Attorney leads group of 6 for Council vacancy vote


POSTED: Friday, June 04, 2010

A list of 27 candidates seeking to fill the seven-month vacancy on the City Council for the Waikiki-East Oahu district has been whittled to six, with Honolulu attorney Jonathan Lai at the top of the list.

But Council Chairman Todd Apo acknowledged he recommended Lai as a “;starting point”; for the discussion that will take place Wednesday, when the Council meets to vote on the successor to Charles Djou, who was elected to Congress last month, creating the vacancy in District 4.

Lai's name is on the resolution naming Djou's successor. Five other candidates will be listed on proposed floor drafts in the event that Lai does not receive a majority of five votes.

The other candidates are former Police Chief Lee Donohue; Board of Education member Donna Ikeda; Djou's former City Hall chief of staff, Lori Wingard; and former state Reps. Carl Takamura and Brian Yamane.

“;I'm honored to be one of the finalists,”; Lai said, “;but there's also at least five other people who are in the running, so I guess we're all going to have to do our homework.”;

;[Preview]  Members Nominate Jonathan Lai To Fill Djou's Council Seat

Honolulu Council Members are narrowing the list to Lai and five other nominees.


Watch ]





The Council met in a special committee hearing yesterday to vet the candidates in advance of Wednesday's meeting.

Apo said he nominated Lai because he was the only one who had received the backing of Djou.

“;Does it make him the favorite? I don't know,”; Apo said. “;I didn't hear, from this discussion, any strong positions from any of the members. I think all of them wanted to get a better idea of some of the six that are remaining.”;

Lai, a partner in the law firm of Watanabe Ing, said he wanted to serve “;as a bridge”; for constituents, to carry on Djou's work and ensure a seamless transition to the elected successor.

Whoever is approved will be seated at the start of Wednesday's meeting, allowing him or her to participate and cast votes on several important measures, including the city's $1.8 billion operating budget.


Council members also questioned candidates about their views on the city's rail transit project, a potential fireworks ban and what their goals were for the limited time they would be in office.

“;The only thing that will work is a total ban,”; Donohue said of potential fireworks legislation.

“;We've tried to control it many different ways,”; Takamura added. “;Maybe it's time to look at a total ban.”;

All said they would work to advance the rail project, noting the 2008 vote approving a steel-on-steel system.

“;I don't feel that there is any other choice,”; Ikeda said. “;We are faced with gridlock, and we have to come up with some kind of an alternative.”;

As a former lawmaker, Yamane said he would be willing to listen to constituents and make decisions best for the community, while Wingard argued she was the most familiar with the community after having met with all neighborhood boards in the district as Djou's chief of staff for five years.

She also presented the Council with a petition signed by 500 residents in the district supporting her candidacy.

“;I have reached out to my community,”; she said.