Term Limits And Redistricting

Larry Price
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Wednesday - February 15, 2006
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To no one’s surprise, the members of the City Charter commission agreed with the idea to end term limits for city council members.

They pointed out that the idea did not have wide-spread support among the commissioners. I thought it was curious that the main reason for agreeing with term limits was it might help and ease an anticipated problem six years from now. This was when Council districts were scheduled for redistricting their boundaries.

This is an interesting political puzzle right now because, according to recent census figures, over 50 percent of the voters on Oahu are not originally from Hawaii. And that could make a big difference at the polls.

What a refreshing idea: Fixing a problem before it occurs. About all the taxpayers have heard for the past year is “this is not our problem, it belongs to the past administration”.

This is only one of the positions taken by the commission, according to those close to the situation. The council could end all this speculation and pass the proposed charter amendment right now, but it might come off as self-serving for city council members. All of the proposed charter changes have to survive public hearings next month and a couple more hearings after that before it ends up on the general election ballot on Nov. 7.

Just to refresh your memory, voters approved a maximum of two consecutive four year terms for the council and the mayor in 1992. Then in 1998, voters approved staggering council terms to avoid having all nine members up for election at the same time.

The probable truth is most taxpayers are not concerned about the redistricting of Council districts. To suggest that they are is a real stretch. They really have no reason to worry in advance about where political lines are to be drawn separating one subdivision from another. But what does matter is how many voters will be lost to a would-be candidate for reelection.

I like the idea of eliminating term limits for council members, because if they are not representing their district adequately they will be voted out of office - or end up behind bars, whichever comes first. If they are doing a good job, then having them stay makes the legislative process more efficient for obvious reasons.

On the other hand, two terms for a mayor is plenty. If a mayor is good, he or she will be around for eight years. After that, the mayor can run for a higher office or retire from politics. For some reason, mayoral messages become boring. A fresh face is always a welcome sight, even if its telling you you’re going to pay more taxes because of the what the former mayor did or did not do.

The biggest joke about the Charter Commission efforts is they actually took the time consider whether or not to make the city council and mayoral races partisan contests again. Both of those ideas failed approval by the commission, and that’s a good thing, because even though they say they are bipartisan, every voter knows who the Democrats are and who the Republicans are.

Only in Hawaii do elected officials try to hide their true political colors. It shouldn’t be an issue, but in Hawaii it is. Maybe the Charter Commission should figure out why.

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