How long should a council member serve?

LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i County Council is looking into revisiting the terms members should serve after each election, extending the terms of four out of seven candidates from two to four years, thus creating a staggered-term system.

Currently, Kaua‘i voters choose a new council every two years. Additionally, per a 2006 Kaua‘i Charter Amendment approved by voters, beginning 2008, council members can only serve eight years altogether.

A resolution introduced by Council Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura would give voters an option in the November elections to choose if they want council members’ terms to increase to four years, while still keeping an eight-year limit altogether.

But Yukimura’s proposal would reset the clock for eight-year term limit, beginning in the 2014 elections.

Yukimura said there are two main reasons for her proposal: One is to give more accountability to council members, who in the current system spend every other year campaigning. The other was out of concern for the cycle of bills which sometimes take more than a council member’s term to reach a final vote.

Despite mostly agreeing with Yukimura, some council members had additional concerns.

The resolution was introduced a few weeks ago, but the council had deferred it. In Wednesday’s council meeting there were three amendments proposed to the resolution dealing with staggering terms, whether to reset the clock on the limits established in 2008, and the potential for an incumbent council member to serve 10 years.

Yukimura’s amendment establishes that the four members elected with the highest number of votes serve four years, while the bottom three candidates serve two years.

Amendments from Council members Tim Bynum and Nadine Nakamura deal with keeping true to the eight-year term limits set in 2008 — with some circumstantial exceptions — and other issues involving staggered terms. The amendments are now in possession of County Attorney Al Castillo for legal feedback.

This Wednesday, the council will reconvene and try to agree on a final proposal before sending the resolution to a public hearing.

The public is invited to provide comments each time the item is on the council meeting’s agenda. After due process, all proposed charter amendments must be submitted to the Office of Elections by Aug. 23.

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