more than 100 times in one year and never be asked for a voluntary contribution.
Joan Manke, the neighborhood board executive director, and I discussed this $250 fee proposal earlier this year. Ms. Manke has circulated a proposed draft calling for a mandatory $250 fee. While I welcome such a discussion, the mandatory fee proposal is not mine, but instead something that is coming from the Hannemann administration.
You can find a copy of the bill I submitted at: http://www4.honolulu.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-88053/43rtj69w.pdf
Knudsen points out that just the previous day one of Djou’s council staffers called the bill “a huge misunderstanding.” According to that email from Djou’s office:
The bill was filed inadvertently and will not be going anywhere. I totally understand everyone’s concerns and will do what I can to straighten this out.
Knudsen was not amused. He responded to the staffer:
There’s not much to misunderstand about the intent and meaning of Bill 42. And the reluctance to provide specific answers to the set of specific questions I sent to you on May 6 is only adding fuel to the anger, resentment, and ridicule being directed toward Councilmember Djou.
Since the April 8 draft of the bill had been edited prior to its filing as Bill 42, it appears to be a very deliberate effort — nothing “inadvertent” about it.
And yesterday Knudsen sent a note to others concerned about Djou’s proposal.
…the April 8 draft that was sent from Councilmember Djou to Joan Manke said the fee “may” be assessed (but it looked pretty mandatory), while the Bill 42 as filed makes the charge voluntary — but those who do not “volunteer” would be publicly identified by having their names posted on the web (like tax cheaters).
It might be appropriate to identify and publicly praise anyone who voluntarily and generously supports the neighborhood boards, but it’s mafia volunteerism to identify those who do not pay up and subject them to public scorn. In other words, volunteer — or else! Councilmember Djou asserts that a proposal for a mandatory fee has been circulated by the administration.
I was waiting for this response before deciding whether or not to keep an item opposing Bill 42 on the Hawaii Kai board’s agenda. Looks like the item will stay, and the issue will come to the HKNB on May 26.
Now that should be an interesting meeting.