Term limit repeal in trouble

LIHUE — Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. may be open to the possibility of serving a third term in office, but councilmembers aren’t planning to give him that chance.

On Tuesday, Carvalho told The Garden Island that he supports the Kauai County Council’s efforts to give voters the opportunity to repeal term limits through a ballot initiative, but said that to be fair, the plan should be expanded beyond just councilmembers to also include the executive branch.

Following the mayor’s comments, TGI polled members of the Kauai County Council to see whether they are open to expanding the proposed plan to repeal council term limits for so that voters also have the opportunity to remove them for the mayor, and the answer was a resounding no.

“I support two four-year terms for all elected chief executives; the president, the governor and the mayor,” Councilman KipuKai Kuali’i said. “As for legislators in the U.S. Congress, in the state Legislature and on our County Council, I don’t support any term limits at all.”

The Kauai County Charter currently prohibits the mayor from serving more than two consecutive, four-year terms. It also prohibits councilmembers from serving more than four consecutive, two-year terms, for a total of eight years in office.

Council Vice-Chair Ross Kagawa, sponsor of the plan, said that term limits are necessary to prevent the executive branch from becoming too powerful since the mayor has the power to appoint people to government positions. Council Chair Mel Rapozo previously said he believes term limits are appropriate for the executive branch during a County Council meeting on the subject.

But whether the mayor’s office is included on the ballot proposal or not may be a moot issue anyway, because it looks as though Kagawa’s attempt to repeal term limits is likely headed for defeat.

Because Kagawa’s resolution would put a proposal to amend the county charter on the 2016 election ballot, a five-vote supermajority is needed — one more than the usual four needed to approve a bill. And according to Kagawa, he is one vote short of hitting that threshold, with Councilmembers Gary Hooser, JoAnn Yukimura and Mason Chock likely planning to vote against.

Of those, Hooser is the only one on record as saying he is definitively against the plan, but Yukimura expressed doubts and Chock said he leans against it.

“I’m on the side right now of not supporting the resolution,” Chock said at the July 15 council meeting. “But I think it’s well worth having a public discussion.”

Chock said that he will wait until he hears what the public has to say at the Aug. 19 public hearing before making up his mind. Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro also said he will wait to make up his mind.

Minds could change, but as of right now it looks like this initiative will be narrowly defeated in council without ever making it to the ballot for voters to decide, and the eight-year limit will stand.

Even if the ballot proposal does come before voters in the 2016 election, it could still face an uphill climb. Term limits were approved by voters in 2006 by a margin of more than 2-to-1 in favor; 63.1 percent of voters supported term limits.

Maui and Hawaii Island also have term limits for councilmembers.

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