Friday, November 30, 2001

Council prepares for
election to replace
prison-bound Mirikitani

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

City Council leaders are setting up for the unprecedented step of replacing a colleague going to prison.

Councilman Andy Mirikitani, who is to be sentenced in federal court Tuesday on charges he extorted kickbacks from employees for their bonuses, sent a letter to Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura this week formally stating his intention to resign tomorrow.

Yoshimura and City Clerk Genny Wong, meanwhile, are setting the stage for the special election that will be triggered by Mirikitani's resignation.

The Council is slated to meet in special session Wednesday to formally authorize Wong to hold the election, which will take place Jan. 26.

The law requires an election to be held within 60 days of a vacancy. Yoshimura said Jan. 26 was chosen because it is the last Saturday within the 60-day period, giving as much time as possible for candidates to get their messages out to voters in the 5th Council District and for the City Clerk's Office to prepare for the election.

The final day to submit nomination papers for the seat, which represents Manoa, Makiki, McCully-Moiliili and Ala Moana, is Dec. 17.

Former state Sen. Ann Kobayashi, former state Rep. Sam Aiona, former Councilman Kekoa Kaapu and John Steelquist, chairman of the Makiki/Lower Punchbowl/Tantalus Neighborhood Board, are expected to run.

There are about 35,000 voters in the district, and the election is expected to cost taxpayers about $225,000.

Mirikitani, clad in shorts and sneakers, and his staff were busy packing up papers in his office yesterday. He brushed off questions about his departure, preferring instead to discuss his ongoing dispute with the Liquor Commission over a Keeaumoku Street strip bar, Golden Dolls Showgirls.

Yoshimura said his main objective is ensuring the needs of 5th District constituents are met after Mirikitani's departure. There will be about a two-month period in which the district will not have representation, including a mandated 20-day period during which the Jan. 26 result may be challenged.

Some of Mirikitani's aides will likely be retained, but no decisions have been made, Yoshimura said.

"We're seeing the end of this chapter, and my intent and desire is to make this whole situation as nonconfrontational and civil as possible," he said.

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