Kaua‘i County Council seats may change

LIHU‘E — The Charter Review Commission — in a 5-2 vote — decided Monday to keep working on a proposal to slice the island into different districts when electing Kaua‘i County Council members.

“The chair votes ‘aye,’” said Commission Chair Jan TenBruggencate, as he cast the last vote.

Currently, the seven members of the council are elected at-large, representing the entire island rather than a specific community. The commission is looking into giving the electorate a chance to decide whether they want to elect council members for each area.

If passed, it would be on the ballet in 2014.

Commissioner Joel Guy, who voted in favor of continuing the discussion, said the North Shore, where he lives, has a great representation from Chair Jay Furfaro. But Furfaro has already said this will be his last term.

“I would just like to see someone walk in our shoes a little bit,” Commissioner Joel Guy said of the North Shore community.

The majority of other council members live between Kapa‘a and Lihu‘e, he added.

A few ideas were thrown in the mix, including having four council members elected by districting and three as at-large members; all seven elected by districting, with the voters electing just one councilmember; creating neighborhood boards; or simply finding ways to get more public interaction in the political process.

“Basically, at this point, we are still deciding what direction to take with it,” Commissioner Ed Justus said.

Commissioner Patrick Stack made a motion to district the island, even though there was no clear direction on which proposal to follow.

“The purpose of my motion is either to get this on the fast track or junk it,” Stack said.

Commissioners Carol Suzawa and James Nishida voted against it, and Commissioner Mary Lou Barela stood silent during roll call, which means her vote went with the motion.

Nishida had concerns that districting somehow tends to favor male politicians. He said that usually, when there is only one candidate in a given district, that candidate tends to be a male. He said he would rather have two seats in each district to avoid that.

After the positive outcome for the motion, TenBruggencate asked commissioners to come to the next meeting in March (usually on the fourth Monday of the month) ready to fight over the issue.


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