Honolulu Ballot Proposal Would Make City Council Services Office A Permanent Agency – Honolulu Civil Beat

November 15, 2022

The office that performs many legislative duties for the council, including researching and drafting bills and resolutions, may finally get equal status with other agencies.
Honolulu voters will decide this year if an office tasked with drafting legislative measures and providing legal advice for the City Council will get permanent status.
The Office of Council Services, created in 1973, is one of the council’s three legislative agencies unacknowledged in the city’s governing charter. That means if the council wanted to, it could abolish the agency.
Introduced by council member Adria Tupola, Charter Question No. 4  — as it’s called on mail-in ballots that will start landing in Honolulu mailboxes next week — would change that to officially recognize the office as a city government agency, with a staff of approximately 24 secretaries, legislative analysts and staff attorneys.
Office of Council Services Director James Williston, who has worked 36 years in the office, said the amendment would put the office on equal footing with the Office of City Clerk and the Office of the City Auditor.
“I’m turning 70 this year, and I would like to leave a legacy for my office that we’re not going to be disestablished,” Williston said.
The office is aimed at aiding the City Council in exercising its legislative power. Its duties include analyzing proposals and reports, writing and drafting bills and resolutions, reviewing and preparing the legislative budget, preparing land-use maps and providing legal research and advice to the nine-member council.
It also provides the council with legal services in case of disputes with the mayor’s administration, which is represented by the city’s Corporation Counsel.
However, the current language in the charter provides uncertainty by stating that “the council may establish an Office of Council Services.” Williston said that theoretically could enable the council to nix the office, although he said there’s no concrete threat the council will decide to do so.
Its responsibilities will remain the same if the amendment is approved.
Braedon Wilkerson, Tupola’s policy director, called the amendment a “housekeeping measure.”
“In a lot of ways, it’s to honor and acknowledge the oldest city sub-agency in terms of the legislative branch,” Wilkerson said. “Putting them in the charter solidifies them as a permanent branch. So basically, you have gained an equal status that they’re recognized like everyone else.”
Wilkerson said his responsibilities also include drafting amendments in measures and conserving policy, but the office performs most of the council’s duties.
The proposal to put the charter amendment on the ballot received no opposition in testimony and was passed by the Honolulu City Council 9-0.
Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service. That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
Help keep our journalism free for for those who need it most by making a contribution to Civil Beat today. And for those who can, please consider supporting us with a monthly gift.
Cassie Ordonio is a reporter for Honolulu Civil Beat.
Civil Beat has been named the best overall news site in Hawaii for the 11th year in a row by the Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii Chapter.
You’re officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.
In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you’d like to receive.
Inbox overcrowded? Don’t worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.


Article Tags:
Article Categories:
Office · Technology

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The maximum upload file size: 512 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here