Saturday, July 14, 2007


Maui representative serving two masters as member of Maui planning committee and the legislature at the same time

Rep. Joe Bertram III, freshman South Maui representative to the State Legislature, is also on the Maui General Plan Advisory Committee. The Maui GPAC is currently considering (among other things) whether or not to build a new prison on Maui and where it should be sited (see: Maui News, July 9, 2007: Aiona: New jail for Maui ’ready to go’ ). This and other Maui planning issues are likely to come before the state legislature, where Rep. Bertram now holds his seat.

Rep. Bertram has experience on the Maui Planning Commission, but after his election to the state House, it appears that he should resign his seat on the Maui General Plan Advisory Council in order to wipe out the conflict of interest that holding both positions seems to raise.

A lengthy opinion obtained by the Legislative Reference Bureau in June concludes that continuing to hold both positions is problematic. From the document's last page:

In our view, there is a substantial risk of incompatibility inherent in the overlaps between the State's and the County of Maui's planning, land use, and land management functions, and efforts. Given these overlaps, it is very possible that a legislator could find him or herself in a position of having to weigh in on the same issue, subject or question from two different perspectives, or in furtherance of two separate, if not competing interests, focuses, or priorities. For these reasons, therefore, a legislator could be prohibited from serving on that Committee by the common law doctrine of incompatible and inconsistent offices.

Very truly yours,
Charleen M. Aina
Deputy Attorney General

Mark J. Bennett Attorney General

This post is not to imply that Rep. Bertram is not a skilled planner--only that he ought to resign from the Maui GPAC and continue to use his skills at the Legislature now that he has been elected. The Honolulu Advertiser wrote of him as a candidate:


Bertram, 49, a former Maui Planning Commission member, is well known for his work toward establishing green belts, open spaces, bikeways and coastal management plans on the island. If elected, Bertram said he would push for state and federal funding to implement the myriad greenway and open space planning documents drafted in recent years.

"We've made all these plans, it's been done. We need to get these master plans off the shelf and get the funds to implement them," he said.

Maui's public transit system needs more funding for expansion and such basic components as benches and bus stop shelters, according to Bertram. Harking back to the Valley Isle's plantation heritage, he said he would like to see small-gauge railroads re-established on Maui for public transportation, which could be almost entirely supported by revenues from visitors.

The railroads would be cheaper and more easily built than light rail and other transportation modes that have been debated on O'ahu over the years, he said.

"You can put it anywhere. We need to think outside of the box about re-establishing what we had before. There were small towns and people walking and biking, with trains that connected everything. We need to get back to that."

We could certainly have used out-of-the-box thinking such as his for Oahu's transit planning, which looks to be a very much in-the-box nightmare in the making. Imagine! A transit system that can be paid for by visitor revenues instead of generations of our childrens' taxes.

 Bertram's view on prison location, from the Maui News article:

While he said a new jail is needed, he said site considerations are important. A jail “needs to be walkable” to employment if it intends to provide for inmates on work programs out in the community, he said.

These are suggestions worth debating (my own preferences are treatment and prevention, and reducing the prison population instead of building new jails). But Bertram should erase any conflict of interest by resigning from the Maui GPAC. It appears that it's the right thing to do.


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