LIHU‘E — Tomorrow, the Kaua‘i County Council-elect will convene for an organizational meeting at 9 a.m. to discuss shared goals and structures, but some aspects seem to be already worked out.
It’s shaping up that current Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro will continue his role as chair as he heads into his final term on the council.
According to the Kaua‘i County Charter, the chair position is decided by the council during its organizational formation meeting and verified at its inauguration, which lands on Dec. 1 this year.
Following the 2018 election, residents spoke out in overwhelming support of councilmember Mason Chock becoming the chair over Kaneshiro as former council chair Mel Rapozo vacated the position.
According to meeting minutes, some residents pointed to Kaneshiro’s employment with Grove Farm, a major stakeholder on the island, as too big of a conflict of interest. Kaneshiro, who did not respond to requests for comment or interview Monday, has recused himself from Grove Farm-related matters throughout his tenure.
At that November 2018 meeting, in a 6-1 vote, Kaneshiro was elected council chair. Councilmember Felicia Cowden was the sole nay vote. Chock cast a silent vote, which was recorded in the affirmative. The vote was confirmed at the inauguration.
Chock, who is also entering his final term, addressed the council-chairship Monday afternoon in a statement.
“After three elections at the top, many have expressed their interest in me as council chair and I’ve felt an obligation to put forth my name as such. I feel like I can represent good leadership, transparency, inclusiveness and strong community engagement in our process,” Chock said.
This year, Chock received 18,592, or 7.8% of votes, coming in first. In second was incumbent Luke Evslin with 17,368, then Kaneshiro with 16,550 votes.
After this past November election, Chock met with each councilmember-elect, including Kaneshiro, who expressed his interest in continuing his position, “so we both agreed that whoever was able to unofficially secure the votes, we would support it, rather than project a division on our first council decision,” Chock wrote, adding that the council-elect prior to swearing-in are not restricted by transparency driven Sunshine Laws and are allowed to meet to discuss council-related issues.
“I have fallen a vote short in my effort to secure the needed four votes (to win),” Chock said. He announced his intention to vote for Kaneshiro as a call for unity. “When all is said and done, the most important thing is for our council to represent a sense of unity and willingness to work together despite varying perspectives. Therefore I will be fully supporting Arryl Kaneshiro as our chairman.”
Chock hopes to fill the role of vice chair, which is currently held by the termed-out Ross Kagawa.
“Leadership happens from every position and I intend to continue to model the best leadership I know of,” Chock said.
The upcoming iteration of the council will include Chock, Kaneshiro and Evslin as well as fellow incumbents Felicia Cowden and KipuKai Kuali‘i. While he’s not a new name, a new face joining the council is former mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. And new to an elected position to round out the council is Billy DeCosta, who garnered over 14,500 votes in the Nov. 3 election.
Beginning in December, the council chair will earn a $76,452 salary, while councilmembers will receive a $67,956 salary.
During the 2018-2020 term, as council chair Kaneshiro received $71,033 and the rest of the members received $63,140, according to Salary Commission documents. Ex-officio member Arthur Brun continued to receive his salary for the entirety of his term despite serving it locked up on a federal indictment for running a methamphetamine ring.
Meetings, pursuant to the suspension of state sunshine laws, can be watched at kauai.gov/webcast-meetings. The opportunity to submit testimony, however, is still an option to the public. To leave a voicemail, the public can call Council Services at 808-241-4188. Written testimony should be submitted to email@example.com, and to sign-up for oral testimony, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. A request should include name and contact information at least an hour prior to the meeting.
This article was updated at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17 to clarify where public testimony can be sent.