Support for term extension limited

LIHUE — Council Vice-Chair Ross Kagawa expects to come up one vote short in his quest to repeal term limits.

There is a “95 percent chance I lose, I think it’s more like 97 percent,” Kagawa told The Garden Island. “Unless I get (Councilmembers) JoAnn (Yukimura) or Mason (Chock) to switch.”

That’s not looking likely.

On Thursday, Chock said that he thinks “there is not a lot of public support for eliminating term limits.”

He added that he has become “more resolved in not supporting this measure,” since the last time he spoke with TGI about the issue.

Yukimura said that she, too, leans against repeal.

In order for the Kauai County Council to put a proposal on the 2016 election ballot to amend the Kauai County Charter in regards to repealing term limits, a five-vote supermajority is needed.

Kagawa noted that getting those five votes is very difficult, given the recent trend of council votes toward similar patterns of 4-3.

The County Charter currently prohibits councilmembers from serving more than four consecutive, two-year terms, for a total of eight years in office. Maui and Hawaii Island also have term limits for council members.

Councilmembers Arryl Kaneshiro, KipuKai Kuali’i and Mel Rapozo have all previously voiced support for Kagawa’s plan to repeal term limits.

While the question of whether or not to repeal term limits may be a topic of debate among councilmembers, the general public does not seem very interested in revisiting the issue. A public hearing Wednesday on the matter drew a small handful of residents.

Of those few who did voice their opinion, either in person or through written testimony, the sentiment was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping term limits in place. A log kept by the council clerk shows that 25 people registered their opposition to the plan to repeal term limits; zero voiced support.

Count Carl Imparato of Hanalei is among those who are against repealing term limits.

“Less than nine years ago, Kauai’s voters decisively indicated that … they wanted to impose term limits on county councilmembers. Such an overwhelming mandate should be respected, not dismissed, by the council,” Imparato wrote. “It is extremely difficult for a non-incumbent to overcome the overwhelming advantages that come with long-term incumbency.”

Term limits were approved by voters in the 2006 election by a more than 2-to-1 margin; at that time, 63.1 percent of voters supported term limits and 28.9 percent went against. Supporters of Kagawa’s plan to repeal term limits have argued that voters should have another opportunity to decide if they want to keep term limits in place or make a change.

The issue is scheduled to come up for final council vote in early September.

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Ryan Kazmirzack, government reporter, can be reached at 245-0428.

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