Re: “Kagawa: End council term limits” TGI. January 28, 2018. The first line of the article states: “A resolution that would end term limits for County Council members could be on the ballot in August.”
The issue that should be on the ballot in August is one that would give the residents and voters of Kauai opportunity to voice their opinions about changing the way elections are held on Kauai. I am a strong proponent of district representation. The system, as it is now, with candidates running at-large, is ineffective, is not representative of the population and is in desperate need of changing and fixing and updating to a new, vibrant model.
Every county in Hawaii – except for Kauai — holds elections by district/area; each has term limits set. Hawaii State representatives are elected by districts; each has term limits set. The Federal Government holds elections by state – not by one over-all at-large choice of candidates; term limits are set on senators and representatives. Eliminating term limits is of no benefit to the citizens of Kauai – it is not a good idea and is one which I oppose.
Kauai County should be divided into 5 geographic Districts, with one representative from each, plus 2 members elected from the county at-large. Each district/area would have candidates, who live in that district, campaigning to become County Council members representing the residents of that area. As it is now, Council members, elected at large, are being selected basically because of their name recognition and/or family history. The fact is, most live in or around the Lihue area.
Just one example that comes to mind: the speed limits on the Koloa Bypass Road are under consideration for change.
My understanding is that the Council will have input in this decision. It is with utmost respect for all Council members that I wonder: when was the last time any of them was on that road? How many times have they driven on that road? What experience do they have of traffic or speed limits on that road? If the District that includes Koloa had its own representative to the Council, she/he could explain the situation, with first-hand knowledge, to the entire County Council, who could then make a truly informed decision.
We are all Kauaians. As such, we have shared as well as different lifestyles. For example, residents of Kekaha have outlooks, weather conditions, road and street issues, farming conditions that are different from those who live in Princeville. Residents who live in the Lihue/Kapaa area have lifestyles that are different from those who live in Haena or Hanalei. Our island is not a “one size fits all.” It is our sameness, while at the same time our diversity, that makes us unique. We should all be represented equally.
Mr. Kagawa says it’s difficult to get voted onto the council and to find enough residents to “battle it out at the polls.” He points out the fact that there were only nine candidates for seven seats. I posit that’s because the current system is unbalanced and leads to the same-old, same-old. If people knew that they had a chance of representing the area in which they live; that their constituents’ voices would be heard and given serious consideration; and that they had a reasonable chance of being elected – even without a recognizable name; more people would take an interest in becoming a Council member. The additional benefit is that citizens would finally feel like what they think and feel has a real chance of being represented, so the current voter apathy would be overcome by people wanting to vote, leading to a higher percentage of voter turnout.
My belief is that many, many residents would be in favor of District Representation. I call upon the current County Council members to look beyond their own, individual interests in continuing the status quo, and put this issue on the ballot for voters to consider in August.
Judith Rachap is a resident of Koloa.