Needed: Some City Council Tweaking

I recognize that this is no time to be engaged in city government restructuring or anything that drains away money as we battle Covid-19 and salt away funds for operation of the train when/if it comes in.

But we do have a future and there’s no harm in thinking about what it should be.

One of the futuristic discussions should be about proper community representation in the Honolulu City Council.

Most troubling is the much-too-large districts with very differing needs within each one.

Disregarding district population and thinking strictly of Oahu’s total population of 953,200 or so, then each Honolulu City Council (law-making body for all of Oahu) member is legislating for about about 105,910 citizens.

Obviously, those numbers are smaller if you just use population figures in the district. But the laws passed govern us all, not just those in some district.

I pose that just nine districts in the council for all of Oahu is too little and badly distorts where the money will be spent on which projects that may benefit a geographic class of people, i.e, farmers, town professionals, tourism interests.

Look on the map of District 1 with its three major population areas of Hauula-Laie-Kahuku, plus the Haleiwa-Waialua-Pupukea-Sunset Beach section, plus Wahiawa,  and anyone living all the way down to the Waipahu boundary that starts Districts 8 and 9. Can you imagine more varied interests in that huge chunk of land? Its single member is Heidi Tsuneyoshi.

District 9 covers from Ewa Beach all the way west and north to Kaena Point. That means all those military families and all those surfers (plus all the albatrosses out there at Kaena!)

District 3 covers me at Diamond Head, who has little legislative need in common with the Hawaiian Homes Land residents of Waimanalo.

Only Districts 4,5,6 and 7 seems to be geographically based on common needs.

The problem is that the organizers of these districts were paying more attention to population per district than needs for the different lifestyles in those districts. So that stuck very rural Punaluu in with metropolitan Kailua and Kaneohe.

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It would seem that being a City Council member makes for natural ascendency to the Honolulu mayor’s office. But that’s never been an automatic here.

Council member Kymberly Pine certainly hopes it works that way this year but she gets no guarantee.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell didn’t get there that way because when he wanted to move from the State House to the Council,  he had failed to withdraw from the State House ballot in time to be eligible. So he went from House member to interim mayor when Mufi Hannemann resigned, then mayor.

Yes, Hannemann had been a Council member for Aiea and Pearl City.

Jeremy Harris had been a one-term member of the Kauai County Council before going to work for the Fasi administration and then winning the open race for mayor.

Eileen Anderson had been a Council member, as had Frank Fasi. But Neal Blaisdell was not.

Most of us expected a rush of Council members for the open mayor’s seat this year, but the only other interested party, Ron Menor, quickly dropped out.

Council seats definitely have NOT been a route to governor of Hawaii.

Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

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