Council creates a committee by memo for first time
The City Council formed another committee this week.
What's different about this one is the way it was created.
City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz circulated a memo on Wednesday creating the Committee on Affordable Housing.
"The committee is established to address the growing problems of providing affordable housing for Honolulu's residents," the Council chairman's memo said.
It is the first time since a recent rule change that the Council has established a committee internally.
Previously, committee assignments -- including those resulting from a reorganization of the Council -- were laid out in a publicly filed resolution and approved by the Council in a public meeting.
The latest committee was created through the memo, which Dela Cruz said this summer's rule change allows.
The change came after the state Office of Information Practices complained that the Council's July 13 approval of a reorganization resolution had resulted from a series of secret one-on-one conversations between Council members. The OIP said the serial communications violated the state's open-meetings law, or "Sunshine Law," which OIP monitors.
Earlier this month, eight journalism and open-government groups sued the City Council, calling for the July 13 resolution to be voided because of the one-on-one conversations. The groups ask that the use of such private conversations to reach a consensus among Council members be declared a violation of the open-meetings law.
After the OIP complained, the Council changed its internal rules to allow the chairman "to appoint all committees" as part of his or her administrative duties, instead of approving a committee set up in a resolution voted upon during a public meeting. The rule change made committee assignments not subject to the Sunshine Law.
"Because we are charged with doing the people's business ... we need efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability," Dela Cruz said.
He said that the state House and Senate organize committees in a similar fashion. "We're also a legislative body elected by the people."
Dela Cruz said he did talk to members before establishing the Affordable Housing Committee. He said new committee, chaired by Councilman Todd Apo, is important because it will tackle timely issues such as affordable rentals.
It will be in effect for a year beginning Jan. 1. Its first meeting is scheduled for Jan. 12.
Dela Cruz noted that this week's memo is actually the second he has written since the rule change. The first memo, he said, established the same committee assignments that were approved in the disputed resolution at the July 13 meeting,. He contends that his internal memo "supersedes" that resolution.