Kagawa proposes ending term limits

LIHUE – Voters could soon be asked to decide whether to keep or eliminate term limits for County Councilmembers.

On Wednesday, Kauai County Council Vice-Chair Ross Kagawa will introduce a resolution that, if approved, would put the option to repeal term limits on the 2016 ballot.

“The best term limit is when the voters determine it,” Kagawa said, explaining why he proposed the plan. “Why should a proven leader like Chair Rapozo be forced to take a break when we need him the most?”

Currently, councilmembers may serve no more than four consecutive, two-year terms before they are prohibited from seeking re-election. A councilmember who is term-limited out of office is eligible to run again in the following election and, if elected, can serve for another eight years.

The position of mayor would still be limited to two, four-year terms.

Because Kagawa’s resolution would be a ballot proposal to change the County Charter, it requires a minimum of five votes from the seven-member council to pass, one more than the usual four votes needed to approve a bill. It if is approved, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. does not have the authority to veto it.

If the council votes to put the proposal on the ballot, and if voters choose to repeal term limits, it will not have an immediate effect – no members are facing term limits in 2016.

Councilmembers Mel Rapozo and JoAnn Yukimura are both serving their third terms and are eligible to serve one more term if re-elected.

Councilmembers Gary Hooser and Kagawa are serving their second term; Councilmembers Arryl Kaneshiro and KipuKai Kuali’i are both in their first terms .

Councilman Mason Chock is also serving his first elected-term in office, but he could potentially serve more than eight years because he was originally appointed to the position to fill a vacancy, which does not count against him for term-limits.

The ballot proposal could face an uphill climb: term limits were approved by voters in 2006 by a margin of more than two-to-one in favor: 63.1 percent of voters supported term limits.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said there are pros and cons to the issue.

“The pro to term limits is that it gives other people a chance. The con is that if you have someone that is really doing well, why would you want to remove them?” Yukimura said.

She spoke from experience: Yukimura was term-limited out of office in 2008. She ran for mayor in that election but lost to Carvalho before winning a seat on the County Council again in 2010.

“It is something the voters need to decide,” Yukimura said. “But the question is… if the voters made a commitment to term limits, why are we wanting to change it now?”

The council would need to hold a public hearing on this issue before it could vote to put the question on the ballot.

Councilmembers Chock, Hooser, Kaneshiro, Kuali’i and Rapozo couldn’t be reached for comment.

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