I would like to say that my phone has been ringing off the hook all day, but actually my phone has not been “on the hook” for over 10 years now and no longer rings in the traditional sense. But yes, I have been deluged with email and text messages for the past 24 hours and the question is always, “What’s he going to do?”.
The truth is I do not have a clue, but it is fun to speculate.
Tomorrow, October 31, 2013 our Mayor is facing three choices, one of which will have to occur by the end of day. He can:
1) Sign Bill 2491 into law
2) Veto Bill 2491
3) Do nothing and let Bill 2491 automatically become law
Conventional wisdom is that the Council passed Bill 2491 by a 6 to 1 vote and thus would be “veto proof” as only 5 votes are needed to over-ride a veto. The math starts to get a little funny however when you throw into the equation the fact that one of the Yes votes is leaving the Council and going to work for the Mayor. This of course still leaves 5 Yes votes plus one unfilled seat. The math can quickly get a little cloudier if you believe that perhaps at least one of those 5 remaining votes may not be firm in their resolve and thus the strength of the over-ride vote may be called to question.
Given the 6 -1 vote, why might the Mayor even be considering a veto?
Typically there is only one real reason and that is political. All other reasons are normally a smokescreen that provide cover for the political decision.
The Mayor could argue the new law would be difficult to implement. However in this case the Mayors own incoming administrative assistant voted twice in support of the Bill and was essential to the Bill’s passage. It will be her job to implement and she is intimately familiar with the Bill and helped craft many of its key elements.
The Mayor could argue the Bill will be overturned in court. Again, 6 council members including the Mayors new administrative assistant have reviewed the same information as has been provided to the Mayor and voted in support, not once but twice. In addition 9 well known attorneys have attested to the soundness of the Bill and 3 different major public interest law firms have offered to defend the Bill and defend the County for free – pro bono as they say in legal circles.
The Bill was written (as suggested by the Mayor’s new administrative assistant) to allow for 9 months prior to implementation. This provides 9 months to work out the enforcement provisions and 9 months to deal with any legal issues that might come forth prior to implementation and prior to any significant costs incurring.
So the reality is that this decision is all about politics. It is not a bad thing, it is just the reality of decision making in a political environment.
On one hand you have 5 companies who are pushing hard on the Mayor claiming that this will be bad for business, that passing Bill 2491 into law will send a negative signal out into the business community and is based on fear and not fact.
On the other hand you have thousands of residents willing to march in the streets. You have a committed cadre of young idealists willing to sleep on the cement in the pouring rain for something they believe in. You have a long list of credible doctors, lawyers, teachers and business owners from all parts of the island. You have obstetricians and pediatricians who believe that their hospital has 10 times the national average of birth defects. You have the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the Hawaii Nurses Association, Local 5 Hotel Workers, The Surfrider Foundation, The Sierra Club and many, many other organizations who have worked and fought hard and will continue pushing hard should the Mayor veto.
You have an issue that will not go away unless dealt with in a meaningful manner. You have a new and rising movement of empowered, thoughtful and educated young people that are even now converting their 5,000 petition names into registered voters, all the while seeking out new and aspiring candidates for public office in elections that are less than one year away.
Bill 2491 is a reasonable attempt to deal with a very real problem in our community. I am cautiously optimistic that the Mayor will allow this measure to pass into law so that we might honor the process, deal responsibly with the issue, and then move on to other pressing challenges that face our community.