Breeze of fresh air benefits Council race


POSTED: Saturday, July 04, 2009

Deaths of two City Council members—one unhappily expected, the other abrupt—have undoubtedly altered the lives and hearts of their loved ones.

Though private losses cannot be compared with those of the voters Barbara Marshall and Duke Bainum represented, the losses were also to the public. What comes from them could etch a silver lining on misfortune.

A reconstituted Council could clear out stagnation and established conventions, and stimulate a new dynamic for smart progress on Oahu. For that to happen, there needs to be fresh viewpoints and more adventurous strategies, which would be less likely if the usual suspects get back in the line-up.

Windward voters elected Ikaika Anderson to replace Marshall, a ruggedly independent thinker who died of cancer in February. As Marshall's aide, his election was seen and presented as providing stability, and with hopes of maintaining her agenda.

Anderson, however, has already shown his individuality, as he should, and his presence has nudged rooted political alignments on the Council, which is good.

The Council needs more nudging.

It could come in the form of the successor to Bainum, who died last month less than seven months after his election. He was the only contender in that race, a situation spun when a Mufi Hannemann ally fumbled paperwork for his candidacy and was disqualified.

At the eye of that political hurricane was Ann Kobayashi, an incumbent Council member who decided at the last minute to take on Hannemann for mayor.

Now Kobayashi wants back in, throwing her hat in the ring from halfway around the world when she learned of Bainum's death while she vacationed in Italy.

Kobayashi will not enjoy an opponent-free contest what with 13 other hopefuls in the mix.

Among them is Matt Matsunaga, a former state senator. Like Kobayashi, Matsunaga has the name recognition, an inheritance from his late father, U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga. But the power of the elder's illustrious reputation has faded somewhat through the years as the voter demographic trends younger.

Political experts note that familiar faces have an advantage in quick-fire elections like this one, but other factors could turn their hands.

Voting will be easier with mailed balloting. The stand-alone election allows people to focus and a short campaign season lessens voter fatigue from protracted and typically noisy battles. The people running will likely have to weed voters from grassroots, not having much time to raise money to campaign by remote media advertising.

Though the usual suspects may have cash on hand, money doesn't guarantee a win, as evident in the Windward Council race where John Henry Felix spent more than $100 for every vote gained to Anderson's $9.

The less-money issue probably was the reason more people signed up to run, but in any case, the choices are blessedly many and diverse.

Few have deep political experience but people who had or have regular jobs is a plus as far as I'm concerned. They include an environmental planner, a lawyer, a social worker, a couple of retirees and a horticulturist.

I'm not exactly sure what work current Council members do, but none are horticulturists. The Council could use a genuine tree-hugger.

Cynthia Oi can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).