Sunday, September 8, 2002

Election 2002


City seats attract newcomers

The new Council must shake the taint
of scandals that sent 2 former members to prison

Honolulu City Council candidates

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

At least six of the nine seats on the Honolulu City Council will have new occupants this January as a result of a law that restricts incumbents from seeking more than two consecutive four-year terms.

The candidates for the next Council will need to grapple with hot-button issues like the future of Mayor Jeremy Harris' Bus Rapid Transit project, and a looming budget shortfall that may require an increase in property taxes.

Perhaps more importantly, the new Council will need to shake off the shadow of a political body rocked by scandals that have resulted in two of its members going to prison.

Those seeking seats in even-numbered districts (Districts 2, 4, 6 and 8) will be vying for four-year terms while those looking at odd-numbered districts (Districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9) will be seeking two-year seats.

The city staggered the terms of Council seats for this election to ensure the two-term-limit law does not result in a mass exodus -- like the one this year -- in the future.

Before they were sent to prison, then-Council members Andy Mirikitani and Rene Mansho attended a City Council meeting in July 2001, which opened with prayer. Their illegal activities have shaken public confidence in the Council and in government.

Council elections are nonpartisan and conducted in a two-step, "special" election format. The first special election occurs primary election day, Sept. 21. The top vote-getter in any Council race that day who receives more than 50 percent of the votes cast wins outright.

In races where no candidate receives a majority, the top two finishers advance to a second special election that will occur Nov. 5, general election day.

A number of intriguing races have emerged this year, featuring many people with familiar names:

>> The District 9 (Makakilo to Mililani) race features state Rep. Nestor Garcia and school board member Michael Nakamura, the former police chief. Also in that race is Cliff Laboy, a lobbyist for Unity House; city technical equipment coordinator Guill Colon; and city administrative services officer Mike Golojuch.

>> The District 4 (Hawaii Kai to Ala Moana) race also is shaping up as a good fight between state Rep. Charles Djou and former city managing director Bob Fishman. Hoping to win from a dark-horse position is Kahala Mandarin catering executive Cameron Heen, whose father and grandfather served on the Council. Attorney Michael Abe is using more than $70,000 of his own money to finance his campaign. Also in that race is newcomer Terrence Teruya, an electronics technician for the city.

>> Another interesting race is in District 3 (Kaneohe to Makapuu), which features city planner Don Bremner, former legislator Stan Koki and veteran TV newscaster Barbara Marshall. Also in the race are KUMU radio general manager Jeff Coelho and community activist Kimberly Kalama.

>> The far-flung District 2 seat (Mililani Mauka to Kaneohe) pits Wahiawa Neighborhood Board Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz against former legislator Gerald Hagino and city attorney and community projects director Ernie Martin. Other candidates include former Councilman Kekoa Kaapu and political unknown Charles Penn.

>> The District 1 (Waianae to Ewa) race may be the most difficult to predict, with a number of hopefuls that have the potential to establish solid political power bases.

They are Donna Broome and Pamela Witty-Oakland, both aides to current Councilman John DeSoto; union officials Michael Chambrella and John Kaopua; traditional-marriage advocate Mike Gabbard; and neighborhood board members James Manaku and Cynthia Rezentes.

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