Neighborhood boardsBy Gordon Y.K. Pang
still need more
candidates to file
Ben Kama gets nervous around this time every two years.
That's because he and his staff at the city Neighborhood Commission scour the island for candidates for its 32 neighborhood boards.
There are 458 board seats in all and, as of close of business yesterday, there were only 265 candidates.
Seven boards still did not have enough eligible candidates to constitute a quorum at their first meetings.
The deadline to file is by the end of the day Tuesday.
There were 630 candidates in the last election two years ago.
A good number of neighborhood board candidates historically wait until the last minute to file, incumbents included, Kama said.
But that doesn't make him feel less nervous.
"I'm optimistic, but today is Thursday," he said yesterday.
The Neighborhood Commission would appoint members to boards without quorums to ensure votes can be taken, but Kama would prefer the process work the way it was intended.
Veteran neighborhood board members Bernadette Young and Ben Acohido are among those who've thrown their hats back into the ring. They suggested others do the same.
Both think their respective boards have made a difference in their neighborhoods.
Young, chairman of the Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board, recalled a time when Aala Park was once a haven for drug dealers, drunkards and other unsavory elements.
"We demanded changes, we screamed loud and clear," Young said. "And now, the mayor is putting the money in."
Now, Young said, she wants to stay on the board to make sure her worries continue to be addressed by the city, state and federal governments.
"I want to make sure this will be a safe community for me to grow old in," said Young, a political activist, legislative aide and housewife.
"It's an opportunity for residents to get a pulse on what's happening," Wahiawa Neighborhood Board Chairman Ben Acohido said of his experiences as a board member.
"All the branches of government -- federal, state and local -- come out and sound out the community on different issues," said Acohido, an adult and special education instructor.
He recalled when a large landowner wanted to develop lands north of Wahiawa, and the community galvanized under the leadership of its neighborhood board.
"We stood up and we said no," he said. "People didn't want it and they changed their minds."
While some have used their positions on neighborhood boards as springboards for a career in politics, Acohido said, "This is the place where the civic-minded person can really serve the community."
Each of the roughly 300,000 people who voted in this past fall's general election will be mailed neighborhood board ballots on March 18.
Ballots must be returned by April 18 and results will be announced May 1.
The term of office for board members chosen is from June 1, 1999, to May 31, 2001.